If you’re in the mood for a getaway that combines nature, history, and fun, then Hot Springs is the place for you! Here is our list of great things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas to help make your trip a memorable one.
From soaking in the famous thermal waters, to learning about gangsters, to hiking to wonderful viewpoints in the Ouachita Mountains we’ve got your Hot Springs adventure covered.
Amazing Things to do in Hot Spring, Arkansas
There are many fun things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas both in the park and in the surrounding areas!
Go to our ultimate guide to Hot Springs to learn even more!
Hot Springs National Park
Of course, the biggest draw in the town of Hot Springs is the Hot Springs National Park. This is one of the most unique national parks in all of America.
It is the second smallest national park and is also part of a historic downtown area.
It is also free!
The Hot Springs National park focuses more on history and culture than it does on nature. You won’t find towering mountains and majestic vistas in this small national park, but you will find an in-depth look at a fascinating historical time period.
You will also discover geological curiosities, beautiful scenery and a bustling small town.
The main attraction in Hot Springs National Park are the bathhouses. These beautiful historic buildings sit in a row along Central Avenue and comprise the famous bathhouse row!
The bathhouse row that you see today consists of 8 bathhouse buildings. These were all constructed between 1892 and 1923.
Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum
If you only make one stop in Hot Springs National Park it should be the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum. This provides a great introduction to the park and its history.
It is one of the most fascinating and best things to do in Hot Springs.
This gorgeous historic building is free to enter and there are park rangers available to answer questions. They do a tour at certain times of the day or you can learn about the history of the springs, the town, and the bathhouses on a self-guided tour of the building.
You will love seeing how people used to “take the waters” in Hot Springs, Arkansas!
The Other Bathhouses
In addition to visiting the Fordyce Bathhouse take a stroll down the lovely shaded bathhouse row and explore the offerings of the other bathhouses.
As you walk down bathhouse row you can:
- Browse in the gift shop at the Lamar bathhouse
- Spend the night in luxury at the Hale Bathhouse
- Have a snack and a beer at the Superior bathhouse
- Visit the cultural center at the Ozark bathhouse
- Experience a traditional mineral bath at the Buckstaff bathhouse
- Have a spa treatment at the Quapaw bathhouse
- Unfortunately the Maurice bathhouse is vacant and can’t be visited at this time.
Enjoy the Waters
There are no natural hot springs pool where you can soak outdoors in the thermal mineral waters. This is because of two reasons. The first is that most of the free-flowing springs were capped and routed to be used in the bathhouses many, many years ago.
And the second is that the water emerges from the ground too hot for a person to bathe!
Touch the Hot Water
Although MOST of the free flowing hot springs are capped, there are still two places in town that you can touch or see the springs. The first is the Hot Water Cascade which is located across the street from The Arlington Hotel on what is known as the Arlington lawn.
This is a spot where an uncapped spring tumbles down the hillside and into the pools below.
The second is the Display Spring which is located directly behind the Maurice Bathhouse.
Drink the waters
Yes the springs are pure and drinkable right from the ground.
They are also tested regularly so you don’t have to worry. In fact, you will see many locals filling jugs with the water to take home for drinking. There are several fountains situated around town where you can fill your water bottle.
Soak in the waters
If you decide to stay at the Hale Hotel you can even enjoy the waters from the comfort of your own room!
There are plenty of other spas in Hot Springs in addition to the ones in the National Park!
Stroll the Grand Promenade
The Grand Promenade is a wide brick paved path located up the hill behind the bathhouses. It is a wide and shady walkway that runs parallel to bathhouse row for about 1/2 mile.
It is a beautiful stroll with benches, picnic tables, and pretty views.
Climb the Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Way up the hill behind the bathhouses you will find the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.
You can hike up to it but do know that the hike is over a mile…all uphill. Or you might decide to take the very scenic drive.
There is a charge to go up in the tower. Once at the top you can step out onto the observation deck and enjoy panoramic views of the national park, the city of Hot Springs, and the gorgeous Ouachita mountain countryside.
Do a Little Hiking
There are many great hiking trails in the area! Check out this list of trails in the area from the National Park Service. This should be enough to get you started!
Visit Garvan Woodland Gardens
Just outside of Hot Springs you will find Garvan Woodland Gardens. This botanical garden is a must visit any time of year but if you are visiting in the spring you will definitely want to stop by and see the tens of thousands of tulips!
At Garvan Gardens you will walk along shaded pathways bordered by botanical landscapes with flowering plants for each season. The park is located on the shores of Lake Hamilton which is one of the Diamond Lakes in Hot Springs.
There gardens include gorgeous lake shoreline, streams, small waterfalls, and beautiful bridges.
You will even discover breathtaking architectural structures and fantastic photo opportunities at every turn.
Any time of year Garvan Woodland Gardens is a special place.
See Anthony Chapel
Situated just outside the main entrance of Garvan Gardens is the stunning Anthony Chapel.
Learn About Gangsters at the Gangster Museum of America
You may be surprised to learn that Hot Springs was a favorite haunt of the gangsters of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. It was frequented by Al Capone and others.
Hot Springs, Arkansas had become such an important spa destination during this time that it was attracting people from all over the world. Gangsters followed in order to set up various gangster-type activities such as gambling and bootlegging.
You can learn all about the gangsters in Hot Springs at the Gangster Museum of America.
The Ohio Club was a gambling joint and speakeasy during this time and is the oldest continually operating bar in Arkansas. Stop by and have a bite to eat or a drink.
Find Your Inner Nerd at The Galaxy Connection
The Galaxy Connection is an interactive museum featuring Star Wars and superheroes. You will be able to interact with all the props and have a myriad of photo opportunities. You can put on a jedi robe and wield a light saber.
This is the personal collection of a superfan and the tour is semi-guided. It is a great place for Star Wars geeks of superhero fans of all ages.
Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic
The Maxwell Blade show is located in the newly renovated historic Malco theatre in Hot Springs.
This is a joyful and family friendly show. You will experience magic, artistry, laughter, music, amazement, and wonder. This is really an excellent show that you will want to see on a visit to Hot Springs!
Across the street from Bath House Row and throughout Hot Springs you will find a collection of interesting art galleries.
In fact Hot Springs has been noted as one of the top art towns in the US. There are all kinds of art and artists in town, including amazing pottery.
Here are some of our favorite art Galleries in Hot Springs:
- Gallery Central
- Whittington Gallery
- American Art Gallery and Gifts
- Artists Workshop Gallery
- Dryden Pottery
- Legacy Fine Art Gallery
- Riley Art Glass Studio
- Justus Fine Art Gallery
Learn About Mountain Valley Spring Water
Pop into the Mountain Valley Spring Water museum visitor’s center and museum for a look at the history of some of the best bottled water in the world.
Mountain Valley has been bottling the spring water for 150 years! The water is naturally mineral-rich, pure, crisp, healthy and delicious. They don’t mess with it or add anything to it.
Best of all Mountain Valley Spring Water still comes in glass bottles!
Dig For Crystals in Hot Springs
The unique geology of the Ouachita Mountains has created some of the finest deposits of quartz crystals in the world. The largest clusters are found in the mountains surrounding Hot Springs.
At the Ron Coleman mines just about 30 minutes outside of town you can dig for your own quartz crystals. You can even take a tour of the commercial mines, the digging areas, and see museum quality pieces that have been unearthed.
Take a National Park Duck Boat Tour
What is a duck boat? It is a vehicle that can run on both the street and the water.
On the unique duck boat tour you will climb aboard this interesting open-air vehicle and embark on an informative and funny tour of Hot Springs. After learning how this city became a hangout for gangsters you will go to Lake Hamilton and enter the water for a ride around St. John’s Island.
Shopping in Hot Springs, Arkansas
There are some fun little boutiques sprinkled in the downtown area of Hot Springs. You will find Christmas decorations, antiques, women’s clothing, gifts, soaps, and so much more.
Here are some of our favorites:
- The Savory Pantry
- Petals, Purses, Etc.
- Bathhouse Row Emporium
- All Things Arkansas
- Bathhouse Soapery
- Historic District Antiques
- Kringles in the Park
- Toy Chest
Watch the Horses Run at Oaklawn Racing Casino
Oaklawn racing casino resort has horse racing, a casino, a hotel and spa, restaurants, and bars. It is so much fun to stand at the rail and watch the horses go thundering past. There are also some excellent restaurants at the race track.
Horse racing is not a year round activity so be sure and check the schedules before you go.
Mid-America Science Museum
The award winning Mid-America Science Museum sits on 21 wooded acres near Hot Springs National Park. It has over 100 hands-on exhibits both permanent and traveling.
The museum is sprawling, well maintained, and pretty. The cavern exhibit is always a big hit. This is an excellent place for family fun and education.
Magic Springs Theme Park
Magic Springs is a seasonal theme park with roller coasters and other thrill rides, kids rides, and all kinds of fun. There is also a water park with slides, boogie boarding and so much water fun.
Magic Springs also has a concert series and a variety of events so if you are going to be in Hot Springs in the summer you will want to check out what is happening there!
Lakes Near Hot Springs
Each one is different but each is special. They range from huge Lake Ouachita with tons of little islands that allow free camping to narrow Lake Ouachita which is known for fishing, to urban Lake Hamilton which is surrounded by homes and restaurants.
There is nothing better than spending time on a beautiful Arkansas lake!
Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo
Yes, there is an alligator farm in Arkansas. There are alligators in the southern part of the state. The alligator farm is also one of Hot Springs oldest attractions.
Want to feed a baby alligator meat on a stick? This is the place to do that!
Camping in and around Hot Springs
There are SO many places to camp in and around Hot Springs. Including state parks, Corps of Engineers camp sites, and RV parks.
Lake Catherine State Park is a long time favorite. It is only about 10 minutes from town. It is situated on Lake Catherine which has a full service marine.
This lake is mostly known for fishing, but it does have a swimming beach and some nice hiking trails including one of our favorites, the Falls Branch Trail, which leads to a scenic waterfall.
The only campground that is actually in the National Park is Gulpha Gorge Campground. It is on a pretty little creek and so perfectly situated.
There are many more amazing places to camp! Check out our list of our favorite RV parks near Hot Springs!
Enjoy Some Great Food and Drinks
Hot Springs is a great “foodie” town. There are so many great restaurants from amazing New York style pizza, to a fun restaurant with a speakeasy theme, and so many more! We have a great list of our favorite restaurants in Hot Springs for you to check out!
There are also some great places to get a drink. The Superior Bathhouse brewery is the only brewery in a national park! You could pop into the lobby of The Arlington Resort Hotel for a cocktail or go check out the gorgeous wooden bar at the Ohio Club.
There are many more great places to have a drink in Hot Springs!
I hope you find this list of things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas helpful and that you enjoy your visit to the “spa city.”
More Information About Arkansas
- If you are visiting Arkansas in the summer here is a post with a list of the best summer activities in the state.
- If you are visiting Arkansas in the fall here is a post with a list of the best places to see fall color in the state.
- We also have a list of fun and interesting facts about Arkansas.
- And here is a list of over 100 of the best things to do in Arkansas!
Thanks for stopping by!