After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 Americans began to travel to the hot springs of central Arkansas for their alleged healing qualities.
Modest hot spring huts were eventually replaced by ever grander bath houses. In 1832, forty years before the first US national park was established, the federal government stepped in and established Hot Springs Reservation to protect the springs from overexploitation and contamination. In 1921 the reservation was promoted to national park status, and it remains the smallest and most urbanized national park in the system. What the area lacks in sweeping natural splendor it recovers in resort style relaxation and rich history.
To visualize the former glory of this resort town take a free tour of the decadent Fordyce Bathhouse and stroll through steaming natural springs along the Grand Promenade.
Off the Beaten Path:
Take a short hike up to Hot Springs Mountain Observation Tower ($7), or check out karaoke night at the Ohio Club. Founded in 1905, The Ohio Club is oldest bar in Arkansas, and it was a favorite haunt of the notorious gangster Al Capone.
I regret not splurging on a traditional mineral bath experience. They typically include a tub soak, vapor cabinet steam, and needle shower, but the price (1 hour, $33) was not within my budget at the time.
For more information on my visit, check out my post.
Fordyce Bathhouse, standard bath.
Ceiling railway to transport the sick or disabled to the bath.