Hot Springs sports horse racing, drinks of all kinds
HOT SPRINGS — Now that Oaklawn’s venerable track has been transformed into the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, it’s possible to spend an entire day at the multipurpose venues.
In the process, you can also spend a lot of money. You can bet on horses here and at other US tracks. Without leaving the complex, you can play slot machines as well as blackjack, craps, poker, roulette and can bet on live sports. You can even bed down at the 198-room Oaklawn Resort Hotel, where January rates for a deluxe runway view room range from $175 to $390 per night.
As Oaklawn’s longer 2021-22 Thoroughbred season continues through May 7, it’s also possible, through bad luck or bad play (or both), to find that you’ve lost all the money. planned for the day – and maybe a little more.
If your day’s betting budget has evaporated, a head-scratching option is to walk or drive north along Central Avenue to sample some of Hot Springs’ varied attractions that are free or cost only. a piffle.
A popular starting point is Bathhouse Row, a procession of eight restored buildings about two miles north of Oaklawn along Central Avenue. The public baths, some of which are ornate, evoke the spa town’s golden age as a spa resort in the first half of the 20th century.
Fordyce Bathhouse serves as the visitor center for Hot Springs National Park, which celebrated its centennial in 2021. The Fordyce’s 23 restored showrooms provide a sense of upper-class comfort as well as spa regimes, including some are quite rigorous. Free entry.
Other public baths operate in various forms. Buckstaff and Quapaw still operate as bathhouses, with halls that can be visited for free as well as spa treatments at varying prices. Superior is home to the nation’s only craft brewery on National Park Service property. Hale is an elegant boutique hotel. Lamar serves at the park’s gift shop. Ozark is the occasional venue for art exhibits. Only Mauritius is vacant.
At the south end of Bathhouse Row, the taps offer visitors the chance to take home as much free Hot Springs mineral water as they want, as long as they bring their own bottles or carafes.
Small water samples from the Ouachita Mountains are free at the Mountain Valley Spring Company Visitor Center and Museum at 150 Central Ave. Larger quantities of the elixir, which has been mined and sold since 1871, are on sale. The museum, mostly on the second floor, depicts US presidents and other famous personalities with Mountain Valley bottles on hand. Elvis Presley is presented as a dedicated enthusiast.
A free tasting with more punch can be enjoyed at the Winery of Hot Springs outlet, 1503 Central Ave. In addition to free sips of wine, none of which is done on site, visitors can also view an exhibit on the history of Cowie Wine in Logan County.
There’s a dose of nostalgia for fans of the sport that once reigned supreme as Our National Pastime. You can follow the Historic Baseball Trail, playing on the fact that Hot Springs hosted major league spring training from 1886 through the 1920s. Twenty-eight plaques are dotted around the city. They celebrate Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Cy Young and other past stars.
Off Central Avenue and a few blocks south of Bathhouse Row, baseball is the theme of a vast mural that also salutes the sport’s post-World War II racial desegregation. Pictured are white stars Wagner, Ruth and Lefty Grove, as well as black big league frontrunners Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige.
On the walls of the buildings opposite Bathhouse Row, a dazzling mural depicts two Quapaw warriors, while another features a pair of Native American women as well as flower arrangements. Both paintings are by Pepe Gaka, creator of several of the dozen or so Spa City murals.
The Bill Clinton Boyhood Home at 1011 Park Ave. is just a free gift. Indeed, the house where the future 42nd president lived from 8 to 15 years is a private residence. It is one of 15 Clinton-related city stops mapped in a visitor center brochure. Some of them are tangential, but all are free to the eye.
For more information on Hot Springs attractions, visit hotsprings.org or stop by to pick up assorted brochures at the city’s Visitor Center, 629 Central Ave. For more information on Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, visit www.oaklawn.com.