If you're planning a trip to Hot Springs Arkansas you definitely cannot miss checking out the famous Hot Springs Arkansas Bath Houses. Hot Springs Arkansas is most commonly known for Bathhouse Row, a collection of bathhouses that were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The Hot Springs Arkansas bath houses were built over naturally occurring hot springs and the thermal water is siphoned into the bathhouses where you can enjoy soaking in the healing thermal mineral water.
This might sound great to you, but once you do some research you will find it is quite hard to understand what the bathing experience at these hot spring bathhouses will be like.
This article will tell you all about the history of the Hot Spring Arkansas bath houses, the different bathhouses you will find on Hot Springs Arkansas Bathhouse Row, what each bathhouse is now used for, and what the experience is like soaking at the bathhouses that are still in operation.
Hot Springs Arkansas Bath Houses Explained
Nowadays, there are only 2 hot springs bathhouses still functioning where you can soak in the thermal mineral waters- the Quapaw and the Buckstaff. Although, because the entire town gets its water from the springs, there are some hotels where if you stay for the night, you can take advantage of soaking in the thermal mineral water there.
Back in the early 1900s, every bathhouse that you see on Hot Springs bath row used to be an operational bathhouse. Hot Springs Arkansas bathhouse row became a thing when settlers in the late 1800s discovered the abundance of hot springs in the area. Although, Native Americans had been coming to Hot Springs for some time before that, and viewed the area as a sacred, neutral area.
The Hot Springs Arkansas Bath Houses are Part of a National Park
Once people started realizing how special the springs were, the town grew enormously in a short time. The government took notice and quickly made the town into a protected area so people would not destroy the natural state of the springs.
Not long after bathhouse row reached completion, Hot Springs was designated as a National Park- and is now known as "the oldest area in the national park system."
Bathhouse Row Hot Springs Arkansas
Below are the 8 bathhouses on bathhouse row. When visiting Hot Springs, we suggest taking a look inside each of the bathhouses to get a feel for what they were like back when the town was extremely famous. Each bathhouse is different and attracted different people, so it's fun to look at the differences and decide which one would have been your favorite back in the day!
The Buckstaff Bathhouse
The Buckstaff Hot Springs Bathhouse is the only bathhouse that has been in full operation since it opened its doors in 1912. The Buckstaff offers a traditional bathing experience and is the same thing you would have gotten if you had come here in the early 1900s. All of the bathtubs and equipment is original, making for a super interesting historical experience!
The Fordyce Bathhouse
The Fordyce Bathhouse is now the Hot Springs Arkansas Visitor Center. Out of all the bath houses in Hot Springs Arkansas, the Fordyce was the more elaborate and most expensive bathhouse on bathhouse row.
The Fordyce closed its doors in 1962 when bathhouses started becoming less popular. Now serving as the Bathhouse Row Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center and as a museum, you can tour around the entire bathhouse and see exactly how it looked in the past.
The Hale was built in 1892 and is the oldest structure you can see on bathrow. The Hale was also the first of the bath houses in Hot Springs AR to offer more modern conveniences to visitors, making it an exciting and glamorous bathhouse in its day.
During operation, the Hale was also the only bathhouse to have thermal cave carved out of the mountainside and attached to the back of the bathhouse. The cave is no longer in use, but the Hale is still worth checking out!
The Hale has recently been renovated into a boutique hotel with a restaurant on the first floor. The rooms are completely updated and each has unique historical touches. Each room also comes with a soaking tub where you can take advantage of soaking in the thermal waters in the privacy of your room.
The Lamar Bathhouse was a unique bathhouse back in the day because it offered tubs with a variety of lengths so people of different heights could enjoy the tubs.
Now, the Lamar Bathhouse is used as the Bathhouse Row Hot Springs AR gift shop. If you want a photo in one of the original bathtubs, there is a great photo-op inside:
In the early 1900s, the Maurice Bathhouse was the first and only Hot Springs bath house to provide specialized treatment for people who had polio and other severe muscle and joint issues.
The Maurice was the only bathhouse who employed a registered physical therapist and had a therapeutic pool to treat patients with. The Maurice was also known to provide special services, elegance to its' customers and luxurious decor.
We found out while touring around the Hot Springs Arkansas spas/bathhouses that after all the bathhouses being shut down in the '80s, they were only recently restored and the town as only started to become a tourist attraction in the past 10 years or so! Because of this, the Maurice Bathhouse is still waiting to be restored so it can be used as something special for the years to come.
The Ozark Bathhouse was built to have a more impressive outside than inside. Back in the day, this bathhouse catered more towards the middle class looking to bathe in the healing Hot Springs Arkansas mineral baths without all the thrills.
The Ozark Bathhouse is now being used as the town's cultural center and houses park events and programs. At the time we went to visit there was a nice art gallery to view.
Quapaw Bath House
If you're looking where to soak in Hot Springs Arkansas, the Quapaw is the place. The Quapaw Hot Springs Ar bathhouse is one of the two bathhouses where the public can soak in the hot springs water today.
Back when the Quapaw was built, it was a moderately priced bathhouse. The Quapaw was named after a local Native American tribe who briefly owned the surrounding area after the Lousiana Purchase. The Quapaw became quite famous back in the day for the natural hot spring in the basement that you could see (a lot of the springs are underneath the ground or hidden out of the public view.)
If you decide to pay and use the steam cave at the Quapaw Bathhouse Hot Springs Arkansas you will have a chance to see the spring through a glass window!
The Superior was our favorite of all the bathhouses because it is now a brewery! Who doesn't love a good craft brew?
Back in the day, the "Superior" was a paradox as it was the smallest of the bathhouses on Hot Springs bath house row. People who came to the Superior came for just the healing waters rather than all the frills associated with the bathhouses back in the day.
This Hot Springs Arkansas Brewery is the only brewery in the United States that is located inside a National Park. All the beer brewed at the Hot Springs brewery is made with the natural spring water- which comes straight out of the springs at a temperature of 144 degrees Fahrenheit!
The Arlington Hotel Hot Springs AR
The Arlington Hotel isn't on bathrow, but it is just as an iconic building as the bathhouses. Located on the corner of Fountain and Central, right across the street from bathhouse row, the hotel that is still there today is the third version of its kind and was built in 1924.
If you are visiting Hot Springs, we would highly suggest getting a room at the Arlington as the prices are comparable or even cheaper than hotels such as the Holiday Inn. That way you can experience a neat stay at a historic hotel that has a history of luxury and class as many famous people have stayed such as Babe Ruth, Barbra Streisand and U.S. presidents like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, George H.W. Bush.
If you can, try and request to stay in room 443. This room was a favorite of Al Capones and the whole floor was often rented out for his staff and bodyguards. Our favorite part of the hotel is the bar, where you can grab a drink and imagine what it would have been like drinking here many years ago.
Best Bathhouses in Hot Springs Arkansas
Wondering which is the best bath house hot springs AR has? Honestly, there really is no best bathhouse in Hot Springs, as one is not better than the other, they are just different. There are only two functioning bathhouses left in Hot Springs Arkansas and each comes with a totally different experience.
Below, we will explain what each bathhouse experience is like and hopefully that way you can decide which one is best for you, or if time allows, maybe you'll decide to try out both!
The Buckstaff Bathhouse Experience
The Buckstaff Bathhouse is the only bathhouse that has been in full operation since it opened its' doors. If you would like to experience what bathing at a traditional bathhouse was like back in the late 1800's- early 1900's then we would highly suggest visiting the Buckstaff.
The Buckstaff offers modern-day services such as manicures, pedicures, facials, and massages. Although, the best experience at the Buckstaff is the Traditional Bathing Package.
What to Expect with the Traditional Bathing Package:
Upon arriving, men and women will be separated and be taken to a locker room where you will undress and wrap yourself in a towel. You will then meet your bath attendant who will take you to your first treatment in the Whirlpool tub.
Since the Buckstaff Hot Springs Arkansas Bathhouse is completely original, the bathing experience will be like it was in the early 1900s. There are many whirlpool tubs in a room (each is separated with a curtain so you will have some privacy while undressing and soaking.) The tubs are the original cast iron tubs and each as a thermostat so you can see the temperature of the thermal waters.
After soaking in the whirlpool tub for about 20 minutes your bath attendant will come to rub your skin with a loofa to increase circulation. You will then be taken to have a hot towel treatment. Your attendant will place and wrap your body in hot towels and place a cool towel on your forehead.
Next, you will be taken to a sitz bath, a small tub where you sit just the lower part of your body (your butt and lower back) into and let your upper half and legs hang out. It is meant to relax your back and hips area. You will hang out here for around 10 minutes and then go to the steam box.
The steam cabinets are metal boxes that you sit in and just your head sticks out. Your bath attendant will wrap towels around your neck so the steam can't escape. The steam box will make you sweat like crazy and after about 5 minutes you will be taken to the last treatment of the bathing experience.
The last treatment is a "needle shower" where there are shower heads that engulf you and spirt out water. Don't worry, it sounds intense but the pressure of the water is more relaxing than needle-like. After you are rinsed off you will be taken to a cooling room where you can hang out for 10-20 minutes and bring down your body temperature.
The Quapaw Bathhouse Experience
The Quapaw Bathhouse in Hot Springs Arkansas is more of a modern-day spa rather than a bathhouse. If you want to soak in the thermal waters you can either make an appointment for a private bath or you can spend some time at the public pools.
The public pools are a great way to experience soaking in the mineral-rich waters without spending a lot of money. It cost $20 per person to spend the day at the pools. There are 4 different thermal water pools set at different temperatures. The idea is to spend about 10-15 minutes in one of the hot pools and then 10-15 minutes in a cooler pool and go back and forth. The changing of temperatures helps with circulation in the body.
There is also a cafe inside the public bath area where you can grab a bite to eat or get a smoothie. Besides the public baths, the Quapaw offers a lot of different spa services such as massages, manicure/pedicures, facials, body treatments, blowouts and waxing. They also have a wide variety of Hot Springs Arkansas spa packages making it very easy to spend a relaxing day at this historic bathhouse.
The Quapaw also has a stream cave that you can add on to any spa treatment, public or private bath session. The steam cave was built over a spring and allows the radiant heat from the spring to fill the cave with mineral-rich steam. To enter the steam cave it costs $10 per person for 15-20 minutes.
What to Expect at the Public Pools:
You have to wear a swimsuit as the pools are co-ed. Once checking in at the front desk and paying you will be escorted to the locker rooms and given a key for a locker with a wristband to keep on your wrist while in the pools.
You must shower before entering the pools and rinse off all deodorant, lotions and makeup to make sure and not disturb the natural balance of the mineral pool water. Once showered you may enter into the public pool area. A bath attended will bring you a glass of mineral water to drink and you can choose to either soak in the pools, grab something to eat, or lounge on the lounge chairs.
Pros/Cons of the Buckstaff Bathhouse vs. Quapaw Bathhouse
Buckstaff Pros: At the Buckstaff you will get a chance to step back in time and experience what it would have been like to bathe at a bathhouse back in the early 1900s. There are no other places to have an experience like this so it's definitely a must while visiting!
Buckstaff Cons: If you are shy at all, the Buckstaff might be a bit of a weird experience. You are required to be nude throughout the Traditional bath experience and are just given a towel to wrap around yourself. All of the bathing stations are in one big room so it can get crowded and uncomfortable if you are modest.
The equipment at the Buckstaff is also all original, so the tubs and showers are not sparkling white like you would imagine at a modern-day spa. If you are a germ-a-phobe at all, this experience might not be for you as there is a lot of rust and mineral build-up from years of use. Do note though, everything is sanitized and completely clean- it just might not look it.
Quapaw Pros: The Quapaw is in a historical building but as been turned into a modern-day spa so it is best of both worlds. The Quapaw is definitely the best place to combine the hot springs with a spa and get a hot springs massage. The Quapaw is also the only place in Hot Springs where you can enjoy the thermal mineral waters without paying a high price.
Quapaw Cons: Because the Quapaw as been turned into a modern-day spa, you will not get a traditional experience there like you would at the Buckstaff. We enjoyed soaking in the pools but don't feel like it is something we ever need to do again. The Quapaw has also been remodeled so the bathhouse looks nothing like it did in the early 1900s.
Hot Springs Arkansas Bath House Prices
The Buckstaff Hot Springs bath houses prices vary by what type of service you would like done and for how long.
The Buckstaff Bathhouse Prices:
Swedish Massage: $40
Whirlpool Mineral Bath (Traditional Bathing Experience): $38
Traditional Bathing Package (Traditional Bathing Experience + Massage): $82
Deluxe Bathing Package (Traditional Bathing Experience + Massage + Paraffin Wax): $95
The Quapaw Spa Hot Springs Bathhouse Prices:
There are many different kinds of different spa services and hot springs bath house packages that you can choose from at the Quapaw. The cost varies depending on the length of time you choose and what kind of service you want.
Body Treatments: $50-$110
Public Thermal Pools: $20 pp
Private Baths: $35-$55
Steam Cave: $10 pp
Blow Out: $50-$80
The Best Hot Springs Arkansas Spas
If you are looking for the best spa in Hot Springs or a modern-day Hot Springs Arkansas spa, the town actually has quite a few Hot Springs day spas where you can get a massage. Hot Springs AR definitely isn't known for having modern-day spas, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to have a nice relaxing day.
Here are some spas in Hot Springs that we think are noteworthy:
Thai-Me Spa: This Hot Springs spa is in downtown Hot Springs right on the strip by the historical bathhouses. Their spa services are affordable and people rave about their massages. This spa is connected to an Argentinian cafe/restaurant (hello Empanadas!) and also an oxygen bar. You could spend an entire day here if you want!
Spa Botanica: A little off the beaten path, but still close to downtown, this spa as some great reviews on their massages. They offer all kinds of typical spa services and different packages.
Hot Springs Garden Home Spa & Massage: This spa is located in a cute little house just off the main street where all the action is at. They have raving reviews and an adorable atmosphere.
Ablution Day Spa & Salon: Ablution is located about 20 minutes from the downtown area but is totally worth the drive. The spa is in a cute little boutique shop and offers services ranging from typical spa services to hair cuts and styles!
Are There Any Actual Hot Springs in Hot Springs Arkansas?
Many people wonder- are there hot springs in Hot Springs Arkansas? The town of Hot Springs Arkansas is definitely known for having lots of hot springs, but if you are looking to soak in natural outdoor hot springs in Arkansas, unfortunately you won't find one here.
This is because the temperatures of the natural hot springs in Hot Springs Arkansas are simply too hot for people to soak in. Many natural hot springs that you find out in nature have some sort of river running next to the springs mixing cold and hot water, making it possible to enjoy the thermal waters without burning yourself.
Even though there aren't any natural springs in Hot Springs Arkansas, Hot Springs is a National Park and there are lots of other ways to enjoy nature while visiting. We suggest besides visiting the Hot Springs National Park bathhouses, to take a hike on one of the many trails through the park!
Best Time to Visit Hot Springs Arkansas
The best time to visit Hot Springs Arkansas baths and town is when the weather isn't too hot or too cold. We would recommend going from February to May or in the fall from September to November. It will still probably be pretty hot in September but some years it is already starting to cool off by then.
The busiest months to visit Hot Springs are July, February, and May. So if you're looking to avoid crowds we would suggest visiting another time.
The Best Hotels in Hot Springs Arkansas
If you are looking to spend some time exploring Hot Springs Arkansas, we would recommend staying at either a Bed & Breakfast or close to the downtown area so you can take full-advantage of sightseeing.
Hot Springs has some awesome historical lodging options that we think will complete your visit to this awesome town. Here are some other great places to stay that we highly recommend for their uniqueness and historical significance.
Budget: Dame Fortune's Cottage Court
Dame Fortune's is an adorable vintage motel that the owners have put a lot of work into restoring it. The decor is modern, the rooms are clean, and the best part is- the motel is within walking distance to Bathhouse Row!
Mid-Range: The Arlington Resort & Spa
As mentioned before, when visiting Hot Springs make sure to check out staying at the Arlington. Hot Springs Arkansas would be complete without this iconic hotel. It is right in the middle of downtown (yay for walking distance!) and even though the hotel is extremely old, the rooms are clean and updated so you will have a comfortable stay.
High-End: The Waters
The Waters (an Ascend Hotel Collection Member) is a boutique hotel located right across the street from Bathhouse Row. The hotel is completely renovated with updated facilities and modern comforts- but they have done a great job at keeping cute vintage details that show off the history of the building.
Airbnbs in Hot Springs Arkansas
We love staying at Airbnb's when we travel and have almost always had a wonderful experience. Our favorite part of staying at Airbnb's is that you get a lot more room for usually around the same price as a hotel and you have a kitchen so you can cook!
Below is the adorable Airbnb where we stayed, and it's within walking distance of downtown Hot Springs. We also loved all the fall decor!
We want to hear from you! Have you ever been to Hot Springs Arkansas? What did you think of the baths? Comment below and let us know!