The best kind of getaway is just a short jaunt away but makes you feel like you are in a completely different world. It’s hard living in Texas sometimes because getting away means hours of boring road time that leads to more boring road time. However, if you head north, you will find yourself at a sweet little getaway that will make you forget all about Houston concrete and heat.
Hot Springs, Arkansas, is brimming with history and daytime pursuits that can keep you busy for days or completely relax you. The fact that it is just a 1–hour flight to Little Rock or a 6 ½–hour drive straight into Hot Springs makes it all the more appealing.
In just a few days last week, I stayed in a brand new and quite exquisite inn, attended the Hot Springs Film Festival, mined for crystals, and spent a relaxing afternoon soaking away my cares on Bathhouse Row. I ate tasty food, drank some old-school cocktails, and took a tour of the , which will teach you all kinds of interesting tidbits about the likes of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano.
The hot springs are, of course, the draw to this little hamlet. They always have been and it’s easy to see why. The water in the hot springs has been percolating inside the mountain for over 4,000 years. It emerges right there in the town at 120°. And it is some of the purest, mineral–rich water you will ever have the opportunity to bathe in or drink. Grab a cup and a tea bag and within seconds you will be drinking fabulous hot tea to warm your belly as the months grow colder.
Hot Springs water brought fame to this town when were constructed to treat and bring relief to anyone who traveled here, sometimes on doctors’ orders. Prescriptions were given for the treatments. These included water massage, sitz baths, steam, and hot wraps. Those same treatments exist today in those same facilities. It is nothing like any spa experience you have ever had; it is both a history lesson and a lesson in relaxation.
Around town, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor exercise on the 26 miles of trails that provide panoramic views of Central Avenue below and get you up close and personal with the hot springs waterfalls and collection boxes. Or you can mountain bike on the extensive Northwoods Trail System, which hosts biking events and has just begun and additions to make the experience even more adventurous.
And after that, you will discover great food just about anywhere you go. From fine dining at (try the Boursin Filet over creamy truffle polenta and thank me later) to some of the best Italian food you’ve ever eaten at , you will be delighted with the variety and quality of every meal.. Most restaurants have extensive wine, beer, and cocktail lists, the latter of which often focuses on iconic drinks from the gangster years.
When your stomach is full and you are ready for a good night’s sleep, head to the brand new bed and breakfast inn, . I’ve stayed in a lot of B&B’s in my lifetime, and this one is at the top of my list. Owners Rhonda and Mark made me feel like family and could not have done more to pamper and please. Crawling into bed at night felt like I was being nestled in a cloud, and waking up to a gourmet breakfast prepared by their in-house chef was a fantastic way to energize my day.
Finally, If you are willing to venture out from the hot springs, the outskirts offer a rare experience that can send you home with some real gems. About an hour outside of the center of town, crystal and diamond mining are all the rage. The landscape is filled with mineral-rich soil that produces quartz in massive quantities. At the very informative , $25 will get you access to a quartz-rich location, where you are set free to mine for your own treasures. For $1,000, you can be taken to an active excavation site where you are guaranteed to walk away with huge crystals that could be worth way more than the excavation itself.
The locals here are welcoming and thrilled to tell you tales about the bootleggers, payoffs, and celebrities that gambled here long before Vegas was ever established. As proud as Texans are of our Lone Star State, we appreciate that same sense of pride in other city dwellers. Those who call Hot Springs home love their small town, and after a few days getting away from the big city, you will too.