Rainy Travel: Hot Springs, Arkansas
What comes to mind when you hear someone saying they're taking a trip to Arkansas? Probably not much at first, but let me tell you, Arkansas is heavily underrated and we all should take a couple days or more to enjoy everything Arkansas has to offer. My husband and I traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas from December 27 - 30. We both are off during this time and wanted to take a little trip as a gift to each other. I really wanted to travel somewhere with a national park and he wanted to go somewhere that wasn't too long of a drive and didn't have to spend an arm and leg on travel. We ended up at Hot Springs and here's everything you need to know.
What We Did
While some might not think there is a lot to do in Arkansas, let alone Hot Springs, you are surely wrong. We found our days filled with fun and always doing one thing or another. Here are some of the things we did while at Hot Springs, Arkansas:
Hiked Around Hot Springs National Park: Hot Springs National Park is the smallest national park in the U.S. but that doesn't stop it from being equally wonderful from it's other counterparts. What's cool about this park is that you don't have to drive far to get there. Actually, you don't even need to drive at all! You can literally just walk from the town to the park because it basically encompasses the entirety of the town. We found ourselves loving hiking around the tall trees and enjoying the openness of the park. It's also a good park for both experienced and inexperienced hikers. And there's a nice observation tower to see all of the town!Quapaw Bathhouse is a very historical building that's been around since 1922. We chose this bathhouse because there seemed to be more options based off what we saw on the competing websites at the time. We chose a couples private bath with an additional facial for me and a massage for him. The bath was very relaxing and very warm, with the facial and massage equally relaxing. Definitely recommend doing one of the bathhouses while you're here. Just remember, you're in a historical building, it's not super modern.
Learned history at the Gangster Museum of America: I enjoy learning about obscure American history and the history of gangsters is one of them. The Gangster Museum of America holds the gangster history of Hot Springs, and oh is there plenty! This is a great place if you're into the mob, gangsters, history, and want to kill about an hour of time.
Tasted some moonshine at Crystal Creek Distillery: Crystal Creek Distillery was something we picked because it's something we don't come across a lot during our travels. We got to do a great tasting of the different moonshine flavors, plus little tastings of cocktails and their new vodka soda drinks all for $10. We also got to see where the action happens for free. It's a great place to try, learn, and drink some moonshine cocktails at the bar.
Watched a Dragshow at Maxine's Live: I'm pretty sure Maxine's Live is one of the only places in town that stay open past 11pm. Maxine's holds a charming bar with themed nights throughout the week and weekend. We happened to go on drag show night and it was a pretty fun time. Drinks were alright, but the entertainment was top notch!
Took a chance at Oaklawn Casino & Racetrack: We only came here for a little bit since our only left us in a flash. The Oaklawn Casino & Racetrack is a casino and horse racing track in the middle of town. It's a pretty big facility operating on 24 hours. The casino area was plenty big and spacious and they had the smoking area in a separate room from the regular casino, so that was nice. Like I mentioned, we didn't win while we were there, but we did witness a woman win the jackpot, so it can't be that rigged.
Saw Some Lights at the Garvan Woodland Gardens: We went to the Garvan Woodland Gardens when it was nice and lit up. I mainly wanted to see the Anthony Chapel, but was blown away by the eccentric light displays that filled the gardens. Typically holiday light displays have the same type of themes, but the Garvan Gardens was like nah, we're going to have a fairy garden theme and a koi fish theme and panda theme, etc, etc. There was so much to see in the gardens and every time I thought we were nearing the end, I was wrong, but I was okay with it. There was so much to see and I would love to come again during the day to witness the gardens in broad daylight.
We also visited a Books-a-Million while we were here. I know, it's a pretty big chain, but we actually don't have Books-a-Million down here in south Texas. We did have one for a hot minute years ago in S.A., but it closed down. I was excited to visit one again and grab a cup of Joe Mugg's.
What We Ate
The food scene by-far exceeded my expectations, and I honestly wasn't sure what culinary treasures to expect from a small town in Arkansas. The first night for my husband's birthday, we found a nicely sized sushi joint that also had bento and hibachi options called Ai Sushi and Grill. We went for more of the sushi and this is where I knew the rest of the food we would experience would be just as popping. Our sushi was super fresh, chunky, and delicious. Our drinks were just as beautiful tasting and we ate it all up.
Some other notable spots we ate at were:
Grateful Head Pizza: This is a delicious pizza spot and tap room that leads up to the mountains. They offer both indoor and outdoor seating. Since it's so good, there was a wait when we went, so expect to wait an hour or so, but know that it's totally worth it.
The Purple Cow Restaurant: This restaurant is a little local chain in Arkansas, famous for it's purlpe, 50's inspired interior, along with it's purple vanilla shake and purple cheesecake. Commodities aside, they had pretty good food as well. We had a regular burger with fried green beans (something very common in Arkansas) and a turkey burger with hand cut chips and of course a purple vanilla shake. All very good, all in a reasonable price range.
Taco Mama: I don't normally try Mexican food outside of my hometown (besides Mexico) because I'm usually pretty disappointed in the canned beans and store bought tortillas. Trust me, I can tell. But we took a chance on Taco Mama after talking to a bartender who raved about it. We tried it and we can confirm, Taco Mama is the place for Mexican food when you're visiting Hot Springs, AR.
Kollective Coffee + Tea: This was a cute little coffee and breakfast spot in town. My husband got a mocha and I tried the sakura tea. Both equally flavorful in their own right. We also ordered a nice sized breakfast that was complete with flower toppings.
Where We Shopped
We actually didn't shop that much on this trip honestly. We did go into a couple of stores, one being a row
of sweet/novelty shops from the Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe. The other shop that I did buy stuff from and wish I could buy the whole store is called Stella Mae's Out of the Ordinary. Stella Mae's felt like a retro, yet somehow modern, store that had counterculture from every decade items for sale. From earrings, to 1960's dresses, to 1970's go-go boots, this was a fun shop to browse, buy, and kill time.
Where We Stayed
There are plenty of places to stay in and around Hot Springs. There was a cute tree house option I found out about and plenty of cabinesque stays on Airbnb, but my husband had Hilton points from his work travel, so we opted to make the trip a bit cheaper using his points for a very nice stay at the newly renovated Hampton Inn.
So, yes. Definitley make a stop in Hot Springs Arkansas if you ever want some time away to chill, hike, and just be somewhere new. It's a great little town to explore with great food and a friendly vibe. Until our next adventure, happy travels! You can also watch my little recap on my YouTube channel.