Visiting Arkansas' Hot Springs National Park with Kids
By Meg Brunson
When we’re planning to visit a new state, I love checking the National Parks Service to see what National Parks are located there – and which we’ll be close enough to for a visit! Hot Springs National Park sounded amazing – I envisioned my whole family soaking in a natural hot tub! Unfortunately, the water at Hot Springs National Park is too hot to swim in – which is pretty amazing in it’s own right! There is a lot that this city has to offer, and we had a blast spending a day there!
There are 2 main components to our experience: the observation tower, and the city (with visitor center, springs, shopping – basically everything else). We started at the observation tower because we wanted to make sure we didn’t run out of time to do that. We suspected that the main part of the city could entertain us enough that we’d stay too late, and we did not want to miss the tower experience.
The observation decks on the tower is 216 feet high – and sits atop a mountain so when you climb up to the observation deck you’re 1,256 feet above sea level – and offers gorgeous views of Hot Springs and the surrounding areas – miles of beauty! There is an elevator inside to ride up to the top – but (our luck) on the day of our visit the elevator was out of service. But I was NOT going to miss the views. With my 12 year old, 6 year old, and 4 year old; we climbed up 306 steps to reach that observation deck. It made me realize I was out of shape and my kids are superheros. It was all worth it – the views were breathtaking! There was an exhibit up at the top that explained some of the history and science behind Hot Springs, and a great gift shop on the ground-level.
After our workout at the Observation Tower we drove back down the mountain and parked in the free parking garage. We started at the visitor center for the National Park Service and our kids completed the Junior Ranger program while learning about the history/science of Hot Springs and observing a former bath house. There was even a spring INSIDE the building we observed – but the real fun came when we walked outside. A short walk around the back of the building is where we found the first couple springs that we were able to feel and observe. Little touches were okay, but submerging for longer was too hot!
We walked along a path searching for a park we saw on the drive in – and had fun observing some of the details we learned at the visitor center – and found some really breathtaking waterfalls.
We ended our visit with dinner at Grateful Head Pizza Oven and Beer Garden https://gratefulheadpizza.com/locations/hot-springs/, and with window shopping throughout the main strip. I have to plug Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe – they were on Cupcake Wars a few years ago – and the cupcakes were so good. My absolute fave was Wedding Cake – don’t visit Hot Springs without stopping there! https://www.fbgcupcakes.com/ It was a super cute town and we had a blast just wandering around for a bit before heading back to the RV!
Tips for a Great Visit:
- Observation Tower Parking – this is located at the top of a hill/mountain… you CAN hike up, but we drove up. The drive is VERY curvy and you cannot bring up an RV or trailer or anything like that. There was a good-sized lot at the tower for parking.
- Parking for Everything Else – there is a free parking lot on Exchange Street that will allow you to explore the visitor center, bath houses, springs, and local shops – looking this up ahead of time would be helpful.
- Walking – there is a lot of walking around town to see all the things – but it’s an easy/flat walk. My kids had no complaints!
- Drinking the Water? – if you want to collect some water to bring home, simply bring a jug (you can also buy them when you get there). There are filling stations throughout the area and the visitor center can direct you to the nearest one.
- Bathing Suits? – these hot springs are too hot to submerge yourself. If you want to experience an emersion experience, you’ll want to look into visiting one of the bath houses. https://www.nps.gov/hosp/planyourvisit/indooractivities.htm
© 2019 Meg Brunson
All opinions expressed are my own. See more on Instagram!
Meg is a mommy blogger, Facebook marketer, and much more. She is a mom to four daughters who live full-time in an RV exploring the US! As a former Facebook employee, Meg remains a Facebook addict and handles KidsOutAndAbout.com's Social Media Marketing in addition to providing freelance services for other small businesses on how to best leverage Facebook as a part of their marketing strategy. Meg also hosts the FamilyPreneur Podcast, a podcast for parent entrepreneurs raising entrepreneurial children. Learn more about Meg at MegBrunson.com!