RV Destination: Hot Springs, Arkansas

By:  Kelly Barnett

17th May, 17

"Thanks to Heartland RVs for partnering with me for this post. All opinions expressed are my own." 

While Michael and I met and married in the Hot Springs, Arkansas, area. We moved away 32 years ago…two weeks after we married. But, Michael's mom still lives in a small town about 30 miles south of Hot Springs; so we go back often.

The last few years we've tried to take a more 'touristy' approach to our visits as we've found that when we live in an area we tend to take things for granted and don't visit the area attractions.

Hot Springs National Park became a national park in 1921 and is known for the therapeutic value of the hot spring waters. People have journeyed to Hot Springs for years to bathe in the hot springs, as prescribed by their doctors.

The downtown area of Hot Springs is home to 'bathhouse row' where there were once seven full service bathhouses. The buildings are still there, but only two (Quapaw and Buckstaff) are still operating as bathhouses; a third, Fordyce, now operates as the Hot Springs National Park Visitor's Center. 

Want to bottle some of that spring water…either hot or cold?? You can! Either bring your own receptacles or purchase a fancy jug (like me!) at the Visitor's Center.

You'll find a couple of springs with hot water flowing from them near the Visitor's Center, or there are various points where you can get fresh cold spring water straight from the ground!

Downtown Hot Springs, itself, is interesting to stroll through. Lined with quaint shops selling souvenirs, clothing, fudge, ice cream, popcorn, crystals, etc. – you'll be sure to find something you can't live without! We did!

You'll also find Josephine Tussaud's Wax Museum, an Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, Ducks Tours, a Gangster Museum, The Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic, a Dinner Theater and more…and all of that is just in the downtown area!

If you venture away from downtown you'll find Magic Springs Amusement Park, Garvan Gardens, Mid America Science Museum, Crystal shops and the Belle of Hot Springs boat tours…just to name a few attractions.

Another big attraction to Hot Springs is Oaklawn Race Track which has been racing thoroughbred horses since 1904. Every spring the city is flooded with visitors who attended the races hoping to win the 'big one'. 

Hot Springs isn't all just 'attractions' though. The beauty that surrounds Hot Springs is breathtaking and you can enjoy it by taking a drive to the top of West Mountain where you'll have gorgeous views of the scenery below.  

Or…you could visit the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, located atop Hot Springs Mountain, and take a ride up to the top of the tower and enjoy a sandwich from the small snack bar while gazing at the miraculous world we live in. (This is on our list for our next visit!)

Hot Springs is also known for its lakes and rivers (Catherine, Hamilton, Ouachita) that offer boating, canoeing, swimming and water skiing.

Lodging varies from condos, cabins, and hotels to state parks and mom & pop campgrounds to privately-owned RV parks. Some offer all kinds of amenities…others just the basics. Whatever it is you're looking for, I'm sure you won't have any problem finding it in Hot Springs.

The view from an RV park where we've stayed.

If you run out of things to do in Hot Springs, you can always take a short drive to Murfreesboro to dig for diamonds, take a drive to Hope for some of the best watermelon you've ever had (in season, of course!) since they claim to be the 'Watermelon Capitol of the World' or visit Queen Wilhelmina State Park, in Mena, the host to the Queen Wilhelmina Castle which sits atop Rich Mountain. 

A few interesting facts to leave you with:

McClard's BBQ has been serving up BBQ in Hot Springs since 1928. It's an institution and a must try while in Hot Springs.

The Ohio Club is Arkansas's oldest bar, opening in 1905. It was a favorite hangout of gangsters such as Al Capone and Bugsy Segal. The memorabilia on the walls is reason enough to visit. 

Hot Springs was the boyhood home of the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton. He was a student politician, band major, and an all-state saxophone player while attending Hot Springs High School.

The original Hot Springs High School is now an apartment complex.

Baseball spring training was held in Hot Springs from the late 1880s to the early 1940s…it was actually the first collective destination for spring training. Who knew? We didn't…until recently. Baseball greats such as Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Satchel Paige, and Rogers Hornsby played ball and then soaked their weary bodies in the soothing hot springs. You can learn more by following the Historic Hot Springs Baseball Trail…like we did!

Michael and I met in Hot Springs on March 11, 1985 (his 21st birthday!) and had our first date (cruising up and down the main drag!) on March 19th.  (and were married May 25th, 1985)  Probably the most interesting fact of all… 

2psnapod as babies

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Kelly Barnett

Kelly Barnett

RV There Yet Chronicles

My husband, Michael, and I have been living fulltime in our 2011 Landmark Key Largo since April of 2011 and LOVE every minute of it. 

When Michael retired from the US Army in October of 2012 (after 29 years of service) we hit the road and haven’t looked back. 

We usually work in the south Texas oilfields in the winter and spend time with our two sons and their families in the summer. We travel and sight-see as much and often as possible.