Hot Springs, Arkansas, is a city with something for everyone. You might think this small town is dull due to its location near the state’s center, but its remote placement makes it the ideal getaway for many reasons.
You can have a great time if you know the best, worst, least busy, and cheapest times to visit!
The mild spring is a great time to come, but fall is also a lovely season to explore the city. Read on to find out the best time to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas and what you can’t miss when you’re there!
Why You Should Visit Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs has a lot to offer if you love spending time outdoors. Hot Springs National Park has the perfect balance of natural forests and historic bath houses built over hot springs.
The park is near other attractions so you won’t lose hours due to travel time. There are stunning hikes marked throughout the park, including:
- Balanced Rock
- Goat Rock Trail
- Gulpha Gorge Trail
- Sunset Trail
- West Mountain Trail
You’ll also want to go to the top of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower for a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. Take the elevator or climb the stairs over 215 feet into the sky to get a unique view of the park you just explored on foot.
Spend time inside the Gangster Museum of America to learn something new! If you want an engaging experience that leads to rare souvenirs, make time to go crystal-digging outside the city.
Several mines in the area let you pay a flat fee to dig all day, keeping any crystals and treasure you find. Each location offers something different, such as a tour of the mine or a zipline over the quarry.
Families traveling with children will want to spend a day at the nearby Mid-America Science Museum. Parents will enjoy the hands-on exhibits just as much as their children.
The permanent attractions include a Tesla coil, Science Skywalk, Dinotrek, and Tinkering Studio. There are also traveling exhibits, so check the calendar when planning your visit.
Overall Best Time to Visit Hot Springs, Arkansas
The best time to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas is spring from March to May. Expect moderate temperatures with cool breezes, ideal for exploring in and around the city.
The only downside to a spring trip is that the city gets heavy rainfall during this time. May is the month Hot Springs typically gets its most rain of the year. Despite the rain, these temperatures are best for your comfort and let the natural beauty flourish.
For example, visiting Garvan Woodland Gardens in April means seeing daffodils, bergenia, and cherry trees. The gardens have over 150,000 tulips blooming all spring, covering the grounds with color.
Many Hot Springs attractions are indoors, like museums and downtown shops. The hot springs are inside, also, so the seasonal weather doesn’t make a significant difference on your trip.
Bathhouse Row consists of eight buildings built between 1892 to 1923, so the architecture is attention-grabbing. Some bathhouses now feature free cultural exhibits, but Quapaw Bathhouse and Buckstaff Bathhouse are open for soaking.
If you stay at Hotel Hale, you can soak in your room’s tub with thermal spring water. You can also enjoy a few drinks at Superior Bathhouse Brewery, a former bath house repurposed as the only brewery in a National Park.
Cheapest Time to Visit Hot Springs, Arkansas
The cheapest time to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas is during early December, January, and February. Hotels often run deals this season because fewer people are traveling.
Instead of raising prices to make a massive profit as they do during the summer tourism season, hotels here focus more on keeping rooms booked so they can pay employees.
If you need to take a budget vacation, you can still have a good time in Hot Springs during the winter. You might not have full access to the National Park, depending on rainfall and snow.
Prices go up around Christmas, so plan to come before or after the holidays for the cheapest trip. It’s rare for the area to get snow, but it can happen in December or January. Rain can flood certain areas and make them tough to reach on trails.
Since there are so many engaging museums in Hot Springs, you can enjoy indoor activities if the winter weather doesn’t cooperate. The Gangster Museum of America is an interesting way to learn the history of the city and the criminals who loved it, like Al Capone, Owney Madden, Bugs Moran, and Lucky Luciano.
You can also stop in—or stay at—the famous Arlington Hotel, where Al Capone used to rent the fourth floor. He used an underground tunnel to leave the hotel to visit the nightclub without anyone seeing him.
You can visit the nightclub location, too, though it’s now Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum, not affiliated with the chain of Madame Tussaud’s.
Least Busy Time to Visit Hot Springs, Arkansas
Autumn, from September to November, is the least busy time to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas. Families aren’t traveling much because children have returned to school.
Just try to avoid visiting during fall break – usually in mid-October. There’s a brief uptick in visitor numbers at this time as kids are out of school. Camping at the National Park or the surrounding area can make your trip even more affordable.
It stays warm enough outside that you’ll sleep comfortably without needing layers of insulation. You can still see natural beauty during the fall, specifically in September and October.
The leaves are changing colors and the Mountain Tower in the park gives you a vivid view. Hiking trails in Hot Springs National Park are comfortable, possibly a little chilly, so wear light layers.
You’re less likely to encounter clusters of people on the trails, so it will feel like an escape. One downside to visiting in the fall is that Garvan Woodland Gardens won’t have as many blooms as during spring.
However, the property remains open, so you can walk the grounds and get close to Arkansas nature. If you visit in November, you’ll also catch the opening of their holiday lights festival.
Worst Time to Visit Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs, Arkansas experiences cold winters, so you typically want to avoid visiting anytime between November and February.
Garvan Woodland Gardens are closed in January, so you can’t even brave the cold for a visit. You can still visit areas of the national park, but you’ll probably want to spend most of your time inside.
Summer is also less than ideal. Since most families take vacations in the summer months, you’ll experience more crowds in areas like downtown, museums, and the national park.
The city gets very hot and dry all summer, with highs in the 90s and above. If you travel during this time and explore outdoor areas, keep bottles of water on hand.
Though it’s cold outside during the winter months, you can stay warm in the area’s namesake. Every hot spring is inside a bathhouse, so you can visit them in the cold, rain, or snow and have a wonderful experience.
Things to Consider
Before you finalize your trip details to Hot Springs, Arkansas, you’ll want make sure you’ve considered everything that could impact your visit.
Here’s what you should keep in mind:
- Make a plan. Have a list of indoor and outdoor things to do just in case you encounter bad weather, regardless of what time of year you visit.
- Venture out a bit. While you won’t want to miss Hot Springs National Park, consider driving half an hour outside the city to see Ouachita National Forest, too. The park covers sections of Oklahoma and Arkansas.
- Do some research. Check out photos and videos of Hot Springs’ underground passageway before your trip. Though it’s too dangerous to visit the tunnel in person, you can see the main tunnel arch near Bathhouse Road.
- Taste the purity. While the hot springs are a great bathing experience, the city’s water is fresh and delicious. Fill up your bottles and jugs at public fountains downtown to experience this pure water.
Frequently Asked Questions
You’ve learned about the best and worst times to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas. If you need more information before planning your trip, check out the answers to these frequently asked questions.
What's so special about Hot Springs, Arkansas?
Beyond being “America’s Spa,” Hot Springs was a hotbed of gangster activity in the early 1900s. There were speakeasies galore, and Al Capone used to stay at the Arlington Hotel.
The city has a history regarding baseball, hosting the first Major League Baseball Spring training event in 1886. You can also visit Hot Springs National Park, the oldest federal reserve in the country.
Can you swim in Hot Springs, Arkansas in winter?
You don’t swim in the hot springs but rather relax with a soak. You can take a dip in the hot springs during any month since the springs are housed inside structures.
If you want to swim in a pool, you can book a stay in a hotel with an indoor pool. Hot Springs winters can get cold, so you’ll want to find plenty of indoor activities if you plan your visit in winter.
Do you wear swimsuits in hot springs?
Yes, you wear swimsuits in the hot springs. You treat them like a public pool, showering before you enter them to ensure a clean, enjoyable experience.
There are attendants that will guarantee everyone follows the rules and only wears garments acceptable for hot springs.
Are there free hot springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas?
No, there are no free hot springs in the city. You have to visit Bathhouse Row for a chance to take a dip. While the springs aren’t outside, you still get water directly from the springs due to how people built the bathhouses.
You can get free water to drink in Hot Springs. Visit the downtown area to access two cold fountains and five thermal fountains. You can fill up water bottles and jugs with pure water.
How many days do you need in Hot Springs, Arkansas?
You could spend 2 days visiting the main attractions of Hot Springs or take a whole week if you want to see it all.
There are many historical sites and museums to visit. It’s fun to shop in the cute downtown area! You can spend several days alone in Hot Springs National Park. There are also nearby quarries where you can mine your own crystals.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Hot Springs, Arkansas?
The overall best time to visit Hot Springs, Arkansas is during the spring – March through May. You’ll experience moderate temperatures and have a chance to see beautiful blooms in the natural areas.
However, since many of the city’s attractions are inside, you can enjoy a vacation here anytime. If you want to avoid crowds or spend less on the trip, you’ll still find a lot to love about Hot Springs during the fall and winter months.
Try to avoid visiting during winter unless you’re dead-set on visiting when there are few visitors. It’s cold and it won’t be as enjoyable to explore the national park. Summer may be less than ideal if you want to avoid big crowds.
No matter when you make the trip to Hot Springs, you’ll enjoy the soothing qualities of the naturally-heated waters, gorgeous views, and friendly townspeople here. Try to go during the best time, but it’s great to visit year-round.