Travel Time - Hot Springs, Arkansas
I've been many places throughout our country and I gotta say, Arkansas is one of the most underrated tourism destinations we have. Thankfully I grew up going there often to visit family, so it's not news to me. In fact, Arkansas is one of my top places to go to get away, relax, and get back to nature. One of my hands down favorite places there? Hot Springs!
Hot Springs, Arkansas is an ideal place to break away for a few days. There is plenty to do, it's beautiful, and it has a rich history to learn about. From the Quapaw Indians, a highly destructive fire in 1913, the bathhouses, gangsters, and natural healing hot springs located all over the city... there is something for everyone. And don't forget ALL the photo ops! There were way more photos this trip than I've taken in a while, but I just had a hard time editing it down any further. Sorry not sorry.
I went on a very non-touristy schedule, arriving Sunday afternoon and leaving Thursday after lunch. That was great as far as not being crowded at all, which I really appreciated. However, in a touristy town, that also means many things I would have liked to have checked out - from shopping to restaurants - weren't open. That doesn't mean I lacked for things to get up to, it just means next time I might ensure I'm there on Thursday and Friday at least, then I can bounce before the major crowds roll in for the weekend.
Hot Springs is also an easy a 5 hour drive from home and a few degrees cooler... sign me up! It's a smooth trek on I-30 all the way to Highway 7 in Arkansas, which takes you directly to Hot Springs. It's a pretty bland drive until you reach Texarkana. Then it starts to get prettier and hillier as you continue on. There are plenty of towns, gas stations, and restaurants along the route. Not a lot of complaints about the traveling part of the equation.
I stayed at the DoubleTree Hotel on Lake Hamilton, a short 12-minute drive to the heart of downtown, and you get those beautiful lake views too! The hotel was clean and pretty well maintained. The beds were comfortable and the room had all the amenities I needed for my few days' stay, including a wireless charger and mini-fridge.
They have a café on-site, but I didn't try it so I can only speak to the bartender making a decent drink. I didn't get a chance to partake in the pool. I was too busy shoppi... ahem, hiking... and then the final couple of days I was there were stormy. It was a pretty looking pool though with a nice view of the lake.
I did get a chance to walk the grounds and take in the sunset from the lakeside common area. It was relaxing, comfortable, and a really nice end to the first day of travel.
The final day there, the storms knocked out the power at the hotel from around 5am-7am, no biggie. Until the power came back on and it caused the fire alarms to initiate. So the entire hotel was evacuated under threat of fire at 7am... fun way to meet your fellow travelers I assure you. We learned a lot about each other real quick. It was, thankfully, a false alarm.
All the employees were polite and I really don't have much negative to say. I would look forward to staying there again. It'd be nice to get one of the higher-up lakeview rooms and get to spend some time at the pool next time around.
Hot Springs has quite a bit to offer as far as what you can get up to. I didn't even do "all the things" but still filled my few days up quite easily. This particular trip I did some shopping, hiking, eating, photography, and wellness treatments.
Downtown you'll find natural hot springs, Bathhouse Row, and blocks of shops and restaurants to occupy your time. This area is highly walkable and just plain pretty.
There are several hiking trails in and around Hot Springs. This trip I chose to hike the West Mountain trails. I was looking for a relatively easy hike, with a little bit of a challenge here and there. This was a really great section of trail. Lots of trees, easy to navigate, and good wide paths.
I also treated myself to the full-meal-deal at the Buckstaff Bathhouse, as well as a Thai-Massage the following day. The bathhouse treatment consisted of a hot spring whirpool bath, hot spring towels body wrap, steam chamber, sitz bath, massage, and paraffin hand wax. It's quite the experience. I was exhausted.
Now for the real photo-fest... Garvan Woodland Gardens, the botanical garden of the University of Arkansas. I could come here and blow my memory card up with photos and it be different each season. They have easy to walk paths and a few that are a bit off-road. I may have worn too light of pants to be laying on the ground getting photos, but it was worth it none the less.
Now what you really want to know about... the food! There is no way to hit all the food places you'd want to in a few days. Just more reason to keep coming back.
There were Snapper and Garden Veggie Tacos at Capo's Tacos and some of the best Vegan (mushroom, spinach, & onion) and Red Pepper & Cheese Empanadas I've had at the Argentinian Coffee & Wine Bar - I went twice! I had pasta at Luna Bella, Salmon at Eden inside the Hotel Hale (the former Hale Bathhouse), and Shrimp Cocktail at Trejo's Del Lago on Lake Hamilton.
Add on some stops for coffee and frosty beverages, and it was a solid trip.
The final days there were pretty stormy. Didn't stop me from getting a massage at Thai-Me, nor from having a coffee and some more of those yummy empanadas at the Argentinian Coffee & Wine Bar next store.
It was soggy, but still pretty. I love storms.
I look forward to the next trip. The new things there will be to see and do... as well as those empanadas... Til next time Hot Springs!