With the Christmas season over, and the stay-at-home, no-travel orders in place , we here at Adventures with Santa are looking back over our travels before all this hit, reminiscing of all the fun adventures we had. Low and behold, we realized that we had not posted about our adventures to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Folks, this is an an adventure you want to add to your list of places to visit!
Hot Springs, Arkansas is a resort city located in the Quachita Mountains. It is actually one of the oldest communities inside the Natural Reserve as part of the Hot Springs National Park. We were not aware of any of this when we decided to stop and visit.
At one time, this city was know as the Las Vegas of the East. Now that is not because it had legal gambling. Oh, gambling was there, but it was quite illegal. The community had a sordid past with gangsters that inhabited there. Al Capone was known to have stayed there, as well as many others. The illegal gambling existed until the mid sixties.
But that was not the original attraction to this place. It is the hot springs. The hot waters of the natural springs were believed to have healing powers. Indian legends led people to the area. Known to early explorers in the 1600 to 1700’s, it was under French control. It eventually became part of the US with the Louisiana Purchase.
In December 1804, Dr. George Hunter and William Dunbar embarked on an expedition to the springs, finding a lone log cabin and a few rudimentary shelters used by people visiting the springs for their healing properties. In 1807, a man named Prudhomme became the first settler of modern Hot Springs, and he was soon joined by John Percifull and Isaac Cate. Around 1832, the area was declared a protected area. In 1851, the City of Hot Springs was officially incorporated, and the effort to turn the town into a spa city sprang into action. Because there is so much information about the “bath houses” that sprung up during this period, we will write a separate blog about them, along with pictures. The contraptions used during that period of time to “heal” whatever ailed you, are incredible, and deserve their own story.
We stayed at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. It is a grand historic hotel built in the 1920’s in the Art Deco design of the era. Many of the gangsters visiting Hot Springs stayed here.
Imagine the likes of Al Capone, Frank Costello, Bugs Moran, Lucky Luciano, and other infamous mobsters walking down these steps in the 1930’s to enter their bulletproof Cadillacs. In fact, Lucky Luciano was actually arrested at the hotel in 1936. What a sight that must have been!
Today, the hotel still offers rooms with water from the Hot Springs, to bathe in your tub in your room. We did get one of those rooms. The natural temperature of the water is around 140 degrees. They actually have to reduce the temperature, so that you can take a bath or shower. The hotel is nestled at the end of Bathhouse Row, just a just a short walk to those historic bath houses. They still exist and are operated by the National Park Service, as you’ll hear in our other blog. Below are interior pictures of the lobby, dining rooms, and the view from our room.
Not everything was illegal in the city, as you’ll see if you visit some of the museums. Baseball spring training began in Hot Springs in 1886. Legends like A. G. Spalding and Cap Anson brought the Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs) to the area to train and play spring games. They were joined by fellow Hall of Famers Mike “King” Kelly and John Clarkson. Others followed.
We visited Babe Ruth’s private gym that he used to train for the Boston Red Sox. It is while he as here in spring training that he moved from a pitcher to a hitter. This is where he set the record for the longest home run at 573 feet. It landed into the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo.
There is so much more interesting history here. The Army -Navy Hospital was first built here after the Civil War. It was expanded after WWI and then again in WWII. Injured soldiers were brought here to be rehabilitated from their injuries.
In 1914, the Pentecostal Church founded their headquarters here. The Assemblies of God has grown to be one of the largest denominations with over 3 million members.
We visited many of the stores on Bath House Row. There’s a wonderful toy store and a great Christmas store. What every Santa is looking for! And you can even get your fortune told by Zoltar.
We went up to the look out on top of the mountain and tried several of the restaurants. Don’t pass up cupcakes from Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcakes! They were featured on the Food Network! Delicious and worth the trip!
The local folks are very kind and friendly. One couple came up to us and just starting talking, telling us good places to eat and fun things to do. While talking with them, the lady happened to mention that she went to high school with Bill Clinton and told of how he helped get her elected as student council president. His first political campaign, as it were.
We are ready to visit this area again, exploring the many activities, festivals, the National Park and, of course, the hot springs.
Happy Adventure Hunting!
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