When people think “hot springs”, their mind may wander off to The Blue Lagoon in Iceland or to the various Onsens in Japan. However, for people living in the United States, a trip to those notorious hot springs may not be feasible without significant advance planning and saving. My alternative to you is Hot Springs, Arkansas: a quaint little town located about 50 miles southwest of Little Rock. It is equipped with all the natural wonders that The Blue Lagoon or Onsen provides but is a little closer to home and a lot more affordable.
Because Hot Springs is nestled in the scenic ranges of the Ouachita Mountains, it is surrounded by natural beauty that any outdoor enthusiast can admire. Lake Catherine and Lake Ouachita are both available for fishing, boating, and sailing. Located nearby are sites for camping or overnight stays in resorts and cabins with easy access to picnic areas, golf courses, and hiking and biking trails. These trails were made to accommodate all levels, from beginners to advance, ranging from 1-mile trails to 100-mile trails. Additionally, Hot Springs National Park is located just north of the city, where you can truly soak in the serenity of the park as you make your way through the park on any of the trails.
A nice follow-up to your outdoor adventure sits on Bathhouse Row: a segment of the city where history is preserved in the bathhouses constructed from the late 1800s to early 1900s. Continue your outdoor adventure with a leisure stroll down Bathhouse Row and towards the Farmer’s & Artisan Market, which is opened year round. Here, you can find and buy fresh produce or just sit around in soak in the liveliness with fellow visitors and locals. And depending on your luck, you may find yourself surrounded by live music and other talented entertainers who give the market a fun, festival vibe and a cheery atmosphere.
And aside from the astounding architecture, you can also enjoy a mineral bath at one of the vintage bathhouses on Bathhouse Row (please note: not all are currently operational) or at any of the numerous baths & spas available in Hot Springs. Notable places to try are Thai-Me Spa, which has consistently been ranked with 5 stars on Yelp and TripAdvisor for the last four years, or Quapaw Baths & Spa and Buckstaff Bath House on Bathhouse Row. Dubbed as “The Spa City”, these baths & spas host a variety of services you can enjoy from massages to facials to manicures and pedicures, perfect for a romantic getaway or a girls' weekend trip.
To end your adventurous day, head to DeLuca’s Pizzeria Napoletana and reload on your carbohydrates and energy for the day with a hearty slice of Neapolitan style pizza, with raving reviews comparing DeLuca’s Pizzeria to authentic pizzerias in New York City. I also hear that the cannoli here compares to the cannoli found in Italy; thus, allowing you to bridge many different cultures and cuisines all in one convenient location. If you’re not in the mood for pizza, check out Rolando’s Nuevo Latino Restaurante or The Hungry Greek, two promising local food joints.
So, what are you waiting for? Hot Springs, Arkansas is a great place to experience a worldly phenomenon, right in the comforts of your own backyard. The city has the right amount of small town charm coupled with big city attractions. And with an airport a mere five miles from the center of the city, there is no reason you shouldn’t make Hot Springs your next destination, whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, a relaxing spa getaway, or both.