It was named “Valley of the Vapors” by Native American Tribes who believed the hot spring waters possessed healing properties long before it became a popular destination for vacationers and those seeking health remedies. Today, Hot Springs, Arkansas offers visitors an inviting array of outdoor activities and spa services that originally sprung from the beautiful natural resources that made the area famous.
In 1832, the region became known as Hot Springs Reservation when President Andrew Jackson designated the area a reservation in order to protect its major natural resource, the thermal mineral waters. Established before the concept of a national park existed, it was the first time that land had been set aside by the federal government to preserve its use as an area for recreation.
Decades later, the popularity of the springs transformed an area adjacent to the reserve from a frontier town to an elegant spa city featuring a prominent row of Victorian-style bathhouses that still line Central Avenue today.
In the early 1900s, the city’s seclusion and scenery even gained the attention of notorious mobsters and legendary baseball players who would visit the city seasonally to relax and enjoy the amenities of the hotels and nightlife.
AMONG THE WORLD’S MOST COLORFUL
Nestled in the picturesque Ouachita Mountains and located on a peninsula of Lake Hamilton, Garvan Woodland Gardens is surrounded by 4 1/2 miles of wooded shoreline. Listed among the world’s most colorful places by Expedia, Garvan offers visitors a breathtaking view of award-winning botanical gardens, a bird sanctuary, and dynamic architectural structures. In the winter, it also hosts one of the largest holiday light displays in the state.
CHAPEL AMONG THE PINES
Nestled under a thick canopy of sky-reaching southern pines and age-old oak trees, Anthony Chapel offers views of the changing seasons with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, multiple skylights, and impressive flagstone floors. Designed by Maurice Jennings and David McKee, the brilliantly designed structure stands nearly six stories tall and complements the surrounding wooded landscape with an intricate, open-beam bracing system and massive pine columns.
MID-AMERICA SCIENCE MUSEUM
Enjoy nature and science with more than 1,000 state-of-the-art exhibits that include the new Arkansas Underfoot Gallery, the Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk and the Oaklawn Foundation Digital Dome Theater where guests may view the night sky and tour the solar system using the newest digital planetarium software.
New to the museum is Arkansas’ first permanent outdoor dinosaur exhibit, the Oaklawn Foundation DinoTrek, featuring 18 life-like dinosaurs on Mid-America Science Museum’s beautiful 21-wooded acres.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS ARE CALLING
Whether you’ve got an agenda or not, you‘ll find the ultimate adventure or the ultimate in relaxation on Hot Springs’ five regional lakes and three rivers.
Lake Ouachita near Hot Springs is arguably the crown jewel of the Diamond Lakes region. Beautiful and clean, it is one of the state’s best lakes for boating, swimming, fishing, and scuba diving. It also offers a beautiful shoreline for hiking, biking and camping. What stands out most about this wilderness lake is its size—it’s Arkansas’s largest lake at 40,000 acres—with views for miles.
MILES AND MILES OF TRAILS
Considered the jewel of the Ouachita Mountains for mountain biking enthusiasts and by far the most famous trail in the state, Womble Trail, offers an epic 35.5 miles ride of climbing and thrilling downhills.
ALLIGATOR FARM & PETTING ZOO
Established in 1902, the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo has been featured on Animal Planet four times and offers feeding shows, interactive exhibits with over 150 gators, a mini zoo, and mini museum.
NATIONAL PARK DUCK TOUR
Spend an hour and 15 minutes on a land and water tour that will take you through historic downtown Hot Springs and onto Lake Hamilton for a ride on the lake and back to downtown.
HISTORIC RACING TRADITION
First established in 1904 as the Oaklawn Jockey Club, Oaklawn’s glass-enclosed, heated grandstand was among the first of its kind in the country and could reportedly seat 1,500. Today, Oaklawn Racing & Gaming offers thoroughbred races all year long.
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