The main attraction for our road trip, this town nestled next to a national park has a fascinating history. Established in 19th century, this place really grew between the 1920s through the 1960s when folks came from all over to bathe in it’s supposedly healing springs. The beautiful area, healing waters, and gambling brought all kinds of people from politicians to gangsters to poor folks looking for help to their ailments. In fact, it was a prominent center for bootlegging back in the days of prohibition and possibly the only place in the country where mobsters would co-mingle without violence. Once gambling was outlawed and enforced along with the crack down on organized crime and gangsters in the 60s, the city kind of stymied and is sort of left in that decade. Very cool town, shops, variety of food, and great nature nearby.
See & Do
- Hot Springs National Park. Views, trails, and camping along the river. You can hike up or drive to the observation tower for views of the city and surrounding areas.
- Bathouse Row. Old 19th and 20th century bathouses. Quapaw Bathouse is awesome, featuring public and private baths. Fordyce is a museum you can tour to see what the bathouses used to look like. Free and very cool.
- Gangster Museum. Outstanding, must see. Illuminates the history of the town. Al Capone, Bonnie & Clyde, Lucky Luciano, and more.
- Garvan Woodland Gardens. Large botanical gardens by the lake.
- Ouachita Mountains. Rivers, lake, forest, hiking.
Food & Drink
- Kollective Coffee & Tea. Incredible tea selection, coffee, light healthy eats, cool vibe.
- Greatful Head. Great pizza and beer garden.
- Cafe 1217. Healthy options.
- Maxine’s. Run by the original madam of the town, serves food and drinks, with a menu hosting drinks named after every Stanley Kubrick movie. One of the few original clubs still around and open, though not exactly the same as it was back in the day.
- Camping. There are only RV spots at Gulpha Gorge Campground, but you can pitch a tent no problem. First come first served, $30/night, sites open up at noon. Reserve through the on-site ticketing machine to reserve your spot. No ranger present that we saw. Was pretty easy.