Outside view of Tree House at Garvan Gardens

Arkansas Weekend Getaway: Hot Springs Diamond Lakes & Ouachita River Kayaking

Looking for an Arkansas Weekend Getaway? We spent a fun extended weekend in Hot Springs Diamond Lakes region of Arkansas exploring Hot Springs attractions and fun activities for families.

Hot Springs is known for its thermal springs, bathing facilities in Bathhouse Row, and hiking trails. We had a chance to explore Hot Springs National Park, experience beautiful nature and architecture at Garvan Woodland Gardens, go hiking, kayaking, take a boat ride, and have some family fun!

This is a sponsored post with Diamondlakes.org, but all opinions are my own.

There’s so much more to explore in Hot Springs and Diamond Lakes that we’ll definitely have to go back to explore more of the area since it wasn’t possible to fit it all in a weekend, but if this is your first time visiting, here’s a great itinerary to experience a taste of all that Hot Springs and Diamond Lakes has to offer, and you can get the official Diamond Lakes Vacation Guide here!

Watch the Video of Our Trip

Day 1

Where To Stay: Home2Suites in Hot Springs

Check into Home2Suites in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Aside from the colorful lobby area, the best part of Home2Suites is that there’s a kitchenette in each room, and it’s located right by the water. We had a room where the couch pulled out into a sofa bed, which is where our kids slept.

Home2Suites Hot Springs
106 Catalina Cir. (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71913
(501) 520-4444

Take a Boat Cruise with Captain Jack

Boat ride with Captain Jack in Hot Springs

We were originally looking to take a dinner cruise with Belle of Hot Springs, but it was not in service, so instead, we took a boat ride with Captain Jack’s Lake Cruises! We had a nice boat ride around Lake Hamilton with Captain Jack! It was a nice peaceful boat ride with another lovely couple that was on the same boat ride with us. Captain Jack had some ice and drinks for us to enjoy on that hot sunny day.

Learn about some of the interesting spots around Lake Hamilton with Captain Jack. The boat ride is an hour and half. To read more or charter a boat ride, visit the website at Captain Jack’s Lake Cruises.

Explore Downtown Hot Springs

Free Parking

One thing to note when you get to the downtown area is that there is actually a free parking garage located at the Exchange Street Parking Plaza. There are street signs that will direct you to the parking garage, but it is located at:

Exchange Street Parking Plaza
128 Exchange St (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71901


Now that we found parking, the next stop we needed was restrooms! With kids, this is something you always have to be prepared for. 🙂 Luckily, we found our restroom break at our first stop, which was at the Visitor’s Center. We also discovered that there are restrooms on either side of Quapaw Baths (map).

Visitor’s Center

Stop by the Hot Springs Visitor’s Center to get some more information about things to do in the area. Open hours are 9am-5pm every day. The visitor’s center can be found at:

Visitor’s Center
629 Central Ave (map)
Hot Springs National Park, AR 71901
(800) 772-2489

Downtown Hot Springs

Across the street from Bathhouse Row is Downtown Hot Springs, where you can check out different shops, galleries, and museums. Some of the places you can check out are:

Grab some dessert at:

Explore Bathhouse Row

Did you know that Hot Springs turned 100 years old this year? It somehow felt special visiting Hot Springs during its 100th year anniversary!

The Bathhouse Row at Hot Springs National Park has eight bathhouse buildings that were built from 1892 -1923. The 8 bathhouse buildings are:

Fordyce Bathhouse – The Fordyce Bathhouse is where you’ll see a lot of people going in and out. It operates now as a visitor center and a museum.

Quapaw Bathhouse – Quapaw Bathhouse is an operating bathhouse where you can go if you want to soak in the water from the hot springs.

Superior Bathhouse – The Superior Bathhouse used to offer hydroterhapy and massages. Now, it is a brewery where you can sample beer made from water from the hot springs.

Ozark Bathhouse – The Ozark Bathhouse houses the Hot Springs National Park Cultural Center, which serves as an art museum for the national park’s Artist-in-Residence programs and temporary exhibitions. Admission is free.

Buckstaff Bathhouse – The Buckstaff Bathhouse is where you can go if you want to experience a traditional spa experience.

Lamar Bathhouse – The Lamar Bathhouse currently operates as an adminstration building and the park’s store, known as Bathhouse Row Emporium.

Maurice Bathhouse – The Maurice Bathhouse is currently vacant and available for commercial leasing.

Hale Bathhouse – The Hale Bathhouse currently operates as a luxury hotel called Hotel Hale.

Fordyce Bathhouse Museum & Visitor’s Center

Be sure to stop by Fordyce Bathhouse, which now serves as the Hot Springs National Park Visitor’s Center and a free museum to learn about the history of the bathhouses. You can talk with a park ranger, gather information about Hot Springs National Park and the local area, or join a ranger program.

Fordyce Bathhouse
369 Central Ave (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71901

Walking out of Fordyce Bathhouse in Hot Springs Arkansas

Lunch or Dinner: Trejo’s del Lago

Trejo’s del Lago serves Latin food and has a large outdoor space to dine with a view of the lake. When we went, the weather was too hot to sit outside, so we sat inside.

The kids were given crayons and activity sheets that surprisingly kept them busy during our entire dinner!

We ordered taco salad, steak fajita, and chicken tacos and rice for the kids. We also ordered a drink, and it was huge! The kids wanted one, so they shared a virgin daquiri, and of course, they loved it.

Trejo’s del Lago
4904 Central Ave (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71913
(501) 463-4640

Watch a beautiful sunset over Lake Hamilton

An unexpected perk of staying at Home2Suites in Hot Springs was the gorgeous sunset each night. Just outside of Home2Suites hotel is a railing overlooking the water that gave us a beautiful sunset view 2 nights in a row! It’s not to be missed. After dinner, make sure you check when the sun sets so you can make it back to the hotel to see this beautiful closure to the day!

Day 2

Breakfast: Alexa’s Creperie

Alexa’s Creperie is an authentic French Cafe. We learned about the wallpaper here that we were sitting next to from Sergey, the owner. It’s an actual photo of a neighbor’s home that was taken and custom printed to make you feel like you’re in France.

Our kids were especially excited to eat Nutella crepes for breakfast!

It was so nice to meet Sergey and his staff at Alexa’s Creperie! We had a great meal with great service!

It’s best to call 30 minutes before you want to eat to make a reservation. It’s a popular spot, and with limited tables, you’ll want to make sure to call in advance.

Alexa’s Creperie
238 Cornerstone Blvd Z (map)
Hot Springs National Park, AR 71913
(501) 760-4799

Garvan Woodland Gardens

We were very excited to visit Garvan Woodland Gardens because of the beautiful architecture of the Bob & Sunny Tree House and Anthony Chapel. Upon entering, we were lucky enough to see George the Peacock!

After spotting George the Peacock, our fist mission was to find the Tree House! As we headed out, the kids were given a scavenger hunt/bingo sheet to search for different things at the garden. The kids quickly led the way wanting to complete the scavenger hunt!

Then, we made our way to the Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House, and it did not disappoint! What a gorgeous structure! This tree house was opened in 2018 and was designed for kids to explore.

At the Evans Children’s Adventure Garden, you can see a waterfall and cave, Cedar Bridge, and lots of nature to explore.

You can feed koi at the Koi Pond. Make sure you buy some koi fish food at the gift shop before you head over there!

Anthony Chapel

Don’t miss the Anthony Chapel before you leave the garden! It’s a beautiful, world-renowned glass chapel that is often rented out for weddings. When we were there, there was a wedding rehearsal going on so it was closed off with a rope. We were still able to get a picture of the chapel from a different angle!

Admission Prices:

  • $15 ages 13 and up
  • $5 ages 4-12
  • Free ages 3 and under
  • $5 dog (1 dog allowed per person)

The garden is open from 10am – 6pm every day and is located at:

Garvan Woodland Gardens
550 Arkridge Road (map)
Hot Springs National Park, AR 71913

Lunch at Purple Cow

Purple Cow is a family-friendly restaurant with several locations around Arkansas that was modeled after a 1950’s diner. They are known for their burgers and shakes, and have purple shakes and ice cream that you can try! I was in the mood for a coffee shake, so I ordered the coffee one, but I will definitely have to try the purple one next time!

We enjoyed the food and the touches of purple everywhere! With our bellies full, we were ready for our next fun adventure. There can be wait to get a table as this place is very busy, so be sure to get there before you’re starving.

Purple Cow’s hours are:

  • Sun-Thu: 11am-9pm
  • Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm

Purple Cow
1490 Higdon Ferry Rd. (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71913
(501) 625-7999

Roberts Family Attractions: T-Rex Fun Spot

T-Rex Fun Spot is a fun place for families to ride go carts, play mini golf, lazer tag, arcade, and more! We started off with a game of blacklight Jurassic mini golf.

Next, the kids tried the VR ride, and our son rode this little kiddie ride while our daughter did the ropes course, which was very high!

The kids had fun playing with everything and we were glad to be indoors since it was such a hot day!

The cost at T-Rex Fun Spot is charged by the number of activities you want to do. See the prices below.

Their hours are:

  • 10am – 10pm Sunday thru Thursday
  • 10am – 11pm Friday and Saturday

T-Rex Fun Spot
1115 Central Ave (map)
Hot Springs National Park, AR 71901
(501) 520-1242

Collect Thermal Spring Water

Before you head out to Bathhouse Row again, put your name in at Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room. The wait can be quite long, up to 2 hours, so it’s best to put your name in right after you park and explore Bathhouse Row while you wait. They’ll text you when your table is ready.

You can use this time to collect water to take with you, or visit any stores or bathhouses you might’ve missed. You can also walk The Grand Promenade, which is located just behind the bath houses.

Hill Wheatley Plaza Jug Fountain

There are multiple different spots where you can collect your spring water, but the one we used is called Hill Wheatley Plaza Jug Fountain, located just south of Bathhouse Row. This fountain is located at the Hill Wheatley Plaza on Central Ave. There is a parking lot right next to it, so you can bring your car to park temporarily while you fill up.

These thermal hot spring fountains have hot water! Bring a container that can handle hot water. We brought a couple of large metal water bottles to collect the water and let it cool with the lid open before drinking it.

For more details on the water contents of this fountain, click here to read more.

Hill Wheatley Plaza Jug Fountain 
629 Central Ave. (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71901

Take a Photo with the Hot Springs Lauray’s Angel Wings Mural

The Lauray’s angel wings mural is located right by Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room (map). You can read how these wings came about here. Take a few souvenir photos from Hot Springs!

Dinner: Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room

Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room is a very popular spot to eat in Hot Springs. It’s a brick oven pizza place that also has sandwiches and salads. Their pizza has a very unique crust!

They don’t take reservations, so put your name in early! We had a “2 hour wait,” but they contacted us much earlier via text.

Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Tap Room
100 Exchange St. (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71901
(501) 781-3405

If they’re too busy, other options for pizza are:

SQZBX (Pizza, salad, subs)
236 Ouachita Ave (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71901

Deluca’s Pizzeria (Pizza, salad subs)
831 Central Ave (map)
Hot Springs National Park, AR 71901

Stubby’s BBQ
3024 Central Ave (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71913

Day 3

Breakfast: English Muffin

English Muffin is a popular breakfast place and is known for its eggs benedict, which we happened to order. Although these look like your typical eggs benedict, don’t be fooled… we were surprised at how great they tasted. It must be a special hollandaise sauce!

English Muffin
4832 Central Ave #F (map)
Hot Springs, AR 71913
(501) 525-2710

Check Out of Hotel

Time to pack up, check out of the hotel, and stop to get groceries before driving to Oden, Arkansas!

Stop to Get Groceries

There aren’t many restaurants on the drive and at Ouachita River, so it’s best to stop and get groceries for lunch and dinner. We stopped by Kroger’s go grab some groceries.

Bring a collapsible cooler to store your groceries for the hour drive ahead. You can get ice at a gas station just across from Kroger. We were fortunate to have found a cooler to purchase last minute. We wanted to keep our proteins on ice and have a cooler for the drive home in case we didn’t finish some of the food.

Here are a list of grocery stores on the way that you can choose from:

  • Kroger (map)
  • Harps (map)
  • Dollar General (map)
  • Walmart (map)

Drive to Ouachita River: River View Cabins and Canoes

River View Cabins and Canoes is located in Oden, Arkansas, about an hour away from Hot Springs. It’s a great place to stay to get closer to nature and do some outdoor activities. You can go hiking, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and even horseback riding there.

River View Cabins and Canoes
92 River View (map)
Oden, AR 71961

Ouachita River Kayaking

Kayaking on Ouachita River begins with 2 hour trip, so be sure to pack snacks and drinks for the trip. Don’t forget sunscreen for those sunny days.

Renting a kayak will cost you $30 for a single, and $45 for a tandem. We went on 2 tandem kayaks as a family of 4. Each tandem kayak actually has 3 seats if you have 3 or 4 kids, the kayaks have an extra eat in the middle available.

All prices include a shuttle to and from the river and a life jacket.

Ouachita River canoe rental

Renting a canoe will cost you $50. We were told that we could fit our entire family on one canoe, but we opted for the kayaks so we could take some nice photos of each other!

For both kayak and canoe rentals, the float trips range from 4 mile trips to 14 mile overnight trips!

  • The 4 mile trips take around 2 hours,
  • The 6 mile trip will take you 2/5-3 hours
  • The 10 mile trip will take you 4.5-5 hours
  • The 14 mile trip is an overnight trip where there are several gravel bars that would make a good camp spot fort he night.

You can also swim in the water, have lunch on a gravel bar, or fish the banks. Add more time to your trip for these additional activities.

For more information about kayaking and canoeing, click here.

Ouachita River Fishing

If you want to fish on the river, there is an option for fishing for $50, and fishing on kayak for $60 for a tandem. You must be off the river by 5pm.

For more information about fishing at Ouachita River, click here.

Check In: River View Cabins

Check into River View Cabins after 3pm. There’s a little playground near the main office where your kids can stop to play. There’s a trampoline, playground, and a game of horseshoe.

We stayed in Cabin 7, which was located right by the river, and was able to take a little hike to see it close up. If you walk at dusk or sunset, there can be mosquitoes, so bring your insect repellant with you if you plan on being outside then.

Our place had two beds upstairs, one of which was a daybed with a trundle. Our kids wanted to sleep on that bed!

You can eat out on the outdoor picnic table to enjoy the view, and there’s a hot tub on the deck where you can soak and relax from the day.

Day 4

Other Activities: Horseback Riding, Digging for Crystals or Diamonds

If you have more time before heading home, you can go horseback riding right on the same property (they are closed on Sundays), go digging for crystals, or dig for diamonds!

We had a fun long weekend trip and felt that it was too short to do everything, so I’m sure we’ll be back!

If you want to see what else there is to do in Hot Springs, check out our other posts:

Leave us a comment below and let us know you’ve stopped by!

For more information on Hot Springs and Diamond Lakes, visit diamondlakes.org.

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  1. This is so amazing! Thanks so much for the thorough info to all the destination spots. It’s so helpful 🙂 Can’t wait to visit!

  2. I loved watching your adorable family enjoy your trip to Hot Springs. We are considering moving there. Do you happen to remember what time of year you visited? We are wondering how hot and humid it may have been at the time you were visiting. You definitely didn’t seem to be uncomfortably hot on your fun trip!

    1. Hi Carol,
      We visited during the summer and it was VERY hot and humid. Videos have a way of not really showing the temperature. 🙂 Fortunately, we were able to hop in and out of our car, which made it easier to get from place to place with a/c. Thanks for watching our video!

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