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Hot Springs: On Tap for 2008

January 2008

Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

This is going to be a big year for the Spa City.

The opening of the City of Hot Springs’ newest attraction, “The Gangster Museum of America” is set for March. Two shops next to the Colonial Pancake Shoppe on Central Avenue have been renovated and combined to house the museum. The museum focuses on the 1920s-40s era of the town, when gangsters such as Al Capone and Lucky Luciano vacationed there. In the museum, four galleries host photographic displays, audiovisual presentations and artifacts related to this time when the healing powers of the city’s hot mineral baths attracted visitors from around the world.

Also, keep a lookout for a new attraction to open this year at Magic Springs & Crystal Falls Theme Park. The park has consistently added a new attraction each year since re-opening six years ago. Last year, the park underwent a two-phase, multi-million dollar expansion in the Crystal Falls water park creating a new pool and lounge area and a new water slide complex The first phase of the expansion has made Crystal Falls the largest water park in the state.

Events such as the Stueart Pennington Running Of The Tubs keep the city vibrant. The tongue in check race was created as a reminder that Hot Springs’ motto once was ‘We Bathe The World.’ Annual events such as the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Hot Springs Motorcycle Rally and Hot Springs Jazz Fest are staples of the artistic city. A new event is also being added to the annual festival roster this fall: Smoke On The Water and The Legends Balloon Rally. The festival will combine two events — barbecue and hot air ballooning — into a versatile weekend. Smoke on the Water is already established as one of nation’s most famous competitive barbecuing contests.

Meanwhile in Hot Springs National Park, the National Park Service continues to press on with the rehabilitation of the historic buildings on ”Bathhouse Row." The National Park Service signed with a nonprofit group and converted the Ozark Bathhouse into the Museum of Contemporary Art, opening on May 8, 2009. The NPS shows no sign of stopping the renovation momentum and has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for long-term leases on the last three vacant bathhouses: the Superior, the Hale and the Maurice.

Hot Springs National Park protects the famous 47 hot springs and the eight architecturally stylish and historic bathhouses which are known as the “the grandest collection of bathhouses of its kind in the nation” and are designated a National Historic Landmark District.

The Buckstaff Bathhouse is the only one of the eight historic buildings that has continued to operate as a traditional bathhouse. Quapaw Baths and Spa opened in the restored historic Quapaw Bathhouse in 2008. The National Park Service operates the Fordyce Bathhouse as a visitor center and museum and will re-open the Lamar for visitor service activities, administrative offices and storage space for artifacts and documents.

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"

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