What’s New to Explore in Hot Springs During Oaklawn’s 2020 Meet

Events / Travel
The rooftop at The Waters hotel offers sweeping vistas of historic downtown Hot Springs and should draw fans flocking to town this spring for Oaklawn Park’s meet. (Courtesy of The Waters )

During the eight months and 19 days without live racing at Oaklawn Park, the town of Hot Springs, Ark. continued to grow alongside the expansions occurring at the track. If you haven’t been to Spa City since the 2019 meet, here are new establishments to explore during your next visit.

The Hotel Hale

Courtesy of The Hotel Hale

The most iconic stretch of historic downtown Hot Springs is Bathhouse Row, a collection of eight elegant, eclectic buildings originally established to provide access to the thermal waters that were thought to have healing properties. The Hale, the oldest tenant on the row, was open to bathers from 1892 to Oct. 31, 1978.

In August, The Hale celebrated its grand opening as a nine-bedroom luxury hotel. This transformation was conceived in 2013, and the developers’ attention to detail during the multi-year process is evident. Each suite is named after a bathhouse, features a thermal spring water soaking tub and is uniquely appointed, with modern art and sprinkles of equine-themed décor. The recognizable arched windows provide a light and airy atmosphere.

Each stay includes morning coffee service to your room followed by breakfast in Eden, the upscale casual restaurant at The Hale.

Hot Springs Mayor Pat McCabe, who is also CEO of a local hospital, and his wife Ellen leased the Hale from the National Park Service. They are active in all aspects of the daily operations of the hotel, including working at the desk and in the restaurant, and Pat even valets.  

The Rooftop Bar at The Waters

Sara Dacus Photo

The Waters, the 62-room boutique hotel across the street from Bathhouse Row, opened its long-anticipated rooftop bar in November.

The rooftop offers indoor and outdoor seating and sweeping vistas of Bathhouse Row, historic downtown and the national park. It provides a modern patio setting to enjoy a handcrafted cocktail and the sunset or night sky. A limited menu from The Avenue, the restaurant on the first floor of the hotel, is available.

The Waters opened in 2017 in the 100-year-old Thompson building, which originally housed medical offices. Visitors who would “take the waters” three times a day across the street on Bathhouse Row would see doctors in these offices to determine their progress. Much of the building’s original marble, tile, brick, woodwork and ironwork have been preserved.

In its two years of operation, The Waters has become a preferred purlieu of the racing elite. The addition of the rooftop bar will undoubtedly increase its appeal.

The Northwoods Trails

Courtesy of Visit Hot Springs

Phase one of the Northwoods Trails, a newly constructed mountain biking network located minutes away from downtown Hot Springs, opened in November. The trails are located in 2,000 previously unused acres north of the city and gives a wilderness experience and lake views. The trails were designed and built by The International Mountain Bicycling Association and are marked beginner, intermediate or advanced. Currently, 16 miles of the planned 44 miles are open. Phase two will include more lake views and a floating trail.

The Northwoods Trails were made possible in part by a matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation, which continues the philanthropic vision of Sam and Helen Walton, the founders of Arkansas-based Walmart. The nonprofit organization played a major role in funding Bentonville, Ark.’s popular trail system. The stakeholders have a goal to make Arkansas a world-class mountain biking destination and have already witnessed and uptick in visitors from around the nation.

Also New and Notable

Hit the target at Big Axe Battleground. Raise a glass at Olde Crow Chili Parlor and Mercantile or Crystal Ridge Distillery. Relish Ouachita Chocolate’s bean-to-bar, small batch craft creations. Stay at the lakeside DoubleTree Hotel, the former Clarion Resort reborn with a $20 million renovation.

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