It was an ideal trip for the circumstances of having to travel in 2020. It was nearby, in case there was some sort of baby-related emergency. Plus there were plenty of places with outdoor seating that would we could safely visit during the pandemic. We even splurged a little by going out to dinner in an actual restaurant, a rare treat that we haven't enjoyed since March. We ended up getting dinner at the Vault at 723, which was delicious. But we couldn't help but overhear the loud argument at the table next to us (which wasn't all that close, due to social distancing). Of course since it was 2020, the argument was about Trump.
We stayed downtown and had plenty of time to explore. We walked along the sidewalk by Bathhouse Row, which was lined with Magnolia trees and with a decent crowd of people (about half of whom were wearing masks). This is the view of the Quapaw Bathhouse, which was built in 1922.
And then the Ozark Bathhouse, which was also built in 1922:
At the end of Bathhouse Row is the National Park Service's Administrative Building, which has this small fountain out front. The fountain was added in 1936, and there is a bit of steam from the hot spring water bubbling out.
And a closer view of the old Army and Navy Hospital, which was built in 1933. The building absolutely dominates Hot Springs.
And unfortunately the building is empty now, without any plans for its future. This is extremely unfortunate news that could cause irreparable harm to a Hot Springs landmark. And it is something that does not need to happen. This building could immediately be converted into so many different new uses (a hotel or lodge? Apartments?). What does not need to happen is for it to sit empty and deteriorating for years and years. We've seen this happen before in Hot Springs at the Majestic Hotel, which was closed and left to the elements in 2006. In 2014 a fire damaged most of the old building, which was then torn down and destroyed. Now all that is left of this once-grand hotel is just a few pieces of concrete, bricks and a few stray pieces of tile. I'd hate to see the old Army and Navy Hospital meet the same fate.
We were staying downtown at the Waters Hotel, which sits in the fully-restored Thompson Building (built 1913). The hotel has a rooftop bar, which I think is one of the best bars in the city (the others are the Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Maxine's). While I admit the rooftop bar needs an expanded beer menu, you can't beat the view. Especially at sunset....
In this shot is the Army and Navy Hospital, along with the Maurice Bathhouse (built 1912) and the Fordyce Bathhouse (built 1915). Here's another view of the sunset, which bathed downtown Hot Springs in a warm golden light.
The next day we checked out of the hotel and grabbed lunch downtown (at Grateful Head Pizza, also delicious). We had planned to spend more time in Hot Springs before heading home back to the kids, but it was a Saturday and the city was absolutely packed with people. The sidewalks were crowded (with lots of tourists, judging from the sheer number of cars with out-of-state license plates). We tried to avoid the crowds by taking one of the scenic mountain drives, but there were more and more people there as well. The parking lot at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower was full, with cars parked haphazardly along the narrow road. There were multiple cars parked at all the trailheads and overlooks too. We decided to head on home, but I made sure to get one last picture along the road (in one of the brief times there wasn't any cars driving by).