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Plan Your Nerd-cation to Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas | Hot Springs National Park Arkansas

Plan Your Nerd-cation to Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

CALLING ALL GOOF TROUPES: Gather your Geek Squad and head to Hot Springs to totally, completely, and unashamedly nerd out this summer. We want the scientists, the gamers, the bookworms, the star warriors, the enigmatologist, the film buffs — and everyone in between.  We’re a proud oasis for nerds among the many things the Spa City offers for family fun. Welcome.


For the Scientists

The Mid America Science Museum is the one place for any up-and-coming scientist to be when in Hot Springs. This hands-on, kid-friendly museum is an adventure fit for anyone.

As you walk through the museum, explore how simple motions can elaborate movement patterns in The Marvelous Motion Gallery. After visiting the gallery, head through The Light Bridge to examine prisms, filters, and colors through natural light. Also, check out the new temporary Point of View exhibit that explores the history and science of the selfie.

Enter the Workshops Gallery or Tinkering Studio for even more hands-on projects.

And as you go through the museum, don’t miss out on the dinosaurs weaved throughout, which belong to the museum’s newest temporary exhibit, Expedition: Dinosaur Rise of the Mammals. This exhibit features large-scale animatronic dinosaurs and interactive cases, and displays of things 75 million years in the making. The majority of the exhibit can be found in the Hall of Wonder.

For the Gamers

There are several prime destinations for gamers who come to Hot Springs. Let’s start with Retro Video Games — a locally-owned business of 27 years.

At Retro Video Games, they buy, sell and trade everything video game related. Discover or rediscover priceless merchandise and accessories along the shelves of this retro gaming shop. Add to your collection by finding games and guidebooks for over 40 systems — everything from the 1978 Pong to the 2005 Guitar Hero.

Two more video game stores to look to include GameStop and Game X Change.

Two more gaming destinations include The Galaxy Connection’s game room (mentioned below), available to anyone who makes a donation, and Steadfast Hobbies and Games.

Steadfast is a gaming and hobby store with a little bit of everything to offer for every gamer. The store offers a wide array of entertainment, from Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, miniatures, and a wealth of board games.

For the Bookworms

When visiting a new place, some people seek out nothing more than a place to find a good book. Two locations to find that in Hot Springs: Books-A-Million and the Garland County Library.

Books-A-Million has a variety of books, manga, audiobooks, pop culture merchandise, toys, and games to choose from.

The Garland County Library also has an abundance of programs and resources for those who aren’t local library card holders. Look to the library’s large book sale room for books, where you can find donated and retired circulation books, DVDs, and more for a few cents to a few dollars.

A full calendar of July programs open to everyone at the library can be found online. Still, some of the programs that stuck out to me include the adult puzzle, chess, and fiction writer clubs — social events for all skill levels. Puzzle Club will be held July 6; Chess Club will be held July 10 and 24, and fiction writer’s club will be held July 16. Also, a Bluegrass Jam where you’re encouraged to bring your own instruments, on July 7 and 21.

For the Star Warriors

If you’re a Star Warrior — or really just someone who appreciates 80’s memorabilia — visiting The Galaxy Connection should be a must on your squad’s itinerary. From the moment you walk in, this museum is like stepping into a time machine.

The tour officially begins inside the set of an 80’s living room, where you will be surrounded by every piece of 80’s memorabilia. You’ll enter through the vintage toy gift shop. Arrive early, and you can have some free playtime in a game room full of video, and board games from the 80’s forward.

As you go through the museum, you will see an impressive collection of Star Wars, DC, Marvel, He-Man, G.I. Joe (and more). There is also an abundance of figurines, toys, literature, and full-body cosplay suits.

For the Enigmatologists

Do only true enigmatologists know the meaning of that word? Fine, I’ll break the ice. This is for all of you puzzle masters. We have multiple live-action puzzle adventures here in Hot Springs to take your squad on. Let’s start with the familiar family favorite: Escape rooms.

Here in Hot Springs, there are two different escape rooms to choose from: A Narrow Escape and Escape Hot Springs. Between both companies, you’ll find nine different escape rooms ready to lock you and your squad in a room, putting your skills to the test with a one-hour timer ticking. Does your family have what it takes to make it out before the time ends?

At A Narrow Escape, choose from six different adventures:

  • Travel back to 1953 and put yourself to the test to see if you can escape from the mad Dr. Dennis Wade’s faulty Clinical Trial.
  • Take a trip to granny’s and see if you can successfully solve a comical Murder Mystery seemingly discovered by your uncle Ricky.
  • Go to Wonderland in an attempt to find and save your lost friend Alice.
  • Enter your friend Johnny’s house in 1996, breaking rules that may just be to your detriment while Home Alone.
  • (In a gruesome sequel,) go back to Johnny’s in 2005 once his dad has died and left you all of his Inheritance.
  • Or put yourself to the test when you find yourself in a Bionic Dilemma with a robot named Ada while locked in Dr. Howard Immure’s defunct laboratory.

At Escape Hot Springs, choose from three different adventures, one of which is tailored to Hot Springs’ gangster and bathhouse history:

  • Journey back to the Dark Ages, advancing through the centuries as you make Discoveries Through Time and develop theories to better understand the world and move humanity forward.
  • The most popular room will be finished with a fresh remodel come July. Come check out the Bathhouse and Gambler room, paying homage to Hot Springs’s past full of bathing and betting.
  • Work at your detective certification when going to a Crime Scene in this CSI training room built to test your skills of observation, communication, teamwork, deductive reasoning, and note-taking.

In addition to escape rooms, one more live-action puzzle adventure will take you on an outdoor excursion. You’ll solve escape room-style puzzles throughout 1.5 miles of downtown Hot Springs. We’re talking about the unique, creative, exhilarating Adventure Quest that will take you back to the 1920s, with prohibition in full swing, as your race the clock to “deliver the hooch.”

For the Film Buffs

Head to the Hot Springs mall - also known as “Uptown Hot Springs” — and check out FYE to shop through various movies and television, and popular film merchandise. FYE will hook you up with Stranger Things apparel which you can wear while relishing a Season 4 Volume 2 binge. Or maybe the latest manga for Demon Slayer and My Hero Academia is your jam. Also, look to their huge variety of Funko Pop’s, where you’re sure to find all your favorite television characters.

After allotting ample time to browse FYE, you can catch a movie at Behind the Mall Cinema. This theater will be featuring family movies every Monday and Thursday at 11 a.m. all summer long. Tickets for these special showings are at the low price of $4, and soda and popcorn can be purchased for $1 each. For other showings, visit the Behind the Mall Cinema’s website, or look to the more centrally-located AMC Classic Theater.

One more thing…Spa-Con!

OK, this is about two months out, but I would be remiss not to mention Spa-Con in an “all things nerd” article. Come September 23, Hot Springs will hold its sixth annual Spa-Con Pop Culture & Comic Convention. In this three-day convention full of expos, seminars, Q&As, and meet and greets, celebrity guests include Lori Petty, Beau Billingslea, and Mark Rolston.

Don't miss the opening night ceremonies where Spa-Con special guests will make an appearance followed by a live music performance by Bit Brigade! The band performs rock covers of full NES game soundtracks as their gamer speedruns the game live for the audience. Other notable events not to miss during the Spa-Con weekend are Cosplay Club, where con goers can boogie all night long and compete in the cosplay contest, and the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate video game tournament, where gamers from all over compete for the champion title! For more information on what to expect at this years Spa-Con, head to

Where to Eat

Robo World is the number one place you’ll want to bring your squad to for sustenance while in Hot Springs. It doesn’t get much nerdier than a coffee shop run by robots trying to take over the world. Get your soft serve ice cream, Arkansas-made coffee, and homemade buttermilk waffle stick with the topping of your choice delivered to you by a robot named Rob. Also, take some time to get to know the robots around you, who simultaneously have conversations about you while you’re there. There’s Greg, the sweet old man bot who greets you at the door. Trish, the bratty teenage bot, works retail. Keith, the air-headed bot, has somehow been entrusted to weld the death ray suspended from the ceiling. Let’s not forget Don, the mob-like bot who oversees the entire operation. The cafe also offers an array of science-themed gifts and a shooting game with an over nine-foot bot named Ben.

You might indulge yourself at Rocket Fizz — a retro soda pop and candy shop carrying all your favorite candies, sodas, and nicknacks from your childhood. Rediscover or discover something sweet at the Fizz.

For real food, head down to 420 Eats Food Truck Court. In this enclosed outdoor food truck court, you will find a variety of food trucks from which to choose (whether it’s Cajun southern you’re after, Hibachi, Thai or Indian cuisine). You’ll also have your pick of numerous games to play while you eat—everything from ping pong to baggo to giant Connect 4.

For a lighter treat, look to a few of our boba tea options: Jubi Tea, The Pho House, or Zen Vietnamese Bistro.

Where to Stay

Don’t let the fun stop when lodging with your geek squad. There are a few local lodging options that include arcades and beyond.

Rent a cottage or bring your camping gear or and head to Catherine’s Landing. You’ll get the outdoor experience in the natural state, with handy amenities like WiFi and modern children’s playground. In a similar sense, an alternative is KOA Campgrounds which also offers a mini-golf course and arcade.

For a low-budget lodging option, look to the All Seasons Lodge. Not only will you find a good night’s sleep here, but also a glow-in-the-dark mini-golf course, laser tag, an arcade, and a go-kart course.

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is packed with a variety of fun for families. So the invitation is now in your hands: Will you bring your geek squad and nerd out with us?

Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. She spends most of her time exploring and writing about the city for her online platform The Hot Springs Post. In her freetime she enjoys skating, swimming, car camping and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative.

Featured Listings

Mid-America Science Museum

501.767.3461 | 500 Mid-America Blvd. 71913

The Galaxy Connection

501-276-4432 | 536 Ouachita Ave. 71901