Date: May 24, 2021 | Story: Stephanie Maxwell Newton | Photography: Molly Anne Sandefur |
Winter, spring, summer, fall—for every season of the year, this resort town has it all | A Special At Home in Arkansas Promotion
Hot Springs is a city steeped in tradition. Visit the historic lakeside town any time of year and you’ll find experiences that draw you back again and again. For example, the start of the horse racing season at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort (oaklawn.com) in January brings thousands of patrons to the track to enjoy the sport—as well as the atmosphere, camaraderie, and corned beef sandwiches that go along with it—well throughout spring.
Another annual draw to the city is Garvan Woodland Gardens (garvangardens.org), where tulips burst into bloom in early spring and color continues to fill the gardens into autumn. This 210-acre botanical garden is also home to numerous architectural structures, including the breathtaking Anthony Chapel, which beautifully complements the gardens.
In the summer, families from near and far flock to Lake Hamilton for long days spent on the water. As a recreational lake, homes, condos, and even restaurants are built right on the banks, and the water is open to swimming, boating, and activities like skiing and tubing. For a different kind of lake tour, book a sightseeing cruise on the Belle of Hot Springs (belleriverboat.com).
And, though it’s one of the city’s newer traditions, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (hsdfi.org) in the fall has become a cultural draw for the area. Founded in 1992, it’s the longest-running documentary festival in North America and is known to attract filmmakers from all over the world. Every year, Arkansans join them for the festival’s screenings, workshops, panels, and parties, and this year will be no different; since October 2021 marks the festival’s 30th anniversary, you can be sure celebrations are in store. Read on for our favorite places to shop, design, dine, and stay in Hot Springs.
What better way to spend the day out on the lake than with a boat of your own? Head to Trader Bill’s Outdoor Sports (traderbills.com) to shop new and pre-owned ski boats, pontoons, and more. To get your lake house summer-ready, look no further than Arkansas Furniture (arkansasfurniture.com), where multiple showrooms have all the furnishings you need for indoor and outdoor spaces.
Taking on a larger home project in the area? There’s a wealth of resources available to help you get the job done. Led by owner Alissa Oates, Hot Springs Village’s REstructure Design (restructurear.com) is a full-service residential remodel and design firm committed to making the renovation process easy. During a new build or remodel, Sanders Supply (sanderssupply.net) showroom is a must for plumbing, lighting, and hardware selections. If you need help pulling the look together, call on Sandy Sutton’s Design Center (sandysuttonsdesigns.com). They have a reputation for designing luxury interiors both on the water and in-town.
Take in the sunset views over Lake Hamilton at Fisherman’s Wharf (facebook.com/5101spacity), which has an expansive menu of steak and seafood favorites. Deluca’s Pizzeria Napoletana (facebook.com/DelucasPizzeriaNapoletana) is where locals head for authentic New York-style brick-oven pizza, while McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant (mcclards.com) has been a go-to for generations. Take a step back in time with a visit to Crystal Ridge Distillery (crystalridgedistillery.com), a moonshine distillery that embraces and celebrates the city’s bootlegger history.
Downtown hotel The Waters opened in the former Thompson Building in 2017.
Hotel Hale (hotelhale.com) offers a chance to spend the night in one of the eight historic former spas on Bathhouse Row. With nine unique suites and restaurant Eden, the hotel offers a memorable experience in the city unlike any other. If you’re looking for more of a permanent place to lay your head in Hot Springs, reach out to Realtor Rachelle McClard (instagram.com/lakehamiltonrealtor) to learn about properties available on Lake Hamilton.
Do It All at Oaklawn
A $100 million-plus expansion project including a new hotel, spa, and event center at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is complete, making the historic horse-racing track a true luxury entertainment hub in the Spa City.
The Hotel at Oaklawn offers views of the track as well as downtown Hot Springs. With 198 luxury rooms, including two presidential suites, the hotel is large enough to accommodate groups of any size. An outdoor swimming pool offers poolside food and beverage service. Fine dining with a Southern slant is available at The Bugler.
Connected to the hotel, Astral Spa offers massages, facials, and salon services as well as more unique spa treatments. Here, you can try the state’s only infrared sauna; cozy up to a Himalayan salt wall, which can provide stress relief and increase energy; or take part in treatments that make use of locally sourced gemstones.
Oaklawn has been one of the premier Thoroughbred racetracks since 1905, and its original purpose continues to be one of the largest draws to the park. Today, Oaklawn is known across the country as home to the Arkansas Derby, one of the prominent prep races on the “road to the Kentucky Derby.”
In 2020, Oaklawn completed the final phase of construction on its expanded gaming center, which made room for the addition of 1,500 slot machines and 33 gaming tables, including blackjack, craps, and poker. Also new is the High Limits Bar, open exclusively to high limits players, and The First Turn patio bar.
The Event Center
The expansion project also includes a 15,000-square-foot event center with capacity for 1,500. Complete with a stage, video wall, and four meeting rooms, this space is versatile—perfect for everything from concerts and live performances to conferences, banquets, and weddings.
For hours and information on upcoming events, visit oaklawn.com.