I’m not sure if I’ve necessarily saved the best for last, but certainly the coolest. All I knew about Hot Springs was that you could get massages and spa treatments using the natural heated mineral water. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I envisioned natural rock quarries where you could soak (kind of like the Playboy mansion pool grotto I guess). What I got was much different, but way better.
The whole deal is that this thermal water runs underground and is just natural to the area. The bonus is that it apparently lacks the sulfur content so many natural hot springs have making it pleasant to drink/use straight from the tap. In fact there are public spigots where you can fill up jugs for personal use. You can buy a cheapie plastic jug at one of the tacky gift shops (this is not a crticism, I love tacky gift shops) or you can buy a fancy glass one at the National Park store, which of course I did. Evie had the benefit of bottles mixed with this water for the rest of the weekend.
There is a lot of very interesting history, but essentially folks used to visit bath houses to take advantage of the waters and their healing/relaxing properties. What remains of Bath House Row now includes museums, gift shops and spas where you can indulge a little. They are all beautiful from the exterior and there is a definite aura of decadence about them that speaks of a different age.
There are more high end spas and then there is Buckstaff Baths where we went. It was definitely bare bones and a more traditional bath house experience. more like what you would have encountered in the early 1900’s.
This is not a case of you get what you pay for though, the service and services couldn’t have been better. I also really loved that it wasn’t updated with drywall and lotus flower decor. In fact the interior was right up my alley as it looked like a 1920’s insane asylum. (Did anyone catch American Horror Story Asylum last night? *shiver*). Not in a neglected, utilitarian way. In a lovely nostalgic way. I loved the opportunity to be pampered and let my mind wander and my thoughts kept giddily imagining the Silent Hill version of this place where pristine white walls and scrubbed tiles flicker into blood stained , dripping floors and walls, where the gilded lettering on the wooden door that says “Massage Room” becomes “Massacre Room”. Yes, these were my thoughts as I relaxed. I mean can you blame me? The first stop was a twenty minute soak in those healing waters I mentioned in a huge tub, the kind you see in every asylum based movie. I was given warm mineral water to drink. That actually didn’t sit so well on my stomach. I worried about Evie who had just finished a warm mineral water and formula bottle before I left her in the care of my brother. Sure enough I exited my treatment to the story of E’s epic projection. That was the last one all weekend though, I guess those waters really do have healing properties.
After the soak is the Sitz bath which coincidentally you sit in and it soaks your lower back and hips. The entire treatment package lasts about 90 min and you are attended throughout which may be weird for some who are more modest. I loved going from station to station wrapped in a white sheet. Nothing to make you feel prettier than just being draped in a sheet, I felt a little like a dryad or other creature of greek mythology. The steam cabinet was a bit unnerving, it was basically a metal cabinet you sit in with only your head exposed. The needle shower really brought the asylum imagery home, but it was actually pretty cool. My favorite part was lying down wrapped in hot towels. They soaked dry towels in a constantly running tap and voila, hot towels! It was all topped off with a lovely 20 min massage. My only complaint there is that there was no hole for my face in the table so my neck got a bit of a crick from craning it to one side. I needed a neck massage after my massage! My massuese did work out some of the pesky knots that have set up camp in my upper back for wich I am thankful. It really was an overall amazing experience. I can go to a spa in any city, but this was like stepping back in time and experiencing a bit of history while getting to have some me time.
Of course then it was back to reality and I think any relaxation I may have achieved melted away at lunch where I changed my baby on the floor of a
bathroom closet while simultaneously trying to prevent her from licking everything. It was nice while it lasted though.
It was a bit drizzly, but not bad enough to deter us from walking along the main thouroughfare, admiring the other bath houses and shopping in the boutique-y little shops while we drank our super large chai lattes (only $3.50!). I picked up a few souvenirs including treats for Oz at a pet shop (pet related items, not actual pets). I also got a cute Westie card for my mom’s birthday (today! Happy Birthday mom!) and Will got her the exact same one to be funny. My family is weird.
I got an ornament per tradition. Now every time we hang it I can remind Evie about the time she and mommy went on an adventure to Arkansas.
We also tested disguises out on Evie. You never know.
I think Katie like having me along because I backed up all her purchases and made Will let her get them. That glass pumpkin is awesome, worth it and I wish I could have bought one. Lots of cool things to see, like these vintage beer cans. Or are they just used?
The only regret was that it looked like some major work was being done on a large park and the only access was not stroller friendly. I’m very glad to have a reason to go back though.
We hit The Winery on our way out of town. You get to try 10 different wines for $3, but it’s waived if you purchase. Let’s just say Arkansassians (?) like their sugar with a little bit of wine. But hey, I’ll taste anything! Makes me glad for my local wine shop and their Friday night tastings that include wines from around the world (that’s a little city slicker snobbery for you).
I will take this chance to give a shoutout for the Armadillo Juice Katie made me. I can’t remember what was in it, but it was good! Don’t be alarmed by the name, as far as I recall there are no actual armadillo’s in it.
So thank you Hot Springs, you were delightfully charming and a little eerie with your vintage bath houses and steaming fountains.
And thank you to my lovely hosts, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend 🙂