Hot Springs, Arkansas has a colorful history of gambling and gangsters combined with ancient thermal springs, mountain views and magical treehouses. We took the kids to Hot Springs and loved the mix of nature plus historic small town vibe. Here are 10 things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas with kids!
Where to stay in Hot Springs, Arkansas
I find staying in a house is the easiest route with kids. I typically use Airbnb or Vrbo to find houses to rent, but went with Airbnb for Marfa. If you’re new to Airbnb, sign up here and get $65 off of your first booking. If you’re looking for a hotel option, The Arlington looks magical!
We stayed at the Paddock Boutique Bungalow with our family of 4 and it was perfect. The fully renovated 1940’s bungalow has 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a full kitchen, and a closet full of backyard games! The house is only a 5 minute drive from all the things to do in Hot Springs, and the historic neighborhood is great for an evening walk. Don’t miss cinnamon rolls at Will’s Cinnamon Shop!
Things to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs, Arkansas has a colorful history that combines gambling and gangsters with delightful architecture and an abundance of nature. There is something for everyone in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
1. Mid America Science Museum
We’ve been to a lot of children’s museums, and this one is our favorite! Mid American Science Museum sits on 21 acres in the shadows of the Ouachita National Forrest. The indoor area offers 100+ hands-on exhibits, including a 2-story water ball machine! The outdoor area is gorgeous complete with a 40 foot tall fort and a dinosaur trek through the forrest, the whole fam will love this museum! The museum is closed Monday- Wednesday, but open from 9-5pm Thursday- Saturday and 1-5p on Sunday. (To see my kids in action at the museum, check this out.)
2. Garavan Woodland Gardens
Garavan Woodland Gardens is 210 acres of gorgeous gardens situated on the shoreline of Lake Hamilton. The complex contains many different flower gardens, waterfalls, streams, unique bridges, and rock gardens. My kid’s favorite section was the 1.5 acre Evans Children’s Adventure Garden that was completed in 2018. (To see my kids in action at the gardens, check this out.)
3. Anthony Chapel Complex
The Anthony Chapel was completed in 2006, and it is located outside of the required ticketed area of Garvan Woodland Gardens, so it is always free to view. As of February 2021, you can’t go inside the chapel, but you can view it from the outside and it is absolutely worth the walk!
4. Hot Springs Mountain Tower
The Hot Springs Mountain Tower is 216-foot tall and offers panoramic views of Hot Springs, the Ouachita Mountains and the surrounding Diamond Lakes area. It’s a great way to start off or end a day of sightseeing in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. You can choose to take the stairs or the elevator, I’d recommend the elevator. Admissions is $10 for adults 12 and over, $5.50 for kids 5-11, and kids 4 and under are free. Times vary depending on the season, check the website for more details.
5. Hike & bike
Hot Springs has 16 city parks with with 8 miles of hiking and biking trails. I always use All Trails to find the best hikes in the area, and it looks like there are 30 trails listed for Hot Springs, Arkansas.
6. Lake Ouachita State Park
Lake Ouachita is Arkansas largest lake and offers 40,000 acres of clear, clean water surrounded by the scenic Ouachita National Forest. Swimming, skiing, scuba diving, boating, kayaking, and fishing can all be enjoyed here. Don’t miss the scenic views on the 4 mile Cado Bend trail.
Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is unlike other National Parks. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson created the first-ever federal reservation in Hot Springs since National Parks weren’t a thing yet. The goal was to preserve the 140 degree Fahrenheit thermal springs that bubble up in the hills that surround the town. Hot Springs became a mecca for people soothing their ailments by bathing in the healing waters. Hot Springs soon became one of the country’s first resort towns thanks to the natural hot springs.
7. Fordyce Bathhouse and museum
Upon opening in 1915, Fordyce Bathhouse was once considered the most luxurious bathhouse in Hot Springs. It is now used as a 4 story museum showcasing the history of Hot Springs. Inside you’ll find stained glass ceilings, an old school gymnasium, and a gift shop where you can sample water straight from the Hot Springs. Currently, the Fordyce bathhouse is closed due to the virus, but rangers are on the front porch to answer questions. Admission is free.
8. Bathhouse Row
Take a stroll down Central Avenue to view the 8 historic bathhouses in downtown Hot Springs. Today the bathhouses are used for various things including a brewery! For more information on Bathhouse Row, check out the National Parks site.
- Lamar (1933) Today Lamar is used for office space and houses the National Parks™ Store.
- Buckstaff (1912) Buckstaff offers traditional bathing experience.
- Ozark (1922) Today it hosues the Hot Springs National Park Cultural Center
- Quapaw (1922) Quapaw is still used as a bathhouse.
- Fordyce (1915) Today it is the Visitors Center for Hot Springs National Park.
- Maurice (1912) Maurice is vacant and ready to leased!
- Hale (1892) Today Hale is a luxury hotel.
- Superior (1916) Today Superior is a brewery.
9. Sample water from the Hot Springs
There are 7 public thermal spring fountains and 2 cold spring fountains in Hot Springs, AR. It was wild to see people filling up giant jugs of water at the public fountains. We refilled our water bottles multiple times from the public water fountains.
7 Thermal fountains in Hot Springs
- In front of the Libbey Memorial Physical Medicine Center on Reserve St.
- In front of the National Park Service Administration Building on Reserve St.
- Between the Hale and Maurice Bathhouses on the Bathhouse Row
- The Noble Fountain on Reserve St.
- The Dripping Spring between the Hale and Maurice Bathhouses
- The Shell Fountain on the Stevens Balustrade (between the Fordyce and the Maurice Bathhouses)
- Outside the park boundaries at the Hill Wheatley Plaza on Central Ave.
2 Cold spring fountains
- Happy Hollow
- Whittington Spring
10. Walk the Grand Promenade
The Grand Promenade is a 1.2 mile brick paved loop that starts at 101 Reserve Street and loops around Display Spring. The trail includes informational signs about geology and history of the region. You can park at the Visitors center for free or pay .25 cents an hour for street parking. Don’t forget to feel the hot springs at Display Springs. The water comes out at 147 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s touchable by the time it reaches the pool.
Have you ever been to Hot Springs, Arkansas? I’d love to hear what your favorite trails and activities were…