Hot Springs National Park is unique in that it includes part of the city of Hot Springs, also known as “Spa City” due to its historic bath houses. In fact, the National Park Visitors Center is located in the old Fordyce Bathhouse, which was our first stop on Bathhouse Row.
The Fordyce Bathhouse is preserved and restored just as it was before 1962 when it closed down. We were just a few minutes late for the guided tour, but did the self-guided walking tour around the buildings three floors. We saw the different bathing techniques, some that looked like some sort of middle-ages torture.
There were some questionable techniques used, such as Electromassage and Mercy Rubbing. The building was really gorgeous. We could imagine how stunning it must have been back in its heyday with all the intricate stained glass and tile floors.
You can still get the traditional style bathing treatment with the hot spring water at Buckstaff Bathhouse, just a few buildings down.
However, we weren’t really into being bathed by an attendant or being nude with others, so we opted for a private hot spring mineral water bath at Quapaw Bathhouse and Spa.
We made our reservation for a Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. We got there at 9:45, checked in and paid our $45 fee. After waiting for a short time, we were lead to our private room.
The bath was relaxing. Basically, it was 20 minute soak in a hot tub. I’m glad we got did the quintessential Hot Springs, Arkansas activity, and that we got to enjoy the hot spring water. However, the Quapaw experience was kind of underwhelming. I guess I expected a little more of a spa-like experience. Maybe some better lighting in the room, some nicer water glasses, a robe to change into afterward – some small touches would have made it seem more special and a better value. After the 20 minutes were up, someone knocked on the door and asked us to start draining the bath water. The slurping of the drain kind of dampened the relaxation a bit. After changing back into our clothes, we came out into the sitting area for some flavored water and a cool towel. We enjoyed the sunlight streaming through the skylight.
Our favorite bathhouse experience was the Superior Bathhouse which is now a the Superior Bathhouse Brewery. It’s the nation’s first brewery headquartered in a national park.
We went there on a Friday night. We sat by the bar and ordered a couple different flights of their beer which is brewed using water from the hot springs. Despite being a Friday night, it wasn’t all that busy. Our server, Michael, was super friendly and chatted with us for a while. After sharing the two flights, we got a couple of full pint of our favorite beers – Superior Majestic Brown Ale and Superior Pale Ale.
Of course, the brewery was our favorite use of an old bathhouse, but other old bath house buildings on the strip are being repurposed as well. We went into the Ozark Bathhouse that is now an art gallery and the Lamar that is now the National Park’s gift shop.