With the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still making many people unsure about travel, Visit Hot Springs has promoted the idea of a “stay” for the residents of Hot Springs, and through a sponsorship with the travel blogger “One Girl Wandering” there is now a fresh perspective from the eyes of a tourist for what has fallen right under the nose of the locals.
Visit Hot Springs’ director of marketing, Bill Solleder, said a marketing campaign titled “Best Vacation in Town” was launched in early May, which is another way to convey the idea of a “staycation”.
“The feeling was that as we moved away from the pandemic, people might just want to travel closer to their home,” Solleder said. “Maybe you just leave the house in Hot Springs and remember that we have some of the best attractions in the state, and we have some of the best restaurants. You might even call a babysitter and enjoy the hotels too.”
One Girl Wandering, also known as Lindsay, visited Spa City last month and posted it on her blog at http://www.onegirlwandering.com. The entry was titled “The Best Things to Do in Hot Springs, AR”.
“If it’s not already on your radar, the hot springs must be your next destination,” Lindsay said in an opening to the Post. “It has everything I am looking for in a city, beautiful outdoor spaces, a quaint downtown area, unique shops and of course great restaurants!”
In the mail she noted the Waters Hotel, the Superior Bath House, the Quapaw Baths & Spa, the Garvan Woodland Gardens, the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, several different shops and restaurants downtown, the Hot Springs Mountain Tower and of course the Hot Springs National Park in front.
Starting with her stay at The Waters Hotel, she found it was right in the heart of downtown Hot Springs on Central Avenue across from Bathhouse Row, which is an “absolutely perfect” base for a Hot Springs adventure.
“How can I put this gently? The rooms are beautiful and have the most comfortable beds,” she said. “I’m not even kidding when I say this is one of the best beds I’ve had in a hotel. I can also confirm the quality of the air conditioning, so often in a historic building the air conditioning leaves something to be desired, but not at The Waters, you will be nice and cool even in the hot summer. “
In addition to “fantastic” rooms in the hotel, according to Lindsay, there is also The Rooftop Bar.
“You have to see it for yourself at sunset,” she said. “The view of the city center and the national park is the best way to spend your evening with a drink and a few nibbles.”
For another stop on OGW’s list, she went to the Superior Bath House.
“(It’s) a brewery and restaurant in a renovated bathhouse at the end of Bathhouse Row and they get this – they use the thermal water to make their beers and their root beers,” she said. “You would be remiss if you didn’t stop by for a drink and something to eat.”
Lindsay opted for Superior’s chicken sandwich paired with a root beer.
“I highly recommend the chicken sandwich. Let ‘Bock Bock’ fry it with the tajin dry rub for a kick,” she said. “Even though I haven’t tried any of the beers (very impressed by all of them), I got a root beer. … I love root beer and am particularly picky, and it completely exceeded my taste test!”
As for recreational relaxation, she said that hot springs cannot really be experienced without a dip in the thermal water and that her preferred location was Quapaw Baths & Spa.
“The hot springs used to be considered healing water, and now you can enjoy the same spring water that has brought visitors to hot springs for many, many years,” she said. “The main attraction in Quapaw is the spring water-filled thermal pools, which are dated carbon-14, are 4,000 years old and are rich in silica, calcium, magnesium, free carbon dioxide, bicarbonate and sulfate. There are four pools in the main facility, each at a different temperature. “
She said that in addition to the hot spring baths, Quapaw also has a full-service spa with massages, facials, and private baths.
Another pastime she’d chosen was a visit to Garvan Woodland Gardens. Anthony Chapel and the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House are the gardens’ two biggest attractions.
“The Anthony Chapel is a beautiful glass and wood structure in the forest,” said OGW. “The Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House is part of the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden and is designed to be an educational experience for children. However, this adult fell in love with him too!”
She noted that there is “not a bad time” to visit the gardens, but a “bloom calendar” is available on his website so visitors can see what will be there when they visit.
One final recreational activity OGW participated in was the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort.
“Oaklawn is the main attraction in Arkansas, so I had to stop by and see it,” she said. “The casino is almost brand new … (and) when I was there I had dinner at the Silks Bar and Grill and had a particularly delicious Reuben sandwich.”
When it came time to explore downtown, she said she had spent a couple of hours visiting all of the little shops and boutiques.
“One of my favorites was Bathhouse Soapery & Caldarium, this place smells so good,” she said. “And what’s a better souvenir from Spa City than a few locally made bath products?”
On their downtown project, OGW also featured Pupcakes and Cupcakes from Fat Bottomed Girl, Spring Valley Spring Water, the Gangster Museum of America, Kollective Coffee + Tea and the historic markings across the region.
“I learned a lot about the history of the hot springs and was able to treat myself to a little walking tour,” she said. “One of the highlights was the Hot Springs Baseball Trail, which provides information on spring training in Hot Springs. … Make sure you check out the Grand Promenade off Bathhouse Row, a beautiful brick-paved walkway that shouldn’t be missed! “
When it came to downtown dining, OGW chose Kollective.
“I had a delicious lunch there and chose to order from the ‘healthy’ section of their menu,” she said. “I got the Blissful Balance, which is topped with kale and basil pesto, coriander, avocado, sriracha sauce, a fried egg, and a lemon wedge. It was yummy and now I’ll try to make it at home! Me too me got a frozen rose latte and a matcha with frozen mint, both were fantastic. “
On the more adventurous side of their stay, OGW moved away from downtown to hike in the national park.
“Downtown is actually a part of the park and there are a lot of trails that start and go through this area,” she said. “I did a morning hike on the Gulpha Gorge Trail and it was a perfect trail to enjoy the forest. The trailhead is right by the Gulpha Gorge Campground and the first part of the trail is over Gulpha Creek which is so beautiful. “
“If you love great views,” she continued, “then you can’t miss the mountain tower. This attraction overlooks the city of hot springs and the beautiful Ouachita Mountains. You can enjoy as much time as you like at the top the sights. “