Arkansas? Where? What’s Arkansas? That’s what my friends from California ask. Even the Weather Channel tends to ignore Arkansas. All the states surrounding Arkansas have their names identified on the weather map; but Arkansas’ name is sadly missing. And then I am noticing that the travel blogs either miss Arkansas altogether or they make a brief stop in Little Rock (maybe because the Weather Channel notes it on their map?) I feel a calling! I have to educate everyone that will listen about this beautiful state; Hot Springs in particular.
When we first moved here, four years ago, I was told that Arkansas is the only state that has borders with five other states: Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, and Louisiana. I was told that Arkansas (being in the middle of course) was left undeveloped and natural (the state logo is: The Natural State) so that the bordering states would have a place to come to for hunting, fishing, golfing, boating, and relaxing, which is why there is so little industry here. Whether that is true or not, I cannot tell you; but I do know that there are very few places in the United States where one can drive for hours and see only a handful of cars. You can get anywhere in the state without having to get on a major highway.
There are many beautiful and interesting places in Arkansas, one really can’t go wrong almost anywhere you visit. The beauty of Hot Springs is that there are so many wonderful state and federal campgrounds within a few miles of downtown: Gulpa Gorge Campground, Lake Catherine, Lake Ouachita (my favorite), Lake DeGray State Park, and Brady Mountain (Army Coors of Engineers). I am not big on private campgrounds, mainly because of the expense, but if you are interested in rock hunting, Coleman Crystal Ron’s Mine has a campground charging $12/night, or $300 a month. You can walk to the mine to hunt for crystals from your campsite!
Hot Springs itself is actually a national park. (Something not told to the tourist but important to know is that in the downtown area, one side of the street [the side with all the bath houses] is National Park, and the opposing side is city. The reason this is important to know is that if you are going to get a speeding ticket, make sure you are on the city side, as the National Park side’s fines are double.) A colloquial name for Hot Springs is “The Spa City.” Hot Springs gets its name from the naturally thermal spring waters found there. There are wonderful walking trails that take you up above the town by the thermal waters.
A must is to spend a day at one of the bath houses. Before doing so, take the tour at The National Park Bath House. They do a wonderful as well as entertaining job of educating you on the history of the bath houses. My favorite spa is Quapaw Bath House, mainly because it is one of only two that use the actual waters from the springs. You can pop in just to sit in the shared thermal pool for only $18. The water has been Carbon-dated at 4,000 years old and is high in silica, calcium, magnesium, free carbon dioxide, bicarbonate and sulfate. It has been used therapeutically for thousands of years. Of course there are private baths and a whole range of spa packages.
Garvan Woodland Gardens is just one of the must see’s. It is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the Natural State. The botanical garden is on a 210 acre peninsula and is the University of Arkansas. It doesn’t matter what time of the year one visits, it is spectacular as well as magical. Christmas time is especially sensational.
The downtown area has the Gangster Museum, a Wax Museum, the historical Arlington Hotel where Al Capone stayed, restaurants and shops. Our favorite spot is the Ohio Club, which is reported to be the hangout of Al Capone. It is just a fun, happening place!
As far as Hot Springs Village, CBS News aired an interview with the vice president from RealtyTrac regarding a recent study on: “The Top Cities for Boomers to Lead the Good Life.” Hot Springs Village was rated the number 3 place to retire in the United States.
The criteria used was:
- Places that have a high percentage of retirees already and that have established themselves as retirement hot spots.
- Not only must they be good places to live, but must have markets with price appreciation and also a good rental investment, so that those who are not ready to retire now can buy a house, rent it out and make money in the interim.
And, Chicago’s: Golf Chicago TV had a segment on Hot Springs Village. The introduction was to stay tuned to hear about a little-known golf mecca in Arkansas (and the word Arkansas was said with a distinct “oh my gosh, Arkansas?” tone). They touted the nine golf courses, 13 lakes, and beautiful walking trails as a must see. (Have to watch the intro, then scroll forward to 17:48 to see the segment on the Village.)
Hopefully I have whetted your interest in visiting Hot Springs. It really is a great spot to visit. (I don’t know why the Weather Channel doesn’t put it on their map???)