Celebrate National Beer Day with a look at some of the best watering holes in Hot Springs.
The thermal springs that flow from the mountains of Hot Springs, Arkansas were thought to have healing powers. For decades, Americans flocked to this resort town with European style bathhouses to find cures for all sorts of ailments. It turned out, it was just the fresh air and relaxing in mineral waters that helped alleviate symptoms. The hot springs, a result of volcanic activity and product of rainwater collected 4,400 years ago, don’t have any medicinal powers, but they sure make good beer. At the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, housed in a former bathhouse, you’ll find just that– beer made from 144-degree spring water. Just across the street, the oldest bar in the state, the Ohio Club, which has served famous gangsters and celebrities, has been in operation since 1905.
The “Valley of the Vapors,” as the city has come to be known, offers a window into the past with Art Deco buildings and the historic Bathhouse Row. Located in the Ouachita Mountains 90 minutes southwest of Little Rock, it is built right into the country’s second-smallest national park. Spanning 5,000 acres, Hot Springs National Park consists of 30 miles of hiking trails through the Ouachita Mountains, springs coming out of the Hot Springs Mountain and the Bathhouse Row. Built between 1892 and 1923 to rival the luxurious bathhouses and gardens of Europe, the stately buildings stretch along the magnolia-lined road in downtown. Although most of them have long shuttered, a few remain open to visitors.
Superior Bathhouse Brewery
The red brick Superior Bathhouse, after lying vacant for nearly 30 years, was reimagined as a brewery, craft beer tasting room, a full-service restaurant and event space. Rose Schweikhart, a New Jersey transplant, set out to realize her dream of owning a brewery when she moved to Arkansas in 2011. She began to negotiate with the federal government to allow her to lease a former bathhouse in the heart of the town. Two years and an 80-page proposal later, the Superior Bathhouse Brewery came into being as the first brewery in a national park and the only one in the world to use thermal waters as the main ingredient.
The brewery is constantly putting out new craft beers in a myriad of varieties, ranging from light to dark, mild to strong. Try the flight of four to get a taste of various beers, including the Two in the Tank imperial hefeweizen style beer that features notes of orange, and the Beez Kneez kolsch brewed with local honey and basil. A must have is the homemade root beer, also made using the hot springs. The restaurant serves farm fresh food, and including fan favorites like the soft pretzel with beer cheese and roasted mushroom panini.
The Ohio Club
Opened in 1905 and named for the birthplace of its original owners, the Ohio Club has been frequented by athletes like Babe Ruth and gangsters like Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone. It camouflaged itself as the Ohio Cigar Store during prohibition with the speakeasy bar and casino hidden upstairs. Al Capone visited it so many times that he had his own dedicated hotel room at the nearby Arlington Hotel. With images of its famous patrons splashed on the walls, a mahogany hand carved mantel from the late 1800s, and a lifesize statue of Al Capone right outside, the Ohio Club takes pride in its colorful history.
The casino and sportsbook operations closed down in 1967, and it has since been a great place to reminisce about the old times while sipping beer and enjoying live music. The place has seen performances by Mae West, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, and a host of Blues and Jazz musicians. It was rumored that Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed a beer here, and Bill Clinton frequented it during his younger years, making this a presidential joint. Even if you can’t find any celebs here now, expect to still enjoy live music, great food and a fantastic time.
Where To Stay
Stay amid history at the largest hotel in the state, the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. Located at the end of the Bathhouse Row, the Spanish-Colonial building with two domed towers and 20s ambiance features 478 luxury rooms. A stay here means you may be spending time in rooms once used by the likes of Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Andrew Carnegie, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio. Get an authentic massage and spa treatment at the Thermal Water Spa, which offers a chance to bathe in hot springs pumped directly into the hotel.
The boutique Waters Hotel, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member, is housed in the renovated 1913 Thompson building on Bathhouse Row. It was formerly used as a doctors’ office to dispense prescriptions for the bathhouses. The hotel has 62 modern rooms and a full-service restaurant and a lounge, The Avenue, offering southern artisan-style cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients.
For a romantic stay, drive 15 minutes to the Lookout Point Lakeside Inn, voted as one of the most romantic inns in the country. This pet-friendly inn has charming rooms with balconies and electric fireplaces, and offers wine receptions and boat cruises on Lake Hamilton.