My parents, my sister and I traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas to recreate a family vacation like the ones we went on so frequently during my childhood.
I picked Hot Springs for our destination because I had visited about 6 years ago for a work conference. I loved the old hotel we stayed in and the convenience of a bevy of shops, restaurants and attractions directly across the street. The hotel was a little more run down, but other than that, things were much as I remembered.
Hot Springs is a resort city located in the Ouachita Mountains. Driving through the mountains to get to Hot Springs is a seemingly endless rollercoaster ride. Throw in the fact that I drove this with a steady downpour of rain, and needless to say, I was very tired and hangry by the time we reached the city.
We started with lunch at the Ohio Club. Hot Springs was a favorite retreat of Al Capone. The walls of the Ohio Club are covered with gangster photos and memorabilia. The food is incredible and there is live music nightly.
Is it just me or does Al Capone look like he is trying to get away from me?
We stayed at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. It opened in 1875 as a three story wooden structure. In 1893 it was leveled and reborn in a Spanish-style five floored building. In 1923 it was destroyed by fire. The version I stayed in was opened in 1924 and has 560 rooms. Al Capone’s favorite room was 443 and he used to reserve the entire floor to keep an eye on the club that used to be across the street, where Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum now stands.
They still use actual keys for the doors. One night my sister and I were stunned when someone was able to open the door to our room, quickly realized it wasn’t theirs and left. From then on we made sure to slam the door to ensure it locked behind us.
We enjoyed the two swimming pools and hot tub all to ourselves for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon. The lobby is done in art deco style and the bar was a great place for a drink at night. We also grabbed dinner there Saturday night. The portion sizes were generous and it tasted great for bar food.
Hot Springs, thus named because it sits over several natural hot springs, has a population of around 40,000. It became a spa town in 1832, as visitors believed the waters had healing properties. Right outside of our hotel begins Bathhouse Row, a preservation of 8 bathhouses and gardens.
Buckstaff Bathhouse was opened in 1912 and is the only building that still functions as a traditional bathhouse.
Fordyce is a visitor’s center.
Lamar is an administration building and gift shop. Quapaw is a modern spa with pools and hot tubs. Superior was recently remodeled into a brewery and restaurant. The other three; Hale, Ozark and Maurice are available for rent.
There are several fun and interesting boutiques across from Bathhouse Row. I love Stella Mae’s especially. Full of 40s and 50s style fashions as well as anything quirky and fun.
We had breakfast at Granny’s Kitchen. This place has traditional southern-style breakfasts, but apparently the waitstaff don’t get along very well and aren’t ashamed to put their dislike on full display. If you can overlook that, the food is definitely worth it.
I was looking forward to a lemon lavendar cupcake from Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe which was featured on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. However, they were out of one of the ingredients needed to make them so I settled for a coconut cream pie one instead. Still amazing! The gift shop they have is worth the stop alone. It’s huge and full of items with sayings that will make you laugh out loud.
We also visited the National Park Aquarium. It’s very small but has an adorable mascot, Slowpoke, a tortoise allowed to wander around freely to greet visitors. I found it’s collection of ‘critters’ interesting and the admission is only around $5.00.
We returned home winding our way through those Ouachita mountains again after two days of fun and relaxation. Overall a nice diversion from the daily grind. Very happy to have this last little immediate family outing and the memories of spending time together.