WHEN ARKANSAS LIFE editor Jordan Hickey first visited Hot Springs back in 2015, he was fully poised to take in all the weirdness of a city known for its history of the offbeat and the strange—from its entanglement with gangsters of old to its present reincarnations of bathhouses as distilleries. He even ended up parking between a hearse and an SUV that had a mummy sitting in the front passenger seat! However, with Superior Bathhouse Brewery owner, Rose Schweikhart, as his guide, Jordan soon discovered that the relatively ordinary contributed as much to the richness of the Spa City as any outlandish attraction could—thus making the boyhood hometown of Bill Clinton a place worth living in as much as visiting.

So, four years later, has the everyday edged out the eccentric? Or does the crazy continue to call the curious? Like so many other things, it seems, it’s not a binary we’re looking at, but rather, a continuum.


Tapping into Hot Springs

THE ORDINARY

French Impressionist painters may be the most famous around. Folks such as Manet and Monet and Cezanne and van Gogh created such significant works of art using short brush strokes of bright colors that paintings like “Water Lilies” and “Starry Night” thrive in the collective human consciousness today—more than 100 years after they were completed. These notable artists also elevated the concept of “plein air paintings,” where painters create artworks on location outdoors instead of in a studio, working to capture the mood created by natural light that changes both in its quality and in its effect on landscapes.

Through Dec. 6, an exhibit at HSU-Hot Springs’ Landmark Building will feature plein air paintings from painters who created artwork while visiting the area, as well as some works created by artists invited to the Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance’s 2019 Arts & The Park art celebration week. While painting out of doors might seem ordinary enough, the resulting art can be positively enchanting.

 

THE EXTRAORDINARY

Any season of the year, Garvan Woodland Gardens is an extraordinary sight to behold. In addition to its collection of hundreds of rare shrubs and trees (including more than 160 types of azaleas), this 210-acre botanical garden boasts waterfalls, Lake Hamilton views along 4.5 miles of shoreline and the Garden of the Pine Wind, a 4-acre rock-and-stream garden that features approximately 300 varieties of Asian ornamental plants and was named the fifth-best Asian garden in North America in 2012 by the Journal of Japanese Gardening.

You can welcome spring at Three Sisters of Amity Daffodil Hill, where thousands of the cheerful flowers foretell the coming warmer weather. In the summer, you can visit the $1 million Bob and Sunny Evans Tree House in the 1.5 acre Evans Children’s Adventure Garden and marvel at the tree house’s simultaneously modern and organic architecture (the Gardens are an outreach center of the University of Arkansas’ Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design, after all). You can pick the autumn to visit, and you won’t be disappointed, as the changing of the foliage to its fall colors will astound and delight even the most seasoned of leaf peepers.

But could any season top the winter holidays at Garvan Gardens? From Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve, the Gardens are so jam-packed with festivities—the Jingle Dogs Pup Parade, the Holiday High Teas, the 50-foot-tall holiday tree that plays tunes animated to a light show, dozens of concerts and 5 million bulbs lit against the natural beauty of the park—that we think even the Grinch would have to be impressed and let his heart grow three more sizes.

THE WILD

And just in case a viewing of fantastic art and a stroll through an awe-inspiring garden are just too darned tame for your tastes, and you find yourself filled with the need to dress up as Santa Claus and do an all-out pub crawl through the town that Spanish explorer and conquistador Hernando DeSoto first visited in 1541 (as folks so often do), join Hot Springs’s own DJ Courier on Sunday, Dec. 22, for Spa-City Santa-Con.

From Grateful Head Pizza and Beer Garden to self-proclaimed “dive bar” the Starlite Club to Superior Bathhouse Brewery, the crazy Claus crew will cruise all over town, partaking in all the glories of holiday food and drink. And if that doesn’t give you the whirl of the wild you’ve been wishing for, take it up with Rudolph. 

Thirsty for more Hot Springs? Read the original story at arkansaslife.com/hometown-hot-springs