Hot Springs National Park

Some friends and I went to Hot Springs National Park for a quick women’s weekend getaway. We didn’t know what to expect, as none of us had ever been there before, but we were very pleasantly surprised by the great food, healthy activities, and easy access.

We drove from Nashville to Hot Springs, which was about 6 hours, but it was fun to cross the Mississippi River at Memphis and see they waterfront and pyramid. Little Rock was interesting too, as we passed by the Clinton Library, but it was closed for Covid, so we didn’t stop. We got to our very cute black and white horse themed AirBnB and settled in before heading out in search of tacos.

Oaklawn race track is located in Hot Springs, which indicates that the claim that Hot Springs could have been Vegas if the chips had fallen differently in the 1930s has some validity. There was a statue of American Pharaoh, the 2012 Triple Crown winner out front. After checking it out, we walked across the street to Capo’s Tacos and indulged in amazing salsa, margaritas, and, you guessed it, tacos. It felt like mini-Austin, but much cheaper. Our bellies full, we walked back to the AirBnB, but it was dark and we had to make a few jokes about just needing to out run the others in case of emergency.

Our itinerary was pretty open, but we knew we wanted to do some hiking and visit the National Park museum and bathhouses. My recommendations for Hot Springs are definitely the Buckstaff Bathouse, where you get a traditional bathing experience dating from the 1920s. Women and men are separate and baths are individual, with a long tub soak, a hot towel pack, sitz bath (in a huge cup tub), and steam bath followed by a 20 minute Swedish massage. The mineral water is from the mountain and is about 4000 years old. That’s not a typo. The water undergoes a long journey into the earth before being pushed up into a reservoir where it waits for incoming water to create pressure to bubble up to the surface at 143 degrees. Because the water descends so deeply and stays so long, there’s no sulfur scent to the water. Just clean taste remains.

There are fountains around town where folks can fill jugs. The Park Ranger who led our tour told us that in the winter, the park service employees carry cups that they fill with mineral water to make hot cocoa or coffee on the go. I do recommend a Ranger led tour. We learned a ton from Lisa who lead us along the historic bathhouses and Grand Promenade. Each of the bathhouses had been converted to another use, with the exception of the two offering baths. There’s a bookstore/gift shop, hotel and restaurant, a soon-to-be art gallery, and a woman-owned brewery using mineral water to make beer in the first brewery on National Park land. One of the buildings hosts a museum, which we found really interesting for the overview of the history, geography, and architecture of the place.

We got a recommendation from a ranger on a hike, and that was perfect. We did about 4.5 miles on the trails leading up to the peak and the Goat Rock overlook. We came down past the Arlington Hotel, which used to host bootleggers back in the day. A highlight for me was getting to meet up with my friend who lives in Hot Springs and see the Arkansas School for Math, Science, and the Arts.

Overall, eat at Superior Bathhouse for beer and lunch, Capo’s Tacos for dinner. Stay somewhere cool. And definitely take a bath at the Buckstaff. We highly recommend Hot Springs for a quick, relaxing getaway!


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