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Heading to Hot Springs National Park with kids and wondering what there is to do? We’ve got you covered! Hot Springs National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit with kids, and also one of the most unique. Read on for what to do in Hot Springs National Park with kids.
How to get to Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park is just one hour from Little Rock so if you are flying in, that will be your best airport. Memphis is a 3 hour drive, Dallas is 4.5 hours, and Tulsa 4.5 hours as well. We flew into Little Rock and made the short drive into Hot Springs.
When you arrive in Hot Springs, where the National Park is, you will see a building that says Visitor Center. This is not the National Park Visitor Center but the one for the city. You’ll notice a parking lot with meters (they are heavily monitored!) and it costs 25 cents/hour hour to park. However keep on driving and follow the signs for the free parking deck. We parked in there and walked the block to the real National Park Visitor Center, where we picked up our Junior Ranger booklet and got stamps for our travel journal.
Best time to visit Hot Springs National Park
The best time to visit Hot Springs National Park will be in the early fall and early spring, August-October and February-April. The temperatures are mild and you’ll be able to enjoy the hot springs without frigid outdoor temperatures. The winters here are mild but if you’re coming from a place with truly mild winters (think CA or FL), it’s best to avoid the coldest months of the year.
We visited in early April and the temps were in the 70s and low 80s, making it perfect for exploring outdoors.
Where to stay when visiting Hot Springs National Park
Looking for the best kid and family friendly hotel in Hot Springs? Because Hot Springs National Park is located in the middle of a city, there are a ton of lodging options available. Here are some options for where to stay when visiting Hot Springs National Park with kids.
Camping in Hot Springs National Park
Gulpha Gorge is the park’s official campground. This campground can accommodate both tents and RVs. All sites have full hookups and are on a first come, first served basis with no reservations available.
Best Family-Friendly Hotel near Hot Springs National Park
As I mentioned above, there are a ton of hotel options in this area because of its location. Hotel Hale is the only hotel within the National Park.
Right next to the National Park is the Arlington Hotel, where you can get a mineral water room. The hot spring mineral water is piped directly into your bath or shower. This is a great option if you want to experience the hot springs but are traveling with kids, since kids under 10 are not allowed in the bath houses.
We stayed at the TownePlace Suites Hot Springs, which was conveniently located and had spacious suites. The rooms are spacious with a full kitchen, so you can cook if you wanted to. We had a spacious 1 bedroom suite, which was perfect for our stay.
To see other hotels in Hot Springs, use this interactive map of the area:
AirBnB near Hot Springs National Park
Prefer your own space? Then AirBnB might be your best option!
Things to bring when visiting Hot Springs National Park with kids
- National Parks Journal: We bring our journal on each National Park trip and Milana fills it out. We also bring it to the visitor’s center to get stamps.
- Reusable water bottle: If you want to be like the locals, bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up at one of the fountains in town!
- Hiking backpack: I love my Osprey Daylite backpack for our day hike adventures. It’s comfortable and holds all of our trail essentials.
Books and games about National Parks
Things to do in Hot Springs National Park With Kids
Junior Ranger Program
You will want to pick up your Junior Ranger booklet first, since it’s like a scavenger hunt at this park and your kids will need it to complete the activities. You can get your book at the National Park Visitor Center, located in the Fordyce Bathhouse.
Walk along Bathhouse Row
Notice the difference in the buildings and find each bathhouse’s symbol, which you will need to complete the Junior Ranger activity.
Walk along the Great Promenade
Directly behind the Visitor Center, you will see a staircase leading up to the Grand Promenade. Here you’ll have a nice view of the Bathhouses and a wide, paved road where your kids can safely roam without worrying about cars. The Grand Promenade is stroller and wheelchair friendly however not all entry points have ramps. If you need a ramp, the entrance at Fountain Street has one and there is an access ramp behind the Fordyce Bathhouse.
Touch and taste the water from the fountains
There are many places within the park where you can taste the hot spring water. You’ll see locals filling up jugs of water to take home. You can ask for a cup at the visitor center and bring it to the fountain to fill it. You can also bring your own water bottle to fill. Just remember, the water is very hot so keep little hands away!
In front of the administration building, you will find a round fountain. Let your kids touch the water and the green growth on the fountain (the Junior Ranger book will encourage them to do so). This water is 143 degrees and the blue-green algae that grows on the fountain is called cyanobacteria. This is a harmless bacteria and it does not harm the water quality. You’ll find fountains with this growth all over the park.
Looking for the best kid and family friendly hiking trails in Hot Springs National Park? There are a ton, for all abilities. We were quite surprised to find so much wilderness in the middle of the city and had a blast exploring the trails. Here are the best hiking trails for kids in Hot Springs National Park.
- Shortcut Trail: This is a very short (0.2 mile) trail that connects the Oertel Trail to the Hot Springs Mountain Trail.
- Hot Springs Mountain Trail: This is a longer hike, at 3.3 miles, but the terrain is easy and great for kids.
- Upper Dogwood Trail: This trail is a 1.5 mile loop trail, with easy terrain and lots of wildflowers in the spring.
- Peak Trail: This trail starts off paved but then turns into gravel. This trail is 0.6 miles and it’s the trail that leads to Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Directly across the street from the tower is the 1920s Observation Gazebo, so be sure to check it out for the views!
Hot Springs Mountain Scenic Drive
Kids napping or don’t want to walk? Take the 3.6 mile scenic drive to see some amazing views! This drive begins at the end of Fountain Street and will even take you to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower if you don’t want to walk there. This road gets packed during peak times however we saw one other car during the time we were here, which was great!
Hot Springs Family Fun Park
If it’s a rainy or hot day or if you just need a break while the kids play, then check out this indoor play area in Hot Springs. They have lots of different activities, including this rope course that Milana loved. If your kids are under 42 inches, they even have a tiny version for the little ones. Adults can join too, so don’t be afraid to climb with your kids!
Mid-America Science Museum
Another fun thing to do on a rainy day in Hot Springs is visit the Mid-America Science Museum. Since they are a part of the ASTC Travel Passport Program, you can get free admission if you have a membership to your local ASTC participant. They have lots of fun, interactive exhibits for kids as well as an outdoor play area.
Where to eat near Hot Springs National Park with kids
Looking for family friendly restaurants in Hot Springs? There are a ton! Hot Springs is a very kid friendly city, with lots of kid friendly restaurants in Hot Springs. We were only here for 3 days so we didn’t get to try a ton, but these were some of our favorites.
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
Right inside of the National Park is the first brewery inside of a US National Park. They utilize the thermal spring water as their main ingredient and have an amazing beer selection. You can order beer flights to try several or 4 oz. portions of anything on the menu if you only want to try 1 or 2. If you like sour beers, I highly recommend the Arkansour. We stopped in for lunch one afternoon and it was great. They have a kids menu as well and are very family friendly, making it one of the best family friendly restaurants in Hot Springs. We shared a pretzel with some amazing cheese sauce, Milana had the kids pita pizza and I got the Yum Fun Bowl, which is a current special. It had in house made vegetable stock, coconut milk and mushrooms from Plethora Fungi. It was really good!
The Purple Cow Restaurant
We didn’t have dinner here, but it was packed with a ton of families for dinner. We came for dessert after searching for desserts in the area. Milana loved the name so we went to try it. They are known for the purple vanilla shakes however Milana isn’t into vanilla, so she ordered the Elvis shake which had peanut butter and bananas, but asked for it to be made with the purple vanilla ice cream. Now I must say, we don’t do food coloring in our home and this was a rare treat but she loved tasting it! We eat purple ice cream all the time back home, but it’s made with ube which gives it a rich, purple but natural color. I wonder why they haven’t discovered that here yet? You can still get this color without all those dyes!
Kollective Coffee + Tea
This was a great find right by the National Park! We came for breakfast one morning and Milana had their avocado toast. I had the vegan breakfast bowl, with cashew yogurt and fresh fruit. Both were yummy and one of our favorite family friendly restaurants in Hot Spring.
Want a bit of German food in Hot Springs? Then head to Steinhaus Keller! This is a family friendly restaurant in downtown Hot Springs, with outdoor seating that is fenced in so your kids can wander around. Milana loves schnitzel so that is what she had, and being Polish, I couldn’t pass up the kiełbasa. Both meals were excellent and we would definitely go back! They do have kid menus, however they were very Americanized and nothing she was interested in.
As you can see, there is a ton to do in Hot Springs with kids. Hot Springs National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit with kids and quickly became one of our favorite. It’s so easy to combine hiking with a city trip and have your kids learn a ton about how the hot springs work. Have you been to Hot Springs with kids? If so, leave a comment below and tell us what your favorite part was!