Before we go to an area I do some research and make a list of all the places we might like to see. From that initial list I thought we would spend more time in Little Rock, but ultimately we liked Hot Springs better and spent more time there. We went into town several times in the evenings and on the weekends and I took a full work day off to visit the National Park. I will cover the National Park itself in the next post, but wanted to share many of the other things we saw in this one.
First off Hot Springs is laid out in a very interesting way. The town curls around a mountain so it can be confusing. It also takes time to get from one end of the town to another because you are going around rather than straight across. This became very clear to me once we visited the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. This tower is privately owned and on the older side, but gives beautiful views of the city and surrounding landscape. It costs $12 to go up in the tower, but I thought it was worth it although I do recommend wearing a jacket because it can get cold up there. Also don’t waste your money on a cloudy day.
There are two floors on the tower. We went to the top with the open air platform first although it was super windy and we didn’t spend long. Got some great pics though. Great 360 degree view.
The second floor was closed in (but not heated) and had some older displays about the history of the area. It was an ok display, nothing really special but I did like a few of the artifacts.
The town itself has several sections which we saw during our visits. The historical part of town is right across from the park and the two really flow together. In addition to that it is a regular small town with schools, grocery stores, and a couple of fancier neighborhoods. Bill Clinton went to High School here and it is a modest town to produce a President.
It definitely has character though and the blend of old and new with tons of nature is very unique. That along with the history of baseball teams wintering here and gangsters enjoying the waters makes it pretty interesting. I will say parking (especially in the historical district) can be a challenge, but we ended up finding some free municipal parking in a parking garage. Food was a mixed bag while we were there, but we did have a great meal at Granny’s Kitchen right downtown.
Aside from the park the town’s claims to fame include a horse race track and casino, former gambling clubs, and numerous crystal mining companies in the area. Those are located north and west of town and one day we took a drive around the nearby Ouachita River and visited the Ron Coleman mine. This is probably the largest in the area and has zip lining, tours, and for a fee allows you to mine. Lee and I weren’t very interested in that but we loved looking at the large gift shop with both finished and unfinished stones. I thought the prices were pretty reasonable and ended up buying a beautiful green rock. Good thing that we live in an RV or I would have bought MUCH more.
Another day we visited the Dryden pottery store which is a third generation business. We saw that a lot when we were in the area, family owned businesses surviving multiple generations. That’s always nice to see. They had several really unique pieces as well, but I didn’t think they would survive well in the RV.
Finally we went to visit the Anthony Chapel which is outside of the Garvan Woodland Gardens. It is free to see the chapel ($20 for the entire garden which we did not do) but the inside of the church is not open every day. Luckily it was open the Saturday we went and there were lots of people touring it. Absolutely gorgeous wedding venue, probably the best I have ever personally seen, and still managed to maintain an air of spirituality and blend well into the surrounding nature. Gorgeous. The pictures don’t do it justice.
The venue includes a separate building for the bride and another for the groom and multiple places for pictures including a beautiful waterfall. It even has a gorgeous bell towner which rang while we were on site. We took advantage of the beautiful setting to get some pictures.
Not everything we saw in town was this pretty of course but these are the highlights from the visit. Next up our day in Hot Springs National Park.
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