- TAKE THE WATERS: For elegant lodging.
Though the gangsters-and-gun-molls heyday of Hot Springs is over, so are, thankfully, the days when Bathhouse Row was lined with T-shirt shops and the hottest thing going was either losing Junior's college fund on the ponies, riding a floating bus from World War II into Lake Hamilton, or watching a chicken play tic-tac-toe at the I.Q. Zoo. Long beset with a kind of threadbare elegance after years of decline, Hot Springs has seen a gradual but steady resurgence in recent years, with the beauty, laid-back nature and affordability of the town beginning to attract young artists, chefs, tastemakers and entrepreneurs, all looking to create something new from the old. The result is an influx of energy that has finally snowballed to the point that things are changing; the city has a vibe that hasn't been felt for decades. Though what Hot Springs will be 10 years from now is still gelling up and will be for some time now, all signs point to something good. It's definitely not the cheesy tourist trap it used to be.
Have the most important meal of the day
When you're on a road trip, what's the point of eating the same food you could get at the IHOP back home? Break the chain breakfast and head to the Colonial Pancake and Waffle House, at 111 Central Ave. A Hot Springs staple since 1962, the restaurant has been featured in national magazines, including Southern Living, and features big waffles and fluffy pancakes in several styles, plus breakfast delicacies like thick ham steaks, hash browns, homemade biscuits and the preferred liquid fattener of Southerners everywhere: chocolate gravy. You haven't really been to Hot Springs if you haven't had breakfast at Colonial.
Walk in the footsteps of the Babe
Once upon a time, baseball was big in Hot Springs. It all started in
Eat a well-rounded lunch
Though it's hard to screw up pizza, it's even harder to make pizza so good that it truly rises above the pack and becomes something like cuisine. That's what they do at Hot Springs' Deluca Pizza Napoletana. Anthony Valinoti, the Brooklyn native who runs Deluca, brings the Big Apple love, making everything
- DELICIOUS DELUCA'S: For pizza Napoletana style from Big Apple-born chef Anthony Valinoti.
Though Hot Springs once had its share of elegant hotels, the lodging scene has been on the decline — until now. The Waters Hotel, opposite from Bathhouse Row at 340 Central Ave., opened in February 2016 after a 16-month, $8 million
The venerable and imposing Arlington Hotel, with its Spanish Renaissance architecture, long front porch, bathhouse, mountainside pool and old-world ambiance, has fallen into such disrepair that the city of Hot Spring has ordered the owners to make repairs or shut down. The new owners, Sky Capital Group, have promised to renovate. Time will tell.
Opened in 1979, the Mid-America Science Museum, at 500 Mid America Blvd., is a haven for those looking to learn more about how the physical world around us works. It features hands-on exhibits demonstrating everything from the laws of motion to how rivers and mountains form. At one point, the place had gotten a little run down, what with all those sticky hands touching everything. That changed starting in
Though several of the historic bathhouses along Central Avenue still sit empty, entrepreneurs are beginning to breathe new life into the old spas, beginning with the triumph that is Superior Bathhouse Brewery, at 329 Central Ave. Situated at the far end of the row nearest the Arlington Hotel, the 1916 bathhouse, which had been vacant since 1983, opened in July 2013 as a brewpub. The first and only brewery situated in a U.S. National Park, it's now Hot Springs' reigning
- IT'S SUPERIOR: For brews.
Test your 'skill'
Though Oaklawn Racing & Gaming runs the ponies only in winter and spring, a year-round draw these days is its gaming area, the only legal, casino-style gambling allowed in the state other than at Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis. With the electronic gaming side of things expanded in recent years, players can try their hand at "games of skill" like video poker, roulette, craps, blackjack and other games, then either celebrate their winnings or drown their losing sorrows at Silks Bar and Grill or Pop's Lounge.
After a big day of shopping, lounging, gambling and strolling the avenue, it's time for a meal. For a romantic night out, one go-to in Hot Springs is Luna Bella, at 104 Grand Isle Way. A white linen experience that will remind you of the glory days of old Hot Springs, Luna Bella features sweeping views of Lake Hamilton and a big menu of carefully prepared dishes, including several kinds of pasta and a large selection of seafood, plus lamb chops,