By: Jerusalem Jackson Greer

My family has been visiting Hot Springs since my great-great grandparents traveled all the way from Tennessee to visit the healing waters of the bathhouses in the late 1800s, a journey that would lead to the family eventually settling in Central Arkansas permanently. And so Hot Springs became a regular family vacation and couples-getaway spot for generations for the Goddard’s and their descendants – including me and my family.

Summer is a great time to visit Hot Springs, and I always enjoy looking ahead at the calendar to see what sort of events are coming up, planning both our day and overnight excursions.

Here are my top picks for events you don’t want to miss this summer:

Top 3 Date Nights in Hot Springs

3rd Annual Hot Springs Craft Beer Festival May 21 –This event, which benefits the Hot Springs Blues Society, will include sample craft beers, local food and prizes! You must be 21 or older to join in the fun, so this makes a great date night event. LOCATION: Hot Springs Convention Center

Gallery Walk – First Friday of every month, 5-9 p.m. - A continuous tradition for 25 years and counting, galleries in the downtown area stay open late and host openings of new exhibits by local, regional, national and international artists. Interspersed between the galleries are wonderful restaurants at every price point and flavor, where you can have an early or late dinner, rounding out your date night.

The Pocket Theatre – With upcoming shows such as Seeing Stars in Dixie and Sweeny Todd, The Pocket Theatre is a great slice of talent and culture in Hot Springs. After the show make sure to swing by The Ohio Club, Arkansas oldest still-existing bar, where rumor has it you can occasionally see the ghost of Al Capone, a frequent patron in his day.

Top 3 Family Events

Spa Blast in the Infield – July 1, Oaklawn - Kick-off the Independence Day fun with family-friendly event, which begins at 4 p.m., will feature a free concert and end with a bang! A fireworks bang that is! Families are encouraged to park in the North Lot for easier access to the infield and may bring lawn chairs and blankets, but no coolers will be allowed. 

11th Annual Stueart Pennington Running of the Tubs – June 4, in Downtown Hot Springs - Come cheer on the wild and crazy costumed teams that pile into authentic bathtubs outfitted with wheels then do their best to roll on down the street!  Race watchers are encouraged to get in the spirit and join in the fun, so have your kids bring water guns, wear house slippers, shower caps, and pajamas and their rubber duckies! When the race is finished make sure to cool off at Scoops or Kilwins for some old fashioned ice cream.

4th Annual Tinkerfest – Saturday, June 18, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m., Mid-America Science Museum - Inspired by the growing “Maker Movement” across the country this festival is all about innovation, creativity and discovery. Combining science, technology and art, Tinkerfest is big fun for all ages. There is no extra cost to attend Tinkerfest but regular museum admission will apply: $10 for adults, $7 for children and seniors, and as always admission is free for members.

Top 3 Ongoing Summer Events

Magic Springs/Magic Springs Concerts – Magic Springs & Crystal Falls Theme Park is always a lot of fun for all ages. There are separate areas for “big kid” and “little kid” rides, as well as wonderful water park, cooling station, multiple restaurants and snack stands to keep everyone fed, cool and happy. Plus, all during the summer the concert series keeps the evenings rockin’. This year the musical guest include Dwight Yoakam, Mercy Me, Blues Traveler and more. 

First Saturday's National Parks Centennial Iron Ranger Challenge - On January the National Park Service kicked-off its Centennial celebration, and the seven National Park Service sites in Arkansas joined in by creating the Centennial Iron Ranger Challenge across the state. Hot Springs contribution is a wonderful hike (moderately strenuous) that is approximately 3 miles, round trip. The hike includes among other things a spectacular view of Gulpha Gorge from Goat Rock. No pre-registration is necessary to join. Hikers will be met by a ranger on the porch of the Fordyce Bathhouse, 369 Central Avenue, at 10 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month through November 2016.

Lake Catherine State Park -  During the summer, park interpreters offer guided hikes, lake tours, kayak lessons, moonlight kayak tours, horseback riding and nature programs such as owl spotting. If you want to stay for more than a day, there are a variety of overnight lodging options on-site, and the park is within easy driving distance of downtown Hot Springs.

Intrigued, but want additional ideas? Make sure to check out Hot Springs Events page where new upcoming events are posted often. I am sure you will find something for everyone to enjoy in the Spa City!

Happy Summer Travels-

Jerusalem Greer, Longtime Hot Springs Lover