CAMP 2017: Group activities from hiking to wine tasting to spa soaking

by Jennifer Oldham, JAWS member

Once home to both President Bill Clinton and notorious gangsters—an interesting juxtaposition—this year’s Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) location Hot Springs, Ark., is also the oldest park managed by the National Park Service. The designation is meant to protect about a million gallons of the 143-degree water that flow daily out of the low-lying Ouachita Mountains to fill 47 hot springs.

Tourists seeking a cure for almost any ailment once filled the city’s historic bathhouses. Almost one million baths a year were given during the 1930s alone. Moonshining and gambling were once the region’s leading industries, today replaced by retail trade and arts and entertainment.

From hiking to wine tasting to luxuriating in a historic bathhouse, there is a lot to see and do during our group activity time Sunday, Oct. 29 from 1 to 6 p.m. You can sign up for a spot in advance, or when you get to CAMP, on the Group Activities Sign-Up sheet which will be shared with CAMPers.

Here’s a sampling of activities to choose from:

1. Explore Hot Springs National Park

Less than a five-minute walk from the hotel is the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center in the former Fordyce Bathhouse. Stroll along the marble hallways, past beautiful stain glass and through a museum explaining the bathing ritual.

Address: 369 Central Ave.
Cost: Free
More info

2. Gangster Museum of America

Learn how some of the most notorious criminals in America co-existed with cure-seeking tourists and the tiny population of this central Arkansas mountain village. Visitors can play in the antique casino and listen to the museum historian recount how mineral water mingled with gambling and bootlegging in in the 1920s through the 1940s.

Address: 510 Central Ave.
Cost: $15
More info

3. Hot Springs Mountain Tower

The tower elevator will transport you 216 feet up to the observation deck at 1,256 feet above sea level, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the town and the Ouachita Mountains. Make sure to stop on the second floor to read about the history of Hot Springs.

Cost: $8
More info

4. Scenic trails

There are many trails to choose from, apropos for the only city in America nestled within a national park. The group will check out the Tufa Terrace Trail, considered easy by the National Park Service. It begins within walking distance from the hotel.

Other options are to drive up via road or hike via the (moderately difficult) Peak Trail. More trails are listed here.

5. Bathhouse Row Winery or The Winery of Hot Springs

TripAdvisor reviewers have raved about these nearby wineries, both of which are owned by the same people. Bathhouse Row can serve up to 20 people at once and is walking distance from the hotel. The Winery of Hot Springs can accommodate more people and is 1.5 miles away. They offer a wide array of wines to choose from including strawberry wine, Moscato, Merlot, Zinfandel and Muscadine. More info can be found here.

There also abundant solo activities to choose from.

Spa services are available at Hotel Arlington. Make sure to book in advance.

Soak in thermal springs: There are several public bathhouses available, including the Buckstaff Bathhouse and the Quapaw Bathhouse.

Shop downtown boutiques: Browse the antiques, furniture and clothing stores detailed here.