The Cool History of Hot Springs, Arkansas
A true Arkansas Treasure loaded with so much to do and full of rich history. Absolutely wonderful for weekend getaways with you’re sweetie, vacations and holidays with the family that most certainly won’t cost a fortune or break the bank. Voted top three most affordable destinations by TripAdvisor and US Travel.
The Spa City – America’s First Resort
Hot Springs, Arkansas, gets its name from the naturally thermal spring waters found here. Flowing out of the ground at an average temperature of 143 °F, the hot springs produce almost one million gallons of water each day.
It’s hard to tell exactly how long people have been visiting the springs. Native Americans called this area “the Valley of the Vapors,” and it was said to have been a neutral territory where all tribes could enjoy its healing waters in peace.
Spanish and French settlers claimed the area in the mid-1500s. In fact, famous explorer Hernando de Soto was the first European to visit Hot Springs in 1541.
The hot springs were such a coveted natural wonder that in 1832, President Andrew Jackson designed Hot Springs as the first federal reservation. Hot Springs Reservation was essentially America’s first national park, predating Yellowstone National Park by 40 years.
In just a decade, the area changed from a rough frontier town to an elegant spa city centered on a row of attractive Victorian-style bathhouses, the last ones completed in 1888. When Congress established the National Park Service, Hot Springs Reservation became Hot Springs National Park in 1921.
Today, you can still soak in the thermal waters on historic Bathhouse Row. The hot springs are also pumped into several downtown hotels and spas. The water is even available at public fountains. The beautifully restored Fordyce Bathhouse now serves as a visitor center.
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The Site of Infamy – A Haven in the Gangster Era. Al Capone actually had a favorite suite. Rumor has it when he would show up unannounced in town the Arlington Hotel would quickly clear out any guests using the room.
Visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas, today, it’s hard to imagine the city as a hotbed for organized crime, such as gambling, prostitution and bootlegging. But from the late-1800s through the mid-1900s, especially in the 1930s, Hot Springs was a popular hangout for
Lucky Luciano, and other infamous mobsters.
The safe, secluded scenic location of Hot Springs made it the ideal hideout. In order to understand how and why they chose this site, it’s necessary to reflect on the corruption that had been going on here for decades.
As early as the mid- to late-1800s, Hot Springs had been involved in illegal gambling. At that time, two families controlled these activities: the Flynns and the Dorans. The two families constantly fought over the city’s gaming rights – a competition that eventually led to the famous Hot Springs Gunfight in 1899.
Gangster Museum Of America
Located right across the street from the National Park you will find the Gangster Museum of America. In the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s Hot Springs was a popular place for Gangsters to come and visit.
You will take a tour that will bring you up to speed on Hot Springs in the the early to mid 1900’s. And how the gangster population visited here. You will also get a chance to play in the antique casino!
Remnants of the city’s notorious past can still be found inside
The museum features classic relics, including old roulette tables, vintage slot machines, Madden and Capone exhibits, weapons, and a documentary in the museum’s theater.
There are many places today to stay when visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas, but we highly suggest THE ARLINGTON HOTEL to get a true feel for where you are. They never remodel this hotel, just refurbish… The hotel’s fee averages around $100 per night. Another tip I can share is about parking. If you self park on the property it’s $15 per night, if you valet it’s $24 per night. If you don’t mind walking one block north there is free parking that the hotel owns but they do not share this info with you unless you ask.
HISTORY OF ARLINGTON RESORT HOTEL & SPA IN HOT SPRINGS
The colorful history of the three eras of Arlington hotels is not architectural beauty and uniqueness alone. Always the center of activities in Hot Springs, the Arlington has hosted hundreds of grand balls and social events since 1875. Politicians, dignitaries, actors, gangsters and entertainment and sports legends bathed in our bath house, danced to our music and enjoyed our splendor and charm.
The Arlington has survived a devastating fire, economic downturns, changing social attitudes and much more. Steeped in history, The Arlington is truly a legend.
A Storied Past: The History Of The Arlington
The present Arlington opened Dec. 31, 1924 with a gala New Year’s Eve dinner dance. Although the third Arlington architecturally differs from the first two, there is one holdover – the twin towers.
For 30 years, windows and door louvers ventilated guest’s rooms until 1955 when air conditioning and a heating system were installed. The three guests elevators, in operation since 1969, replaced the original hand-operated elevators installed in 1924. Around from the main elevator is the original bath house elevator – lined with beveled glass and shining brass – still manually operated.
Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand and Yoko Ono have all luxuriated at the hotel. A Winning Location
The Spa at the Arlington is still very operational and is a great option if you would like to stay on the property instead of taking a beautiful short walk to Bath House Row
On the back side of the Arlington built into the side of mountain is a connector walking bridge that leads to a great swimming pool and a second area cut out that fills up with flowing hot, natural spring water right out of the mountainside. It’s free to the guests of The Arlington Hotel.
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NOW LETS TALK ABOUT -BATHHOUSE ROW-
There are a variety of other hikes in the area and all different lengths. You could definitely spend some time hiking here!
Hot Springs Mountain Tower
You will see the big tower as you are driving into the city. From behind the National Park Visitor Center you can take the Peak Trail and hike .6 miles up (it is up the whole way) to get to the tower.
Once there you have to pay $5-$8 a person I believe to go up in the tower. We opted not to do that and instead went across the street to a lookout area and then hiked back down.
If you don’t feel like hiking it you can drive up there.
Hot Springs Mountain Tower
If you are interested in alligators then you will want to visit the Arkansas Alligator Farm! You can hold baby alligators all year long plus there is a petting zoo area where you can pet emu, goats, sheep and more. There are also times of the year when you can feed meat to an alligator on a stick. They have a variety of other animals you can see as well. If your kids (or you) are into animals add this place to your list of spots to check out.
If you keep going up the stairs from the Display Spring you will reach the Grand Promenade. I beautiful walk way that is up above the street and behind Bathhouse Row.
This is a great place to come and walk with kids since there aren’t any cars around and it is nice wide walkway. It is also very pretty. From here you can start on a couple of the hikes in the area.
If you are looking for outdoor activities the Ouachita Mountain range located in the Ouachita National Forest has a lot of offer. Everything from mountain biking to hiking, fishing and boating! Hot Springs is the hub of the mountains and the Ouachita National Forest spreads for 1.8 million acres around Arkansas.
They have full hookups and you are right on the river so it is a great campground. You can take a hiking trail right from the campground and actually hike over to the National Park visitor center.
The Garvan Woodland Gardens are the botanical gardens of the University of Arkansas. You can tour the gardens and the beautiful surrounding area. Then head over to check out the Anthony Chapel.
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