I absolutely love our national parks, and for me, spending time in the park’s visitor center is a MUST! While there are some great national park visitor centers throughout the park system, there is one that really stands out: the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center!
Hot Springs National Park is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It is about an hour’s drive from the capital city of Little Rock.
What makes the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center so special? It’s cool (or shall I say hot) backstory!
In the 1800’s, the natural hot springs located in this area became a tourist mecca. During that time, people believed that these springs had healing properties. People from around the nation would travel to this area to spend time soaking in the springs, drinking the water, and receiving other treatments to cure their ailments. The town of Hot Springs developed around this natural resource to provide the many visitors with much needed services.
Hot Springs was the first public land to be set aside for protection based on it’s natural resources. In 1832, Hot Springs National Reservation was established. It became known as the “American Spa.” This area was designated as a National Park in 1921. This designation led to the development of the Bathhouse Row that we see today. By the 1960’s, the heyday the hot springs had come to an end and many of the bathhouses on Bathhouse Row began to close including the Fordyce Bathhouse.
The elegant Fordyce Bathhouse operated from 1915 to 1962. It remained closed until it opened as the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center in 1989. It has been lovingly restored to its original glory.
Today, the Fordyce Bathhouse offers visitors a glimpse into what it was like to come to a glamorous bathhouse and to be pampered with a true spa experience during the first half of the 1900’s.
Some of these spa experiences aren’t too far removed from what you may enjoy in today’s spa visit. Visitors in the early 1900’s could enjoy a hot bath, pedicure, hair and beauty treatments, steam treatments, and a custom developed workout regimen. Some treatments, on the other hand, are in much less demand today. Certainly many of us would say “no thank you” to an electric shock massage.
This National Park Visitor Center is a real gem. The Fordyce Bathhouse has 4 floors of bathhouse history to explore. It is fascinating to see and to imagine what it might have been like to visit this elegant spa in the early 1900’s.
The Fordyce Bathhouse is just one of several beautiful structures on Bathhouse Row. Many of the bathhouses have been restored as the area has undergone a period of revitalization. Buckstaff Bath is still in operation today offering spa services with the famous thermal waters of this National Park. Superior Bathhouse has recently reopened as a brewery and distillery as well as a full service restaurant which utilizes the thermal waters to produce its craft beverages.
A visit to Fordyce Bathhouse great way to spend a leisurely afternoon. Take a stroll along Bathhouse Row or simply spend some time in a rocking chair on a bathhouse front porch. Then, take a bath just like visitors to Hot Springs have been doing for over 100 years!