What is a bath house and is it creepy?
I have to admit the concept of a bath house freaked me out at first. I imagined a Romanesque giant steamy tub filled with hedonistic weirdos – pretty much a giant orgy party (as if I had any idea what one of those would look like). So when my relatively new boyfriend suggested we go and said he’d been going for years, I took a step back and said “I’m not that kind of girl!” Now 14 years of marriage later, we still laugh at the vision of my wide eyed shocked face.
So to jump in and calm your suspicious too – the bath houses are actually really cool. They’re like old-time spas with – this is important – separate men and women wings and no one but your attendant sees you naked. It doesn’t feel weird at all – it feels like stepping back to the 1950s med club when visitors used to come to Hot Springs to “take the baths” for relaxation, medical relief and in the case of the birthplace of baseball spring trainers – for sore arm muscles. In actuality Hot Springs is known as “spa city” for its grand historic bath house buildings with so rich history and culture and over the years as Hot Springs has taken on a beautiful resurgence as one-by-one each is being restored into either an open public bath house, pub, high end restaurant and museum history center (so far). They all line up along Bath House Row which is the Hot Springs downtown area with visitors relaxing on their huge front porches or at picnic tables on the lawn of the national park. They face about 4 blocks of tourist shops like boutiques, restaurants and luxury sugary treat shops. If you’re not into spas at all – don’t worry there are a million other fun things to do around town and I’ll list them in the next few posts. Pretty much everything is kid-friendly and would be perfect for a long family weekend or a couple’s romantic stay. Over the decades and dozens of trips back, Hot Springs has become our second home and any time a friend mentions they’re headed there we annoyingly can’t stop with the recommendations plus secret spaces and tips and tricks to know ahead of time.
Another great resource is www.hotsprings.org where you can learn about the history of Hot Springs and new attractions opening all the time. I also recommend visiting the Fordyce Visitors Center on Bathhouse row the first time you’re in town. Here you’ll see an impressive museum taking a step back in time showing what the bathhouses were used for and legends visitors believed the thermal mineral waters cured them.
Next in my string of blogs about Hot Springs, AR I’ll tell you more about the bath houses, where to stay, what to do, where to eat and a sneak peek at our new bed & breakfast under construction – The Sleeping Porch. Be sure to look for Secret Tips along the way!