High rollers and heavy hitters know this is the place to play! Play the ponies, play the slots, play golf, or play ball! You can do it all in the centrally-located Oaklawn District, where the air is buzzing, and the crowds are cheering. Named for the state's biggest playground, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, this part of town is also home to Majestic Park, a five-field baseball complex, and the Hot Springs Country Club, which boasts two 18-hole championship courses and a state-of-the-art practice facility. Running through the district's center is the Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail, a pedestrian walkway meandering past a slew of other places to play: A skate park, a pump track, a whimsical playground, and a dog park. And if all this action gets you thirsty, you can wet your whistle (and toast your winnings) at one of the many local sports pubs. Cheers!
Hot Springs is historically known for its healing waters, but as soon as the bathhouses started popping up, so did the gambling houses and the horse tracks. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort opened in 1904 and now dominates the scene in Hot Springs and beyond. Home to the $1 million Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn is a premier thoroughbred racetrack – one of only five in the country that hosts major Kentucky Derby prep races. Live racing is held from December through May, culminating with the Racing Festival of the South. Oaklawn is also home to a hotel and spa, multiple restaurants, an event center, a sprawling casino with live blackjack and craps, slot machines, and a sportsbook area with live wagering.
Hot Springs also attracted professional ballplayers beginning in 1886 with the Chicago White Stockings, now the Cubs. According to a front-page story appearing in the first issue of the weekly newspaper "The Sporting News," the team came to "boil out the winter," soaking in the thermal waters and practicing daily on a makeshift field. When the White Stockings went on to win the National League's pennant that year, other teams took note and started coming too, and spring training was born. Between the late 1800s through the middle of the 20th century, Hot Springs hosted more than 300 professional ballplayers, including Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Jackie Robinson, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, and Hank Aaron. Majestic Park, a five-field baseball complex, is located on the site of the historic Majestic Field, where some of the sport's biggest legends played. Today, Majestic Park includes four youth fields accommodating local leagues and regional tournaments. There's also a field for ages 14 and up that accommodates college, high school, and professional play.
When Babe Ruth was in town, he liked to swing a club as well as a bat. At the Hot Springs Country Club, you can follow in his footsteps. Established in 1898, Hot Springs Country Club welcomed dozens of Baseball Hall of Famers, including Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and the Great Bambino, a regular who would play 36 holes a day during his many visits to Hot Springs.
Today, this semi-private club continues to offer membership to locals and golfing opportunities to visitors. In addition to the golf courses and practice facility, the Country Club boasts a full-service Clubhouse with casual dining as well as two formal ballrooms, golf and tennis pro shops, lighted indoor and outdoor tennis courts, and a swimming pool and playground area.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is home to numerous restaurants and bars that have really upped the ante in Hot Springs. The OAK room & bar is an upscale restaurant located in the casino. For more upscale options, visit The Bugler or the Oaklawn Jockey Club, both with views of the track. Casual eateries include Big Al’s Diner, open 24 hours, Silk’s Bar and Grill with over 22 large-screen TVs; and the Track Kitchen. Located in a separate building just outside the casino, the Track Kitchen is famous for its juicy burgers and enormous pancakes. Other district restaurants include Texas Roadhouse, a popular chain serving steaks and other American cuisine with a Southwestern twist; Waffle House, for 24-hour dining; and La Bodeguita, a small authentic eatery located inside a Mexican grocery store. There are also a string of restaurants located just opposite Highway 7 in the West District.
The district is home to budget-friendly accommodations such as Comfort Inn & Suites, and dozens of privately-owned, short-term vacations rentals that are within walking distance of Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. For the ultimate Oaklawn experience, stay in a trackside room or suite at the gambling resort’s eight-story luxury hotel. Opened in 2021, it also includes an outdoor resort pool and a spa.
Boundaries: The Oaklawn District is bordered by the east side of Central Avenue from the Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway to Grand Avenue; and the west side of Malvern Avenue (270B) from the intersections of Highway 128 to East Grand.
Sports and leisure wear. On Derby Day, folks like to get a little gussied up. Think seersucker or linen suits for men; dresses and big hats for women.
Oaklawn’s racing season runs from December-May culminating with the Racing Festival of the South in April.
Avoid parking lot fees on busy race days and hail a cab, or book a nearby vacation rental and walk.