Hot Springs, Arkansas, is a charming city nestled in the Ouachita Mountains and a great family destination. There are so many fun things to do in Hot Springs with kids of all ages.
From hiking with a baby, playing at the science museum with a toddler, or going on a treetop zip-line adventure with older kids – there is something for every kid and kid at heart in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Between the city itself and Hot Springs National Park, there are so many things to do with kids to fill your Hot Springs itinerary. This guide will show you both, in addition to places to eat in Hot Springs with kids.
Things to Do in Hot Springs National Park with Kids
Hot Springs National Park is unlike any other U.S. National Park. It is an urban park in the heart of downtown Hot Springs. It is also FREE to enter!
Given the name, it is renowned for its 47 hot springs that emerge from Hot Springs Mountain, which you can experience in several ways.
From hiking trails to enjoying the thermal spring waters, here are the best things to do with kids in Hot Springs National Park.
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Hike in Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park has some great trails to enjoy with kids. The park has 26 miles of trails, mostly relatively short (1 mile each way) and interconnected. Here are a few of the best trails to take kids.
- Goat Rock Trail (2.2 miles out-and-back) – is our favorite trail! The trail takes you to a scenic overlook with stunning views of the Ouachita Mountains.
- Gulpha Gorge Trail (1.2 miles out-and-back) – a scenic trail that interconnects to Goat Rock Trail. First, it takes you across Gulpha Creek before heading up the mountain. Then you can extend the hike further to Goat Rock’s scenic overlook.
- Peak Trail (1.2 miles out-and-back) is a relatively easy trail that ascends to Hot Springs Mountain Tower.
Join the Junior Park Ranger Program
The Junior Park Ranger program is one of the best things to do in Hot Springs National Park with kids because it allows them to truly participate in the experience of exploring the park. It is designed for kids 5 to 13, but anyone can participate.
When you arrive at the park, head to the Visitor Center at Fordyce Bathhouse to obtain the Junior Park Ranger booklet. Inside the booklet are easy activities for kids to partake in. For example, touch the water in one of the display springs.
Once your kid finishes the booklet, return to the Visitor Center, and find a park ranger. Then the park ranger will ask a few questions and indoctrinate your kid into the program. It’s super cute and fun for the kids.
Enjoy Panoramic Views from Hot Springs Mountain Tower
Visit Hot Springs Mountain Tower and take an elevator 216 feet high to the observation deck. Once you reach the top, enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the city, the Ouachita Mountains, and Hot Springs Mountain.
The observation deck is open-air and stroller accessible. Below the observation deck is an enclosed, air-conditioned level with exhibits featuring the park and local history.
Tip: If you have the U.S. National Park Pass, you can receive a significant discount on ticket prices. And make sure you bring some quarters to place into the binoculars. Kids absolutely love them!
Visit Bathhouse Row
One of the best things to do in Hot Springs National Parks with kids (or without) is to visit Bathhouse Row. Typically at National Parks, a scenic overlook from a hiking trail is the main attraction, but at Hot Springs National Park, it’s the historical buildings at Bathhouse Row.
Bathhouse Row consists of eight buildings that were once all operating bathhouses. Today, two still operate as bathhouses, three operate by NPS, one is a brewery, one is a hotel, and one is unoccupied.
Visiting Bathhouse Row can be as simple as enjoying a leisure walk to see each beautiful facade. However, I recommend taking it one step further by exploring a few bathhouses inside.
Superior Bathhouse – although the restaurant does not have a kid’s menu, Superior Bathhouse Brewery is family-friendly. Moreover, it’s the only brewery in a U.S. National Park and the only brewery worldwide to utilize thermal spring water as the main ingredient.
Fordyce Bathhouse – we always like to start our National Park trips at the Visitor Center, and Fordyce Bathhouse is the prettiest Visitor Center in the NPS! In addition to getting park information, it also serves as a museum on the history of the bathhouse experience in Hot Springs.
Unfortunately, Buckstaff and Quapaw do not allow anyone under 12 to soak in thermal waters. As a mom, I would love to sneak away and enjoy one of their spa services. If you can find some alone time, I would fit this unique experience into your itinerary.
Walk the Grand Promenade
Behind Bathhouse Row is the Grand Promenade – a 0.5-mile one-way paved trail with benches, places to play chess, and lots of space for kids to run around. We enjoyed early morning and late afternoon walks along the Grand Promenade with our kids. It helped us get a lot of energy out!
There are three ways to access the Grand Promenade: Reserve Street on the south side, Fountain Street on the north side (stroller/wheelchair accessible), or a grand staircase between Maurice and Fordyce Bathhouse.
Touch the Thermal Springs
Just because kids under 12 cannot visit the spa services bathhouses doesn’t mean they completely miss out on the thermal springs experience. Touching the thermal spring water is one of the best things to do with kids in Hot Springs National Park.
You can touch the thermal spring water for free in two places – the Display Springs behind Maurice Bathhouse and the beautiful Water Cascade at Arlington Lawn. You can get up close at the Display Springs. A small spring fissures from a hillside and cascades into a shallow pool.
The Water Cascade is the most popular place to touch thermal springs and the most prominent visible spring. Its grand cascade flows into two deep pools.
Kids of all ages will get a kick from touching the thermal water. And don’t worry. Although the water comes out of the ground at 147 degrees F, it is cool enough to feel when it reaches the open pools.
Fill a Bottle with Thermal Spring Water
The second best way to experience thermal spring water with kids is to fill a bottle or jug with water. If you do not have a bottle/jug, you can buy a unique one from the Hot Springs National Park gift shop at Lamar Bathhouse, which makes one of the best souvenirs to bring home.
There are seven thermal spring fountains. All but one are within Hot Springs National Park, and most are suitable for filling jugs. (List provided by NPS)
- In front of the Libbey Memorial Physical Medicine Center on Reserve St. – suitable for filling jugs.
- In front of the National Park Service Administration Building on Reserve St. – suitable for filling jugs.
- Between the Hale and Maurice Bathhouses on Bathhouse Row
- The Noble Fountain on Reserve St. (at the south entrance of the Grand Promenade)
- The Dripping Spring between the Hale and Maurice Bathhouses
- The Shell Fountain on the Stevens Balustrade (between the Fordyce and the Maurice Bathhouses)
- Outside the park boundaries at the Hill Wheatley Plaza on Central Ave. – suitable for filling jugs.
Drink the Thermal Spring Waters
Of course, if you fill a bottle at a thermal spring fountain, you can drink it after it’s cooled down. People travel near and far to fill up jugs of water and enjoy later, but there is a special fountain where you can immediately drink thermal spring water.
Along with cool souvenirs for the family, the Lamar Bathhouse gift shop has a hidden water fountain in the back. Fill a cup with the thermal spring water from the water fountain, and drink some of the best water ever. Seriously, even at room temp, this water tastes fantastic!
Doing the thermal water in a progression (touch, receive, and drink) is an excellent way for the kids to engage and learn about the thermal spring water.
Things to Do in Hot Springs with Kids
In addition to the National Park, there are so many fun attractions and activities in Hot Springs for kids. From zip-lining in treetops to playing putt-putt, walking with dinosaurs, exploring an epic tree house, eating the best cupcakes, and more. Here are the best things to do in Hot Springs with kids.
Fill Your Curiosity at Mid-America Science Museum
We love going to children’s science museums with our kids because they can learn through play and curiosity. Plus, adults get to feel like a kid again too.
The Mid-America Science Museum is one of the best children’s museums in the country. There are so many amazing exhibits to explore that you can spend your entire day here. It is tucked away in a woodland area of 21 acres, which provides a beautiful place to escape and learn.
A few of the most popular exhibits of the museum actually takes place outside. There is a dinosaur trail with the most realistic dinosaurs, a gorgeous skywalk, rope bridges, and a rope bowl which is fun for all ages.
Inside the museum are one-of-a-kind science shows, a two-story water feature, a dimly lit playground (it feels like an underground play place), a tinkering studio, a motion gallery, and more. There is also a small area for babies and toddlers with climbing structures, a playhouse, and a giant pin impression.
Hang Out in a Treehouse at Garvan Woodland Gardens
Visiting the beautiful Garvan Woodland Gardens is one of the best things to do in Hot Springs with kids (and without). The 210-acre botanical garden features an array of floral species and breathtaking architectural structures like the Anthony Chapel and the Bob and Sunny Evans Treehouse.
The Evans Children’s Adventure Gardens is every kids dream with its gorgeous multi-level, floating treehouse. It also has a 12-foot waterfall, a man-made cave, a bridge made of woven tree branches, and a maze made of rocks. Kids can spend hours exploring every corner of this woodland sanctuary.
Additionally, there are various themed gardens to discover such as the Japanese Garden, Sugg Model Train Garden, and Southern Inspiration Garden. Then just outside Garvan Woodland Gardens’ grounds is the famous Anthony’s Chapel – an architectural wonder that you cannot miss.
From the colorful flowers to the Bridge of the Full Moon, and stunning woodland structures, there are family photo opportunities at every corner. So make sure you bring your camera!
Tour the Incredible Tiny Town
Going to Tiny Town is one of the most unique things to do in Hot Springs with kids. Inside a train depot building is a room with an enormous display of a “Tiny Town” with an interactive model railroad.
Frank Moshinskie, who died in 1998, built Tiny Town, which took him 68 years to create. This attraction is remarkable because Frank made almost every piece from scraps around the house. He hand-carved the tiny people from wooden spools, the trees are from cat food cans, and the grass is from sawdust.
Tiny Town’s interactive model railroad goes through scenes of 22 states, including Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, Camelback Mountain, and the Colorado Rockies. It also includes several animated pieces that activate from the press of a button, which brings a lot of joy to kids – because what kid doesn’t enjoy pressing buttons?
Tiny Town operates on a seasonal basis. So it is best to check if they are open ahead of time.
Hike at Lake Catherine State Park
We love visiting State Parks, and Lake Catherine State Park is one of the best in Arkansas. Lake Catherine is one of the five Diamond Lakes in the Ouachita Mountain region.
There are lots of fun things to do at Lake Catherine State Park. You can swim at the sandy beach (no lifeguard on duty), enjoy guided horseback riding, rent a boat on the water, or hike a trail.
Lake Catherine State Park has plenty of family-friendly hiking trails. The most popular hiking trail is Falls Branch Trail (1.7-mile loop) because it leads to a scenic waterfall.
Get a Hole-in-One at Pirates Cove Adventure Golf
Perhaps I am biased, but Pirates Cove Adventure Golf is one of the best things to do in Hot Springs with kids because our toddler got his first hole-in-one…TWICE!!! How cool is that?
Pirates Cove Adventure Golf has two 18-hole courses – Captain’s Course and Blackbeard’s Challenge. For those daring pirates, you can try your hand at both to make a challenging 36-hole adventure.
Each course is beautiful, with fun pirate-themed characteristics and obstacles. You can putt-putt on a full-scale pirate ship, through a mountain cave, and under cascading waterfalls.
And who knows, your little one might get their first hole-in-one too!
Get a Thrill at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park
If your family seeks a magical time with thrilling adventures, head to Magic Springs Theme and Water Park. It is the perfect package for families that want fun in the sun, thrill-seeking rides, kid-friendly rides, and time to cool off at a waterpark.
At the theme park, kids and adults can enjoy classic rides such as a drop tower, log flume, swinging pirate ship, carousel, wooden roller coaster, and more. While at the water park, you can float the lazy river, splash at the aquatic fort, boogie board, race down slides, and more.
Magic Springs Theme and Water Park is open daily from late May through mid-August. From September through October, it is only open on the weekends. So make sure you check their calendar and plan accordingly.
Play at T-Rex Fun Spot
T-Rex Fun Spot is one of the best things to do in Hot Springs with kids, especially in bad weather. It’s a small (primarily indoor) amusement park with various fun attractions.
From go-karts to a ceiling-high rope course, a 4-person human gyroscope, laser tag, black light mini golf, and more. There is so much to do that you can easily spend an entire day here.
Play at Family Fun Park
Do you have toddlers or young kids? If yes, Family Fun Park is the perfect alternative to T-Rex Fun Spot. It is the same concept and sister property as T-Rex but designed for families with younger kids.
Family Fun Park has two rope courses. There is a rope course for kids over 42″ and a kiddie course for under 42″ and two years of age. Both courses offer challenging obstacles and a thrilling zip line. Our toddler had the best time on the kiddie course!
Other fun attractions include go-karts (a longer track than T-Rex), bumper cars, and rock climbing. You can also purchase combo tickets to use at both properties.
Soar Through the Trees at Adventureworks
For another thrilling experience, visit Adventureworks. Adventureworks is an exciting place for older kids and adults to zip through the forest or conquer the challenging treetop aerial obstacle course. Better yet, you can enjoy both!
has three tour options – the Signature Canopy Tour, the Ariel Adventure, and the Zipline Adventure Course Combo. The Signature Canopy Tour takes kids 8 years and older through ten different zip lines, up to 1000 feet long, 80 feet high, and over a mile of zipping.
The Ariel Adventure takes kids 12 years and older (or 9 years old with an adult) on an epic 16-element challenge course. The treetop course gets progressively higher as you complete each obstacle. It includes a series of swinging bridges, hanging vines, cargo nets, and more.
Where to Eat in Hot Springs with Kids
With so many fun activities and exploring at the National Park, everyone will be hungry! So here are a few of the best places to eat in Hot Springs with kids.
The Pancake Shop
One of the best breakfast places to eat in Hot Springs is The Pancake Shop. Since 1940, this family-owned restaurant has been serving delicious plates of giant pancakes made from scratch, homemade sausage, juicy ham steaks, and more.
More importantly, the Pancake Shop is family-friendly and has some of the friendliest people in town. It is also a very popular breakfast spot with a small dining room, so I recommend arriving as early as possible.
The Purple Cow
The Purple Cow is a family-friendly restaurant with a nostalgic atmosphere of a diner counter, bar stools, and an old-fashioned soda fountain. You will find all the American classics like steak knife hamburgers, chicken finger baskets, chili cheese fries, and onion rings.
The food is delicious, but you must remember to order the iconic, hand-dipped purple vanilla shake. Best milkshake in town! And if you are lucky, the Purple Cow will come to your table for a meet and greet with the kids. Overall, The Purple Cow is a fun dining experience for the entire family.
SQZBX Pizzeria and Brewery
If parents love craft beer and everyone loves pizza, SQZBX Pizzeria and Brewery is the perfect place to eat in Hot Springs with kids. I mean, pizza and beer – what’s more to love?
What was once a piano repair shop is now SQZBX Pizzeria and Brewery – a family-run, New Jersey-style pizza joint and craft brewery. New Jersey-style pizza starts with a cold, overnight fermented dough to give it a chewy texture and flavorful crust. SQZBX Pizzeria and Brewery also use only the finest ingredients for its toppings, making for a delicious pizza slice.
Fat Bottomed Girl’s Cupcake Shoppe
If Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe sounds familiar, that might be because you saw them compete in Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. The competition might have made them famous, but Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe won the hearts of Hot Springs as soon as they opened their doors.
There are a lot of reasons why Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe is unique and the best cupcakes in Arkansas. One, the cupcakes are amazing! The cake is light and fluffy, and the icing is perfectly sweet.
Second, each flavor comes with a fun vintage pin-up girl label. I really enjoyed this touch, and it fits their theme well.
Lastly, there are over 50 different flavors! Of course, there are classic flavors, but the unique flavor combinations make Fat Bottomed Girls Cupcake Shoppe stand apart from everyone else. I recommend trying one of their signature flavors, like Creme Brûlée or Lemon Lavender and then try one of their many unique flavor combinations.
There you have it, my guide to the best things to do in Hot Springs with kids. I hope you have found it helpful in planning your family trip. We had a wonderful family trip here, and I wish the same for you too.
Wednesday 5th of April 2023
It looks like such fun! I didn’t realize there were that many different types of activities to do!!
Thursday 6th of April 2023
Yes, we had a blast! There was so much for us to enjoy. We would return in a heartbeat.