There really is no place quite like Hot Springs, Arkansas. Nestled in the Ouachita Mountains right in the heart of Hot Springs National Park, the tiny town of Hot Springs is brimming with history, culture, and outdoor adventure!
Fondly known as Spa City, Hot Springs is famous for its healing thermal waters, which run through Hot Springs National Park. Hot Springs actually emerged as a wellness boomtown in 1832, and if you head to the historic Bathhouse Row today, you can still experience a traditional bath at the 1912 Buckstaff Bathhouse.
Once you’ve had enough relaxation, go hiking on the 26 miles of trails in Hot Springs National Park, take in the Ouachita Mountain views from Hot Springs Mountain Tower, or go kayaking or boating on nearby Lake Hamilton, Lake Catherine, and Lake Ouachita.
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Hot Springs, you’ll be spoiled for choice! Learn about Spa City’s mafia ties at the Gangster Museum of America before grabbing drinks at Al Capone’s former watering hole, The Ohio Club. From going art gallery hopping in Hot Springs’ Victorian downtown to riding thrilling roller coasters at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, you’ll find endless entertainment in this magical hamlet.
With so many cool things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Hot Springs for you. Stick to these fun and adventurous Hot Springs bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring Spa City!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Hot Springs
1. Hike Sunset Trail in Hot Springs National Park
Set on 5,500 acres of land, Hot Springs National Park boasts 26 miles of scenic trails. But if you’ve only got time for one epic hike, Sunset Trail is the perfect pick.
This 10-mile (one-way) trail starts at Gulpha Gorge Campground and ends at the West Mountain Summit. But if you prefer to loop back to Gulpha Gorge Campground, you can tack on a number of other trails to the Sunset Trail. Or, if you’re just looking for a short jaunt, you can always just tackle one of the trail’s three 3-mile sections.
No matter which way you choose to go, Sunset Trail will lead you through diverse and remote terrains, up to the park’s highest point, and past a tranquil pond and groves of wildflowers. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a range of bird species, from cardinals and eagles to woodpeckers and chickadees.
Be sure to set out early because the entire trail can take up to 8 hours to complete!
2. Go for a Soak at the Historic Bathhouse Row
Tucked away inside Hot Springs National Park in downtown Hot Springs, Bathhouse Row needs to be at the top of your Hot Springs bucket list! Bathhouse Row is made up of eight iconic buildings that were built over the city’s natural hot springs between 1892 and 1923. The entire area was later designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1987.
If you want to visit the largest and most opulent bathhouse in Hot Springs, you’ll love checking out the Fordyce Bathhouse and Museum. This 1915 bathhouse-turned-museum is the most expensive of the bunch and offers a fascinating glimpse into the city’s bathhouse culture.
Dating back to 1892, the former Hale Bathhouse is the oldest surviving structure on Bathhouse Row. The building has been tastefully revamped into the historic Hotel Hale, where you can soak in the town’s thermal spring waters in your room’s private soaking tub!
Buckstaff Bathhouse is the only bathhouse that still offers a traditional bathing experience. If you really want to treat yourself, the Deluxe Bathing Package offers a whirlpool mineral bath, a paraffin hand treatment, and a 20-minute full-body massage.
3. Grab Drinks at Al Capone’s Favorite Speakeasy
If you’re looking for things to do in Hot Springs at night, look no further than The Ohio Club. Located right in the heart of downtown Hot Springs, this place got its start in 1905 as a bar and casino. Later, when Prohibition went into full effect, the space transformed into a cigar store with a hidden speakeasy and casino.
With its Vegas-like reputation, Hot Springs was a hot spot for gangsters, so it’s no surprise that The Ohio Club was a popular hangout for the likes of Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, Bugs Moran, and Lucky Luciano. In the early 1900s, the city played host to MLB Spring Training games, so baseball stars like Babe Ruth also hung out here!
Fast-forward to today, and The Ohio Club is one of the most popular nightlife spots in town. Expect stiff cocktails and live jazz music in the evenings. The chef also serves up huge burgers and sandwiches. If you’re feeling really hungry, order up the Big Al Double Cheeseburger with a Templeton Rye Whiskey, Al Capone’s favorite drink.
4. Discover Spa City’s Mafia Past at the Gangster Museum of America
Speaking of gangster history, paying a visit to the Gangster Museum of America is easily one of the most unique Hot Springs attractions. While Hot Springs is best known as a sleepy wellness town, the city had a quite notorious reputation in the ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s when the city was a playground for some of the mafia’s most infamous criminals.
Located right on Central Avenue in downtown Hot Springs, the museum houses seven galleries and exhibitions which detail the city’s gangster history. Be sure to pay a visit to The Capone Gallery, The Outlaw Gallery, and The Casino Gallery.
As you tour the museum, you’ll learn all about how Charles “Lucky” Luciano was detained by the Hot Springs Police in 1936 in the New York Connection exhibition, how the powers that be created the largest illegal gambling operation in the US in The PowerBrokers gallery, and so much more!
5. Fill Up at the 420eats Food Truck Court
If you’re a self-proclaimed foodie and you’re looking for things to do in Hot Springs, be sure to stop by the 420eats Food Truck Court on 420 Malvern Avenue. Even if you’re not hungry, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained at this unique dining concept.
Head here with your crew, and you can spend hours playing fun outdoor games, listening to live music performed by local bands, and socializing with new friends at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Plus, this place is pet-friendly if you want to bring your furry friends along.
The hours range, and not every food truck is always open, so be sure to check the website if you plan on stopping by. Weekends – especially Friday and Saturday nights – will be your best bet, though!
For such an intimate food truck court, the dining options are surprisingly diverse. You can sample Japanese fare at Rock ‘N’ Roll Hibachi, Southern home-style dishes at Mama Vee’s, Indian cuisine at Taj on Wheels, Mexican food at Taqueria la Oaxaqueña, and more! Plus, there’s a bar on-site if you’re in the mood for a tipple.
6. Take in the Views from Hot Springs Mountain Tower
If you’re looking for cool things to do in Hot Springs, be sure to take a trip to Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Located just a stone’s throw from downtown, this is a prime place to take in sweeping views of this naturally beautiful corner of Arkansas!
If you prefer to get a little exercise, you can hike the 1.5-mile trail from Fountain Street to the tower. Or, if you’re short on time or traveling with little ones, you can just drive to the tower. To reach the top, the elevator will whisk you up 216 feet to the observation deck, where you can take in stunning views of the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs Mountain, and the Diamond Lakes area.
Time your visit for the fall, and you might get beautiful views of the area’s red, orange, and yellow foliage. No matter what time of year you visit, there’s also an on-site gift shop selling fun Hot Springs souvenirs if you want to pick up a gift or memento to bring back home.
7. Admire All of the Artsy Outdoor Murals
One of the most unique things to do in Hot Springs is to hunt down the city’s best outdoor murals. Home to dozens of galleries, it’s no secret that Hot Springs has a really cool artsy side. But take a wander around the city’s streets, and you’re sure to swoon for all of the gigantic and colorful murals you’ll find scattered around town!
One of the most well-known murals is titled Black Broadway. This gem covers the Habitat for Humanity Restore building on 350 Malvern Ave. and celebrates the many famous entertainers who have performed in this part of town. Think B.B. King and Count Basie!
Head up the road to 204 Malvern Ave., and you’ll find Playing Cards – a tribute to the city’s baseball history and legendary players like Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. Then there are murals celebrating Hot Springs’ Native American roots, the animals at the famous Alligator Farm, the natural beauty of the area, and so much more! Plus, don’t forget to snap a selfie with the wings of #LoveLaurays.
8. Get Tipsy at Superior Bathhouse Brewery
Sampling craft brews at Superior Bathhouse Brewery is easily one of the most fun Hot Springs activities. Housed in the 100-year-old former Superior Bathhouse, this place stands proud as the world’s only brewery that uses thermal spring water to brew its beers! It’s also the only brewery located inside a US national park.
Superior Bathhouse Brewery has 18 craft beers on tap at all times. If you want to sample a few, order up a flight of four tasters of your choosing. Or, if you’re really serious about your brews, the Beer Bath allows you to sample all 18 on one board!
From the Seven Fiddy IPA and the Spicy Ride Jalapeño Ale to the Beez Kneez Blonde Ale and the Hot Girl Sour Pickle Habanero Sour, there’s something to suit all tastes. If you need something to soak up all that booze, you’re in luck. Superior Bathhouse Brewery boasts an excellent menu of burgers, sandwiches, and salads.
9. Marvel at the Garvan Woodland Gardens’ Anthony Chapel
Perched right on the shores of Lake Hamilton, Garvan Woodland Gardens is easily one of the must-do things in Hot Springs. This 210-acre botanical park is owned by the University of Arkansas and it’s absolutely stunning!
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Hot Springs, you can spend hours meandering around the 4.5 miles of shoreline, photographing all of the colorful flowers, exploring the Garden of the Pine Wind Japanese Garden, and chasing picture-perfect waterfalls.
One of the coolest Hot Springs sightseeing attractions also happens to be located inside the Garvan Woodland Gardens. Anthony Chapel is set right in a beautifully manicured garden.
The chapel stands proud at six stories tall and is surrounded by towering trees. With its wood trimmings and countless windows, the chapel was designed to blend seamlessly with its beautiful surroundings.
With its spectacular architectural design, this is an ultra-popular chapel to get married. But even if you’re not tying the knot, you’ll love marveling at this one-of-a-kind structure.
10. Learn About MLB History at the Hot Springs Baseball Historic Trail
If you’re a baseball fan, the Hot Springs Baseball Trail needs to be at the top of your Hot Springs bucket list.
You probably already know this, but the Chicago White Stockings (now the Chicago Cubs) chose Spa City as the place for their Spring Training games way back in 1886. Since then, Hot Springs has attracted all sorts of baseball teams and famous ball players, from Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron to Jackie Robinson. Today, the Hot Springs Baseball Trail pays homage to Hot Springs’ unique baseball history.
The trail will take you to 31 stops, each of which features an informative placard highlighting the baseball-centric events that took place at each stop. You’ll learn all about how players soaked in the healing waters at Bathhouse Row, how Babe Ruth gambled on Thoroughbreds at Oaklawn Park, and how some of baseball’s most important players frequented the Majestic Hotel and The Ohio Club.
11. Take a Hike in Lake Catherine State Park
Located an easy 20-minute drive from downtown Hot Springs, Lake Catherine State Park is one of the best Hot Springs attractions if you can’t wait to get outside. This 2,240-acre state park offers endless outdoor activities perfect for everyone in your crew!
One of the best things to do in Lake Catherine State Park is to take a hike or two. The 2-mile Falls Branch Trail is arguably the most popular trail in the park and will lead you to a beautiful (but seasonal) waterfall. If you’ve got the energy for more, there’s also the 3.5-mile Horseshoe Mountain Trail and the 4.5-mile Dam Mountain Trail.
After hiking, cool off at the lake’s swimming beach or rent a boat at the marina and try your luck at catching a few fresh fish for dinner! If you prefer to spend more time at Lake Catherine State Park, you can even rent one of the 20 on-site cabins or pitch a tent at the campsite. If you are camping, Lake Catherine State Park just so happens to be an excellent spot for stargazing after the sun sets.
12. Sample Local Goods at the Hot Springs Farmers & Artisans Market
Taking some time to peruse the Hot Springs Farmers & Artisans Market is the best possible way to celebrate Spa City’s local spirit. This seasonal market is held at the Farmers Market Pavilion at 121 Orange St. in downtown Hot Springs, so if you’re in town on a Saturday, it’s an ultra-convenient activity.
The hours fluctuate, so be sure to check the website ahead of your visit. The Main Market is held on Saturdays from 7 am to noon from May through October, and the Winter Market is held on Saturdays from 9 am to noon from November to October.
No matter when you visit, expect to find all sorts of local vendors and artisans selling everything from fresh fruits and veggies to homemade breads, jams, and honeys. Every Saturday, there’s also live music courtesy of talented Hot Springs’ talented artists.
If you’re feeling peckish, there are always plenty of food stalls and food trucks where you can buy gourmet meals. From vegan tacos to locally sourced burgers, there’s something to suit all tastes here!
13. Have a Lake Day at Lake Ouachita
If you’re looking for fun outdoor Hot Springs activities, take a day trip to Lake Ouachita. Located roughly an hour from Hot Springs National Park, this is the largest lake in the state, and it’s also one of the cleanest in the entire US.
This gem is 40 miles long and boasts 975 miles of shoreline. Rest assured, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to lakeside activities. Because the lake is so clean, it’s a prime spot for swimming. Plus, there are two swimming beaches and 10 designated swimming areas.
If you prefer to take to the water, it’s also possible to rent water vessels – from kayaks and canoes to motorboats and pontoon boats. This is also a prime place to go fishing, either from a dock or your boat. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can even go scuba diving in one of the 30 excellent dive spots in Lake Ouachita!
14. Spend the Day at Magic Springs Theme And Water Park
If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do in Hot Springs, spending the day at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park is always a good idea. Plus, it’s located an easy 3 miles from the heart of town, so it’s super easy to get to.
Whether you want to splash around on a hot day or test your limits on a thrill ride, there’s something for everyone. Head over to the water park, where you can float down the lazy river, take a ride in the Crystal Cove Wave Pool, get some serious speed at the High Sierra Slide Tower, and so much more.
Or, if you prefer to stay on dry land, the theme park is full of surprises. If you’re looking for thrills, Brain Drain will drop you 13 stories, while Plummit Summit has a dramatic 50-foot drop. Older kids will love the Arkansas Twister and The Gauntlet roller coasters. If you’re traveling with little ones, there’s the Razorback Roundup Bumper Cars and the Rum Runner Pirate Ship.
From fun-filled concerts to family-friendly events, you’ll find endless things to keep you entertained here!
15. Get Your Art Fix at the Gallery Walk
Held on the first Friday of every month since 1989, the Gallery Walk is all about celebrating Hot Springs’ incredible local art scene. Attend the gallery walk, and you’ll immediately see why this town is ranked No. 4 in the list of the “Top 100 Small Art Towns in America!”
Head to the center of town from 5-9 pm on the first Friday of each month, and you’ll have the chance to get an in-depth look at the newest art exhibitions and studio spaces. Not only can you check out some incredible art, but the artists will even show up and chat about art and life in Hot Springs with passersby.
You’ll have the chance to see everything from unique pottery and jewelry to watercolors and wood carvings. Plus, you can wine and dine on light bites while mingling with visitors, locals, and artists.
Even if you’re not in town on the first Friday of the month, there are always art and music events being held in town. From the 10-day Arts & the Park event in April to the Hot Springs Music Festival in June, you’ll love getting your culture fix in Hot Springs!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Hot Springs. What’s your favorite thing to do in Spa City?
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