It’s convenient having a city’s biggest attraction right in the name, and the 47 area hot springs are unsurprisingly what led to the development of Hot Springs. An unknown number of centuries ago, Native Americans started visiting what they referred to as the Valley of the Vapors. The first European to enjoy the hot springs was Hernando de Soto in 1541. A village sprang up in 1807, and its inhabitants capitalized on the hot springs to draw visitors to the region. By 1832, two crude bathhouses had been built.
Incorporated in 1851, the town of Hot Springs actually served as the state capital for two months in 1862 during the Civil War due to fears that Little Rock might fall to Union troops. After the war, more refined bathhouses were built, and the arrival of the railroad in 1875 led to the construction of the largest hotel in the state at the time, the Arlington Hotel, to accommodate the growing number of visitors who wanted to experience the therapeutic hot springs for themselves. Even when modern medicine caused people to turn to medical treatments rather than curative waters, the town continued to thrive because tourists considered a visit to the springs to be relaxing and rejuvenating.
Today, Hot Springs has 38,500 residents, and it continues to see visitors come for the pampering. In its heyday, there were many bathhouses in operation, and you can still see them today when you tour Bathhouse Row. Don’t miss visiting one of two bathhouses that are still functioning to actually experience for yourself what a soothing soak in the thermal waters feels like. Reinvigorated by your bath, proceed to tour Hot Springs’s famous Gangster Museum, which explores how infamous bootleggers like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano came to be frequent visitors and part-time residents in Hot Springs when they combined soaking and illegal gambling.
If you're traveling with family and gangsters are a little too sordid for you, follow the Historic Baseball Trail to learn about the famous baseball teams that used to make Hot Springs their home for spring training in the early 1900s. Any kid will love the pools, water slides, lazy river, and roller coasters at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park as well.
With 1,940 surface acres, Lake Catherine is the principal reason to visit Lake Catherine State Park. There’s a full-service marina with a launch ramp. Boats are available for rent. Go on a guided horseback ride or take a picnic lunch with you on Falls Branch Trail and eat it by the trail’s waterfall.
Lake Ouachita State Park is home to Arkansas’s biggest lake, Lake Ouachita, and its 975 miles of shoreline. Go canoeing, kayaking, or boating, and don't worry about bringing your own equipment because you can rent it at the State Park Marina. Striped bass fishing is fantastic here, and the lake’s crystal-clear water will beckon you to go swimming and even lets people scuba dive here. The Ouachita National Forest offers beautiful hiking.
Take plenty of photos from the overlooks when you take a scenic drive around Petit Jean State Park. Hike the Cedar Falls Trail, or spend time viewing the rustic log-and-stone structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps that exist throughout the park.
• World Championship Running of the Tubs – For wacky fun, you can’t beat this June race where competing teams push wheeled bathtubs filled with water through downtown Hot Springs. Whoever gets to the finish line first wins, so long as there are still 10 gallons of water left in the tub. Spectators are encouraged to distract race participants by spraying them with water guns.
• Valley of the Vapors Independent Music Festival – An annual March event, this music festival brings artists from around the world to Hot Springs to give innovative, quirky musical performances.
• Arts & The Park – Held in May, this arts festival features a gallery walk, art exhibits, a songwriting competition, and tours of local artists’ studios.
To keep your rental in tip-top shape, head to an area dump station like the one at Young’s Lakeshore RV Resort. Another reliable option is Camp Lake Hamilton.
Outdoor RV storage with a dump station and a wash area can be found at Big Dawg Storage in Hot Springs. Another good option to check out in town is All About Storage, where RV parking outside comes with overhead lighting and access to electric hookups.
You can’t top having a national park right in town, and the grand historic bathhouses on Bathhouse Row are actually part of Hot Springs National Park. Hike the 10 miles that comprise the Sunset Trail, or take the Pullman Trail on a bike or an e-bike. Enjoy a scenic drive or go birding or fishing.
The next closest park, Gateway Arch National Park in Missouri, is a six-hour drive away but well worth it. Take a fun elevator ride to the top of the Gateway Arch for great views of St. Louis. Check out the exhibits at the park museum before heading to the nearby Old Courthouse, the site of the landmark case where Dred Scott sued for freedom from slavery.
In Kentucky, a little over seven hours from Hot Springs is Mammoth Cave National Park. Take one of the guided cave tours of the longest cave system in the world, and leave time to fish for bass, catfish, or perch in the Nolin and Green Rivers. Go for a horseback ride or explore the park by hiking or biking. Paddling the rivers is popular, and canoe and kayak rentals are available.
Whether you like architecture or spending time outdoors in lovely wooded settings, you’ll have a great time at Garvan Woodland Gardens. The impressive wood-and-glass Anthony Chapel is unmissable, and the natural areas are dotted with bridges and waterfalls. There’s also a model train garden, a treehouse, and a bonsai garden.
Once at the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, you’ll be 1,256 feet above sea level and afforded views of the Ouachita Mountains and the surrounding Hot Springs area that will take your breath away.
Good options for RV camping include the centrally located Timbercrest RV Park, which allows pets and features full hookups, laundry facilities, and a game room. Leisure Landing RV Park is on nearby Lake Hamilton, where you can go fishing right from the park’s boat dock. Big-rig-friendly J&J RV Park offers sites with cable TV and full hookups, some near a creek or one of two small ponds.
Motorhomes are divided into Class A, B, and C vehicles. On average expect to pay $185 per night for Class A, $149 per night for Class B and $179 per night for Class C. Towable RVs include 5th Wheel, Travel Trailers, Popups, and Toy Hauler. On average, in Hot Springs, AR, the 5th Wheel trailer starts at $70 per night. Pricing for the Travel Trailer begins at $60 per night, and the Popup Trailer starts at $65 per night.Do you need to be a certain age to rent an RV in Hot Springs?
Yes. The minimum age is 25 to be eligible to get an RV Rental in Hot Springs from RVshare.Does RVshare have emergency roadside assistance?
Yes. Every RV rental booked through RVshare receives 24/7 emergency roadside assistance.Does RVshare offer one way RV rentals in Hot Springs?
Yes. Prior to renting any RV, check with the owner since not all will offer this particular option.