When you think about visiting historic Hot Springs, Arkansas, usually the city’s popular national park comes to mind. Or maybe its colorful past. Even its splendid outdoor beauty.
But how about Christmas? While Hot Springs provides a fascinating vacation destination all year, the Christmas season is perhaps the best time to visit.
Before you make plans, check out our list of 10 things to do in Hot Springs at Christmas. Then enjoy the abundance of holiday festivities this unique city has to offer!
Winter Packing Essentials:
1. Garvan Woodland Gardens Holiday Lights
The 210-acre Garvan Woodland Gardens draws countless visitors throughout the year for its scenic botanical gardens in the Ouachita Mountains. Yet as December draws near, the gardens transform into a must-see Christmas wonderland with Holiday Lights.
You and your family can enjoy a festive, magical stroll together through a forested path of over 5 million lights. A multitude of bright, enchanting holiday scenes abound, from classic Christmas characters to flowers, animals, tunnels, and light shows.
While visiting the gardens, take a moment to see its famous Anthony Chapel. This spectacular structure is both an Instagrammer’s dream and an impressive backdrop for holiday family photos (and Christmas weddings!).
2. A Holiday Bathhouse Swim
Hot Springs is most well-known for its namesake: an abundant supply of hot, soothing water bubbling up from several natural springs around town. Centuries of visitors seeking a dip in these “healing waters” eventually led to the formation of Hot Springs National Park in 1921.
Today, you can still enjoy a spring-fed soak or swim in two of the national park’s historic bathhouses. Quapaw Bathhouse and Buckstaff Bathhouse, both located on Bathhouse Row, offer spa services like thermal pools, private baths, and massages.
And with the hectic nature of the holiday season, taking a break to treat yourself to a relaxing bathhouse swim feels like a much-needed early Christmas present.
3. Christmas Day Feast at the Arlington Hotel
Arkansas’ largest hotel, the historic and classy Arlington Hotel, dominates the heart of Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs. When you walk into the grand lobby at Christmastime, you can’t help but marvel at its centerpiece Christmas tree or its beloved giant gingerbread house.
Yet perhaps its most anticipated tradition is the annual Christmas Day Feast in its Venetian Dining Room. Instead of cooking tons of food for the family on December 25th, you can enjoy a memorable dining experience together over an opulent dinner buffet sure to please everyone.
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay during your Christmas visit to Hot Springs, consider the Arlington Hotel’s Al Capone Suite. Overlooking Bathhouse Row, this room was once the preferred accommodation of the infamous gangster himself in the 1920s.
4. The Muses Project “Voices of Angels” Sacred Classical Christmas Concert
For over 15 years and counting, area nonprofit The Muses Project has hosted its beloved “Voices of Angels” Sacred Classical Christmas Concert in Hot Springs for locals and visitors alike.
With a focus on preserving the classical arts, this concert offers holiday-themed song, instrumental music, mixed voice chorus, and dance performances, as well as select Christmas readings.
When you attend, it’s easy to be inspired by the beautiful artistry on stage celebrating the joys of Christmas. Make sure to get your tickets in advance, as shows can sell out!
5. Bathhouse Row Christmas Lights and Shopping
When you visit Hot Springs’ historic Bathhouse Row, you’ll notice a plethora of local shops to explore. With blocks of storefronts to peruse, Bathhouse Row becomes an excellent destination for Christmas shopping every December.
After you’ve found unique holiday gifts for your loved ones, be sure to stick around Bathhouse Row as the sun goes down. The area comes alive as a beautiful promenade of Christmas lights to explore along its bustling city sidewalks.
Grab a warm cup of cocoa (or some water from the city’s popular public spring-fed taps) and enjoy a festive holiday stroll that will lift your spirits.
6. Gangster Museum of America Tours
If you need a fascinating diversion from the typical Christmas activities, make a visit to Hot Springs’ popular Gangster Museum of America.
Led by an enthusiastic museum guide, you’ll discover the secrets of the city’s notorious past as a haven for well-known gangsters in the early 20th century, including Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and Owney Madden.
You’ll even learn about Hot Springs’ heyday as an entertainment destination that brought in famous performers such as Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Jr.
After your tour, you’re sure to see Hot Springs in a whole new light during your holiday visit.
7. Hot Springs Christmas Parade and Tom Daniel Holiday Chili Cook-Off
The city of Hot Springs hosts a number of annual events in the winter, yet the whole community steps out to celebrate the holidays at the Hot Springs Christmas Parade.
Every year the Christmas parade provides a unique theme with 75-100 floats impressively created by local organizations. The parade also features pageant winners, high school marching bands, and an appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Also, if you’re in town during Thanksgiving week, be sure to check out the Tom Daniel Holiday Chili Cook-Off. Not only can you sample excellent chili, you can also experience the premiere of Downtown’s holiday lights on Bathhouse Row, kicking off the Christmas season.
8. Dino-Lites at the Mid-America Science Museum
A festive Christmas light display is a staple tradition during the holidays, but have you ever experienced one with dinosaurs? At the Mid-America Science Museum, you can do just that during your Hot Springs Christmas vacation with Dino-Lites.
Each year the 18 life-like dinosaurs featured in the museum’s outdoor Dino-Trek are enthusiastically decorated in Christmas garb, from lights to tinsel, costumes, and more by local organizations. Visitors can vote on their favorite Christmas dinosaur with the season’s winner receiving a prize once all the votes are tallied.
Of course, the real draw is seeing these festive dinosaurs lit up at night—a unique and memorable holiday sight you won’t soon forget. Get your cameras ready!
9. Local Theater Holiday Performances
As a city rooted in entertainment, Hot Springs offers several holiday theater performances in its long-standing local venues. If you’re a fan of Christmas plays and live productions, you’ll find them here.
From familiar favorites like the live rendition of A Christmas Story to holiday magic shows and more, you’ll want to check out the show schedules at these noteworthy venues during your Hot Springs holiday visit:
10. The Historic Baseball Trail on Christmas Day
With many businesses closed on December 25th, you may be looking for a fun reason to get out of the house on Christmas Day in Hot Springs. Thankfully, the city offers a free self-guided baseball history trail you can explore by car anytime.
From the late 1800s to the 1940s, Hot Springs served as the preferred spring training destination for multiple Major League Baseball teams. Celebrating that heritage, the city has created numerous roadside monuments you can map out via phone and visit to relive this storied past.
Highlights include the field where Babe Ruth hit baseball’s first 500-foot home run (into an alligator farm!) and the Ohio Club, a popular hangout for ballplayers, gangsters, and entertainers you can still see today.
Did we miss any of your favorite things to do in Hot Springs at Christmas?
Let us know in the comments so we can add more to the list!