The BEST National Park Visitor Center

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!Hot Springs National Park Bathhouse Row

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 National Park Spring Water
The spring water from Hot Springs National Park is still flowing.  Visitors are welcome to fill containers of water to drink or take home.

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.Hot Springs Reservation

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.  Hot Springs National Park Fordyce Bath HouseHot Springs National Park

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.Hot Springs National Park Fordyce Bathhouse

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.Hot Springs National Park Fordyce BathhouseHot Springs National Park-12Hot Springs National Park-14Hot Springs National Park-23

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.Hot Springs National Park Bathhouse Row

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!Hot Springs National Park Bathhouse Row

5 Unique Spring Break Trip Ideas

Looking for somewhere different to go on spring break?  Consider someplace other than your typical beach or ski trip.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE both the beach and the mountains.  But, sometimes it is fun to experience something new.  Here are 5 ideas that are a bit outside the box but won’t break the bank.

  1. Zion National Park:  Zion is nothing short of breathtaking and there are so many family-friendly hikes which are perfect for taking it all in.  As a cherry on top, the town of Springdale is right outside the park entrance and has restaurants to please even the foodie in your family along with amazing views in every direction.  From a weather standpoint, spring is the perfect time of year to visit Zion!
    Sunset at Zion National Park
    Zion National Park at Sunset

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  2. Chicago, IL:  While the windy city may still be a little chilly in spring, there are so many amazing museums in Chicago where you can stay warm and occupied.  You’ll have such a great time inside, you might not even miss that bike ride along Lake Michigan.  While Chicago can be an expensive city to visit, there are various options for passes offering admission into these museums, so your entertainment doesn’t have to break the bank.
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    U Boat at the Museum of Science and Industry
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    The Shedd Aquarium
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    The Field Museum

    dinosaur at the Field Museum
    Sue the T Rex at the Field Museum
  3. Buffalo National River:  The Buffalo National River is located in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.  The mild Arkansas weather means spring is a great time to enjoy the outdoor fun!  The Buffalo River is perfect for family floats, and you can explore beautiful hiking trails and caves in the area.  Local outfitters like Buffalo River Outfitters keep close watch on river conditions and can advise you on which section of the river is best for floating during the time of your visit.
    Buffalo National River
    Buffalo National River

    Hiking Trail overlooking the the Buffalo National River
    Buffalo National River Hiking Trail
  4. Savannah, Georgia: Savannah is a beautiful and historic town located near the coast and on the Savannah River.  The city’s architecture and history combine to make it a unique and scenic destination.  The river is lined with shops and restaurants and the city is full of inviting squares and parks.  While you’re there, don’t miss Fort Pulaski – a civil war era fort in remarkable condition.  savannah-trip-3-tripssavannah-trip-2-trips
    Fort Pulaski National Monument
    Fort Pulaski National Monument was struck with canon balls.

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  5. Page, Arizona:  Page is a little town in Northern Arizona which makes a great base for exploring Lake Powell and the surrounding area.  Lake Powell is a huge man-made lake that stretches across the Utah/Arizona border.  Renting a boat is easy and exploring a canyon by lake is certainly unique. Beyond the lake, there is so much to do in this area:  tour Antelope Canyon, check out Glen Canyon Dam, hike in the Grand Staircase, and gaze at the iconic Horseshoe Bend.
    View of Lake Powell
    Lake Powell
    Lower Antelope Canyon in Arizona
    Lower Antelope Canyon
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    Horseshoe Bend

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    The Colorado River

 

Spring break is a great time to take a trip.  Many wonderful destinations have great weather this time of year, so get out there and try something new!