HOT SPRINGS – Now that the venerable Oaklawn Track has transformed into the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, it is possible to spend an entire day in the multi-purpose premises.
In the process, you can also spend a lot of money. You can bet on horses here and on other American tracks. Without leaving the complex, you can play slots as well as blackjack, craps, poker, roulette and can bet on live sports. You can even sleep at the 198-room Oaklawn Resort, where January rates for a Deluxe Runway View room range from $ 175 to $ 390 per night.
As Oaklawn’s longer 2021-2022 Thoroughbred season continues through May 7, it’s also possible, through bad luck or bad play (or both), that you’ve lost everything. budgeted money for the day – and maybe a wad more.
If your betting budget for the day has evaporated, one option to clear your head is to walk or drive north along Central Avenue to sample some of Hot Springs’ varied attractions that are free or at no cost. than a whistle.
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 golden age of the spa town as a spa town in the first half of the 20th century.
Fordyce Bathhouse serves as the visitor center for Hot Springs National Park, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021. Fordyce’s 23 restored exhibit halls provide a feel for upper-class comforts as well as spa regimes, some of them quite rigorous. Free entry.
Other public baths operate in various forms. Buckstaff and Quapaw still operate as public baths, with halls that can be visited for free as well as spa treatments at varying prices. Superior is home to the country’s only craft brewery on National Park Service property. Hale is an elegant boutique hotel. Lamar serves at the park gift shop. Ozark is the occasional venue for art exhibitions. Only Maurice is vacant.
At the south end of Bathhouse Row, Faucets offer visitors the option of bringing home as much free Hot Springs mineral water as they want, as long as they bring their own bottles or jugs.
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 for sale. The museum, mostly on the second floor, features American presidents and other famous people with Mountain Valley bottles close at hand. Elvis Presley is touted as a dedicated enthusiast.
A free tasting with more oomph can be enjoyed at the Winery of Hot Springs outlet, 1503 Central Ave. In addition to the free sips of wine, none made on site, visitors can also view an exhibit on the history of Cowie wine in Logan County.
There is a nostalgia fix for fans of the sport that once ruled 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 to the 1920s. Twenty-eight plaques are scattered around town. They celebrate Dizzy and Daffy Dean, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Cy Young and other stars from the past.
Off Central Avenue and a few blocks south of Bathhouse Row, baseball is the theme of a large mural that also salutes the racial desegregation of the sport after WWII. Pictured are white stars Wagner, Ruth and Lefty Grove, as well as black trailblazers Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige.
On the walls of buildings across from Bathhouse Row, a dazzling fresco depicts two Quapaw warriors, while another features a pair of Native American women and flower arrangements. The two paintings are by Pepe Gaka, creator of several others among the dozen of murals in Spa City.
Bill Clinton’s childhood home at 1011 Park Ave. is just a freebie in the car. Indeed, the house where the future 42nd president lived from 8 to 15 years old is a private residence. This is one of 15 city stops related to Clinton listed in a visitor center brochure. Some of them are tangential, but all of them are free to view.
For more information on Hot Springs attractions, visit hotsprings.org or pick up an assortment of brochures at the city’s Visitor Center, 629 Central Ave. For more information on Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort, visit Oaklawn.com.