Camping Diary: Hot Springs National Park KOA – June 2016

We spent the first five night of June 2016 at the Hot Springs National Park KOA in Hot Spring Arkansas.

Our arrival on June 1st was late so our activities on that day were limited to setting up.

The weather forecast for our first three full days called for rain so we tried to schedule our activities with a possible rainout in mind.

Day 1 – June 2nd

On our first full day, we took the KOA shuttle into the Hot Springs National Park, which is in downtown Hot Springs.

We began by visiting the historic bathhouses along Central Avenue.

We had lunch at a microbrewery located in the Superior Bath House building.

The food menu was very limited. We both had sandwiches which were only so – so.

The only soft drinks on the menu were iced tea (both sweetened and unsweetened) and their home brewed root beer.

They did have several types of beer and they featured a “sampler” of several brews.

Since neither of us are beer connoisseurs we both had iced tea.

Unless you are a beer connoisseur, I would not recommend this restaurant.

That afternoon we rode the “duck” which is a World War II amphibious vehicle.

That tour took us around Hot Springs and Lake Hamilton.

We had also taken the “duck” tour in Branson.

The ducks used in Hot Springs are smaller than those used in Branson.

The tour guide told us the vehicles used in Hot Springs were the “original” ducks and the larger ducks in Branson were later models.

The ride in Hot Springs was less expensive than the ride in Branson.

In my opinion, our ride in Branson was more fun, but I think that was dependent upon the driver.

We also did some “window shopping” along Central Avenue. They had a number of specialty shops but nothing that we couldn’t live without.

Fortunately we were able to avoid most of the rain that day.

The only substantial rain came while we were riding the duck and the roof protected from most of the rain.

My pictures from this day can be found at Day 1 pictures

Day 2 – June 3rd

 

The forecast for our second full day was for rain all day.

With that in mind, we decided to visit the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock.

The annual “Riverfest” festival had taken over the library’s parking lot, so we had to park in an empty lot and ride a shuttle to and from the library.

The library was very interesting from an historical perspective.

I found the timeline display on the second floor the most interesting. I surprised that I had forgotten about many of the events that took place during President Clinton’s two terms in office.

Since we had just recently visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin I was interested in comparing the two replicas of the oval office.

In the LBJ oval office there were three large (for the time) televisions that were tuned to the three major networks.

Those televisions were gone in the Clinton oval office.

We ate lunch in the restaurant in the basement of the library.

That restaurant was quite nice (cloth tablecloths and all) with a quite reasonable priced menu.

I would recommend the restaurant although if you’re a dieter you may want to avoid the dessert tray.

I don’t have any pictures from this day.

Day 3 – June 4th

On our third full day we returned downtown taking the KOA shuttle.

We explored the promenade, which is a walkway that runs behind and above all the bathhouses along Central. It was a relaxing walk with a good view.

We visited the National Park Aquarium and the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum and Gambling Museum.

It seems that quite a few business in downtown Hot Springs have added “National Park” to their names. Both the aquarium and the duck ride (which we rode on day 1) are such businesses.

The aquarium was a small family owned operation but was very reasonably priced.

It only cost $10.59 for our two tickets. (That may have included a senior discount.)

We have previously visited the Madam Tussaud Wax Museums in both London and Las Vegas. The Josephine Tussaud museum was smaller than either of the other two museums.

The Gambling Museum was an extension of the wax museum.

While it did include some interesting historical facts, most of the museum was just trinkets from the days of illegal gambling in Hot Springs. In my opinion old dice, chips, and playing cards are just not that interesting.

We ate lunch at “Granny’s Grill.” It basically was a sit down hamburger joint.

Due to the forecast of rain, I didn’t bring my camera on day 3.

Day 4 – June 5th

We spent the morning of our fourth full day cleaning the travel trailer in preparation for our return trip the next day.

This left us only a half day during which we visited Gavan Woodland Gardens which is a botanical garden sponsored by The University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design.

This garden has a reciprocal arrangement with the Dallas Botanical Gardens, so we were able to get in free. (Normal adult admission is $15.00.)

This is quite a large garden. Some of highlights include:

  • 4 ½ miles of shoreline on Lake Hamilton
  • Several wood and stone bridges
  • A wedding chapel
  • Several miles of trails
  • An amphitheater.

You can easily spend several hours exploring.

They have a small café, which sells food and refreshments.

We found out the hard way that the café closes at 3:00 PM. Fortunately we just wanted some soft drinks.

Besides the botanical gardens they have a nature preserve.

Since we only had a half-day, we didn’t visit the preserve.

My pictures can be found at Day 5 Pictures

Things We Would Like to do Next Time

 

The national park has 26 miles of trails. Due to the expected rain, we didn’t try exploring these trails. These are definitely on our “list” for our next visit.

 

Visit Hot Springs Mountain Tower over looking Bathhouse Row.

 

Explore Hixson Nature Preserve, which is adjacent to the Garvan Woodland Gardens.

 

 

 

 

 

Campground Review: Hot Springs National Park KOA; Hot Springs, AR

The following review was uploaded to rvparkreviews.com:

We stayed at the Hot Springs National Park KOA for five nights in June.

Note: this is the KOA in Hot Springs, Arkansas. There is another KOA named “Hot Springs KOA” which is in South Dakota.

Due to tire troubles on our way we arrived just as the office was closing at 7:00 PM.

They were just about to post our late arrival instructions as we pulled in.

Despite our late arrival they had someone sticking around to show us to our campsite.

This KOA is literally cut into the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains.

The roads are hilly but we didn’t have any trouble maneuvering with our 39 foot fifth wheel.

Some of the campsites are terraced which gives a little more privacy.

We stayed in site L2.

This was one of six sites without as many trees as some other areas. When we made our reservations the area was described as “great for satellites.”

It rained on and off on four of the six days we were there.

Fishing is allowed in their small pond. We saw several people fishing between rain showers but we didn’t try.

The pool looked nice, and several kids seem to be enjoying it between showers.

The National Park (downtown) is just a few miles away. Since we had read that parking can be a challenge we used the KOA’s shuttle on two of the days we were there. The shuttle cost $5.00 per person round trip and is available on demand.

They also have a sight seeing tour, which is free, but they require a minimum of four people.

They serve breakfast on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. They advertise a “full menu” but we didn’t try it.

They seemed to have more tent sites than other KOA’s we have visited.

The playground was situated on quite a large grassy meadow which looked perfect for active kids.

The average rate of $42.68 reflects a VKR discount.