Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs' bustling Downtown might be the best base camp ever. With the National Park and the Ouachita Forest in our backyard, you can go from hotel to hiking trail without getting in your car. And after a day of outdoor adventuring, what's better than coming back to a delicious meal, a cold drink, and a warm bed in one of the country's most hospitable and uniquely historic small towns? Here you will find some of the plushest and most iconic accommodations in Hot Springs, plus restaurants, nightclubs, entertainment venues, clothing boutiques, museums, and more, located in commercial buildings dating back to 1886. And if these walls could talk! The original Sin City, Downtown boasted wide-opening gambling and other illicit activities for nearly a century. It attracted notorious gangsters like Al Capone. Today, it's a playground for families, artists, and outdoor enthusiasts with a colorful past that lives on in our beautiful architecture and our attractions.
This picturesque valley has a long history of hosting guests, beginning with the Native Americans who would gather here to sit in councils, trade, and bathe in the springs. Legend states it was a neutral territory where all tribes could come to enjoy the healing waters in peace. A larger-than-life mural depicting two Quapaw Indians greets visitors as they cruise through Downtown, immortalizing these early visitors. Its creator is Italian artist Giuseppe Percivati – one of the latest in a long line of artists who've left their thumbprints on the District. When a 1960s crackdown on casinos left Downtown decimated, a group of artists brought it back to life. They opened galleries and studios. They organized many art events that continue today, including The Wednesday Night Poetry Reading, the monthly Gallery Walk, and The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, held annually each October. The longest-running non-fiction film festival in North America, it includes documentary features and shorts from all around the world, plus film panels, parties, and a host of celebrity guests and visiting professionals. Other downtown arts offerings include a variety of music festivals, a short film festival, and the annual Arts & the Park, a 10-day celebration jam-packed with activities.
Downtown hosts many other can't-miss events – some celebrating our history, others our fun-loving spirit. Steuart Pennington's World Championship Running of the Tubs checks both boxes. Named for the prominent downtown businessman who dreamed up the idea, the annual summer event features costumed teams racing customized, wheeled bathtubs through downtown Hot Springs. Onlookers get in on the fun too, pelting teams with water balloons and hosing them with water guns. Other prime events include The World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade; Spa-Con, a multi-genre comic, and pop culture convention; The Spa Running Festival; and Hot Springs Bike Fest. Each June, the Bridge St. LIVE! Entertainment District hosts a series of block parties with live music, food.
For year-round entertainment, check out one of the escape rooms at Escape Hot Springs, Inc. or A Narrow Escape. Perhaps you'd like to tour the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum or take in a big production magic show at the Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic. Play laser tag or mini-golf, or ride the go-carts at T-Rex Fun Spot. You can even throw axes at Big Axe Battleground and fire a Tommy Gun at Machine Gun Grotto, Hot Springs' only indoor firing range. Explore our history with a guided tour of the Gangster Museum of America or a self-guided tour of the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail, including multiple stops throughout Downtown. Hop aboard the Hot Springs Trolly for a more general overview on a colorfully narrated tour around town. Or take a turn about town with the National Park Duck Tours on an amphibious World War II DUKW that finishes with a ride on Lake Hamilton. Once you've gotten acquainted with our history, you'll find it's seeped into nearly everything you do here.
There are dozens of highly-rated restaurants throughout Downtown – along Central Avenue and just off the main drag. From tacos to fine dining, you’ll find it, plus breakfast joints, pizzerias, steakhouses and much more. There is also a string of locally-owned restaurants along Ouachita Avenue. For a full list of restaurants, click here.
Downtown boasts a wide variety of lodging options that offer everything from convenience and affordability to luxury. Options include cute, remodeled motor courts like The Happy Hollow and Best Court Cottages and modern hotels like The Hotel Hot Springs and Embassy Suites by Hilton. The Waters Hotel is a boutique hotel located in a beautifully renovated building from 1913. It boasts modern amenities and outstanding views with Downtown's only rooftop bar and restaurant. Anchoring the Downtown District is one of Hot Springs' most historic landmarks – the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. Established in 1875, it has hosted some of Hot Springs' most famous and infamous guests, including Al Capone. Request a mineral room with a thermal water soaking tub if you stay overnight. Alternatively, make plans to visit their on-site spa for a traditional thermal bath followed by a massage. Other District Highlights: Hot Springs Convention Center and Bank OZK Arena, the Hot Springs Farmers Market.
Boundaries: The Downtown District includes the stretch of Central Avenue between Grand and Whittington Avenues, as well as the north side of Grand Avenue from Summer Street to Convention Boulevard.
Comfy clothes and shoes for daytime sightseeing and something fun for the evenings. (Most restaurants are casual.)
Downtown is bustling year round and is especially active in the spring and summer months.
By foot or car. Downtown is very walkable but a car is handy for accessing different parts of town.