A resort destination since before the Civil War, Hot Springs continues to attract tourists who can enjoy hot thermal bathhouses, a racetrack and casino, an amusement/water theme park and even a national gangster museum. Here are some highlights of things to do:
Don’t Get Bit
Embrace the wild during a visit to Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo, which features more than 200 alligators in swamp-like habitats. In addition, an onsite zoo contains bobcats, chickens, cougars, ring-tailed lemurs, turkeys, turtles and wild boars, and a petting zoo has baby alligators, emus, goats, llamas, pigs and white-tailed deer.
Soak It In
Relax in one of eight historic downtown bathhouses along Bathhouse Row on Central Avenue, where natural thermal water is used that flows from 47 springs on the western slope of Hot Springs Mountain. About 1 million gallons flow from the springs each day at 143 degrees Fahrenheit, but the water is cooled slightly for humans to withstand it.
Hope You Win
Test your luck at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming, a thoroughbred horseracing track south of downtown that has operated since 1904. Racing occurs from January through April, while year-round gambling is also available in the gaming room for players who like blackjack, craps, slots, roulette and poker.
Get All Gangster
Many of the notorious gangsters of the 1920s and 1930s vacationed in Hot Springs, and the city has a Gangster Museum of America that today attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year. The museum highlights the stories of gangsters such as Al Capone, Frank Costello, Lucky Luciano and Bugs Moran, and attractions include The Outlaw Gallery and The New York Connection.
Ride Plummet Summit
Experience fun and some screaming at Magic Springs & Crystal Falls Water and Theme Park, which features roller coasters, water slides and family rides. Thrill rides have names like Big Bad John, The Gauntlet and Plummet Summit, and the park is open weekends from April through October. It is also open every weekday throughout June, July and the first half of August.
Take a ride aboard the Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat, which takes passengers on 15-mile cruises along Lake Hamilton for sightseeing, lunches or sunset dinners. The excursion passes by million-dollar mansions, natural islands and the Ouachita Mountains, and cruises occur every day except Mondays.
Drive along the Hot Springs Baseball Historic Trail, with 26 markers posted throughout the community that detail key baseball happenings from the past. Hot Springs has a rich baseball history from 1894-1925 when it hosted spring training camps for teams like the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. More than 100 members of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame trained in Hot Springs – including Babe Ruth.
Have Fun, Kids
More than 100 hands-on interactive exhibits are showcased at the Mid-America Science Museum, a kid-friendly educational venue in Hot Springs. Displays include a billiard ball machine, a sky walk that connects the museum to the surrounding outdoors, and the world’s most powerful Tesla coil that can produce 1.5 million volts of electricity.