24. Hot Springs, Arkansas

From Little Rock, we drove to Hot Springs, which was about an hour’s trip (if memory serves). It’s a resort town that looks like it was probably in its heyday in the 1920’s; signs along the promenade hearken back to a time when the rich and fashionable of St. Louis would travel there to stroll around and put the latest fashions on display. While it’s still pretty, and you can still imagine it in all its glory, it’s looking a touch shabby these days. But no complaints.

We kicked things off at Superior Bathhouse Brewery, housed inside one of the many former bathhouses lining Hot Springs’ main drag. It featured great beers of its own (made with that special Hot Springs water) as well as a surprisingly awesome collection of other craft beers (it was here that I finally got my hands on Founders’ Kentucky Breakfast Stout, which I had been wanting to try for years). The food there was great, too (best pretzel of my life, hands down), and it was CHEAP–think build-your-own cheese plates with double the cheese for half the price. Heaven, essentially.

After that, we checked into our hotel, the historic Arlington Hotel Resort & Spa. As I’ve said before, I’m always wary (read: mildly terrified) of boarding arrangements dubbed “historic,” but the Arlington was well-kept and had that old-style elegance thing going on. (Unsurprisingly, it was the site of multiple proms that weekend.)

I can’t exactly say the same thing for the pool, which was out on the roof at the end of a long, horror-movie-style corridor. For some reason, it was lined with the type of green turf you’d find on a mini-golf course. But isn’t the view pretty?

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The best part of the Arlington, though, ended up being the all-you-can eat Sunday brunch buffet (honorable mention goes to the free popcorn in the lobby). It was a classy affair, with piano music, servers in white gloves, and basically every type of food I’ve ever seen. Here’s a shot of the cake station, which should give you an idea:

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Saturday morning was the main event: the wedding we’d come down for. It was in the beautiful Garvan Woodland Botanical Gardens, which was absolutely lovely despite some rain.

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With the racetrack closed for the season, we spent most of post-brunch Sunday at Lake Ouachita, which was really pretty once we managed to find our way there. We couldn’t really give it our all without swimsuits or a boat, but we waded in and did our best. There are a number of lake houses around there that I’m convinced would make it the perfect place to spend the 4th of July with a group or something. After all, can you really get more American than Arkansas? Putting it on the bucket list.

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Our last stop: A quick hike past the hot springs themselves. The town is actually perched at the edge of Hot Springs National Park, and our journey took us up past a few steaming, trickling springs before culminating in mountain views.

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