Since the late 1700s, people have come to Hot Springs to bathe in the therapeutic waters bubbling up from the earth. In 1832, the federal government set aside this area so it would be preserved, making Hot Springs the oldest national park. Today, visitors can tour the Fordyce Bathhouse, which serves as the park’s visitor center, to learn about the many water therapies in use between the 1920s and the 1950s. Visitors can see the other bathhouses along Bathhouse Row, although many operate as private businesses other than bathhouses today. Only the Buckstaff has been in continuous operation since it opened in 1912, and here you can experience a traditional therapeutic bathing experience.
Behind Bathhouse Row, visitors can explore Hot Springs National Park’s outdoor attractions, which include hiking trails on Hot Springs Mountain and North Mountain. Visitors can drive up Hot Springs Mountain to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, where they will have panoramic views of the area. Picnic areas are located in the park as well. For families with small children, the Grand Promenade is a paved trail that is stroller friendly. It’s a lovely walk providing views of downtown Hot Springs that is long enough to enjoy a walk outside, but short enough for small children that may get bored or tired.
Note: Want to feel the waters to see how hot they are? There are several places along Bathhouse Row where you can touch the water. Look for thermal fountains or open hot springs along the way. These waters are hot — 143 degrees Fahrenheit — so take care when touching them, and especially monitor small hands reaching for the water.