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One Day Wanders: Hot Springs National Park with Kids

Planning a family day trip to Arkansas? Hot Springs National Park is the perfect destination with kids. It's not just a park; it's an experience filled with history, culture, and natural beauty. Here's how you can make the most of this national treasure in just one day with your kids.


Two kids holding National Park Junior Ranger badges

Morning: Start at Bathhouse Row

Your adventure in Hot Springs National Park kicks off at the historic Bathhouse Row to learn about the culture and history of the Park:


Visit the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum

Begin your day by diving into the history of the park. It's an engaging way to introduce your kids to the significance of the area. Be sure to get your tasting cups to use later and collect your passport stamps before you leave!


Become a Hot Springs National Park Junior Ranger

A must-do for kids and our favorite part of visiting the parks! They'll love the interactive learning activities about the park and the sense of achievement in becoming a Junior Ranger.


Pro Tip: Stamp the back of the Junior Ranger badge with the passport stamp to commemorate when your kids earned their badge!


Attend a Ranger-Led Tour

If time allows, join a half-hour ranger-led tour to get a deeper understanding of the bathhouses' history. This free tour is engaging for kids of all ages.


People stamping National Park Passport books at the stamp table

Mid-Morning: Explore and Refresh


Shop at the Lamar Bathhouse Emporium

After the tour, visit the Lamar Bathhouse Emporium for Hot Springs National Park souvenirs and to purchase your souvenir jug to fill with spring water straight from the source at the Reserve Street Jug Fountain around the corner. This is another location to stamp your national park passport!


Grab a Snack at the Superior Bathhouse Brewery

Grab a quick snack and refreshment here. Their root beer is a hit with kids! Fun fact: This is the only brewery in a U.S. National Park AND they are the only place in the WORLD to use thermal spring water in their brewing process. So cool, right?!


Three kids looking out over a scenic view

Lunchtime: Scenic Picnic

Your adventure continues outdoors to explore and experience the natural beauty of Hot Springs National Park:


Picnic at Whittington Park

Just a short drive from Bathhouse Row, this park offers a serene setting for a family picnic. This is a great time to refuel Ian’s refresh before taking on an afternoon of more exploring.


4 people walking down a brick pathway

Early Afternoon: Hiking Adventure

Head to the mountain to take in the views and take a family hike together.


Stroll Down the Grand Promenade

Post-lunch, take an easy stroll here. It's perfect for letting the kids get some extra energy out and offers beautiful views of the park.


Fun Fact: You will notice a lot of green boxes on the ground throughout the mountainside. Hot Springs National Park uses these boxes to protect the thermal springs from contamination and misuse.


Hike Up Peak Trail

If your family is up for it, this trail offers a more immersive nature experience right off the Grand Promenade. Look for the white markings on the trees to know where to pick up the trail.


Did You Know?
The trails at Hot Springs National Park were specifically created with the heart and lungs in mind. They were an extension of the treatments offered at the bathhouses to get patients moving and exercising on various trails depending on their treatment needs.

Four people collecting water from a spring fountain

Mid-Afternoon: Experience the Hot Springs

Both you and your kids are going to love the hands-on experience that the hot springs have to offer here:


Get Up Close with the Hot Springs

Be sure to check out Display Springs at the base of the Grand Staircase behind the Maurice Bathhouse. Kids can get up close and touch the thermal water straight from the spring. Then, walk to the North end of Bathhouse Row to view the largest thermal spring display in the park and touch the thermal waters from Hot Water Cascade. It’s a unique experience for the kids.


Taste the Thermal Waters

Remember the sample cups you picked up from the Fordyce Visitor Center and Museum? Use those at the Steven’s Balustrade Shell Fountain to let the kids taste the natural thermal water. You can also use any of the nearby jug fountains to fill up your souvenir jug to take the thermal waters home with you!


Four people sitting in rocking chairs on a porch

Late Afternoon: Relax and Reflect

Here’s one last chance for your family to soak up all the fun you’ve had and reflect on your time at Hot SPrings National Park:


Relax at Buckstaff Bathhouse Spa:

For families with older kids, a brief visit here for a foot soak could be a relaxing end to the day. No appointments needed!


Street view of a parking garage

Parking at Hot Springs National Park

There is ample parking available throughout Hot SPrings National Park whether you are exploring Bathhouse Row or immersing in a nature trail.

Bathhouse Row Parking Options

  • Metered parking is located conveniently along the street and in the lot across from the Hot Springs National Park administration building off of Reserve Street. Be sure to carry coins with you to pay the meters - all coin types are accepted for various time allotments.

  • There is also a FREE parking garage off of Exchange Street that is video monitored and conveniently and centrally located within walking distance to Bathhouse Row. This was our favorite spot to park due to its convenient proximity to the bathhouses.

Nature Trail Parking Options

  • Metered street parking is located at either end of the Grand PRomenade. Again, make sure you pack enough coins to pay for the time you plan to hike the trails.

  • Limited FREE parking is available at various trailheads throughout the park, including at the top of Hot Springs Mountain at the scenic overlook and picnic areas.

 

Hot Springs National Park is a treasure trove of experiences, perfect for a family day trip. From the educational activities throughout Bathhouse Row to the natural beauty of the hiking trails and the unique hot springs, this park offers a fulfilling one-day adventure for families. Remember, this is just a taste of what Hot Springs National Park has to offer. For those with more time, a return visit is highly recommended to explore more of its wonders.


Download the National Park Service app or visit the Hot Springs National Park official website for more information.


Have you and your family experienced the amazing thermal springs at Hot Springs National Park? Let us know in the comments your favorite things to do from your visit!

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