Historic Downtown Hot Springs
Ask a local what's cool to do when visiting Hot Springs and they will always
recommend visiting Historic Downtown Hot Springs
. It's a place full of history & wonder.
How would you like to walk in the footsteps of early Spanish explorers?
They came in 1541, led by ol' Hernando himself, and found this magical
place where the Indians were chillin in a hot bath that flowed naturally
from the side of a mountain.
Imagine what they must've
thought as they knelt by a
mysterious steaming spring
and cautiously extended a
hand to test the perfectly
clear, 147 degree water.
You can still do that in Historic Downtown Hot
Thank goodness someone had the foresight, way back in 1832, to
initiate protection of the area and preserve it for generations to come.
Originally established as Hot Springs Reservation, the park was later
renamed Hot Springs National Park
by Congressional order on 3/4/21.
Historic Downtown Hot Springs and Hot Springs National Park continue to be among the top attractions in Hot Springs AR.And just why is that?
Because there are so many
things to do in Hot Springs AR
and so many
sights to see, there is truly something for everyone.
Come along with me on a little tour of Historic Downtown Hot Springs.
Ok, so where are we going to go first? I know
No place like the top for a good overview of the park, so let's head on up
to Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Perched high atop Hot Springs Mountain, this 216 foot observation tower affords a spectacular panoramic view of beautiful Hot Springs AR and the Ouachita Mountains.
Easy to get to by turning onto Fountain Street from Central Avenue, right
and following the signs.
The National Park protects eight Historic Bath Houses built in the early 1900's and 47 natural hot springs. "HOT" being the key word here folks, this stuff comes right out of the ground at over 140 degrees!
The entire area, known as Bath House Row, is a National Historic Landmark District and certainly one of the coolest places I've ever seen!
Although we've done it countless times, my wife & I will often settle a "what-are-we-gonna-do" quandary with a relaxing walk Downtown or along the Promenade behind the bath houses.
Quality Time in Historic Downtown Hot Springs
The Promenade is a step back in time with retro street lights along a
cobblestone path, sitting areas with benches, gorgeous foliage and
scampering squirrels. Perfect for a nice hand-in-hand stroll...
Relax on a nice shaded bench, feel the gentle breeze, close your eyes and
listen... you can almost hear the "clip-clop" of a horse & buggy coming down the street.
WAKE UP! That IS a horse and buggy coming down the street!
Yes gentlemen, you can take your significant other on a romantic ride in a beautiful white horse drawn carriage as you tour Historic Downtown Hot Springs and Bath House Row.
Listen up fellas, there are points to be made here! You might want to copy
and paste these last few paragraphs of Great things to do in Hot Springs AR
Shopping in Historic Downtown Hot Springs
Shopping downtown is fantastic too! Across the street from Bath House Row there is shop after shop interspersed with great little eateries & coffee bars, stretching as far as you can see.
They are all housed in historical structures built from the late 1800's to the early 1900's. Just checking the buildings out is cool, but wait till you get inside!
You can find anything! There's antiques, toys, contemporary art, exotic imports, jewelry, clothes, accessories, and souvenirs to commemorate
your visit and curios galore!
Wild things to do in Historic Downtown Hot Springs
Just go on down the street a bit and you can take a walk on the wild side at
, our locals' favorite novelty store and always a hit with the visitors. You gotta check 'em out really! They've got some very cool stuff, and they've been a fixture Downtown for 20+ years!
Speaking of the wild side, walk a little further and you can get a tattoo at
RedBeards Living Canvas
or maybe pierce something. A little memento of
your visit? Who's up for that adventure?
Or how about a tour through
Josephine Tussaud's Wax Museum
Great for families, this museum features very life-like historical, fantasy and
fairy tale characters in wax. There's even a creepy "Chamber of Horrors"
if you're not a scaredy-cat, which can easily be detoured by the younger
set. Again, admission is reasonable and it's fun for the whole family!
Oh, and be sure to check their building out! It was built back in 1893 as
The Southern Club, and was a hot-spot for gambling, booze and other "gentlemen's" entertainment all the way through to "the crackdown"
in the 1960's. If these old walls could talk!
Nature things to do in Historic Downtown Hot Springs
Perhaps your bunch would like to learn a little about animals & nature?
Then I'd suggest the Hot Springs National Park Aquarium
Arkansas' largest fish and reptiles exhibit, where native Arkansas fish
and exotic saltwater species are displayed. Easy admission and a nice
little gift shop. (Been there! It's cool!)
Or how about the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo
Here you can see more than 200 alligators from 12 inches to 12 feet long!
There's a petting zoo with deer, a mini-zoo with mountain lions, a museum
and a souvenir shop.
By now you have probably surmised that you either need ample time available when you come or you'll have to plan a return visit soon!
There are so many things to do in Hot Springs AR that you could literally spend an entire week & never leave the Hot Springs National Park/Historic Downtown Hot Springs area.
"Ding-Ding, Ding-Ding!" What's this?
Hop a Hot Springs Trolley with me for a nostalgic tour through Downtown.
Their cars will remind you of something you'd see in an old movie, but they're modernized, riding on rubber tires instead of rails.
The Hot Springs Trollies cover the entire Downtown Historic District.
Beginning at the Transportation Plaza, the Hot Springs Trolley route includes stops at the Visitor Center in Hill Wheatley Plaza with several stops along Bath House Row & Central Avenue. Then they'll run up Hot Springs Mountain to the Mountain Tower.
The route continues with stops at some of our grandest old gals;
The Arlington, The Majestic and The Downtowner Hotels.
Trolley service operates from 10 am to 7 pm Tuesday through Saturday
during the tourist season. Standard fare is 50 cents per ride; an all day
pass good for unlimited rides goes for only $1
Now see? We just made it easier for you to get around Downtown!
You're new here, and you will get lost, cause it happens! Try parking
somewhere Downtown and hop the Trolley!
You want "artsy" things to do in Historic Downtown Hot Springs?
Before we pull on out, let me take you by some of our local art galleries.
Historic Downtown Hot Springs' Famed Arts District
What? You didn't know we had art galleries? Sure we have art galleries!
As a matter of fact, Hot Springs AR is #1 on the list of Places with
Big City Art and Small Town Charm. And, we rank #4 in the
Top Small Art Towns in America!
Bet you didn't know that about us! It's a well-kept secret and here I am
busting us out! Hey, it's Arkansas but we've been out of the woods for
quite some time now! We even wear shoes...to the galleries anyway.
Artists from around the world have gathered here to create a vibrant
community of inspiring art galleries and studios. One of my favorite
events is the "Gallery Walk" on the first Friday of every month.
5 pm - 9 pm you can stroll through the Downtown Historic District
and enjoy some of the finest contemporary art in all of America!
Very often, there is live music & complimentary refreshments, and you
may even get to "rub elbows" with artists whose works are on display.
They often turn out to mingle with the commoners.
(That would be those of us with zero artistic ability!).
We get the Gallery Walk every month but it is only one of the many
Arts Events and Festivals we are blessed with here in Hot Springs.
You can even ride a Duck in Historic Downtown Hot Springs!
Ride a Duck? No, not that kind of duck, a Duck Tours Duck!
A whole fleet of restored amphibious vehicles from World War II
(or "the Big One" as my grandfather refers to it!) line up to take you
on a guided tour around town.
Just when you think the ride is about over, you feel her rush forward
and look up just in time to see the bow hit the water with a great splash!
Not really, it's not quite that surprising and dramatic but it sounds fun, huh?
Entertainment options in Historic Downtown Hot Springs
Another popular stop on our entertainment agenda since its beginning
in 1988 is
The Bath House Show
Always near the top of the list of
"Best Attractions" according to the Reader's Choice Awards by the
Hot Springs Sentinel Record. This great show features live music that
spans the last six decades and timeless, clean family humor.
Historic Downtown Hot Springs is Truly >Magical
I simply couldn't live with myself if I didn't introduce you to this next
attraction as I know him personally and he is one fine guy! Maxwell
chose to settle in Hot Springs and open a permanent
Theatre of Magic. It's the
Maxwell Blade Theatre of Magic
Housed in the historic Malco Theater, the show is a full 2 hour Vegas style
production unlike any you will see anywhere today! Featuring close-up to
large scale stage illusions with unbelievable female stage performers, great
costumes, major lighting and sound. Max will leave you befuddled with his
slight of hand! Great fun for the family! Maxwell puts on one heck-of-a show!
OK! Hop aboard the Trolley and grab a seat, our tour continues with a jog over to show you where to find the Hot Springs Civic & Convention Center and the new Summit Arena. A "must know" location for visitors looking for things to do in Hot Springs AR as there's always something interesting going on there.
More Stuff in Historic Downtown Hot Springs
Let's head south on Central Avenue, past the Bath Houses, and hang a left on Spring Street. You'll know the spot when you see the Downtown Post Office on the left with a bunch of people standing around a big water fountain.
Don't look too long if you're the driver. It's hard I know, but rubbernecking is not a recommended sport down here! The streets Downtown are all pretty narrow and twisty and we don't want to lose ya!!
Those people gathered around the fountain are getting spring water.
FREE SPRING WATER!
Yep, clean, clear natural spring water right out of one of our protected springs...free. It looks like a milk jug bucket brigade going on every time I've been by there! And rightfully so, it's great water!
You should get your own milk jug and take some home too! Oh, by the way, did I mention it was free?
Anyway, go left at the Post Office onto Spring Street, zig-zag (immediate right!) onto Malvern Avenue and take the next left onto Convention Blvd. You can't miss the
Convention Center & Summit Arena
Shows, Events, Games, and more things to do in Hot Springs AR
Arkansas' largest and most modern meeting and convention facility with over 8 acres under one roof. It is host to some great events like boat shows, concerts & basketball tournaments, and more recently served as temporary housing for victims of hurricane Katrina.
The Arena's opener was none other than entertainment legend Tony Bennett! Hot Springs is geared up and ready to provide great entertainment and handle all your convention needs with this most excellent facility!
Be sure to check out the other areas of interest for many more things to do in Hot Springs AR and the surrounding area.
Ready to move on? Try one of these...