This guide is meant to be a starting point for New Orleans families planning their next vacation. We are all about sharing family traveling tips whether your next adventure from New Orleans is to the beach, Disney or the mountains! As always, please do your own research and talk with other families. There is also a list of drivable destinations from New Orleans for every budget here. And if you end up staying right here in New Orleans, we have dozens of ideas for kid-friendly outings in New Orleans, too!
Why Your Family Should Go to Hot Springs, AR for Vacation
Last year, our family decided at the last minute that we wanted to get away for a quick vacation during spring break. We typically do a beach trip each year, and we had just gone to Gatlinburg the year before over Mardi Gras break, so we were looking for somewhere new. While researching different places we had not traveled to before, we came across Hot Springs, Arkansas. Just about an eight-hour drive from the New Orleans area, Hot Springs offered plenty of outdoor activities so we didn’t have to worry about too many crowded indoor spaces.
Where to Stay in Hot Springs
There are multiple options when looking for a place to stay while in Hot Springs ranging from hotels to bed and breakfasts, as well as many campgrounds. We found a cabin on airbnb in Lake Hamilton which was a short drive to all of the major attractions. There are also cabin rentals available at the state parks in the region. These tend to fill up quickly so you may need to plan ahead.
What to Do in Hot Springs
One of the main reasons our family decided to visit Hot Springs for our vacation was because of so many fun outdoor activities there are to do in the area. We visited at the beginning of April so thankfully, the weather was absolutely perfect for the entire trip.
If you’re a fan of hiking and being in nature, there are quite a few parks with trails that you’ll want to add to your itinerary. One of the most popular parks in the area is Lake Catherine State Park. The Falls Branch Trail at Lake Catherine is kid and pet friendly and leads to a waterfall. Another state park in the area with a beautiful lake and hiking trails is Lake Ouachita State Park.
Centrally located in downtown Hot Springs, Hot Springs National Park is another popular tourist destination. There are guided tours available, and little ones (ages 5-13) can become Junior Rangers at the park. Don’t forget to get your National Parks Passport stamped while you are there! Along with the 26 miles of hiking trails, you can also stroll down Bathhouse Row and take in the unique architecture of the historic bathhouses. There are many shops and restaurants located across the street from Bathhouse Row as well. (Tip: There is a free parking garage at 128 Exchange Street – one block west of the Hot Springs National Park visitor center.)
The Garvan Woodland Gardens is another attraction your family may enjoy while in Hot Springs. They are open daily, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and the month of January. Admission is $5 for children ages 4-12 and $15 for ages 13 and up. Three and under are free. Dogs are allowed for an additional fee. Check out their bloom calendar to find out what will be in bloom during your visit. There is also The Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House in the Children’s Adventure Garden, which is built among a group of pine and oak trees. The kids LOVED it!
Where to Eat in Hot Springs
There are tons of options for delicious food in Hot Springs. On our first day there, we just happened upon the 420eats Food Truck Court. It’s the perfect place for everyone in the family to find something they will enjoy!
A popular spot for lunch was Superior Bathhouse Brewery, which is the first brewery in a U.S. National Park. Kid and dog friendly, they offer 18 taps of craft beers and tasty eats.
Another delicious spot we found was Grateful Head Pizza & Beer Garden with specialty pizzas, craft beer, and indoor and outdoor dining.
And no trip to Hot Springs is complete without a visit to Fat Bottomed Girl’s Cupcakes. Trust me on this one.