When I told my hubby on a recent mid-March Thursday that our plans for the weekend had fallen through, he popped off and quickly offered a second option. So, we threw a few things into a bag, and headed east to two places we had never been before. In case you’d like to follow our lead, here’s what we found to do on a fun weekend in Hot Springs and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
If you can leave work by 4:00 pm on Friday, you can get from Dallas to Hot Springs just in time to check into a hotel, put on your jammies and hit the hay.
We stayed at this Embassy Suites, because we always like to get points when we can.
Also, the free breakfast.
But this hotel’s location is also very convenient for walking to the city’s downtown area.
Which is the first place we wanted to explore the next morning.
After a good night’s rest, followed by a hearty omelette, fruit, coffee and juice, the road-trip kinks were all worked out, and we were ready to scope out this cozy place nestled into the beautiful hills of Western Arkansas.
Hot Springs gets its name from the natural thermal water that flows from 47 springs in the city’s historic downtown area.
The water that comes from these hot springs is filled with good minerals. It’s totally safe to drink, and doesn’t have that sulphur smell I was expecting.
Walk Around Downtown
Since we’re kinda early risers – ok, we are definitely early risers – we jumped up, grabbed breakfast and headed out to explore with a walk around downtown Hot Springs.
While strolling through downtown, we enjoyed seeing the cherry blossoms in bloom. The headquarters for Mountain Valley Water is also here in downtown Hot Springs, and there were so many cute stores and boutiques.
I was surprised at the number of thriving businesses, stores for shopping and inviting restaurants all along the main street.
It took us almost two hours to go from end to end, but it was a really pleasant walk.
All the other tourists must have opted for a lazy morning in bed.
Because we literally had the street to ourselves.
Lots of Art
If you enjoy seeing beautiful murals painted on the sides of historic buildings, you’re going to love walking around downtown Hot Springs, Arkansas, my friend.
I’m always fascinated at how an artist can get the detail so perfect while working on a backdrop as large as the whole side of a building.
Lots of History
And if you’re a history buff, Hot Springs has got you well-covered.
One of the most impressive parts of this city’s downtown area is how well they’ve placed informational signs.
They’ve really captured how to make it both fun and easy to read interesting facts about the buildings and sights as you stroll.
Plenty to Do
There’s plenty to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas, but probably the most obvious activity centers around the hot springs themselves – in a bathhouse.
Buckstaff Bathhouse is one of several beautifully maintained historic buildings along Bathhouse Row where visitors can pay for a rejuvenating mineral bath experience.
We didn’t make time to do that on this trip, because we had so much more of Northwestern Arkansas to explore.
Which means … you-know-what.
Another fun weekend in Hot Springs and Fayetteville will be added to my (ever-lengthening) adventure list.
In other words, I believe there’s definitely a mineral bath in my future.
Hot Springs National Park
How amazing is it that tourists can walk right into a national park entrance in the midst of a city’s downtown area?
Like my Mamaw would have said: I’ve never heard of such a thing.
But here in Hot Springs, Arkansas, it’s true.
It’s the derndest thing.
This beautiful brick pathway is just the beginning, my friends.
Once you get up the hill a ways, there’s a good map to plan your hiking route.
There are plenty of options, whether you want to hike all the way to the top, or just meander a few paces into the trees before heading back downtown.
Mike wore his hiking shoes, while I had on my favorite of all favorites, and we both enjoyed every step.
Something for Everyone
With 17 trails to choose from, there’s definitely something for everyone.
If we had planned to stay for a week, I would have liked to have conquered a different trail every day.
Followed by a hot mineral bath after every single hike.
But since we only had a few hours to spend in this beautiful place, we just picked one with an easy rating and a half-mile distance, then went for it.
While we didn’t see a single over-50 compadre on our way up, we did see several troopers on the way back down.
Expert Hiker Tip
Here’s an expert hiker tip. (or just a word of caution from little ol’ me): Those of us over 50 need to know ourselves and our knees very well when it comes to choosing a hiking trail of any kind, anywhere, any time.
Just because you see an ”easy” rating, try to find out a little more.
Because easy can mean anything from you can hike it with a cane to this thing is gonna make you cry and cuss.
So, read some reviews if they’re available. And then, just have fun!
But always carry a water bottle, wear a hat, and keep your cell phone where you can get to it quickly.
You may even want to invest in an Apple Watch Series 7 and program it to alert someone if you take a tumble.
In our case, the Peak Trail was juuuuuust right.
Steep enough to take us all the way up to the observatory in about an hour, and scenic enough for lots of photos along the way.
Time for Lunch
Before we embarked up the side of the mountain, I had asked my Instagram and Facebook followers for recommendations of what to see and do (or eat) in Hot Springs.
One friend suggested pizza at Grateful Head.
Yum! It was delish!
After which, we felt full enough to call ourselves the Grateful Lead.
(Y’all know I love my own jokes, right?)
More to Explore
Our visit to Hot Springs came to a close right after lunch, and it was time to work our way to City Number Two in this never-been-there-before adventure.
The one in Arkansas.
Not North Carolina.
That is a very important distinction to make when the passenger in the car is on the phone with Hilton trying to reserve a room for the night.
Ask me how I know.
Dinner and a Stage Play
During the 3.5 hour drive from Hot Springs to Fayetteville, Mike asked me to Google what there is to do when we arrive.
Since we were on a spontaneous road trip, almost no planning had been done ahead of time, but occasionally, that’s wherein the adventure lies, right? Finding a hidden gem, driving down a road less traveled? Yes, sometimes, those are the trips where special memories are made.
But, when I checked out the top things to do in Arkansas’ second-largest city, one item on the list caught my eye
It was a theatre – but not for movies.
This was a place called TheatreSquared, and it looked to be a very classy, intimate venue for stage plays.
After a quick call to find out if there was a dress code and whether any tickets were available, we discovered that our jeans were fine to wear. And and we were welcome to purchase two of the five remaining seats.
But first, dinner.
I mean, ya’ know. What’s a fun weekend in Hot Springs and Fayetteville without some good ol’ fast food?
Just What We Needed
The name of the play was Tiger Style. It was really good, and definitely lived up to its billing as “uproariously funny”.
As the story unfolds, an Asian brother and sister are dealing with the stereotypes each one has encountered. By respectfully poking at their overbearing mom and dad, the siblings hope for an apology for the way they were raised. When they don’t get it, the two of them decide to just chuck their current lives and move to China.
The audience laughed all the way through and we all cheered at the very satisfying ending.
It’s been way too long since we enjoyed a night at the theatre!
After breakfast on Sunday morning with Big Red at the hotel, Mike and I drove around town a bit.
We were rested, refreshed and ready to steer the car home.
If the mural fits, take a selfie with it.
That’s what I always say.
Back to Dallas
On the road back to Dallas, my driver and I compared our favorite parts of the last three days.
Mike said his highlight was the stage play, while my vote went to the hike in Hot Springs National Park.
But we both agreed on one thing, hands down.
Our fun weekend in Hot Springs and Fayetteville was the perfect quick adventure before the start of spring.
Encouraging intentional adventure,
PS: I couldn’t find a video of the Tiger Style play anywhere. But you can listen to a two-part audio version here on YouTube.
*This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.