The Spa City bucket list

My friend David Bazzel of KABZ-FM, 103.7 The Buzz, in Little Rock will spend three nights in Hot Springs this week as the Racing Festival of the South takes place at Oaklawn Park.

David asked me to come up with the ultimate Spa City bucket list of things he should do.

A day at Oaklawn, complete with corned beef and oysters on the half shell, is already a given. There’s not going to be time to do everything on this list, but here’s my best shot:

1. Get a bath and massage at the Buckstaff for a classic bathhouse experience, and then have a bath and massage a day later at the beautifully renovated Quapaw.

2. Hang out in the Arlington Hotel lobby on Friday or Saturday night, listen to the live music and watch the couples dance.

3. Have lunch at the Superior Bathhouse in a window seat, which allows you to watch the people walking along Bathhouse Row.

4. Pay a visit downtown to the Gangster Museum, the wax museum in the old Southern Club and Maxwell Blade’s new museum of oddities. The mix of low-brow and high-brow attractions has always been part of the charm of Hot Springs. I still miss the auction houses.

5. Have breakfast one morning at The Pancake Shop and breakfast the next morning at the Colonial. Both are downtown. Make sure to buy the Daily Racing Form in the basement of the Arlington before breakfast so you can mark your selections while waiting on the food.

6. Take a slow walk after breakfast along the Grand Promenade.

7. Play tourist to the hilt and ride one of the amphibious Ducks.

8. Visit the Arkansas Alligator Farm, one of the state’s oldest tourist attractions.

9. Make multiple stops along the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail, read the markers and listen to the narration on your smart phone.

10. Hot Springs is among the top barbecue cities in the South. Visit one or more of the following: McClard’s, Stubby’s, Smokin’ In Style, Mickey’s.

11. Hot Springs also is one of the best pizza cities in the South. Visit one or more of the following: Deluca’s, Rod’s, Rocky’s.

12. Drop by the Ohio Club and Maxine’s, two historic watering holes downtown. Catch some live music at those venues.

13. Take a hike along the creek at Gulpha Gorge.

14. Visit as many of the art galleries as possible along Central Avenue. Also drop by All Things Arkansas for Arkansas-made products.

15. Take a trip out to the Mid-America Science Museum, which recently reopened following a multimillion-dollar upgrade.

16. View the wonderful collection of old photos in the lobby of the Hot Springs Convention Center.

17. While walking along Bathhouse Row, see the historic displays in the Fordyce, the art in the Ozark and the items for sale in the Lamar.

18. Go to Garvan Woodland Gardens while the tulips are still blooming.

19. Hot Springs still has some old dairy bars. Pay a visit to King Cone, Bailey’s and the Fros-T-Treat.

20. Go to the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

That’s a start.

What else should be on the list?

8 Responses to “The Spa City bucket list”

  1. Angela says:

    Visit Jason’s on Amity road for Sunday brunch. Enjoy Shrimp and Grits or try the Quiche of the Day.

  2. clawso says:

    Garvan Woodlands Gardens = one of world’s best- peaking now

    Wednesday Night Poetry now at Kollective Coffee+Tea on the strip= 26 years open mic poetry without a missed Weds.

    Thursday night jazz at Ohio Club – took off like a Olds 88

  3. clawso says:

    missed #18 first time but worth pitching twice

  4. Jonboy says:

    If you go to Ohio Club, you MUST have a hamburger. Seriously.

  5. Anne Sluppick says:

    Take a cruise on the Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat. The luncheon cruise goes out on the west side of the lake with a awesome narration. Then the next day take the dinner/dance cruise in the evening for a ride on the east side of the lake. Watch the best sunset on the lake along with great food and drinks.

  6. Dennis Schick says:

    Good starter list, Rex. Here are some more (some are seasonal):
    21. Visit the Maxwell Blade Theater of Magic; buy a trick, watch a show.
    22. Spend a day at Magic Springs amusement and water park
    23. Soak in the outdoors Hot Tub at The Arlington.
    24. Attend one of the weekend Festivals (music, food, magic, etc.)
    25. Enjoy one of the lakes in the area
    26. Walk on the world’s shortest street.

  7. Cindi G says:

    21. Drive over West Mointain
    22. Go up in the tower on Tower Mountain
    23. Collect several gallons of spring water.

  8. Alita Mantels says:

    This excellent list by Rex Nelson does include several venues (The Arlington, The Ohio Club, Quapaw Bathhouse) which regularly feature fine jazz. However, we at the Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation would like to add The Arlington’s renowned Sunday brunch, which features distinguished pianist John Puckett (Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame inductee profiled under “Hall of Fame – 2006” at Also, one Sunday afternoon (3-6 p.m.) each month in The Arlington’s Crystal Ballroom the highly accomplished Stardust Big Band ( performs for listeners and dancers of all ages; upcoming 2015 dates are 12 April, 24 May, 7 June, and 6 September. (The Spa City has long been jazz-oriented. Its 24th annual Jazz Fest will be held in 2015, 2-7 September; the event – which includes both free and ticketed concerts – is presented by the non-profit Hot Springs Jazz Society, – Alita Mantels, Secretary for Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation/Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame

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