Posted 3/26/2012 12:00 am
Updated 11 months ago
Tourism is the engine that drives the economy of the area surrounding Hot Springs National Park, and the engine is running strong.
With a varied menu of entertainment and sporting opportunities, the Hot Springs area offers enough choices to keep 3 million visitors coming to the city and its surroundings every year.
Chief among the attractions is the city itself. Hot Springs has been delighting visitors since before 1832, when President Andrew Jackson persuaded Congress to designate the area surrounding the 47 thermal springs flowing down the west face of Hot Springs Mountain as America’s first federally protected reservation.
That area became Hot Springs National Park, an oasis of natural beauty contained within the city itself. The natural, thermal waters provide relaxation and healing to hundreds of thousands of guests annually at the two bathhouse/spas on world famous Bathhouse Row and in several of the city’s spacious hotels.
The area features the federal campground Gulpha Gorge and numerous hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty that traverse the mountains that embrace the downtown area. One of the trails, and a paved road, leads to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower where visitors can enjoy 60-mile views of the city and beyond in all directions from its location atop Hot Springs Mountain.
The Ouachita National Forest surrounds Hot Springs and offers countless opportunities for camping, hiking, off-roading and relaxation at state parks and federally operated campgrounds and recreational areas.
Four pristine lakes — Hamilton, Catherine, Ouachita and DeGray — surround the city with resorts, boating, fishing and swimming.
Lake Ouachita is a wilderness lake listed among the top three cleanest lakes in America. Hamilton, Catherine and DeGray feature state parks and private resorts with amenities to suit every taste. Guided tours aboard a riverboat and other vessels offer evening dinner cruises as well as shorter tours of Lake Hamilton.
The lakes are home to championship bass fishing tournaments as well as everyday anglers, who take advantage of fishing hot spots throughout the year.
Oaklawn Racing and Gaming is one of America’s premier thoroughbred racing and electronic gaming facilities, attracting nearly a million visitors yearly for its live racing, simulcast racing and electronic games of skill in a brand new facility.
Garvan Woodland Gardens, on the shore of Lake Hamilton, is America’s premier woodland arboretum, featuring thousands of varieties of flowers, trees and shrubs on a scenic peninsula crossed by relaxing walking trails set amidst breathtaking natural features.
Magic Springs and Crystal Falls family theme park offers the state’s largest water park and a thrilling assortment of rides during the summer season. Outdoor concerts by nationally known musicians are also part of Magic Springs’ summertime offerings.
Hot Springs’ historic downtown district is a treasure trove of quaint shops and restaurants guaranteed to appeal to the taste and pocketbook of any visitor. The city’s internationally acclaimed fine-arts community operates numerous art and antique galleries in the downtown area, including the new Museum of Contemporary Art in one of the renovated bathhouses on Bathhouse Row. Artworks of every kind and taste are available for purchase or simply for relaxing viewing.
The Gangster Museum, Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum and the National Park Museum in the beautifully restored Fordyce Bathhouse will appeal to anyone who captivated by Hot Springs’ colorful and exciting past.
Mid-America Science Museum is a wonderland of educational excitement for all ages, with science exhibits, displays and traveling special exhibits for the whole family. Located in a beautiful woodland setting, it is a must-see for all visitors.