21 Things To Do In Hot Springs, Arkansas | 2020 Update
While you might not think of Hot Springs, Arkansas as a bustling tourist hub, there are tons of awesome things to do in town! Personally, it’s one of our favorite places to visit in the southeast.
Today we’re sharing 21 of the best activities in town. We’ll break it down by category, including – Historic & Cultural, Outdoors, Entertainment and Food & Drink.
Let’s dive in!
Cultural & Historical
Hot Spring, Arkansas has a unique and colorful history. So much so, that the Federal Government designated a large part of the city as a National Park. Along with the public parks & museums, there are a number of private museums that feature local lore.
Bath House Row / Take a Bath
Price: $20 and Up
Why You’ll Love It: Take a bath in the natural hot spring waters. You can try out the old-school bathing equipment or relax in a modern spa. This is ideal for adults, but kids can experience a few of the offerings. Our favorite Bath House is Quapaw Baths and Spas.
What’s The Word: A recent Google reveiwer says, “This place is awesome! They have 4 different pools with different temperatures. You can go from pool to pool as you wish. The attendants here were extremely nice and friendly and kept the floor mopped, our water glasses full, and dry towels in abundance.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 9.3/10 This is a classic Hot Springs experience.
Gangster Museum of America
Price: $6 for kids $15 for adults
Why You’ll Love It: Dive deep into the history & lore of Hot Springs. Beginning in the late 1800s, Hot Springs became a popular getaway for northern gangsters. They would soak in the springs and gamble the night away. Once other outlaws heard of this safe haven, criminals of all kinds sought refuge in Hot Springs.
The Gangster Museum tells the story and shows-off the relics!
What’s The Word: Elizabeth, on Google Reviews, says, “This place was a very neat place to visit. It gave a little bit of interesting history of Hot Springs. The young man doing the tour seems to really enjoy what he does. His family has history in the area.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 7.6/10 Fun (and cheesy)!
Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center
Why You’ll Love It: This is the official National Park center and they provide lots of opportunities to learn! The main lobby has park guides to answer your questions. You can also explore multiple floors of historic equipment used in the early bath houses.
What’s The Word: Cheryl on Google says, “It’s an old bathhouse which has been preserved as a free museum. You can sit, in a rocker, on front porch looking at Bathhouse Row~like back in the day. This is good for visitors to walk through and see how bathhouses operated back then. It’s good for children, or anyone, as it’s a self guided free tour & learn some history!”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 9.2/10 Free, entertaining and informative.
Mid America Science Museum
Price: $8 for kids, $10 for adults
Why You’ll Love It: This is a hands-on learning museum great for kids. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum offers community events and traveling exhibits. The world’s most powerful conical Tesla coil and gadgets from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are a few of the attractions at the Mid America Science Museum.
What’s The Word: Stephanie on Google Reviews says, “This place never gets old! We visit every summer and the museum does a wonderful job of rotating exhibits and providing new experiences each time we go. Be sure to pay the extra $3 to see the Tesla Coil show.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 7.3/10 Fun for the kids, kinda cool for adults.
The Galaxy Connection
Price: $10 to enter and $30 for VIP Tours
Why You’ll Love It: Are you a Star Wars or comic book geek? If so, you’ll love The Galaxy Connection. They have awesome props on display! If you book a VIP tour, you can interact and take photos with all the goods.
What’s The Word: A recent Google reviewer says, “I really enjoyed The Galaxy Connection, we learned some fun facts about the Star Wars movies and got to have a little fun with the light sabers and we even got to hold the real Captain America shield…definitely a place to stop and check out”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 8.3/10 Unique & quirky
Even though Hot Springs National Park is located mostly within the Bath House Row of downtown, there’s a lot of nature to explore in the surrounding Ouachita National Forest. Here are our favorite hikes and outdoor activities.
Why You’ll Love It: This National Park trail is great for all hikers. Located behind Bath House Row, the Grand Promenade gives you great views of downtown Hot Springs. Almost anyone can hike this half mile trail – the park rates it as “easy”.
What’s The Word: Kris on Google says, “Very nice, well-maintained, wide walking area that runs behind the bath houses. It was not as shady as I had hoped on the hot day we were there, but I could imagine strolling down the path on a nice fall or spring day.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 9.5/10 A must-do walk when visiting Hot Springs!
Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Price: $4.50 for kids, $8 for adults
Why You’ll Love It: Want to most epic view in town? Take this 200 foot elevator to an observation deck that looks down upon Hot Springs and the surrounding forest. Lifted a total of 1,256 feet above sea level, the views at Hot Springs Mountain Tower won’t disappoint.
What’s The Word: Dave on Google reviews says, “Great view and great gift shop. The view from the top is fun to see and the drive up is entertaining itself. Right in downtown Hot Springs so it’s easy to get to and easily worth the 5 minutes to drive up for the free road views or the tower itself.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 7.5/10 A fun afternoon adventure!
Lake Catherine State Park
Price: Free to enter
Why You’ll Love It: Whether you want to hike, fish, camp or kayak, Lake Catherine offers it all! The trails can be challenging, so the young and elderly might struggle a bit. Lake Catherine State Park is also a great place to camp when visiting Hot Springs.
What’s The Word: Kelia on Google Reviews says, “Great state park! Lots to do! The hike was awesome! The bathrooms are clean. The staff is very informative and sweet! Would come here again!”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 8/10 We love this state park…especially for camping!
Gulpha Gorge Trail
Why You’ll Love It: If you’re camping at the official National Park campground, Gulpha Gorge, this trail takes your straight from the campground to downtown Hot Springs. Not to mention, its a beautiful forested trail that will give your thighs a serious workout.
What’s The Word: Google Reviewer, David, says, “Gulpha Gorge camping area and the nearby trail system are a couple of my favorite areas in Hot Springs. I’ve hiked the trails that begin at the recreational area at least 50 times and it’s one of the best trails that you can find”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 10/10 Our favorite trail in the area!
Why You’ll Love It: According to the online hiking guide AllTrails, Sunset Trail is the number one rated hike in Hot Springs. This 13 mile trail loops through forests and hot springs. It’s rated difficult – not great for newbies!
What’s The Word: Jordan on AllTrails says, “Challenging trail located conveniently within downtown Hot Springs. Trail is well kept and decently trafficked.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 8.4/10 Longer trail, for experienced hikers.
Once you’re done exploring all the nature & history of Hot Springs, it’s time to have amusement park style fun! These places will bring out the inner-kid in everyone.
Magic Springs Theme & Water Park
Price: around $25 per person
Why You’ll Love It: Would you rather a water park or theme park? It doesn’t matter at Magic Springs because you can have both. They also host a concert series in the summer.
What’s The Word: Paula on Google Reviews says, “Super spot for families of all ages. Lines are not long. I felt safe enough to allow my teenagers to venture off together with timed check-ins. Great options for water slides and non water rides. Thrilling and not too thrilling.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 7.1/10 Family fun…but the price can add up quickly.
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
Price: Around $9
Why You’ll Love It: Classic putt putt golf. They have fun holes with various challenges. 36 holes in all!
What’s The Word: Robbie on Google Reviews says, “This place is very hard to beat!! The course/greens in almost new conditions. We live in Houston and we have visited couple times in 1 week vacation and plan another visit before heading home. Blackbeard course is difficult but fun. Love this place.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 5.5/10 Not uniquely “Hot Springs” but fun for the family anyways!
Josephine Tussaund Wax Museum
Price: around $10
Why You’ll Love It: Truly, this place is a little creepy! It’s odd enough to be worth a visit, but its the spectacle you go for, not the quality of wax figures. Really though – try it out!
What’s The Word: Van on Google Reviews says, “It was soo hokey it reminded of all the old horror movies mostly enjoyed having all my family together asking ourselves what are we doing here? The 4D “ride” was a real hit with a couple of the kids and for the adults that were watching their reactions.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 4.8/10
Hot Springs Central Theater
Why You’ll Love It: From horror movie film fests to rockin’ concerts, you can get your dose of evening entertainment at Hot Springs Central Theater.
What’s The Word: Chris on Google says, “Such a delightful theater full of the kind of charm and character you’ll never get at a big, chain multiplex.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 6.4/10 If you time it right, you can catch a great show here!
Food & Drink
The food & drink in Hot Springs Arkansas is one of the most unexpected pleasures! So many place to please your pallet.
Price: $35 and up
Why You’ll Love It: This is our favorite pizza in the entire country. The owner says the local, mineral rich water is the key to their amazing crust. We can’t recommend it enough. It can be pricey, but we’re always happy to pay.
What’s The Word: Sarah on Google Reviews says, “Excellent food! Best meatballs I have ever had, so delicious! You have to reserve your pizza crust so call ahead. Fun atmosphere (a little loud) but the place was packed. Pizza was great and so were the desserts. Highly recommend!!!”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 10/10 MUST EAT!
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
Price: $20 and up
Why You’ll Love It: Soak in the hot springs and then grab a beer, This brewery is centrally located in downtown Hot Springs, and if you’re a beer lover, move it to the top of your “things to do in Hot Springs Arkansas” list!
What’s The Word: Anna on Google says, “This place rocks! They are pet friendly, and we got to sit inside with our dogs. They have a great variety of beer to choose from, loved this 18 beer sampler. The food was excellent and our server was spot on. Here was very knowledgeable and friendly. I will definitely come back here.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 9.4/10 Beer + Baths = Good Times
Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Beer Garden
Price: $25 and up
Why You’ll Love It: Another great pizza joint in Hot Springs. Our friends, Jason & Rae of The Getaway Couple, say Grateful Head is better than Deluca’s….we don’t believe it, but we’re still friends!
What’s The Word: Matthew on Google Reviews says, “Pizza and beer. What could be better. Sat outside on a beautiful outdoor patio area. Ordered a large supreme and a small “Casey Jones” at the suggestion of our waiter. I’m not big on pineapple on my pizza but damn if that Casey Jones wasn’t delicious. I will definitely add this to my regular stops.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 7.9/10 Great, but not the best!
Price: $15 and up
Why You’ll Love It: If you love hip coffee shops with great vegan options, you’ll love Kollective. This is another unexpected Hot Springs local gem. We recommend you try their breakfast menu.
What’s The Word: A recent Google reveiw says, “The word that comes to mind based on my visit, is hipster. This place is very unique and while not typically my jam – I really enjoyed it.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 9/10 This is one of our favorite coffee shops in the Nation.
Mountain Valley Spring Visitor Center
Price: Free to look, a few bucks to drink
Why You’ll Love It: If you’re a water snob, Mountain Valley is awesome. This is a huge store front that offers all variations of their bottled water, packaged in classic green-glass bottles. We like the sparkling peach the best!
What’s the Word: Elizabeth on Google Reviews says, “The staff were so helpful and nice, and even welcome dogs inside! Make sure to check out the little museum upstairs while you’re there. And the sparkling water is delicious, especially the lime flavor!”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 10/10 Must Visit!
Camping is the best way to experience Hot Springs Arkansas. Here are our two favorite campgrounds.
Gulpha Gorge Campground
Price: $30 (half off with National Park Senior Pass)
Why You’ll Love It: This campground offers full hookups at every site. There are trails that lead right downtown, as well! Best of all, many of the sites are located along side a cool stream.
What’s The Word: A recent Campendium reviewer says, “This is a gem of a park and beautiful and forested. But, extremely difficult to find! This campground is in Hot Springs, so great for sightseeing Hot Springs with all it’s historic buildings and Spas. You can hike all day, then go get a massage and dinner…can’t beat that fun!”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 10/10 Best campground near downtown!
Price: around $50 a night
Why You’ll Love It: If you want to live it up at your campground, check out Catherine’s Landing. The sites are large and offer a lot of amenities. There’s disc golf, zip lines, pools, and water-sports all available onsite.
What’s The Word: A recent Campendium reviewer says, “This park is a jewel in the woods. Located on the Ouachita River, this campground offers something for everyone and is very convenient to Hot Springs. RV sites are concrete pads and are average size with little privacy. But the views of the river and the surrounding woods are serene.”
Hot Spring Arkansas Vibes: 9.5/10 Great park, but must drive into town.
The Best FREE Camping in the USA
We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Here’s our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
If you haven’t tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.