One of the most popular holiday events in Hot Springs is the Tom Daniel Holiday Chili Cook-off. Held the Monday before Thanksgiving, businesses from all over Hot Springs craft their perfect chili (some from generations of family recipes) in hopes to win a trophy for best chili! But this event isn't all about the chili, its also the night all the holiday lights in Downtown Hot Springs come to life. Taste test a variety of chili options, then stick around for the big reveal of twinkling lights downtown! After your stroll, stop in for some dessert at Kilwin's or a nightcap at the Rooftop Bar at The Waters.
Garvan Woodland Gardens makes the season extra bright with their Holiday Lights, a multi-week display featuring nearly 5 million lights you do not want to miss. Gingerbread houses aglow, dancing Christmas trees, and twinkling lights cover every corner of the botanical gardens during the holiday season. Grab some hot coco at the gardens from The Chipmunk Cafe to warm up while you browse the light displays.
The Hot Springs Christmas Parade is a Hot Springs holiday tradition! Each year, the parade features elaborate floats, high school marching bands, pageant winners, and, of course, Santa Claus and Mrs.Claus. Bundle up and stroll to see the downtown Christmas lights, then find your spot to watch the parade go by. Warm up before the parade with a hot chocolate from Kollective Coffee +Tea, then head to dinner at Rolando's when the parade ends.
Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort opens for the live race season at the beginning of Decmber, with the first major stakes race, the Smarty Jones Stakes, at the beginning of January. Grab a warm coat and don your best hat for a lucky day of live racing. Live racing runs at Oaklawn from the first weekend in December to the first weekend of May, giving you plenty of time during the season to enjoy live racing. You can even enjoy the live racing from your hotel room! Book a track side room and place your bets on the Oaklawn Anywhere App, so you can enjoy the races and a Percs cinnamon roll from the comforts of your cozy room. After your day of betting the ponies, grab dinner at one of Oaklawn's on site restaurants like The Bugler or The OAK Room & Bar.
Following the holiday rush and kicking off the New Year is Arkansas Shorts -Two Nights of Short Film! Held at the Historic Malco Theatre, the event features a wide variety of short films from around the world and right here in Arkansas. The event also includes workshops and panels featuring filmmakers from all over the world and in Arkansas. After enjoying the films, grab some grub from a nearby restaurant like SQZBX Brewery & Pizza Joint, The Vault, or Brick House Grill. For more information on Arkansas Shorts click here.
Bundle up! Bring layers, gloves, and a hat to keep warm while strolling to see holiday lights.
The holiday season kicks off the Monday before Thanksgiving with the Tom Daniel Chili Cook-off and lasts through the beginning of January.
Walk through downtown Hot Springs or take a carriage to see the lights, walk through Garvan Woodland Gardens or take a golf cart tour for less walking.