Hot Springs is a destination with something for everyone. One of the best things to do in Hot Springs, AR for couples is to indulge in a romantic and rejuvenating treatment at one of the city’s historic bathhouses. Warming up in the city’s namesake hot springs is also one of the best things to do Hot Springs, Arkansas in December.
If you’re searching for the best shopping in Hot Springs, AR, head downtown to Central Avenue. As for free things to do in Hot Springs, AR, hike in the neighboring national park, or visit the Fordyce Bathhouse. Finally, one of the most unusual things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas is to visit the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum. Here is an extensive list of fun indoor and outdoor things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
1. Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park sits on the city’s doorstep, making it one of the country’s most accessible national parks. American Indians have sought out the healing powers of the thermal pools for 14,000 years. Set up camp and then enjoy the national park’s top activities, like relaxing inside one of Bathhouse Row’s historic bathhouses, climbing to the top of the Mountain Tower, hiking on 26 miles of trails, and finishing the day at Superior Bathhouse Brewery.
2. Garvan Woodland Gardens
Spread over 210 acres, Garvan Woodland Gardens is located on the University of Arkansas campus. It’s home to a diverse mix of landmarks, gardens, and woodland trails, including the Sugg Model Train Garden, the curved Millsap Canopy Bridge sitting two stories above the forest floor, the Hixson Family Nature Preserve, and the Garden of the Pine Wind – a rock and stream garden featuring over 300 different Asian plant species. Garvan Woodland Gardens looks particularly vibrant in spring when tulips and daffodils are in bloom.
3. Magic Springs
There’s magic in the air at Magic Springs, as it’s the state’s only theme and waterpark. Let’s start with the waterpark, which has several slides alongside attractions like Crystal Cove Wave Pool, Kodiak Canyon Adventure River, and Boogie Blast, a surf simulator. On dry land, there’s a range of fun thrill rides, including the iconic Arkansas Twister and Big Bad John, a family favorite. During your visit, check out Magic Springs’ annual Summer Concert Series too, which features renowned local and national musicians.
4. Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Sitting atop Hot Springs Mountain in the aforementioned national park is the 216-ft Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Constructed with lattice steel, this is the third tower to be built on the mountain. From its observation deck, visitors can take in 140 miles of sweeping views over the Ouachita Mountains and Diamond Lake area. Open year-round, taking in the view from the Mountain Tower is one of the top things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
5. Lake Catherine State Park
Lake Catherine State Park is fittingly located on Lake Catherine, one of five lakes found in the Ouachita Mountain region. Naturally, the lake is a popular place to go fishing, swimming, and boating, with boats available to rent year-round. The tranquil lakefront park is also home to playgrounds, hiking trails, and a visitor center that doubles as a convenience store. If you want to extend your stay, Lake Catherine State Park has 1930s cabins nestled on its shoreline, as well as 70 campsites.
6. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort
Located in the middle of the national park, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is home to both a thoroughbred racetrack and casino. Named one of North America’s finest thoroughbred racetracks, it annually hosts The Racing Festival of the South alongside other races from late January to early May. Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort also has simulcast racing available year-round, several onsite restaurants and bars, and a casino floor with over 1500 slot machines and 32 table games.
7. Mid-America Science Museum
One of the city’s top family-friendly attractions is the award-winning Mid-America Science Museum. The state’s largest hands-on museum, it has over 100 state-of-the-art interactive exhibits. This includes the Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk, the Arkansas Underfoot Gallery, and the Oaklawn Foundation Dinotrek that features 13 different dinosaur species. Don’t leave without seeing the world’s most powerful conical Tesla coil at the Habeeb Tesla Theater and exploring the solar system from your seat inside the Oaklawn Foundation Digital Dome Theater.
8. Fordyce Bathhouse
The Fordyce Bathhouse is the largest of its kind on the city’s historic Bathhouse Row. Established in 1915, the three-story building features stained glass ceilings and marble walls. It closed in the 1960s, before being restored in 1989. Today, the Fordyce Bathhouse functions as both a historically-furnished museum and the national park’s visitor center. People are encouraged to visit to take a guided building tour, view its exhibits, and watch films about both the bathhouse and national park’s history.
9. Lake Ouachita State Park
At 40,000 acres, Lake Ouachita is the state’s largest lake. Featuring clear and clean water, popular recreation activities on the lake include swimming, water skiing, scuba diving, fishing, and kayaking. Out of the water, other things to do in Lake Ouachita State Park include hiking the Caddo Bend Trail, visiting the historic Three Sisters’ Springs, and stopping by the visitor center, which has exhibits and guided tours available. Surrounded by Ouachita National Forest, the state park is also home to plenty of campsites and cabins.
10. Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
Another one of the top things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with kids is to play a round of mini-golf at Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf. The pirate-themed mini-golf course has visitors putting through mountain caves, across a large pirate ship, and under cascading waterfalls. There are two courses available: the Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Challenge, or you can take the challenge and tackle all 36 holes. Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf is open from mid-February to Thanksgiving.
11. Grand Promenade
You will find Grand Promenade within Hot Springs National Park. Running parallel to Central Avenue behind Bathhouse Row, Grand Promenade extends from Reserve Street to Fountain Street. Surrounded by shaded forest and only stretching for half a mile, there is a surprising number of things to see as you follow Grand Promenade’s paved brick path. This includes downtown city views, the Arlington Lawn, and a cascading hot spring. A stroll along Grand Promenade is one of the top things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
12. Ouachita National Forest
Covering 1.8 million acres, Ouachita National Forest extends from western Arkansas into eastern Oklahoma. Sitting on the city’s doorstep and home to lakes and mountain biking and hiking trails, one of the easiest ways to access the forest is via the aforementioned Lake Ouachita State Park. Ouachita National Forest is also home to the 192-mile Ouachita Recreational Trail and two designated Scenic Byways: Arkansas Scenic Highway 7 and Talimena Scenic Byway, where breathtaking mountain and lake views are guaranteed.
13. Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo
Established in 1902, Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo is the city’s oldest tourist attraction. Get set to hold a baby alligator and feed a selection of animals in the petting area, including emu, pygmy goats, and sheep. Other animals that call the zoo home include monkeys, mountain lions, and wolves. Visitors also have the opportunity to feed alligators with meat on a stick during the feeding season, which is May to October. The family-friendly attraction is open year-round.
14. Funtrackers Family Park
The hardest decision to make at Funtrackers Family Park is choosing where to begin. Its Victory Lane Arcade and Game Room is home to over 60 popular arcade games, while its fast-paced go-kart track is the biggest in the state. Funtrackers Family Park also features the Adventure Jungle Quest Laser Tag course, the 18-hole Volcano Falls mini-golf course, and Bumper Boats – just try not to get soaked! Don’t miss making a pitstop at Funtrackers Family Park.
15. Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum
Josephine Tussaud followed in her great-grandmother’s footsteps (the infamous Madame Tussaud) to create this magical world of wax. The Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum features an extensive range of wax recreations, including celebrities, presidents, royalty, historic battle scenes, and even Leonarda Da Vinci’s Last Supper masterpiece. The attraction is also home to a gift shop and the Gambling Museum, which has everything from historic gambling equipment to old FBI case files relating to the city’s gambling industry.
16. The Bath Factory
Located on the city’s historic Bathhouse Row, The Bath Factory is a locally-owned business that makes luxurious (but affordable) bath and body products on-site from only the highest quality ingredients. Their range of indulgent pampering products includes soap, body lotion, body scrub and wash, facial skincare, and bath salts. The Bath Factory even has a Bark Avenue Bath collection for furry family members. Don’t leave town without purchasing the perfect souvenir from The Bath Factory.