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Excursion: Chomping at the Bit

Historic downtown Hot Springs has much to offer visitors in shopping, dining, attractions and accommodations. Add some fun to a drab January with an exciting getaway!

Main Attractions

Racing season opens Jan. 14, in the Spa City, and many are chomping at the bit to make their way down for the action. While there is much excitement to be found on the track at Oaklawn, the new gaming facility on site allows for added hours of enjoyment between watching the ponies, corned beef sandwich specials and mid-morning Bloody Marys. Try your luck at video poker, lock and roll machines, electronic blackjack and more. First-time gamers, don’t forget to download your $10 free play coupon from Oaklawn’s website, oaklawn.com

Garvan Woodland Gardens is always a popular way to spend an afternoon in Hot Springs. This 210-acre garden on Lake Hamilton is filled with a variety of native plants, animals and birds, and has beautiful winding pathways, fountains and fun features for children. If you work up an appetite, stop in the new Chipmumk Cafe for a snack or refreshment. This concession area offers sandwiches, salads and more for guests of the gardens.

The park is closed this month, but will reopen in February with the stunning Daffodil Days from Feb. 21 through March 10, where more than 165,000 beautiful gold, yellow and orange daffodils bloom throughout the gardens.

A Downtown Walking Guide

We highly recommend a trip to the Bathhouse Soapery and Caldarium, a unique boutique offering handcrafted, specialty soaps, soaks, scrubs and other spa essentials made from organic materials. The soap collection is not only delightfully fragrant, but stunning to behold as well. Soaps come in “slices” and often resemble cakes and other delicious treats with names such as Crushed Candy Cane, Cookie Dough, Rose and Yogurt and Crème Brulee. Their soaps are made with pure blends of vegetable, plant and fruit oils that are gentle on the skin and such a treat they’re used in bathhouses on Bathhouse Row.

For the latest in fashion and accessories, Blue Lili is stocked with unique dresses, boots, cold weather accessories, jewelry and more. Show your hometown some love with beautiful pendant necklaces carrying pieces of the Arkansas state map. These glass and silver treats feature hometowns such as Hot Springs, Little Rock and North Little Rock and can be made to order.

Stock your pantry or find the perfect gift for your foodie friend or family member at The Savory Pantry on Central Avenue. Shop the racks of soup mixes, delicious spreads, pickled goods, sauces and more.

These products are perfect to spice up your meal or make a snack; and with many samples set out for hungry browsers, you can try most products before you buy.

Pollo BohemioFlavorful Finds

Grab a bite to eat at the Latin-inspired Rolando’s. Each dish is creatively prepared and packed with delightfully unique flavors. You always win with any of the daily specials or order off the menu for lunch or dinner. We tried the Pollo Bohemio, which was chicken marinated in Cuban “mojo” sautéed in a lime and tequila sauce with sweet bell peppers, green onions, cilantro and parsley served over rice with black beans and cheese … delicious.

Historical Hot springs

For a dose of history, visit the Mountain Valley Spring Water headquarters. This museum/gift shop tells the story of this water-bottling company that originated in 1871 and stands apart from other water as “pristine, naturally high pH water, containing a nice selection of minerals like calcium carbonate, iron, manganese and even a trace amount of fluoride.” It is said to contain healing properties, and according to their website, “in 1955, after suffering a heart attack, Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower was advised by his physicians to drink Mountain Valley Spring Water. Both he and Pres. Reagan used to take it on their trips abroad.” Whether you are looking for healing or just a refreshing bottle of water to quench your thirst, this gift shop makes a great stop for its collection of antique Mountain Valley bottles, memorabilia and gifts, including t-shirts, magnets, drinking glasses and more.

Good Night's Rest Moutain Valley Spring Water Horse

Get a good night’s sleep after a day of shopping, races and exploring at the Arlington Hotel. This historic hotel has been one of the hottest spots in the Spa City since 1875. It has accommodated politicians, actors, gangsters, celebrities and sports legends and continues to wow guests with its “complete package.” Enjoy treatments at the Arlington Beauty & Facial Salon and Thermal Water Spa; dine in the elegant Venetian Dining Room or Lobby Café; catch the famous Sunday brunch; or dance the night away to live jazz music on weekends.

For more information and trip-planning ideas visit hotsprings.org.

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