As you narrow your list of vacation places for this summer, you probably haven’t thought much about going to Arkansas. It’s not exactly high up on the list of tourist attractions, but that might be because you don’t know about Hot Springs National Park.
Don’t confuse it with Olympic National Park Hot Springs or English Springs Park in California. Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas offers a mix of architecture, history, and nature to keep everyone in your family entertained.
What Makes Hot Springs National Park So Unique?
Situated in the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, it is a unique National Park because it is a mix of wilderness and urban area. It has the best qualities of both a town and a park.
The town was built-up around the natural hot springs, and it has been a tourist attraction ever since. It boasts some of the cleanest, purest water in the country. And when you visit, you’re never far from the sound of fresh running water.
3 Ways to Get to Know Hot Springs National Park During Your Visit
If you want to mix it up, you can easily split your time between the park’s wilderness and the historic downtown of Hot Springs. You can walk on the Grand Promenade for a view of the downtown. Or simply bask in the small-town charm of the little city. However, you can still find time to commune with nature.
Still not convinced that Arkansas can pep up your summer vacation? Check out these three ways you can get to know the park, and find something fun for everyone in your family.
1. Come Explore the By-Gone Bathhouses
Bathhouses represent a unique slice of American medical and recreational history. Designed and built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they claimed they could harness the healing powers of the natural springs.
However, they were also places where the well-to-do came to bathe in the lap of luxury. These bathhouses were not so different from modern spas, but with perhaps a slightly more medicinal approach.
Bathhouse Row in downtown Hot Springs offers you a way to stroll through history. You can explore and admire the eight historic bathhouses that line the street. The houses were built between 1892 and 1923, and many of them have been renovated since. Each house is unique, ornate, and an architectural marvel.
Enjoy some luxury
The Fordyce Bathhouse is the most elaborate and expensive bathhouse on the row. In modern times, it now serves as a museum and visitor center. You can stop in to gather information about your stay. Or spend some time exploring the furnished rooms that offer a window into an almost forgotten past.
No visit to Hot Springs is complete without an authentic bathhouse experience. Luckily, the Buckstaff is still operational. It is the only bathhouse on the row that is still a functional bathhouse. And it still offers a wide array of services. You can opt for the traditional bath, or you can upgrade to something more modern.
You can tap into the power of the hot springs mineral water. See for yourself whether it has unique healing powers or not. And if the mineral water doesn’t relieve your stress, the Swedish massages they offer surely will. To make the most of your visit, save this spot for after a long day of hiking.
2. Hike the Leisurely Trails
As you plan your trip you will often hear words like stroll, amble, and maybe even mosey. That’s because the trails that crisscross the park are perfect for a leisurely walk.
While other parks require lots of equipment, preparation, and hiking experience, the trails at Hot Springs National Park are suited for a variety of ages and abilities.
That’s part of what makes it a great family destination. You can get your kids out enjoying nature, without feeling like you’ve put them on a forced march.
Numerous campgrounds make Hot Springs National Park camping fun, easy, and affordable. There are abundant picnic grounds and plenty of chances for good old-fashioned family bonding.
3. Embrace the Town Life
Unlike most national parks, Hot Springs National Park is not nestled in a remote corner of the desert or isolated forest. In fact, it’s adjacent to an urban area.
Often when you plan a vacation, you limit yourself to one kind of adventure. You may opt for the history and culture of a city. Or alternatively, you might prefer the pristine peace of nature. Hot Springs makes it so that you don’t have to choose.
And best of all, you don’t have to waste time shuttling hours back and forth between attractions.
Small but full of life
Hot Springs is a surprisingly bustling little burg full of independent eateries, coffee shops, museums, and festivals. Start your morning off at Will’s Cinnamon Shop for a decadent cinnamon roll made from scratch. Then amble past the architecture of Bathhouse Row. Next, take a trip Garvan Woodland Gardens.
You can spend the afternoon strolling through the botanical garden. And once you’ve had your fill of nature, you can make your way to the spa.
Hot Springs Arkansas Bath Houses
If you’d like to try out one of these old fashioned bath house treatments, you’ll be delighted to know that the park offers the experience. Their approved vendor, Buckstaff Bathhouse, offers a traditional bathhouse experience.
They’ll provide you with a bath sheet and a bathtub just like the good old days. You’ll have a bath attendant, who draws a fresh bath at the right temperature.
You’ll also have access to “vapor cabinets,” which are used to improve lung and sinus health.
You can also have a “sitz bath” — which is exactly what it sounds like. You’ll “sit” in a small tub for a few minutes.
They also offer hot pack and heat therapy, along with hydrotherapy that utilizes a very brisk spray of cooler water.
Guests can also purchase massages and other spa services.
Hot Springs National Park Accommodations
You’ll want to take a few days to explore the area on your vacation, so finding lodging is the first step in planning your trip.
Hot Springs National Park hotels
You’ll find a range of hotels and motels around Hot Springs National Park. The best part is that they range from sheer luxury to quite affordable.
The Arlington Resort and Hotel offers a high-end experience, but you’ll also be able to find several affordable chain hotels, like Embassy Suites. But make sure you check prices. You may find some deals on boutique hotels that the big chains don’t offer.
Hot Springs National Park camping
Hot Springs park offers one campsite for visitors, Gulpha Gorge. You’ll find the camping fees quite reasonable but call ahead to be sure.
All of the sites can fit either tent campers or an RV. You’ll also find water, sewer, and 30 and 50 amp electrical service. All sites also feature a picnic table and pedestal grille for use.
You won’t be able to reserve a campsite, so make sure you arrive early to get one.
Hot Springs National Park cabins
If you’re looking for Hot Springs National Park accommodations that fit right between camping and a hotel, you can find cabins for rent.
Hot Springs offers rentals that range from rustic to glamorous, but make sure you reserve your cabin well in advance.
Make Hot Springs National Park Your Next Destination
Hot Springs, Arkansas is a hidden little gem. It has culture, history, and nature. It has everything your family is looking for, and now you know all about it. So consider it for your next family vacation.