Hot Springs, Ark., is a unique city with a rich and diverse culture, and an interesting history. By most accounts, it’s considered Southwest Arkansas, though adjacent to the state’s west-central region. The beauty of this city and surrounding areas is undeniable, with natural hot springs, mountains, forests and lakes.
But whether here in Garland County in communities such as Mountain Pine, Lake Hamilton, Red Oak or Rockwell, or in neighboring counties including Montgomery, Hot Spring, Perry or Saline … there’s a whole lot to explore and discover in Arkansas.
United Country Real Estate | Land and Lakes Group calls this part of Arkansas home, and we enjoy sharing what we love about the area. From the favorable weather to the affordable living costs to the endless opportunity for outdoor adventures, sometimes it’s tough to decide what we love most. Let’s take a closer look at the appeal of Southwest and West-Central Arkansas for longtime residents, as well as for visitors.
Hot Springs, one of the largest cities in Arkansas, has a full and colorful history and a charm that has never faded. Dating back to the early 19th Century, the city and its surrounding areas were revered for their natural thermal springs, touted for health properties and relaxation. These “healing waters” still flow from the ground at around one million gallons per day and at an average temperature of 143° Fahrenheit!
Actually, knowledge of the natural springs can be traced much further back to the area’s original Native American inhabitants, who called this place the “Valley of the Vapors.” Apparently, otherwise competing tribes could gather at the hot springs as a neutral territory where everyone could benefit.
To this day, the city of Hot Springs celebrates these waters as a piece of its identity and as a major tourist draw. This is also part of – though definitely not the only – appeal of neighboring Hot Springs National Park. Even outside the park, there are niche attractions like the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail and the stunning Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens, just to name a couple.
In the modern era, healthcare, manufacturing, tourism and other industries drive the economy in Hot Springs. But the city’s biggest claim to fame may always be its status as “America’s First Resort.”
Across the Diamond Lakes Region of Southwest Arkansas, along with adjacent west-central portions of the state, the scenery is magnificent. Rolling rivers, deep lakes, forested mountains and other natural features all beckon people to the great outdoors for hiking, fishing, biking, hunting, boating and other recreation.
Let’s start with the top must-see of all must-see destinations here … Hot Springs National Park. You can hike 26 miles of trails while you check out the wildlife, take guided tours of the famed Bathhouse Row, and experience the natural thermal springs for yourself at this one-of-a-kind park. There’s even shopping and dining here.
Additionally, state parks are always a hit and the Natural State is filled with them. Nearby Lake Ouachita State Park in Mountain Pine is known for the clean, clear waters of its 40,000-acre lake — ideal for swimming, water skiing and top-notch fishing. The local Lake Catherine State Park offers camping in cabins, plus a lake marina and several trails. Close by is Diamondhead, a private resort with an Olympic pool and 18-hole, par 72 championship golf course accessible to park visitors.
Equally popular in its own right, Lake Hamilton is another stand out for all the usual recreational lake activities, plus several convenient small parks around the lake. Around 30 minutes south of Hot Springs in Bismarck, you might want to visit DeGray State Park for its namesake lake at the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains, or its fun, guided horseback rides.
While adventures in nature might be the main highlight in Southwest and West-Central Arkansas, there’s a lot more to discover, including entertainment venues, interesting local shops and boutiques, museums, galleries and other attractions.
Garvan Woodland Gardens is well frequented and offers 210 acres of enchanting botanical gardens. It’s a great experience for nature lovers and families, and the destination also hosts annual concerts and other regular events, including weddings. Another outing ideal for the whole family is at Ron Coleman Mining. Here you can zip-line over an active quartz mine, take a mine tour and even dig for your own precious stones.
Elsewhere in Hot Springs, Magic Springs Theme and Water Park has been entertaining locals and tourists for decades, while the city’s Mid-America Science Museum is the place “Where Curious Minds (of all ages) Go to Play.” The museum’s exhibits, hands-on activities, programs for children and other features are all excellent.
For something a little more adult-oriented, head to Oaklawn Racing Casino. Place a few bets on the horses, try your luck with classic games on the casino floor, or check into the hotel and spa. Sometimes the best way to find your favorite experiences is just to explore on your own. You can browse the shops in Mount Ida (Montgomery County); experience downtown Benton in Saline County at Christmastime; gather at the Arkansas Goat Festival or Saturdays on the Square in Perryville (Perry County); and so much more. There’s a ton in store for you here in the Natural State!