Horse racing fans heading to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., have two new incredible lodging options that have opened since last season: The Waters and The Hotel Hot Springs. Both hotels are located in historic downtown and are within walking distance to many great Spa City attractions, restaurants, bars and shops, and both are a short drive away from the track. I have been a guest at both establishments and can give each a hearty recommendation.
The Waters, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member, is 62-room boutique hotel located across the street from Bathhouse Row. It opened at the end of February after an 18-month renovation of the 100-year-old Thompson building, which first housed medical offices. Much of the original structure has been incorporated into the modern redesign. The lobby and hallways were preserved and original marble and doors were repurposed.
The Avenue, the restaurant on the ground floor of The Waters, is named for the Central Avenue address. Chef Casey Copeland, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, presents southern-inspired artisanal cuisine. The small plates and shareables are intended to provide patrons with an intimate experience in the space that features photographs of Central Avenue throughout the ages.
The morning of the Rebel Stakes, we saw Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza checking out of The Waters. During our stay, we visited in the restaurant and bar with many other racing fans and insiders. I am confident the hotel will continue to grow as a hub for visitors to Oaklawn.
The Hotel Hot Springs was formerly known as The Austin. It is connected to the Hot Springs Convention Center. The new ownership completely gutted the building and started again with just the outside shell. Each of the 196 guest rooms are completely renovated and have plank flooring. The expanded bathrooms have grey granite countertops and white tile flooring.
The lobby has a bar and seating areas to accommodate a large number of people. The Inside Track and Grill Sports Lounge features 40 TVs and both indoor and outdoor seating. They serve a complimentary full breakfast each morning from 6 until 9, and then the restaurant reopens at 11 a.m. and closes at midnight. A spa, pool and fitness center will soon be added to the hotel’s amenities.