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Spa-aahh...That Feels Good

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Caracalla Spa, Little Rock
Caracalla Spa, Little Rock
    Palace Bathhouse in Eureka Springs
Palace Bathhouse in Eureka Springs
Bathhouse Row, Hot Springs National Park
Bathhouse Row, Hot Springs National Park
    The New Moon Spa, Eureka Springs
The New Moon Spa, Eureka Springs
Crescent Hotel and Spa, Eureka Springs
Crescent Hotel and Spa, Eureka Springs
January 22, 2002

Spa-aahh...That Feels Good
by Kerry Kraus, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Just imagine. Languishing in a tub of hot water, soothing away the "wearies" of the world. Then the trained hands of a masseuse ply away the knots and kinks that come with a modern lifestyle.

Sound extravagant? It can be, but you don't have to pay a fortune to experience the relaxation and luxury of a spa. Check out one of the spas in Arkansas, and you'll find both the bargain and the experience of a lifetime.

Hot Springs National Park is the logical place to start since the hot waters have been rejuvenating travelers since the days of DeSoto and his explorers. During the "bathing experience" heyday of the teens, '20s and '30s, this national reservation was the place for the rich and famous of the time. Babe Ruth, Harry Truman, Andrew Carnegie and F.W. Woolworth are just some that took to the waters to ease their ailments. The infamous also chatted with Al Capone, who, along with his gang, occupied the entire fourth floor of the popular Arlington Hotel when visiting the "Spa City." A brass plaque marks his favorite suite -- Room 442.

During this time, elegant bathhouses lined Central Avenue, but today only six still stand. The Buckstaff, which has been in continuous operation since 1912, is the sole operating facility left where guests receive "the treatment." The Fordyce, which was the most opulent when built, has been faithfully restored and now serves as both the Hot Springs National Park visitors center and a museum highlighting the golden era of bathing.

At the 'Spa City'

At the Buckstaff, you can treat yourself to traditional thermal mineral bath followed by hot packs, a sitz bath, and a visit to the vapor steam cabinet. The treatment ends with a needle shower, which is a high-pressure, pulsating shower that creates a massaging effect. The whole experience can then be topped off with a full-body Swedish-style massage.

The historic Arlington Resort Hotel on Central Avenue has a third-floor spa dedicated to the pampering of guests. Separate facilities for men and women offer mineral baths, massages and whirlpools. Down the street, the Arlington's sister hotel, the Majestic, offers similar services, as does the Downtowner Hotel and Bath House, also on Central.

On the western edge of Lake Ouachita is Turtle Cove Spa at Mountain Harbor Resort. A gorgeous lake view adds to the tranquility that visitors get at the spa. Massage, facials, body treatments, pedicures and manicures are offered. Thermal M, an exclusive steam capsule and Vichy Shower to which aromatherapy, scalp massage and mini-facial can be added is a specialty of the house. Spa packages for men, women and couples plus gift certifcates are available.

Modern facilities can be found at the Austin Hotel and the Hot Springs Health Spa. The latter, along with the Swan Song Spa, offers co-ed bathing in large pools containing hot spring water.

After your refreshing experience, get set for exciting activities in Hot Springs. Dining opportunities -- ranging from fine cuisine to casual mom and pop joints -- are abundant and include many must-visit restaurants. Coy's Steak House, McClard's Barbecue, Mrs. Miller's Chicken and Steak House, the Arlington's Venetian Dining Room, and The Hamilton House have all gained acclaim. Also, many of Hot Springs' restaurants and clubs feature live music and dancing.

Hot Springs is truly a "shop 'til you drop" kind of town. Specialty shops, antique stores and art galleries comprise the downtown historic district along Central Avenue. There are even more opportunities farther south on Central with malls and shopping centers of all types and sizes.

If you arrange your visit on the first Friday of the month, you'll have the opportunity to tour numerous art galleries during an evening gallery walk. The monthly event invites guests to drop in and visit with artists while enjoying refreshments. The quality of these galleries and the city's special events combined to land Hot Springs the number nine spot on the list of Top 100 Small Art Towns in America. The Hot Springs web site can provide all the information needed to plan the perfect trip. Visit

Victorian Village Spas

In the northwest corner of the state, another "springs" town -- Eureka Springs -- has spa origins as well. The waters here, too, were believed to have medicinal powers, and the sick came in droves seeking miracle cures. Dr. Alvah Jackson discovered the purported healing properties of Basin Springs in 1856, and by the end of 1879 approximately 10,000 lived in the town. New popularity brought with it lacey Victorian architecture for which the city is renowned. In fact, the extraordinary village and popular destination was named one of the National Historic Trust's Distinctive Dozen Destinations for 2001.

Though the springs no longer flow as freely, people still come to Eureka looking for healing from the stress of everyday life. The New Moon Spa, a total spa facility, pampers every inch of both the body and mind. Some of the therapies offered include Swedish massages, facials, body wraps, salt glows, aroma-therapy treatments, hydrotherapy massage baths, water massages, and acupuncture. Also, there are wet and dry saunas, tanning beds, a fully equipped gym and weight room, morning aerobics and garden walks, plus aerobic and circuit training. Also on site is a vegetarian café that makes eating right a pleasurable experience.

Overlooking Eureka, is the imposing historic Crescent Hotel, built in 1886. Recent and complete renovations included the addition of full-line spa, and the newly decorated guest rooms in this grand old dame make a good night's sleep a sure thing after your day of health and rejuvenation. If you're up for the challenge, be sure and ask about the haunted rooms. Fine dining won't take you far since the hotel's Crystal Dining Room offers award-winning cuisine. Dr. Baker's Lounge, an Art Déco wonder, provides an escape back to the flapper days of the '20s and '30s, and while there, don't miss the view from the balcony outside the lounge.

Providing an intimate setting for a day at the spa is the Palace Hotel and Bathhouse. Eight elegant suites await visitors to this European-style historic hotel. A full-service spa in the basement allows guests to partake in a spa experience just as visitors did in 1901. Whirlpool mineral baths are given in original claw foot tubs, and eucalyptus steam treatments are provided in the same wooden barrels world travelers used at the turn of the 19th Century. Facials and Swedish massages are also part of the pampering.

Other spa facilities include the Eureka Massage Center, which features nationally certified and state licensed therapists, and Gryphon's Roost Gallery & Spa, where art and spa therapy combine to cure modern ailments. Healing Benefits Massage Therapy, which specializes in relaxation, pain relief and stress reduction, plus Healthworks Massage and Reflexology Center, which offers aroma-therapy massages and steam treatments, roller tables, herbal body wraps, and face-lift massages, are other choices in America's Victorian Village.

After a day of relaxing indulgence, you'll be ready to take on the town. Eureka is a town made for walking with meandering streets zig-zagging through the Ozark hillsides. Everywhere are Victorian wonders such as exquisite architecture and splendid views of the surrounding countryside. The streets of the city's downtown historic district are lined with art galleries and inviting shops offering gifts, antiques, crafts and one-of-a-kind jewelry, along with quirky little boutiques, such as Frog Fantasies, which caters to those passionate for amphibious creature collectibles.

After walking Eureka's interesting streets, replenishment in the form of good food is in order. The toughest decision will be choosing one place, as good eateries are as common as good taste in Eureka Springs. Excellent continental cuisine can be found at Chez Charles, Autumn Breeze, the Plaza, and Rouge's Manor at Sweet Spring. Other not-to-be-missed restaurants include the Cottage Inn, Gaskin's Cabin and the Horizon.

A Day Off in Little Rock

Though there aren't any historic bathhouses in Little Rock, modern day spas are becoming popular. Rejuvenation Clinic Day Spa, located in west Little Rock and decorated with a tropical theme, provides private treatment rooms, facials, sea salt scrubs, body masques and massages. Some packages include a catered lunch, and a complete makeover round out the experience.

Caracalla, another capital city spa, is located in the historic Heights neighborhood and offers full services including facials, aroma-therapy manicures and pedicures, body steam essential oil treatments, hot river stone therapies, Swedish deep-tissue therapeutic massages, sea salt cleansing wraps, and flower body wraps.

Entertainment, dining and shopping opportunities in central Arkansas are exciting and seemingly endless. Visit for more information.

Elsewhere in the State

Some of the spas elsewhere in The Natural State include The Gilded Lily in Magnolia, Quy's Color Salon and Day Spa in Maumelle, Hair Palace Day Spa in North Little Rock, B. Barnett's Facial Salon in Little Rock, The Gathering Salon and Day Spa in Conway and The Spa Esthetiques in Bentonville.


Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 682-7606

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"

1 Capitol Mall, 4A-900 - Little Rock, Arkansas 72201 | 1-800-872-1259 or (501) 682-7777 (V/TT)
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