AAA Magazines

A guide to visiting Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park celebrated its centennial in 2021. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism

Hot Springs National Park observed its 100th anniversary in March, and the fascinating area has never looked better. Steeped in history and lore, this park has seen its share of ruffians, dreamers, and gangsters, and its cultural heritage is matched by a bounty of natural amenities. 

Things to do in the park

The area that became Hot Springs National Park was first Hot Springs Reservation, set aside by Congress in 1832—predating Yellowstone’s national park status by 40 years. Officially made a national park in 1921, the urban park with natural components has been intertwined with the city of Hot Springs since the town’s 1851 incorporation. Originally composed of two rows of hotels, bathhouses, and attendant businesses, the locale has always focused on health, relaxation, and leisure. Explore the area’s history at the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitors Center and Museum, operated by the National Park Service, and check out monthly events that will commemorate the centennial. Before you visit, check if the visitors center is open.

Northwood Trails

The Northwood Trails offer more than 26 miles of bike routes. | Photo courtesy Visit Hot Springs

From there, take your recreation outdoors to the park’s 26 miles of interconnected hiking trails. Find relatively short paths in the Hot Springs and North Mountain area and in the West Mountain area. The longer Sunset Trail travels through more remote areas of the park. If mountain biking is more your speed, riders have plenty of world-class options. The park’s Pullman Trail connects with the Northwoods Trails—more than 26 miles of mountain biking routes for all skill levels.

A variety of other Hot Springs attractions complement the park’s appeal. The Gangster Museum of America tells tales of the gambling and bootlegging that once drew mobsters like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano to town.

Garden lovers shouldn’t miss the beautiful landscapes at Garvan Woodland Gardens. And dozens of artists have transformed historic buildings into studios and galleries, most of which stay open late for the Gallery Walk on the first Friday of every month. 

No trip to Hot Springs is complete without a visit to Oaklawn, which features year-round casino gaming and entertainment, as well as thoroughbred racing from late January to May. While you’re there, enjoy one of Oaklawn’s legendary corned beef sandwiches, a crowd favorite since 1904.

You may also like: Seek peace at these lovely Southern botanical gardens and arboretums

Where to shop

bathhouse row

The Bathhouse Row Emporium is the park's official store. | Photo courtesy Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism

Find souvenirs of all descriptions at the official national park store, The Bathhouse Row Emporium, in the former Lamar Bathhouse. Browse the eclectic shops located throughout downtown’s Historic District for one-of-a-kind mementos.

Where to eat around the park

Deluca’s Pizza

Deluca’s Pizza is regarded as one of the nation's best pizzerias. | Photo by David Yerby

Fortify yourself for the day with breakfast at The Pancake Shop. Be warned: There could be long lines, but it’s worth the wait. At Deluca’s Pizza, which the Food Network and some polls have cited as one of the nation’s best pizzerias, don’t miss the signature Gooch Pie (Calabrese salami, garlic, Peppadew peppers, and arugula). Like a little history with your libation? Have a drink at The Ohio Club, where Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, and other gangsters once caroused.

Where to stay

Some of those same gangsters—as well as actors, dignitaries, and sports legends—have stayed at The Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa, which dates to 1875. Each of the 246 rooms at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Hot Springs Hotel and Spa is a two-room suite.

If you go

For more information, visit the Hot Springs National Park website or call them at (501) 620-6715. For details about the city, go to or call (501) 321-2277.

Follow us on Instagram

Follow @AAAAutoClubEnterprises for the latest on what to see and do.

Read more articles

You'll find more of the articles you love to read at AAA Insider.

Travel offers and deals

" "

Hot travel deals

Get the latest offers from AAA Travel’s preferred partners.

" "

Travel with AAA

See how we can help you plan, book, and save on your next vacation.

" "

Entertainment savings

Save big with AAA discounts on tickets to your next adventure.

" "

Travel with confidence

Purchase travel insurance with Allianz Global Assistance.

back to top icon