A trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, could include history, nature, and so much more. This resort city has several natural hot springs, as well as a wealth of American history to discover. Let’s check out some of the best ways to spend a day in Hot Springs.
About Hot Springs, Arkansas
Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, Hot Springs is not only a resort community but also a small city with several hot springs. People used to travel to get the healing benefits of the hot springs. In fact, in 1832, the area got designated Hot Springs Reservation. It officially gained national park status in 1921.
While the natural hot springs lie north of the city in Hot Springs National Park, the city of Hot Springs has bathhouses with thermal baths. You’ll also find breweries, restaurants, shops, and more.
The town has a vast history, including numerous architectural wonders of Art Deco style, major league baseball training, horse racing, and more. Enjoy the historic downtown district or visit the legendary Bathhouse Row maintained by the National Park Service.
How to Spend a Morning in Hot Springs
Start your day in Hot Springs, Arkansas, right with breakfast and a national park.
Breakfast at The Pancake Shop
The Pancake Shop has operated since 1940, making them one of the oldest family-owned restaurants in Arkansas. Today they also operate the Savory Pantry, a mail-order business for specialty foods.
Address: 216 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR
Menu Options: Obviously, you should sample the pancakes. There are numerous options, from the tried and true buttermilk to buckwheat. For fruit lovers, you can get apple, banana, or blueberry.
Or try one of the savory omelets with bacon, ham, and cheese. Raisin toast and french toast entice sweets fans, and rye toast or English muffins go great on the side of eggs and bacon.
Reasons to Love It: The Pancake Shop has served locals and tourists alike for more than 70 years. Get fresh-squeezed juice and pancakes made from scratch with real maple syrup. Most of the staff has been at The Pancake Shop for years, some for decades, and it’s still family-owned and operated.
Explore Hot Springs National Park
The thermal waters have drawn people to this area for centuries, but the geology and natural wonders go beyond just warm healing waters. There are amazing mountain views, wildlife, forest hikes, and more to see in the Hot Springs National Park.
The National Park Service maintains and runs the historic spa buildings that makeup Bathhouse Row in town. The architectural charm and history of these magnificent structures are unmatched anywhere else in the world. Be sure to visit the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum and Visitor Center to learn about the area’s history.
Or you can soak in the water in The Buckstaff Bathhouse or The Quapaw Bathhouse. You can touch the waters (but not bathe) at The Display Spring or the Hot Water Cascade, where there are pools for ambiance and relaxation outdoors. For alternative healing options, you can drink the water and fill containers from various sources throughout the town free of charge.
When you’re ready for some outdoor exploration, find 26 miles of hiking trails where you can see gorgeous forests and wildlife. You don’t feel like you’re in the city with the dense vegetation and relaxing surroundings. There’s even a campground for camping, picnicking, and swimming.
What to Do With Your Afternoon in Hot Springs, AR
Your day is just beginning. Check out how you can spend your afternoon in Hot Springs.
Eat Lunch at The Purple Cow
The Purple Cow started in 1989 in Little Rock and opened a location in Hot Springs in 2010. It emulates classic 1950s diners. This family-friendly restaurant is fun for “youth” of all ages.
Address: 1490 Higdon Ferry Road, Hot Springs, AR
Menu Options: Start with some fried pickles or sweet potato fries with honey dipping sauce. Then move onto a great burger that comes with your choice of toppings from cheese and bacon to ranch and grilled jalapenos or chipotle mayo. You’ll find turkey burgers, vegan burgers, and a variety of hot dog options as well. Salads and soups will entice lighter appetites, while Ruebens, grilled tuna, grilled cheese, or grilled turkey will appeal to sandwich lovers.
You’re on vacation, so don’t forget the dessert. The namesake Purple Cow is a purple vanilla shake. You can also get adult beverages, including grasshopper and white Russian shakes. A full menu of luscious, inviting desserts will encourage you to sample banana pudding, apple pie, hot lava cake, or a caramel cashew coffee sundae.
Reasons to Love It: Modeled after 1950s diners, the Purple Cow has a great ambiance for a family that likes kitsch and fun with amazing food. There’s something for everyone on this menu.
Check Out Anthony Chapel
Located on the University of Arkansas campus in the botanical garden, Anthony Chapel is an architectural wonder. This glass chapel in the woods blends with the surroundings and allows an amazing view of the outdoors. It’s part of a complex of buildings but has won awards from the American Institute of Architects, including the fourth-best design of the 20th century. The chapel is free to visit but check ahead as it hosts 175 weddings annually.
Explore and Take a Soak on Bathhouse Row
Soak up history as well as enjoying the waters on Bathhouse Row. The eight structures you’ll find here were built between 1892 and 1923. This area gained National Historic District Landmark designation in 1987.
The Fordyce Bathhouse houses the visitors center, while Quapaw and Buckstaff bathhouses still operate as spas. The Superior Bathhouse is the smallest of the eight and now houses a brewery, the only one in the world that uses spring water in beer. The Lamar Bathhouse houses the Bathhouse Emporium. Meanwhile, the Hale Bathhouse is the oldest one and has a sauna housed in a thermal cave.
Spending an Evening in Hot Springs
After a day of excitement, there’s still more to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas. So round out your evening with these attractions.
Dinner at Rocky’s Corner
Kick back for a slice and a beer at the end of your day in this family-owned restaurant. The relaxed atmosphere will help you unwind after a long and exciting day.
Address: 2600 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR
Menu Options: Refuel with Chicago-style pizza at Rocky’s Corner. Traditional pizza toppings include sausage and pepperoni, onions and peppers, and the controversial Canadian bacon and pineapple.
Or enjoy one of the Italian sandwiches with meatballs, muffaletta, and the popular Italian beef with au jus. Pasta options run the gamut from spaghetti and alfredo to shrimp scampi.
Other Reasons to Love It: This casual location will fill you up with hearty homemade Italian food and pizza, getting you ready to explore for another day.
Drinks at The Rooftop Bar
The Rooftop Bar sits on the top of the Waters Hotel. You’ll get a gorgeous view of downtown while you enjoy your drinks.
Address: 340 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR
Drink Options: Craft and local beers, a lengthy wine list, and seasonal craft cocktail options will encourage you to linger well into the night. You can even get sangria, a mango kicker, or an adult hot chocolate.
Reasons to Love It: This is the best place to enjoy a cocktail and a view of the city outdoors. Relax with your friends in this lofty perch while enjoying some unique drinks.
Catch a Show at the Maxwell Blade Theater of Magic and Comedy
Located in the historic Malco Theater, the Maxwell Blade Show is an extravaganza of illusion, magic, music, and comedy. A cast of characters uses piano music, humor, and tricks of all sorts to entertain a crowd of up to 300 in a historic venue. This multifaceted show will make for a memorable evening.
Where to Stay?
It may well take you more than a single day to soak in all Hot Springs, Arkansas, has to offer. Kick back at the end of the day to recharge.
Gulpha Gorge Campground
Get in tune with nature by staying at the Gulpha Gorge Campground, located within Hot Springs National Park. Both tents and RVs are welcome. You can experience the water, go for a hike, or just kick back in nature.
Address: 305 Gulpha Gorge Road, Hot Springs, AR 71901
About the Park: With 40 sites that accommodate even larger trailers and RVs, this is a great option for camping near Hot Springs. Each site has full hookups, including 30 and 50 amp electric, water, and sewer. Each site has a grill and picnic table, and the restrooms are modern but don’t have showers. Sites are first-come, first-served. They cost $30 per night.
Why You’ll Love Staying Here: Located in the park, the scenery and surroundings are natural and relaxing. At the same time, you’ll remain close to everything the rest of the city has to offer. Whether you want to spend your time exploring the park or sample craft beers throughout the city, you can do it all from the campground.
A Day in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs, Arkansas, is a one-of-a-kind destination filled with history, culture, charm, southern hospitality, amazing food, spas, architecture, and more. There’s something for everyone, including families. Have you ever visited a natural hot spring before?