It may sound strange but one of my favorite things in the world is to be a tourist. I love discovering new sights and experiencing new customs. That’s why I love traveling and discovering what’s unique about a certain town or city. Recently, the stars aligned and I had the same day off as not only as my boyfriend but also my two best friends (two KTVE anchor/reporters) from Monroe. I knew it was a rare occasion to have the same day off as them, so I didn’t want it to go to waste. I immediately began planning a day trip to a little town I’ve heard a lot about and within driving distance: Hot Springs, Arkansas.
We drove the 3 hour drive the night before and awoke to gloomy skies and drizzling rain. The weather immediately eliminated some possibilities such as ziplining and the amusement park. Instead, I grabbed a handful of brochures and spread them across the hotel bed. I read out loud the different activities and the prices, ultimately we decided “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” which in Hot Springs means take a mineral bath! But before we decided to enjoy the natural wonders there, we decided to go up to the Mountain Tower.
It’s a 216 foot observation tower at the top of a mountain with a panoramic view of the Ouachita Mountains. One of the top levels is a museum giving the history of Hot Springs, which as a history buff I ate that up, I was trying to read every single display! The top-level is open air and as soon as we opened the door, cold rainy wind slapped us in the face. We put up with the weather, because of course as journalists we had to take plenty of pictures and video with our phones!
On our way down the windy road from the mountain, we noticed several people gathered around what looked like a water fountain. Even though it was rainy, we all immediately had the same thought, “PULL OVER!” We got out to find that the people were gathered around the water fountain because the water coming out of the fountain was pure mineral water coming from the Happy Hollow Spring.
They were filling jugs with the water and of course our mentality “When in Rome” had us searching the car looking for empty water bottles to fill with the mineral water. One sip of the water and I knew all of the hours of driving and hanging out in the rain was worth it! The water tasted so fresh! We immediately began cracking jokes about how we instantly felt healthier.We then made our way to the downtown area that is filled with kitschy tourist traps that I LOVE like old western photo shops and gaudy souvenir stores. However what sets Hot Springs apart from any “tourist trappy” town is that lining the opposite side of the street from the shops were bath houses with gorgeous architecture. It’s called “Bathhouse Row” and each bathhouse has its own style and a placard that explained the history of the house.
We ultimately picked the Quapaw Baths and Spa (built in 1922) because we read in a travel guide that it’s one of two bathhouses built directly on top of a hot spring. We didn’t know what to expect, but were so tickled to find that the fountains in front of the bathhouse had steaming water spewing out of it, water that we could only assume was coming straight from the hot spring. We went inside the building and found that the staff was very patient and helpful with us since we didn’t know what protocols to follow in a bathhouse. We were handed two towels and flip-flops and told to go rinse off first before getting into the baths. Once we entered the baths, we were first handed an icy cool cup full of mineral water and I observed that the large room was filled with four community soaking pools full of hot mineral water. I immediately noticed, besides the boys we arrived with (who were sipping on mineral waters like martinis), nobody in the waters were younger than the age 65! Granted it was a Friday afternoon, but I bet the regulars at the baths thought we were quite strange! The warm waters were immediately relaxing and we all talked about how we felt all our stress from the past month were melting into the waters. We stayed for a few hours and dried off feeling totally relaxed, but we realized at lunch over nachos at Granny’s Kitchen, that we were so relaxed we felt very sleepy!
We tried to knock off the urge to nap by going shopping, but eventually we went on a quest to find some kind of caffeine. We walked several blocks until we found a coffee shop and over coffee (red bull for me, I can’t stand coffee!) we talked about how pleasantly surprised we were with our Hot Springs experience. Before we headed back to Louisiana, we decided we had to go to a cupcake shop “Fat Bottom Girl’s Cupcake Shoppe” that came highly recommended from one of the bath workers. We swung by, ate huge cupcakes, and talked about the deliciousness of the dessert. On our ride back home, we discussed how we had to re-visit Hot Springs and listed the activities we would do when we got back. If you haven’t visited Hot Springs, Arkansas I highly recommend you go!