In Hot Springs, AR, Nova and I stayed in a cute basement apartment in the middle of Hot Springs National Park.

The sign outside of Hot Spring National Park

Normally when I think of National Parks I think of sprawling landscapes and forests. But in my travels I’ve come across a number of National Parks that were a little different and are more full of history than they are full of nature though Hot Springs has a bunch of nature. My apartment for this stay was inside a large pocked of town in the surrounding lands of the National Park.

There was also a private side trail available that allowed Nova and I to hop on a trail right around the corner from our drive way. This was great for getting to a small section of the park but since Hot Springs National Park sort of looped around us it wasn’t easy to get to all of the trails without hiking quite awhile so I did end up driving some trails. 

Hot Springs is most known for its number of thermal springs and throughout the park there are different fountains that allow visitors to collect from the springs, each fountain is fed by a different spring, some hot and some cold and in my humble opinion, each tastes different. I preferred the hot spring just outside the park office.

One of the Bathhouses on the historic Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park. This one is now used as the park gift shop

Part of the tradition of the thermal springs is that the water powered several historical bath hours for years. Some of the bathhouses have long gone out of business but the structures are still in place and preserved by that National Park Service. One building was being retrofitted with modern enhancements on it’s historic bones while other buildings had already gotten new occupants. One Building housed Superior Bathhouse Brewing, a brewery that uses thermal spring water to make their beer. It was a nice sized brewery but it was required a wait during peak hours, even if you didn’t want to eat there. There was also another building that housed the Parks gift shop. 

During my two weeks in Hot Springs, AR I started only drinking thermal spring water, I started my mornings or trips to the grocery store with piling my empty water bottles into my trunk and filling them on the way home. The closest spring was about a mile or so walk from my apartment and was actually easily accessible either by street or trail. 

I also hit up Lake Ouachita State Park for a nice hike that went along the shore of the lake that was breathtaking despite the cloudy day.

Besides the hiking and outdoors I also checked out some local bars and shows. There is this one bar, Maxine’s Live, right on “Bathhouse Row” which is really just the main downtown strip of Hot Springs, AR. Maxine’s Live seemed very much an everybody bar. Not quite a queer bar but not NOT a queer bar. 

Maxine’s Live hosted drag shows on Thursday and on this particular night it was hosting a Burlesque Show. I had never actually seen a burlesque show so when I found my table at the back of the bar I had no idea what I was about to see. 

I have fallen in love with Burlesque. 

I think the weirdest part was that I not only saw one Burlesque show in Arkansas but I saw two. A few days later I saw another show by a different troupe, though one of the same performers, at Central Theatre. This Burlesque show was halloween themed, there was blood and gore and possessions and murder and they even did an ode to Scream, one of my favorite horror movies of all time. 

The scream burlesque performance. If you look closely you can spot a scream mask!

My favorite part of Burlesque is how body positive it seemed. Perhaps it was just my experience in Arkansas but to me it seemed that it wasn’t just a thing for “skinny” chicks. Actually it seems that it was MEANT for curvy people. 

One of my final outdoor activities I planned in Hot Springs was a trip to the off-roading park. I’ve never driven a vehicle on off-road trails but booked a rental for a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was driving a two-seater UTV with two other cars full of tourists, a two-seatter like mine with a young couple and a four seater with an older couple and their two teenage sons.

There was also a guide on the trip who took his job very literally. There wasn’t much instruction to driving a UTV just that “you hit the gas pedal to go and the brake to stop” and we were on the move. 

UTVs kind of look like a golf cart on steroid. They have a robust open cage to protect occupants in the case of a roll over, a pretty barren cab and it sits on these massive wheels and a really intense suspension system. 

With the guide leading the pack we couldn’t really go very fast, and we really only took easy trails that had use going up shorter inclines and climbing small rocks. There was also some puddles that I soon enjoyed plowing through at top speed after leading the rest of the pack get ahead of me. 

I hit one rather gnarly puddle and underestimated how deep it was and completely filled my cabin with water. Fortunately the water drained quickly but everything in the cabin was covered with mud including my phone and myself. I had to stop to clean off my sunglasses because they were covered in dirt. When I got out of the car the only clean spot was the seat where my butt was seating

It was an absolute blast. 

While my stay in Hot Springs, AR was relaxing, two weeks may have been a bit much in this little vacation town. I was excited to get a move on when I left Hot Springs, AR on Halloween and headed to my next stop. I had a long drive ahead of me.