Bathhouse Row. Oaklawn. The Spa City. Corruption. Organized Crime. Lakes. Music Mountain. All are synonymous with Hot Springs, Arkansas. A city of around 40,000 people which is also a designated national park in the midst of the Ouachita Mountains, Hot Springs has a rich history with a tourism industry that continues to this day. During my childhood, my family camped at nearby Lake Ouachita every spring and summer. My parents lived for several years in Mount Ida, about half an hour away, and my dad worked at one of the Kroger stores here in town. And the summer I lived in Arkadelphia, about 30 minutes south of town, Trever and I would often drive over to Hot Springs to eat or shop.
Last fall, Trever and I decided to come for a weekend for our anniversary; it’s only about an hour and a half from our home; and this weekend, we took a few days and visited again. It has been a busy and stressful life recently and my mom and Sarah were kind enough to watch the dogs for a few days.
With credit card points we had a free stay at the Baymont by Wyndham on the Lake. It’s a nice basic hotel but the outside area makes it a destination. Situated in a cove on Lake Hamilton amongst some small condo complexes, the hotel offered lakeview rooms with a balcony and there was a nice outdoor area with padded, shaded lounge chairs, a fire pit, and a pool, all just feet from the water. It’s early and not quite summer season so during the day there were very few people outdoors. I am sure in the summertime it gets much more crowded but for me, this weekend, it was just what I needed. It was just me, my book, and the turtles (not pictured!)
After a couple of hours just chilling out and hoping to avoid the crowds and a a long wait, we left around 4:45 to go to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. The food is good, basic fried fare but the atmosphere is a ten out on the dining patio/deck. We sat right on the water, this particular goose eyeing us the entire time, hoping for a handout.
Although we should have walked off some of our dinner, we took a ride up West Mountain. Its overlooks provide a view of downtown and the surrounding areas but the evening was hazy, almost smoky, so the vistas were quite muted. The sunset would have likely been best seen from the Sunset Trail but my foot wear, our recent meal, and my general lack of athleticism made that seem like a poor choice. We hung out about an hour before driving to head back down into town in the dusk, stopping for an ice cream for dessert before heading back to the hotel.
When we got back to the room and peered over the balcony, we saw the earlier deserted lakefront area bustling with people. The night was warm but not yet hot and the gas fire pit glowed as a musician played guitar and sang. Groups of people sat on the couches, chairs, and lounges, ate and drank while children ran around playing. This would have been my idea of heaven back in the drinking days, minus the running children. There is nothing I loved more than to sit and listen to music while I had some libations. Not in a noisy bar or club, just outdoors somewhere! And I confess, it makes me kind of sad that I can’t be a “normal” person who can enjoy such an evening without taking it too far, drinking too much. But alas, I cannot! And am always grateful for the lack of a hangover the next day!
Rain was forecast for all day Saturday but we woke up to just cloudy skies which kept the temperatures nice and cool. Breakfast at the hotel was subpar but it was free so we ate and then headed back downtown. The Downtown Hot Springs Farmers and Artisan’s Market is open year round, but this was the last weekend for their winter hours, so there weren’t as many vendors as may have been there in peak summer season. We had a nice stroll, bought some delicious cookies from Cozy Cottage cookies and candles from Southern Bliss Creations, and petted the most delightful English boxer who had a marvelously squishable face (again, not pictured!)
As we usually do in whatever town we are in, we visited some antique malls and flea markets and walked the aisles looking for treasures. The rain and storms never did materialize so once we were back to the hotel with Schlotsky’s sandwiches for lunch, I packed up my bag to head back down to my lakefront reading spot.
I always feel as if I am wasting time if I take a nap while on a trip but rest was a primary purpose of this trip so rest we did. Doing so did push us past an early dinner time however so our original plans to go to Steinhaus Keller for German food were thwarted; we settled for going back to Jose’s Mexican Grill & Cantina, a Mexican restaurant with outdoor dining that we discovered on our tip here last fall. It is inexpensive, fresh, and quite delicious!
Trever and I decided we are quite possibly the most boring people on earth when, after not being able to find a parking spot to stroll around downtown, we decided to drive around again and look at buildings, houses and neighborhoods. And realized whilst doing so we had driven most of the same streets a few months ago. I took pictures of a couple of historic churches, which I probably did last year as well.
There was no music to be had back at the hotel so we had a quiet Saturday night. On Sunday, we got what we thought was an early start and thought we might have breakfast at The Pancake Shop or the Colonial Pancake and Waffle House before leaving town. But lines at both places were out the door and down the sidewalk so we found our way to an IHOP before we hit the road. We were home by 11:00 a.m. so it was a short but nice little weekend away. ‘Til next time, Hot Springs.
Karri Temple Brackett
May 1, 2022
Following are links to some of the places we visited, ate, and shopped while in Hot Springs.