When you begin planning a vacation, you often expect to put a dent in your wallet. We’re here to assure you that your long overdue trip doesn’t have to break the bank. A road trip to Hot Springs is the perfect getaway with plenty of free and affordable activities to create lasting memories! Take on next level mountain biking, and hiking trails with your friends. Enjoy murals and sculptures in historic downtown Hot Springs, or spend the day on one of our area lakes with the whole family. Check out our list of free activities to see and do on your vacation in Hot Springs National Park, AR!
Unlike many National Parks, Hot Springs National Park is completely free to visit! That’s right, you can explore any of the 26 miles of National Park hiking trails and it won’t cost you a dime. Stroll down Historic Bathhouse Row and admire the extraordinary architecture of eight Historic Bathhouses, all with their own unique design. Visit the Grand Promenade behind Bathhouse Row for a half-mile brick walkway offering amazing views of the surrounding mountains and Bathhouse Row. Dogs are welcome on all 26 miles of the Hot Springs National Park trails and Bathhouse Row, on a leash no longer than six feet, so you can bring your furry friend along for the adventure!
*Tip: stop by the Arlington Lawn Display Spring and see how hot the thermal spring water really is – a piping hot 143 degrees Fahrenheit!
369 Central Avenue
The Fordyce Bathhouse opened for bathing in 1915, and currently functions as the National Parks Visitor’s Center and a historically furnished museum. The Fordyce Bathhouse is the largest bathhouse on the row depicting the immersive history of the bathing in Hot Springs National Park. Specific features include beautiful marble interiors and stained glass transoms with exhibits and films covering the park’s rich history. Enjoy a free self-guided tour through all three floors of the Fordyce or talk with a park ranger for more information on ranger programs and the National Park.
*Tip: be sure to visit the top floor to see the Fordyce Bathhouse Gymnasium, a historically intact gym from 1915!
Most people know the bathing industry uses the famous Hot Springs water, but did you know it is also encouraged for consumption? You heard that right, Hot Springs National Park offers seven water fountains, free of charge, for visitors to fill up water bottles or jugs for drinking. Visitors from all over the world travel to Hot Springs to fill up jugs with quality water, the same way they did 100 years ago. Take a hike in the National Park and then head straight to one of the cold water fountains to quaff the elixir! Two cold-water fountains and five thermal water fountains are in the downtown area, completely free to the public! Click here for a full list of Hot Springs water fountains and their locations.
*Tip: take a mug and your favorite bag of tea to one of the thermal water fountains to enjoy some fresh, thermal water brewed tea!
Hot Springs has no shortage of show-stopping scenic views fit for a postcard. Hop in your car and head up Hot Springs Mountain (North Mountain) for amazing views of the Ouachita Mountains. If you're looking for a great view of downtown Hot Springs and a view of Hot Springs Mountain, head to West Mountain! The National Park has several scenic overlooks to park your car and take in the Instagram worthy scenery. Both mountains offer picnic tables and small pavilions making for a great lunch spot while taking in the scenery for an extended time. Don't miss out on a scenic drive up either mountain to watch the sunset or to enjoy dinner from your car with a breathtaking view!
*Tip: access to the scenic overlooks on both mountains close around 10pm, so be sure to visit during the day or in the evening for a beautiful sunset!
300 Pineland Drive
World-class mountain biking trails are just minutes away from Historic Downtown Hot Springs and completely free to access. Voted the best trails in Arkansas two years in a row–load up your bike and get ready to ride The Northwoods! Whether you're just getting started mountain biking or a mountain biking pro, the Northwoods offers something for every level of biker to enjoy. Check out over 26 miles of biking and hiking trails including Green, Blue and Black single-track, multi-track, flow trails, jump lines and the Lucky 13 expert section at the Northwoods.
*Tip: head over to the Cedar Glades Trailhead to check out the bike skills park or to the Pullman Trailhead for several interesting historical artifacts along the trail. End a long ride with a stop at the Waterworks Trailhead for a beautiful sunset view over Bethel Lake!
Treat yourself to some public art with the breathtaking murals throughout Hot Springs. From Mother Nature covered in breathtaking florals representing Garvan Woodland Gardens, to a colorful homage to the native Qupaw tribe, to the Black Broadway mural, celebrating the vibrant history and culture of African-American entertainers. Hot Springs offers over a dozen murals to see across the city making this free and fun activity the perfect photo-op during your trip.
*Tip: Hot Springs Gallery Walk is the first Friday of each month, held at various galleries in downtown featuring local artists – and it’s entirely free to attend!
You may already know about Hot Springs’ rich history as a National Park, Bathhouse Row and its affiliation with gangsters–but did you know Hot Springs is the birthplace of Major League Baseball Spring Training? Whether you are a baseball fanatic or not, we have a fun, free, informative tour that will fill you in on America’s Favorite Pastime’s connection to Hot Springs. Download the app for an in depth tour, featuring immersive stories like the time baseball legend Babe Ruth launched a 500-foot home run into the Arkansas Alligator Farm in 1918!
Click here for more information on the Historic Hot Springs Baseball Trail.
*Tip: end the tour by tossing around a baseball in Whittington Park, like famous Major League Baseball players once did for Spring Training!
Hot Springs offers three area lakes with a never-ending list of free activities to enjoy all year long! There is Lake Ouachita, one of the cleanest lakes in the country, Lake Hamilton, only ten minutes from downtown Hot Springs, and Lake Catherine, minutes from Garvan Woodland Gardens. All three lakes offer a variety of fun, free activities to enjoy for fishing, swimming, kayaking or picnicking at day use areas. Bring your boat or kayak to explore miles of shoreline on Lake Hamilton. Pack your tent and s’mores fixings then set out to find a private island to call home for the night on Lake Ouachita. Pack your lures and fishing rods to hit the water at Lake Catherine for largemouth bass, spotted bass, striped bass, crappie, bream, catfish and walleye fishing.
Lake Ouachita: keep an eye out for quartz crystals during your island camping, you never know what treasures you might find!
Lake Hamilton: hop in your kayak or boat for a trip to Electric Island Nature Preserve. The 118-acre island features a 2-mile loop, hiking trail, only accessible by water, with remnants of two old homesteads along the trail.
Lake Catherine: visit the Falls Branch Trail and hike to the Falls Creek Falls waterfall. Pack your swimsuit and take a dip in the water once you arrive!
The Hot Springs Creek Greenway Trail connects to downtown Hot Springs and offers 5.5 miles of paved trail bordered by the Hot Springs Creek. Bring your bike to leisurely cruise the trail or take a casual stroll, free of charge! Start at the Hot Springs Farmer’s Market and browse various vendors on Saturdays from 8am-12pm, with live music from 9am-12pm. Head further down the trail and you’ll pass the Valley Street Skate Park, future Majestic Park Baseball Complex and eventually to Hollywood Park and the Hot Springs Bark Park. Pack a picnic and let your pups run around then keep on the trail for even more adventures. The trail also features several unique art sculptures and art displays sprinkled throughout, bringing art and nature together. Take advantage of all the fun the Greenway Trail has to offer during your visit to Hot Springs!
*Tip: check out the permanent “Art Moves Exhibit,” featuring 11 images reproduced onto 30 x 40 metal sheets on display between the Majestic Park and Hollywood Park portion of the trail. Each year new artworks are on display and every piece includes a QR code you can scan with your phone for information on the art and the artist who created it!
150 Central Avenue
The Mountain Valley Spring Water Museum and Visitor’s Center is an original Classical Revival building built in 1910, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Part of Hot Springs history for 150 years, Mountain Valley Water sourced directly from the wilderness of the Ouachitas, hydrates all walks of people, past, and present, from Elvis Presley to the Kardashians and even the Presidents! Learn more about the famous, mineral-rich spring water hailing from the valley of Hot Springs, Arkansas by paying a visit to the Mountain Valley Water Visitor’s Center.
*Tip: take a peek at the third floor of the Visitor’s Center, famously known as the Japanese Ballroom, which was a popular big-band spot during the roaring 1920’s.
Visiting Hot Springs during the holidays? Looking for something to do with the whole family? Who doesn't love an impressive firework display!? Sit back and enjoy the bright bursting colors of a free Hot Springs firework display over Lake Hamilton! Hot Springs hosts three firework displays each year for Labor Day, Memorial Day and Independence Day on Lake Hamilton across from the DoubleTree Hotel. Each firework display is open to the public and totally free to attend! For a great view of the fireworks, arrive early and park your car on the Highway 7 South Bridge, or get a front row seat by watching from your boat right on Lake Hamilton.
*Tip: bring food with you to the firework display for dinner and a show! Enjoy the display from your car, tailgate, or bring some lawn chairs along to watch outside of your car.
Interested in thoroughbred horse racing but want to save your cash? It’s totally free to attend the races at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, as long as you leave the betting to the experienced horse racing fans. Pop by the Oaklawn infield during the live race season and watch the ponies race down the stretch, it won’t cost you a dime! If you've yet to enjoy a race at Oaklawn from the infield you're missing out. It's hard to beat the feeling of beautiful spring day spent watching the races from Oaklawn's lush infield. Oaklawn announced an expansion for the 2021-2022 race meet, which will begin December 3, 2021, and conclude on May 8, 2022, giving you even more time to enjoy a day at the races!
Tip: visit the Paddock inside the track for an up close look at the horses before each race! The horses school in the paddock before each race, giving you plenty of time to scope them out before they head onto the track.
Only 5 minutes outside of the hustle and bustle of downtown Hot Springs, you’ll find a refreshing swim spot at Gulpha Gorge Creek at Gulpha Gorge Campground. Gulpha Gorge is a unique campground in that it's the only capground inside of Hot Springs National Park. Gulpha Gorge offfers first come first serve RV and tent sites while still being close to historic downtown shops and restaurants. Gulpha Gorge Creek runs through the campground providing a serene spot to take a dip on a hot day. Take a hike up to Goat Rock Trail then come back and cool off in the Gulpha Gorge Creek swimming hole right inside Hot Springs National Park! It's free to swim at Gulpha Gorge Creek and to utilize the day use picnic areas too!
Tip: pack a picnic and enjoy the day use area, picnic tables and grills after your refreshing dip!
Hot Springs has several options for a great day spent at the park. Take the whole family for a leisurely stroll at Entergy Park along the Lake Hamilton shoreline! Entergy Park offers a large playground area for kids to enjoy as well as great spots for fishing, paved walkways great for biking, day-use picnic tables and grills. Just minutes from downtown Hot Springs, you’ll find Hollywood Park which offers a basketball court and playground area close to Hot Springs Creek a just minutes from downtown Hot Springs. Hollywood Park also offers day-use picnic tables and grills so you can enjoy a fun cookout after a fun time at the park.
Tip: bring your pup and check out the Hot Springs Bark Park just across the street from Hollywood Park! The dog park features 2 acres of land and play structures for dogs to enjoy off leash.
The largest art collection in Hot Springs is located at the Hot Springs Convention Center! The acclaimed collection is one of the finest and most comprehensive in any public facility in the region and viewable during normal business hours–free. Artists on display include Gary Bolding, Tom Brewitz, Benini, James Bekkering, Jeanfo and more. Browse a wide array of paintings and sculptures on display as part of the Convention Center’s permanent display as well as traveling art displays throughout the year. In addition to paintings and sculptures, you’ll find an extensive collection of historical Hot Springs photos at the Convention Center. Click here to preview the collection online!
Tip: although our featured exhibits are on display in the main concourse, don’t miss the collections of art throughout the Grand Lobby and Horner Hall.
We hope this list of fun and free activities helps you when planning your budget friendly trip to Hot Springs! For more great ideas on affordable activities in Hot Springs, click here.
Ashley Hill is the Communications Assistant for Visit Hot Springs. She's a born-and-raised Hot Springs, AR., native with a love for the rich history of the Spa City.