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The small town of Hot Springs, Arkansas located in the Ouachita Mountains is the perfect destination for a long weekend trip. Coined “The Spa City” there is much to do in the area. From its namesake, the natural hot springs, the National Park, museums, restaurants, and nightlife the area has drawn visitors for hundreds of years.
To make the most out of your long weekend trip and Hot Springs Arkansas weekend getaway, whether it’s a girl’s weekend, a romantic weekend, or even a solo adventure let’s review all this fantastic southern city has to offer. Let’s plan a trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas!
About Hot Springs
Hot Springs Arkansas was a hot spot before everyone started going to Vegas. Seriously in the mid 1800s through the 1930s Hot Springs was the place to see and to be seen if you were anyone!
It was a very popular hangout for many US mobsters such as Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, and Lucky Luciano.
Another claim to fame is that Hot Springs, Arkansas is the founding location of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) concept of Spring Training. Hot Springs hosted over 300 professional baseball players, 137 of them were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hot Springs were utilized as a public health resource for recovery for the athletes.
Some of the famous regulars in Spa City included Babe Ruth, Cy Young, and Jackie Robinson. So if you’re a history buff, or love America’s pastime, visiting Hot Springs Arkansas should definitely be on your bucket list!
Another notable mention, Hot Springs, Arkansas is the hometown of former US President Bill Clinton.
Hot Springs is unlike anywhere else in the United States, as the city is literally within a National Park. Let’s review all of the important pieces of your Hot Springs itinerary such as how to get there, where to stay, what to do, and of course where to eat and drink!
But where is Hot Springs located?
Where is Hot Springs
Hot Springs is located in the West Central part of the state of Arkansas. About a 55 mile (1 hour) drive to Arkansas state capital, Little Rock, to the east.
Hot Springs is a reasonable drive from the DFW (Dallas Fort Worth) area of Texas, Broken Bow Oklahoma, or Shreveport, Louisiana.
Getting to Hot Springs
Depending on where you’re originating from there are several ways to get to Hot Springs. But there actually is an airport located in Hot Springs (airport code HOT). Most flights to Hot Springs airport are operated by private or charter airlines. It’s a small airport with limited flights in and out.
Alternatively, you can fly into Little Rock and then drive to Hot Springs. Or just drive to Hot Springs on a road trip! It is helpful to have a car while in Hot Springs; honestly, that is what we did.
We were coming from Austin & Fort Worth, Texas, and Illinois, so it was a great halfway point for us to have a fun girl’s weekend!
Let’s review some great places to stay while exploring the fun city of Hot Springs.
Where to Stay in Hot Springs
There are many options for lodging in Hot Springs, Arkansas. But, if you want to stay downtown near the National Park and the many bars and restaurants keep reading for some great lodging options in downtown Historic Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Lofts at Vault
The lofts at the Vault are more of a residence-style loft air b n b type accommodation. Located in the same historic building as The Vault 723 Restaurant, I’ll get into the best places to eat in Hot Springs just keep reading for all the details!
The Arlington is a very historic hotel resort and spa. It’s a perfect spot for a spa vacation. It boasts architectural beauty and in the past, it was the location of luxe social events such as balls. It has sustained many tragedies such as a fire, economic shifts, and social changes over time.
The current structure opened in 1924. The iconic lodging option is located right along Central Avenue on the corner of Fountain Street. The Promenade behind bathhouse row is located right across the street!
The Waters Hotel Hot Springs
This is a Hilton property located in a historic building. Located right On Central Avenue but in a great middle location it made walking to many things in historic downtown Hot Springs really easy!
A few awesome things that we learned after staying there, the room numbers and the numbers above the doors/little alcoves do not match. This is due to the fact that the building used to be used as a hospital and after they put the elevator in the numbers don’t match.
You can also head to levels 3 and 4 of the hotel and access the hiking trails directly behind the hotel.
Weekend Things To Do in Hot Springs
Hot Springs is filled with so much history, great food & things to do! Let’s review some of the best things to include in your Hot Springs Arkansas itinerary. You can spend a long weekend (or more!) in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It’s a very underrated destination. Let’s review some of the awesome things to do when spending a weekend in Hot Springs.
Tri-Lakes of Hot Springs
Hot Springs is located in what is known as the Tri-Lakes Region. The tri-lakes include Lake Hamilton, Lake Ouachita, and Lake Catherine. If you’re looking for outdoor activities such as relaxation, camping, and boating you might be better suited to staying in this area while exploring Hot Springs.
Garvan Woodland Gardens
Garvan Woodland Gardens is a botanical garden that’s located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Near Lake Hamilton, the gardens boast four and a half miles of shoreline chock full of wildflowers, shrubs, waterfalls, and bridges.
After a spa treatment if you’re looking for a serene activity to be one with nature and continue your relaxing day, heading to Garvan Woodland Gardens is the perfect addition to your Hot Springs, Arkansas itinerary.
Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail
The Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail is a self-led tour in Hot Springs exploring the roots of America’s favorite pastime in this Arkansas town. You can download the app and visit all of the locations and plan out your own stops to gain a further understanding of the roots of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Downtown Hot Springs Shops
There are many amazing boutiques and specialty shops in historic downtown Hot Springs. Just take a stroll down Central Avenue opposite bathhouse row for a day of amazing shopping!
A few of my favorite stops were the Bathhouse Soapery & Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe. (Just going inside for a sniff inside the Bathhouse shop is well worth it!) I promise you’ll probably come away with some luxurious soaps for an at-home relaxing spa experience. The foaming scrub is my absolute favorite.
Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcakes is the perfect stop after shopping along Central Avenue for a little sweet afternoon pick me up. As featured on the Food Networks Cupcake Wars, I promise this cupcake shop has some tasty treats for everyone!
The Gangster Museum of America
Transport yourself back to Hot Spring’s early days by visiting the Gangster Museum of America. Learn more about the early mobsters that used to frequent the area. If you enjoy learning more about the roots of a destination this museum is a must stop!
Go Wine Tasting
With a few locations in Hot Springs, Arkansas it’s a must on your weekend itinerary! There are free, yes you heard that correctly, FREE wine tastings at Bathhouse Row Winery. Bathhouse Row is located off of Central Avenue just past The Arlington, while The Winery of Hot Springs isn’t in the historic part of Hot Springs.
This is a unique experience to try Arkansas wine. Including muscadine and strawberry wine. I didn’t have very high expectations but was very pleasantly surprised at how tasty the wines were!
Historic Spa Experience
One of the most iconic things to do in Hot Springs (nicknamed Spa City) is to have an actual spa experience! While there over the long weekend, we took in two separate experiences both at The Arlington and Quapaw. There are many more to choose from depending on what type of experience you’d like to have. Let’s review my thoughts on the spa experiences during my long weekend in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
The Arlington Spa
The spa in the historic Arlington Hotel is located in the basement. You’ll definitely want to inquire and make an appointment in advance as times fill up and some specific times are appointment only without any opportunity for drop-ins.
The Arlington is known for its Thermal Water Spa allowing guests to bathe in the actual hot spring water that’s pumped into the hotel. There are many different types of spa services that are offered. We chose “The Works” which included a mineral water bath and massage.
Quapaw Baths & Spa
Quapaw Spa is located right along Central Avenue as a part of Bathhouse Row. There are many different spa packages for both individuals and couples. If you’re planning on having a bath and or massage definitely book in advance!
One thing that Quapaw offers that is unique compared to other spas in Hot Springs, Arkansas is the public pools. We decided to do this during our weekend in Hot Springs and we ended up waiting almost an hour for admittance. Honestly, it was multiple glorified hot tub pools with different temps. I wouldn’t do it again, but it’s a cheaper option to have a “hot springs experience” if you don’t want to pay for a spa treatment.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
Oaklawn Casino and Resort is well known for its horse races. However, Oaklawn also boasts a Casino, Hotel, dining and spas. It’s truly a destination on its own!
Keep in mind that Oaklawn is a few miles away from the downtown historic area of Hot Springs so you’ll have to coordinate a ride and drive out there depending on where you decide to stay.
Things to do: Hot Springs National Park
Arkansas is coined the “Natural State” and what better way to become acquainted than through the Hot Springs National Park. When deciding what to do in your Hot Springs National Park itinerary, there are many things to do including hiking, taking scenic drives & exploring overviews, going up the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, visiting Bath House Row, viewing the open springs, and soaking in the thermal water. You can even do a guided ranger lead tour with the National Park Service!
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is unique in the fact that the city of Hot Springs is within the National Park. Unlike other National Parks, you do not need to pay an admission cost to enter Hot Springs National Park.
The things that are considered part of the National Park are sprinkled among the hotels and restaurants. It really makes this town so unique and special!
There is a lot to do in this compact National Park, but be sure to head to the visitor center that’s located in Fordyce Bathhouse on bathhouse row. This is where the gift shop is located and a museum exhibit. Fordyce is the largest bathhouse located on bathhouse row.
Where to Eat & Drink
One of the best things about traveling is exploring the gastronomical delights a country, city, or region has to offer! Hot Springs, Arkansas has many different dining options from steakhouses, home-cooked breakfast, and casual fare at a brewery.
Vault 723 Restaurant
This was my favorite meal while in Hot Springs Arkansas. The ambiance of this restaurant was top notch! From the low lit restaurant offering lit up almost iPad-like menus for ease to the presentation and quality of the food and drinks, everything was amazing!
Order drinks that are an experience from smoked old fashioneds to martinis bubbling with dry ice. The buns here are to die for! Seriously a cross between a crispy creme but with truffle they are so decadent.
Items we ordered included pork belly, grilled cabbage wedge, shrimp and grits, and stag venison.
Affiliated with the Vault restaurant is a cocktail lounge in the same building. The Heist is located on the second floor of the historic bank building. Offering craft cocktails and small bites it’s a great spot for after dinner drinks or happy hour before dinner.
The Pancake Shop
This historic institution in Hot Springs will satisfy your hunger with hearty breakfast favorites in diner-style digs. Fuel up for your adventures for the rest of the day in the cozy setting. True to its namesake, the best breakfast items were definitely the blueberry pancakes!
Maxine’s is a great spot that you might overlook from the street. When chatting with our bartender at the hotel bar she recommended going there. There are frequent live shows and the deep-dish pizza and cocktails is amazing! If you’re looking for a late night hangout, Maxines is an awesome option.
It also has a history in the early days of Hot Springs as being a brothel. This was very intriguing to us so we had to check it out.
Fat Bottomed Girls
This is more of a drop-in place, however, you can grab cupcakes and enjoy them on the few tables outside of the shop. But getting some to enjoy later is highly recommended! They were featured on Cupcake Wars and have many delicious flavors to choose from. It was hard to decide which tasty treat to get. This was one of my favorite parts of an afternoon of shopping the boutiques in Hot Springs.
The Porterhouse Steak & Seafood
One evening for dinner we ventured to The Porterhouse Steak & Seafood. For the price point personally, I felt the food and vibe at The Vault was better. This restaurant definitely has old-school steakhouse vibes. My favorite thing I ate there was the French onion soup.
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
Superior Bathhouse Brewery is located on Bathhouse Row. Technically it is the only brewery that is located in a National Park! The beers are made with thermal spring water.
With a large selection of craft beers on tap, you can taste them all in a flight. But definitely don’t snooze on the food either, it’s a great stop for lunch! Offering a seasonal menu, their fare changes regularly.
Muellers Bistro and Bakery
Initially, we headed away from the historic downtown area of Hot Springs to go to another restaurant for breakfast (Best Cafe & Bar) but it was closed. Muellers was close by so we shifted gears and had breakfast here instead.
Muellers Bistro and Bakery is a no-frills but homemade diner style breakfast restaurant. You could tell there were many locals eating there. Plus, there are tasty bakery items you can purchase to have after breakfast.
The Ohio Club was established in 1905. So, it’s a historic place to hang out and gave a few drinks. If nothing else just pop in and admire the gorgeous wood bar that’s completely original. Also, the key lime pie martini was amazing and they frequently have live music.
The next time I visit Hot Springs I plan to make it to Best Cafe & Bar as well as their sister restaurant DONS Southern Social. So, check those spots out as well!
When to Visit
The best time to visit Hot Springs Arkansas is during the spring (March to April) and fall seasons (September to October). Summer tends to be very hot and humid, so unless you’re planning on spending time on one of the lakes in the nearby tri-lakes region you’ll likely want more mild weather to thoroughly enjoy your time there.
January was a bit brisk and cool later at night and early mornings but it was great weather to hike in and be outdoors as long as you pack appropriately.
Hot Springs Arkansas FAQs:
Where do I see the hot springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas?
There is a display hot spring located behind the Maurice Bathhouse on Bathhouse Row. This hot water cascades down a small hillside into a shallow pool down below. Near the Grand Promenade, it yet again flows the hot water into a few shallow pools below. If you’re walking along the promenade, it’s worth a stop!
What is the best month to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas?
Spring (March to April) and fall seasons (September to October) are the best months to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas. Summer tends to be very hot and humid, so unless you’re planning on spending time on one of the lakes in the nearby tri-lakes region you’ll likely want more mild weather to enjoy your time there.
How many days do you need to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas?
Two to three days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is a perfect long weekend destination! During your time in Hot Springs, you can explore the National Park and hike, bathe in a traditional spa, do some shopping, and have some great meals and cocktails.
Where do I park in downtown Hot Springs?
There is free parking downtown Hot Springs. This parking garage is located at 128 Exchange Street. There is also metered street parking. Your hotel might also offer onsite parking in a parking lot or have valet parking available. Be sure to inquire about this detail when deciding where to stay!
Can you go in the Hot Springs in Arkansas?
No, you cannot go into the raw Hot Springs in Arkansas. You can book a spa appointment at one of the bathhouses on bathhouse row or in Hot Springs Arkansas to bathe in the waters of the hot springs. Quapaw Baths and Spa is one of the most popular on bathhouse row but The Arlington Spa is also really popular.
Final thoughts: Hot Springs Arkansas Weekend
Hot Springs, Arkansas far exceeded my expectations for a weekend trip! This Arkansas weekend trip was the perfect amount of relaxation, exploration, and the right amount of things to do without your itinerary feeling packed to the brim.
Now that you know where to stay, what to do, and where to eat and drink while spending a long weekend in Hot Springs Arkansas, what are you waiting for? Book the trip! If you’re interested, I also have a story highlight on Instagram for more details and the play by play of our weekend. WanderLust in Real Life Instagram.