From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
A historical resort town that still feels like a vacation, Hot Springs, Arkansas is a city all its own. Here are our favorite places to explore and things to do in Hot Springs!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Not every city can claim that it has a national park right in its backyard — but Hot Springs can! There are also some other incredible natural spaces close by; here are some of the best state and national parks and preserves in and around Hot Springs, AR.
If you’re in Hot Springs, chances are you already know that this is the place to be — but there’s more to Hot Springs National Park than deliciously warm geothermal pools. This unique park is also home to a mountain tower offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, as well as some sweet hiking trails and the opportunity to learn a whole lot about the history of this area.
The 1,900-acre lake itself is a draw, of course… but Lake Catherine State Park has even more to offer than a placid waterfront. Along with boating, kayaking, canoeing, and other water-based activities, visitors flock to this park for wildlife watching, hiking, and more; there’s even a program of guided hikes and cruises offered by the park to help you get better acquainted with the landscape.
Named for the largest lake in the state of Arkansas, Lake Ouachita State park includes a stunning 40,000 acres of beautiful blue waters to explore and adventure in and on, as well as plenty of land-based fun, to boot. Camp in one of the more than 90 sites, some of which are right on the waterfront, and enjoy swimming, water-skiing, fishing, boating, and even SCUBA diving in this unparalleled body of water.
One of the best things about Hot Spring is how closeby it is to so many incredible adventures. Here are some of the best hiking trails in town.
A flat and easy adventure that’s as good for walking as it is running, biking, and getting the pups the exercise they need, Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail runs about four miles altogether and sees a little more than 100 feet in elevation gain. While much of the path is paved, this trail does also offer some tranquil natural scenery and it’s not too far from the urban core of Hot Springs if you’re in need of a quick outdoor romp!
Located inside Lake Catherine State Park, Falls Bench Trail is a moderate trek seeing about 200 feet in elevation gain along its one-and-a-half-mile stretch. As its name implies, this trail is known for its beautiful waterfalls, which cascade gently into the lake below surrounded by dense, green Arkansas foliage.
One of the most beloved trails in all of Hot Springs National Park, West Mountain Trail is a moderately challenging hike that climbs about 350 feet in its just-shy-of-two-mile round-trip length. Its inclines, while heart-pumping, lead to beautiful sweeping views of the surrounding valleys and the community of Hot Springs, making it well worth the effort.
A moderate-to-challenging hike that offers views as well as beautiful scenery on the way up to them, Goat Rock Trail climbs almost 400 feet over the course of its two-and-a-half miles, and is particularly well known for its plentiful wildflowers. This trail is also a favorite for those hoping to spot local wildlife and many different kinds of birds, and it’s a dog friendly trail so long as Fido stays leashed the whole time.
Looking for something a little bit more challenging to tackle? Sunset Trail is a favorite option among serious hikers looking to explore Hot Springs National Park. Traveling 13 miles out and back and seeing more than 2,000 feet in elevation change during that time, this trail is an all-day venture — and one that will definitely have your calves and quads burning. If you remember that old saying about marching to school uphill both ways, you’ll be prepared for this loop, which offers an incredible overview of the entire park.
One thing’s for sure: if you’re going to keep up with all the awesomeness Hot Springs has to offer, you’re gonna need some serious fuel. Good thing this town has plenty of great restaurants to choose from! Here are a few faves.
If you’re in the mood for something satisfying and rich, few things fit the bill better than Italian. Luna Bella is the favorite for Tuscan eats in Hot Springs, not least because of its extensive and delicious martini list offering you plenty of options for washing your meal down with. You’ll also want to be sure to save some room for dessert; the rotating menu is made from scratch daily, so you never know what’s going to be available… but you can count on it being delicious!
One of the best parts of living in or visiting the south is the opportunity to indulge in some comforting and delicious southern-style cooking. Whether you’re after chicken and dumplings or a Paula-Dean-style grilled ham and cheese, Mama Vee’s Southern Homestyle Cuisine has everything your sweet, southern heart could desire — and more.
When you’re this close to so many lakes, you simply have to enjoy some food reeled up fresh — and Fisherman’s Wharf is the place to go in town when you’re looking for some delicious seafood. Along with favorites like fried clam strips and crab cakes, this spot also serves up fresh steaks, salads, sandwiches and more.
Arkansas is more deep south than south of the border, but there are still some delicious Mexican treats in store at Don Juan Authentic Mexican Restaurant. With many five-star ratings from visitors on TripAdvisor, this joint is known for its generous portions of classic dishes like fajitas, queso fundido and more.
If you’re looking for the best Asian food in Hot Springs, you’re probably looking for The Pho House, a vietnamese cafe that serves far more than its namesake noodle soup. This spot is also beloved amongst the plant-based set for its vegetarian and vegan options, and also offers you the opportunity to follow up the meal with a cup of authentic Vietnamese coffee.
Although the nice, warm soaking springs are the big draw, there are plenty of other incredible things to see and do in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Here are just a few.
There are so many wonderful kid-friendly options to get into in Hot Springs! Here are some of our top picks.
The Hot Springs may be mom and dad’s favorite get-in-the-water activity, but for the kids, it’s all about Magic Springs — a beloved Arkansas water and theme park where you’ll find plenty of thrills and spills. Along with major roller coasters and other high-flying attractions, this park also offers some gentler family options fit for kids and those looking for a tamer experience. The water park offers a wave pool, river adventure, slide towers and so much more. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon… or a whole weekend.
Young kids and big kids alike will be fascinated by the wild creatures that call the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo home. While the big gators stay far away from guests, you can take your turn holding a baby gator if you’re brave enough — and there are plenty of other animals in the petting zoo area to interact with and feed, including pygmy goats, emus, sheep, and more!
While there are all sorts of diversions under the Arkansas sun, there are still more to-dos once daytime is done. Here are some of our best suggestions for after-hours fun in Hot springs.
From Aretha Franklin tributes to live plays and comedy acts, Hot Springs Bathhouse Dinner Theatre hosts all the best entertainment that comes through these parts… and also offers the very best dinner buffet in town. Widely considered one of the top picks for things for couples to do in Hot Springs, a trip to this venue makes for a great date night.
The only thing better than winding down with a few cocktails or a bottle of wine? Doing so with a view — which is exactly what The Rooftop Bar offers. One of the hottest spots in Hot Springs, this joint also offers a delicious array of appetizers, meals, and bar snacks, from fried buffalo wings to burgers and nachos to a light and refreshing watermelon salad. Enjoy it all with your panorama of town on the side!
Don’t want to spend a fortune getting to know this one-of-a-kind town? You don’t have to. Here are the very best cheap things to do in Hot Springs this weekend (or whenever).
Hosted by the University of Arkansas, the Garvan Woodland Gardens is a unique botanical garden that are set aside to preserve and augment the natural beauty of this part of the state, including more than four miles of wooded lake shoreline. The park also offers an annual winter festival which lights the area up with bright, twinkling lights — and it’s just $15 for adults and $5 for kids aged 4-12. Dogs can go, too, at the same cost as kids!
Maintaining an attitude of curiosity and getting excited about learning new things is important at every age — not just for kids. The Mid-America Science Museum makes it easy to feel electrified by education, thanks to its wide array of informative and interactive exhibits. The museum also hosts special shows and events, including the demonstration of the world’s most powerful Tesla coil! Tickets start at less than $10 a head, making this a decidedly affordable diversion.
Learn what life was like for the real OGs — seriously — at the Gangster Museum of America, which calls Hot Springs home. Documenting this under-the-table lifestyle back in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, at the height of Hot Springs’ heyday, this museum effortlessly combines entertainment and education, and tickets start at just $15 for adults. Talk about an offer you can’t refuse!
It’s true: there are plenty of things to do in Hot Springs that don’t require you to spend a single cent. Here are some to add to your itinerary.
Looking to experience the natural beauty of Hot Springs National Park without necessarily getting your feet dirty (or wet, for that matter)? The Hot Springs mountain drive is the perfect way to see it all from the comfort of your vehicle, and features six scenic overlooks for you to stop and get a real lay of the land. Be sure to put this one on your list for sunrise or sunset; those Technicolor Arkansas skies are even lovelier from way up high!
We’ve already covered the best state parks and hikes in and around Hot Springs, but even within town itself, there are plenty of great places for enjoying some outside time. Entergy Park, for example, is known for its playgrounds, fishing spots, and walking trails, while the Hot Springs Bark Park is the place to be for pet owners looking to help Fido blow off some steam. Best of all, they’re all free and just waiting for your arrival!
Whether it’s a healing massage or a brand new ‘do, sometimes, you just have to treat yourself to a spa (or salon) day. Here are some of the best day spas and salons in Hot Springs for when you just need a little “me” time.
A beautiful and historical bathhouse that makes use of the hot springs’ perfectly balanced, geothermally heated pools, Quapaw Baths & Spa also offers a wide range of spa services to round out the rejuvenating effect of a visit. Enjoy a Swedish, deep tissue, or target massage or relax into a facial or body skin care service. Private baths are also available for soaking, and there’s even a blow out bar to ensure your hair looks on point when you leave!
Changing your hair can be more than just a cosmetic upgrade: it can be a ritual. You Look Fabulous Salon is dedicated to helping you get the hair of your dreams, and also offers nail care services, waxing, and professional makeup applications for brides-to-be.
Taking care of your body is kind of what Hot Springs is all about… and as critical as rest and relaxation are, movement is also an important part of staying fit and healthy. Here are the best gyms and yoga studios in town for those in need of a sweat sesh.
The essential — and quintessential — gym in Hot Springs, Hot Springs Health and Fitness can help you meet your goals no matter what level you are or now lofty they may seem at the start. Along with a range of cardio and strength training equipment, this spot also hosts a variety of group classes to help you mix it up and stay motivated, and there are even two swimming pools for those looking to swim their way to success.
Offering vinyasa classes that combine movement and meditation, The Yoga Place is the perfect place to find your strength and center, both physically and emotionally. With a schedule filled with a diversity of yoga options and a roster of teachers who are dedicated, professional and empathetic, this place is truly welcoming to everybody… and every body.
While this guide stands as evidence that there’s no need to travel far away from Hot Springs to find some enjoyment, there are plenty of incredible day trips and weekend getaways in the area if you’re looking for an adventure! Here are some to consider.
The capital of the state and its most populous city, Little Rock is well worth the drive from Hot Springs… especially since it’s less than an hour! While you’re in the area, enjoy a romp around Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park or pay a visit to the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. There’s so much to see and do in this diverse and historically significant city.
From meandering down Beale street to take in some tunes to enjoying some out-of-this-world Tennessee barbecue, there are all kinds of reasons to make the pilgrimage to Memphis. As is true for so much of the south, this big town’s atmosphere is much friendlier than its soaring population numbers would have you think, and it’s also surrounded by a variety of wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Hot Springs that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Hot Springs? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.