This National Park In The Middle Of A Popular City Is One Of America's Most Unique

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is a hidden gem you should not overlook as a vacation destination. Located only an hour from Little Rock, the state's capital, Hot Springs has fascinating attractions like the Gangster Museum of America and the breathtakingly beautiful Garvan Woodland Gardens. However, visitors will also find one of the most underrated national parks in the country: Hot Springs National Park. At only 5,550 acres, it is considered the smallest national park in the U.S. Despite its size, Hot Springs National Park is a treasure trove of adventure.

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Visitors can enjoy typical outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and camping. Nevertheless, there's a reason why several Tripadvisor reviewers describe it as unique; its main allure is not the surrounding scenery but rather its thermal waters. Visitors can touch the piping-hot waters at spots throughout the park, including Hot Water Cascade at Arlington Lawn, next to the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, found directly outside Hot Springs National Park. Drinking the thermal water at designated fountains is also encouraged.

Before becoming a national park in 1921, Hot Springs National Park was a spa town. As a result, eight historical bathhouse buildings are on site, located on what is known as Bathhouse Row. One of these, the Fordyce Bathhouse, is the park's visitor center and a museum. While there are no outdoor thermal pools to soak in, you can still have a spa day at the park's Buckstaff Bathhouse and the Quapaw Baths & Spa.

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Soak in Hot Springs National Park's thermal waters

Buckstaff Bathhouse and the Quapaw Baths & Spa are the perfect way to relax in steamy hot spring waters in the mountain town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Hot Springs National Park. The Buckstaff Bathhouse dates back to 1912 and offers various treatments and packages. Its deluxe bathing package includes lavishing in a bathtub filled with thermal water, a 20-minute body massage, a sitz bath, a vapor cabinet treatment, and a hot pack treatment for $100. Hours vary, and no appointment is necessary.

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Tripadvisor reviews for Buckstaff Bathhouse say this is a must-do, with one person writing, "What a fun experience! This historic building continues to provide fun and relaxing 'treatments' as it has through the years. The whirlpool is like a giant immersion blender. The steam cabinets remind me of an I Love Lucy episode. I will go back every time I visit Hot Springs." 

On the other hand, Quapaw Baths & Spa was built in 1922 and underwent extensive renovations in the early 2000s. It has thermal pools and a steam cave. Admission to the thermal pools is $25, and the steam cave costs an additional $15. Bathing suits are required. Likewise, it provides private 20-minute thermal baths for solo bathers and couples. Prices range from $45 to $60. Massages, facials, and treatment packages are also available. Quapaw Baths & Spa is open Wednesday to Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visitors do not need a reservation for the thermal pools.

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Eat and stay at Hot Springs National Park

In addition to spas, Hot Springs National Park has onsite lodging. Hotel Hale, located on Bathhouse Row, was once known as the Hale Bathhouse. The structure dates back to the 1880s and features modern-style rooms with a gorgeous brick interior. Note that the hotel's bathtubs produce thermal water for guests to enjoy. Furthermore, Hotel Hale has an upscale eatery, Eden, which provides entrees like pan-fried rainbow trout and salmon piccata. Hours vary, and you can make reservations on OpenTable. You can expect to pay over $200 for a night at Hotel Hale.

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Visitors will also find the Superior Bathhouse Brewery (seen in the TikTok above), housed in the former bathhouse from 1916 on Bathhouse Row. Superior is, in fact, the only brewery located in a national park. Notably, the brewery uses thermal water to create the 18 beers served at this watering hole. A flight of these beers is available for $40. It also offers light bites and meals like nachos, a Bavarian pretzel, wings, sandwiches, and more. Superior Bathhouse Brewery is pet-friendly and is open Wednesday through Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Hot Springs National Park is open daily from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and the visitor center, located at Fordyce Bathhouse, is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission to the park is free. Unquestionably, Hot Springs National Park has distinct offerings for visitors. To discover more noteworthy national parks, check out this unfrequented stunning southern destination.

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