Hot Springs Village sits abreast Garland and Saline Counties in the central part of the state and had nearly 13,000 residents at the time of the last census.
By acreage, it’s the largest gated community in the country. It is also a significant regional retirement destination that’s known for its natural beauty and almost nonexistent crime.
Located near a few metro areas and some of the state’s most scenic natural land, it offers a wide variety of cultural, historical and natural attractions that are worth a look while visiting the area.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Hot Springs Village, Arkansas.
1. Hot Springs National Park
For more than a few reasons, Hot Springs National Park is probably unlike any other national park you’ve visited.
Located on downtown Hot Springs’ bath row, the park’s urban setting and relatively small size make it unique. The best way to learn about the area’s fascinating history is to book a guided tour with a park ranger.
In many ways, it’s like going back in time. The tour will be equal parts history and geology that you’ll probably find interesting and informative.
The tour will leave plenty of time to enjoy the park’s therapeutic waters and other nearby attractions as well.
2. Fordyce Bathhouse and Museum
Back in the day, the Fordyce Bathhouse was one of the town’s swankiest. It’s now a museum and visitor’s center that would be a great place to stop not long after you’ve gotten into town.
The building has been restored to near original condition and includes many of the amenities that it featured in years past, like interesting, antiquated exercise equipment and therapy devices that purportedly relieved symptoms from a long list of ailments.
At its height, it was the exclusive domain of well to do businessmen, shady gangsters, and crooked politicians – though the last two may be one and the same.
3. Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Situated at the pinnacle of Hot Springs Mountain overlooking the town, the tower was built in the early ‘80s. A view from the top will give guests an unobstructed view of the countryside. On a clear day, it’s possible to see more than 100 miles away according to locals.
Reachable by stairs and an elevator, there are observation scopes at the top if your eyes need a bit of help.
If you’re up for a physical challenge, it’s more than 300 steps to the top, but your effort will be rewarded with burned calories and breathtaking vistas.
4. Lake Ouachita
With nearly 50,000 acres of surface area, Lake Ouachita is Arkansas’ largest and is a hotspot for watersports and outdoor enthusiasts from many surrounding states.
It’s one of the southeast’s premier bass fishing lakes and holds professional tournaments nearly every year.
In addition to fishing, waterskiing, swimming, and pleasure boating are favorite activities. There are nearby campgrounds, forest trails, and amenities like boat launches, bathrooms, and playgrounds.
It’s not far from town but can get pretty crowded during peak season when the sun is shining, so if you prefer to avoid the crowds, consider visiting during the week or in less popular months.
5. Bathhouse Row
Hot Springs’ historic bathhouse row was once a place full of interesting characters with sketchy backgrounds, and though that still may be the case, it’s a lot more family-friendly now than it was back then.
Gone from the streets are the slick gangsters and their dashing gals from days long gone. Though most of the bathhouses along the row date from the early 1900s, their accommodations were considered top-notch by the standards of the day.
There are restaurants, coffee shops and even a microbrewery nearby, so consider a self-guided walking tour to get an overview of the town’s layout and recreation options.
6. Mid-America Science Museum
The Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs is one of the region’s most diverse and visited attractions. Its primary goal is to instill in young ones a love for the many wonders of science.
With tons of exhibits, displays and interactive activities designed to keep children interested and engaged, it’s a great place to spend a few hours for adults and children alike.
Located on Mid America Boulevard not far from the springs, it’s a great way to spend a few afternoon hours after a morning soaking in the spring’s therapeutic waters.
Admission is reasonable considering the museum’s scope.
7. Ron Coleman’s Crystal Mine
With its abundance of caves, hot springs and crystals, the landscape and hidden caves around Hot Springs are wonderfully unique. One of the area’s most fun and quirky things to do is hit the crystal mines and see what you can find.
Ron Coleman’s Crystal Mine offers an inexpensive way to get outdoors, breath some fresh air, and see some of the amazing things that lie just beneath the earth’s surface.
Not everyone finds a memorable crystal, but many do, so keep digging as long as your energy holds out.
Keep in mind that digging for crystals is dirty and exhausting work, so plan accordingly and don’t show up on an empty stomach.
8. Garvan Woodland Gardens
Spread over more than 200 acres, Garvan Woodland Gardens on Arkridge Road is owned and managed by the University of Arkansas. In addition to their beautiful grounds and an amazing variety of plants, their primary goals are research and education.
The land for the gardens was graciously donated to the university in the ‘80s. They often host exhibits, guest speakers and educational opportunities throughout the year, so if you stop by on a whim, you’ll never know what you might find.
Keep an eye on their website to see what’s on the calendar for when you’ll be in town.
9. Ouachita National Forest
At just shy of two million acres, Ouachita National Forest covers vast expanses of forested and mountain land between the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma.
With dozens of miles of trails, numerous campsites and a host of other activities available to outdoor lovers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s one of the area’s most popular outdoor destinations.
Amateur rock hounds are attracted by the huge vein of crystals that runs through the area, and hunters and fisherman are drawn here as well.
The terrain is pretty remote and rugged, so familiarize yourself with the area and pack the things you’ll need before heading out into the wild.
10. Magic Springs Theme and Water Park
During the dog days of summer, the climate around Hot Springs can get blisteringly hot and humid. If you happen to be there with kids during those months, you’ll want to find a cool spot or two.
Magic Springs Theme and Water Park is located off Highway 70 just outside of town, and if you’ll be coming from Little Rock, it’s still less than an hour away.
According to those who ought to know, it’s the only kind of park of its kind in the state, so take advantage of all it has to offer if you’ve got the time.
It’s open seasonally and includes all the slides, pools and fountains you’d expect.
11. Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery
Not many bathhouses have breweries and distilleries on site, but the Superior Bathhouse has both.
It’s unique in that it’s the only brewery and distillery located on the grounds of a national park anywhere in the country. It was the brainchild of a woman from New Jersey who was determined to recreate the fantastic beers she enjoyed on a trip to Europe.
The water in the hot springs bubbles to the surface at nearly 144 degrees; it’s this water that’s used in the brewing and fermentation processes.
They’ve only been open for a few years, but they’re gaining quite a following, so stop by for a soak, a pint, and a cocktail.
12. Grand Promenade
Running about a half mile between bathhouse row and Hot Springs Mountain, the Grand Promenade isn’t really all that grand, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in accessibility and quaintness.
After a leisurely morning or afternoon stroll along the promenade, it’ll be hard not to wonder about the high-rollers who strolled the same path decades ago.
The area was once considered the Las Vegas of its time, well before that desert mecca was even conceived; it hosted an eclectic group of high society folks, who came for the gambling, rabble-rousing and the spring’s warm therapeutic waters.
13. Gangster Museum of America
You might expect to find The Gangster Museum of America in New York, LA, or Chicago, but it’s conveniently located right in downtown Hot Springs.
Guided tours are available, and the museum’s multiple rooms are decked out in different themes. You’ll likely find it fascinating learning about the lives of the guests who used to frequent the area.
From hit men on the lamb to bank robbers and swindlers on the run, the town had a little bit of everything and wasn’t short on flash and swagger.
During the peak season, the museum can get crowded, so consider a visit during the fall or winter if you’d like to have the place to yourself.
14. The Galaxy Connection
If Star Wars, sci-fi and superheroes are your cup of tea, then a stop at Galaxy Connection on Central Avenue in Hot Springs would be a wise choice.
The museum was inspired by all things related to space, and guided tours from the proprietor are a big hit.
For a very reasonable price, you’ll have access to not only the displays and exhibits but lots of fascinating insights from your guide as well.
Much of what you’ll see is related to Star Wars and includes figures, weapons like light-sabers and blasters, and the robes worn by some of the epic’s main characters.
15. Mountain Valley Spring Water Visitor Center & Museum
Admittedly, visiting the world headquarters of a bottled water company doesn’t sound as fun as mixing paint in the basement, but with an open mind and an extra hour or two, you might find that it’s an interesting and educational place.
You’ll learn how water is processed, purified, bottled and shipped, and you’ll probably be surprised to know just how big the market for bottled water is worldwide.
The headquarters are located near a visitor center and other area attractions, so once you’ve had your tour and learned all you’d ever want to know about bottling water, you’ll have the rest of the day to dedicate to other adventures.