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Our Top Tips for Hot Springs Fun!

Top Tips:

  1. Stay in Hot Springs Village at an AirBNB (We stayed at Jenning’s Woodland Villa)
  2. Visit the quartz crystal mines. (We visited Jim Coleman Mines)
  3. Visit the Hot Springs Museum, and partake in a bathhouse experience. (We loved The Arlington)
  4. Take the kids to Magic Springs Water Park
  5. Stay an entire week! (The last week of June was perfect!)

Our annual Great Mother’s Day Adventure trip was held in June this year, and we were blessed to have my son, Andrew, and his wife Haley and their son, Jackson, with us this year! The more the merrier, right!

Nothing fills my heart more than listening to my grandchildren play together, and my grown children laughing and cutting up. Those sounds are what life is all about.

Candi, Jewel, Jesslyn and I headed toward Hot Springs a few days earlier than the rest. It was supposed to storm (but it didn’t, yay!!) so we changed our schedule to arrive on Monday, rather than Thursday, with a “thinking about Tuesday” thrown in for good measure.

Susan, our host at Jennings’s Woodland Villa, could not have been more generous with her time and effort in accommodating our needs. I found them on airbnb.  I was really worried about having enough room for everyone, and we needed a full kitchen to keep all of our allergy-friendly foods, to be able to cook for Jesslyn. I always like having a kitchen, anyway, but a full sized refrigerator is imperative when you eat weird like I do, and have special dietary needs like the kids.

Susan’s place did not disappoint! They actually had 2 refrigerators, which was great for the 3 cases of water that we went through, and having an allergen-free refrigerator was amazing. The washer and dryer was nice, we went through a LOT of dish towels, wash cloths and towels, with 9 people “living” in the same condo!

Susan had thought of everything, (Jenning’s Woodland Villa has the obvious necessities, toiletries, hair dryer, iron, dish washing liquid and dishwasher tablets, etc.) the kids (and I! lol) loved the game closet! We played a round of Bingo, and made numerous Domino runs! There were two TV’s with plenty of channels, if your favorite shows are on while you are there, and movie channels, too, for nighttime entertainment.

I learned that Susan is a foodie, and the kitchen was well-equipped with plenty of bowls and utensils, pots, pans, measuring devices, and even a blender and toaster.  We cooked breakfast each morning, a lunch or two, and dinner every night. My fettuccini alfredo dinner was a real hit! We had a birthday party for my daughter-in-law, Haley, too! 

The living area had two tables, each with seating for four, along with a fold out Davenport, and a chair with ottoman. There was plenty of room for all 9 of us to eat and plan our days. There is another seating area, just outside the glass doors in the living area, that has a nice view. We even got to watch deer playing in the back yard one morning! 

There was one king bedroom and a full bath upstairs, Andrew, Haley and Jackson (once he gave up on sleeping with me because my BiPap machine made too much noise!) slept in that one, which was perfect, as Andrew was our designated coffee brewer each morning!

The downstairs sleeping area was reached by a flight of stairs that was divided into two levels, with a large level landing in the center, which is great for us old folks and the babies! It was not an issue for me at all, and I was suffering with heel spurs by mid week!

On the lower level, there is another full bath (the bathrooms are well appointed, roomy and modern, the water pressure is good, and the hot water lasts a LONG time!)

Across from the stairs, is another large queen bedroom, with access to the outdoor patio area, and to the right in the hallway are entrances to a twin bedroom with television, and outdoor access. Mandi and Alex took the large room, and Candi, Shelton and Jewel took the twin room. There was enough room and seating there for us all to gather to watch Big Brother on CBS, and to play Bingo one night. I took the last room on the right, which was cool and comfy. The closet was so large that Jesslyn and I used it as a dressing room!  There was plenty of closet and dresser space in all of the rooms, and we were able to “move in” and not worry about suitcases and clothes being everywhere. That might have been my favorite part!

We even made vision boards one night! (I can’t believe how they all go along with my ideas sometimes!) I brought boards and a container of supplies from the Dollar Tree, and Mandi and Alex printed theirs out, Andrew and Haley used magazines, and Candi and the kids hit the Dollar Tree in Hot Springs Village. It was a great opportunity for us to discuss our dreams and hopes, and I think everyone really enjoyed it. Now, on to manifesting them into reality, right?

The villa was easy to find, too. Once we checked in at the main gate entrance, we received a parking tag, and only had to make three turns until we were in our parking spot! It was “right there”,  yet felt secluded and private. The area was nice, clean, quiet, and safe. If we ever venture out to Hot Springs again, we will be staying at Jenning’s Woodland Villa! (Susan lives in Hot Springs Village, too, and is having her spacious home renovated to accommodate cooking and art classes, and she and her husband even offered us a ride on their pontoon boat!)

I worried (needlessly) whether Hot Springs Village was too far from downtown Hot Springs, and all of the “stuff” that we wanted to do. It was PERFECT!  The drive was easy, and there were plenty of eating places just outside the gated community.

Our favorite meals came from:

Village Hibachi– The best sushi that we have had in a long time. We had it 3 times in a week!

El Jimador– Different than the Mexican places in Louisiana, but good. The queso was thin, but the flavor was awesome.

Home Plate Cafe– We had an awesome lunch there, great service, and a fantastic dinner. The place is crowded and busy, (always a good sign, right?) but service did not take too long. At lunch, the Reuben was awesome, as was the club sandwich. For dinner, they have specials, and I had the prime rib, which was VERY fairly priced, and HUGE! The stuffed shrimp was delicious, and the ranch dressing is to die for!

We shopped at the Cost-Plus grocery store, and it was nothing to write home about, but was on par with the Kroger in Hot Springs. We got fresh groceries at a fair price.  We ate at Cracker Barrel by Kroger, as well, but it was not a highlight of the trip. (I LOVE Cracker Barrel, by the way!!!)

We did have one allergic reaction issue. Jesslyn apparently came into contact with dairy (likely queso) at one of the restaurants, even though we were very careful. The staff of Walgreens were very helpful, and filled her emergency prescription called in by her allergist in Lafayette, LA, as we had to use the Epi pen in their parking lot! 

Our favorite activities:

Visiting downtown Hot Springs National Park

Before everyone else arrived, Candi, Jewel, Jesslyn and I visited the Hot Springs Museum, which was created out of one of the old bathhouses. We enjoyed the self-guided tour of the facilities, and the short film that they share about the history of Hot Springs. We got water to bring home from one of the free spring fountains, too!

Crystal mining at Jim Coleman Crystal Mines. The check-in, where we paid, and crystals were for sale, along with mining supplies such as buckets and hand shovels, was right on Hwy 7, a couple of miles from the gate to Hot Springs Village. It was $10 per person. The mine itself was about 8 miles away, down a side road, then a gravel road, then when we thought we may have entered the set of a movie about a wrong turn…there it was. Exactly as described, but you would have to actually see it to understand.

We went at 2 PM, which could have been seen as a mistake (when I emailed them in advance, they warned us that it was too hot at that time, but Jewel, my 11 year old granddaughter, had seen on  You Tube that 2-4 PM is the best time to go because you can see the crystals shining in the sun.) Of course, Jim Coleman was right, we nearly died of heat stroke, but Jewel was right, too. As soon as we got out of our cars, you could see the crystals glistening everywhere. Crystal chips, I might should correct that, but crystals none the less.

Everyone was excited to get started, all hoping to find the biggest, brightest crystal. The motherlode.

There was red dirt (clay) in a huge, HUGE, HUGEEEEEE, mound across the back of the property, and there were a couple more carloads of people digging. We each took our buckets and digging apparatuses and set out. That dirt was hard as a rock. HARD AS A ROCK! We had to tread carefully, trying not to slide down the mound. Some of us were more successful at that than others. All of the laughter and excitement soon gave way to quiet as we all dug for gold. I mean crystals. There were huge boulders around with tiny crystals, and if we could have found a way to pick them up and get them out of there, they would have been fair game. That was the bonus of choosing Jim Coleman Mine. They guarantee that you will find a crystal, and there was heavy equipment and dump trucks on the side, where they bring in the haul and add it to the red mound. We found crystals all right. There was truly no way not to. They were sparkling everywhere. My son-in-law, Alex, actually found a pretty good sized one with a nice point. I found a bucket full of cool rocks, and a few small points. Jewel stayed steady and dug for the entire 2 hours to get the one big piece that she found, bending 4 shovels in the process, trying to get through the clay. I was proud of her stick-to-it-iveness.

Candi had suggested cold, wet wash cloths, and I brought 18 for the 9 of us. They may have saved our lives. That and the cooler of iced water. It was scorching hot. All in all, we lasted the 2 hours, barely, and all were happy with our hauls. I ordered some Oxalic Acid from Amazon when I got home to soak them, to remove the red clay residue.

It was a great family adventure that was enjoyed by young and old alike, and I think the kids will always remember it. I was surprised that everyone was excited and receptive to the idea, and it worked out great. I definitely recommend it.

The other big adventure was a girls spa day at The Arlington Bathhouse.

I so wish I had pictures, but they would not allow us to keep our phones on us, they had to go in a locker. I am sure it was a good thing for the privacy of others, and honestly, it was nice to just enjoy the experience without worrying about getting a good picture.

I can still see it all in my mind’s eye, and I hope that I can express how special it was, without getting too, too wordy. My daughters, Mandi and Candi, and my daughter-in-law, Haley and I left the kids with the guys (my son, Andrew, and my son-in-law, Alex) with orders to have some fun, and to have lunch ready when we returned. I can’t believe that worked as well as it did. I will be trying it again!

I broke it to the girls that the “experience” included a bath attendant, on the way there. There were a couple of gasps as I played innocent, but we all agreed that we would make the best of it and try hard not to feel uncomfortable. (We are all VERY modest.)

When we arrived at The Arlington, we went down a long tiled hallway that was partially underground. It was an old building, no doubt about it, and it does show its age, but you could still feel that in its heyday, this place was something special. It still is something special.

We arrived at the door that said bathhouse, and made our way up the stairs to the reception desk, and were greeted promptly by the staff, and checked in, we paid in advance. Our attendants soon whisked us into the changing area and assigned us lockers. We were wrapped toga-style in white sheets, and shown to a wet room lined with massage tables. Two-by-two, our attendants brought us to our bathing suite. I laugh as I write that. I have no idea what it is really called, but it is a tiny room, maybe 6′ x 6′ with a 100 plus year old bathtub with a turn-of-the-century whirlpool apparatus that looks similar to a boat motor, and what I believe to be the original faucets from when plumbing was first added to the facility. There was a chair and a couple of white board leaned up against the wall, and a bottle of what I assumed to be body wash. (I was right.)

I felt the little tie around my toga get a little tug as my attendant, Dorothy, said “Get in.” I said “Excuse me?” I don’t even know why I said that. This was not my first time to a bathhouse in Hot Springs. I knew the routine. I was still shocked that it was so soon. I am laughing harder now. I don’t know if I expected us to have a cup of tea first or what, but it seemed awfully sudden. “Pick your legs up and get in.” Dorothy kind-of giggled at me. “I have never been here before. I’m sorry. Right now?” I was wondering if she was going to step out of the room while I dropped the sheet. “Right now.” She smiled as she yanked the sheet away. In I went.

Dorothy grabbed a Dixie cup out of an old metal holder on the wall and filled it at the tap. With bathwater. She handed it to me. “Drink this and lean up.” I had sunk down in the tub a little, trying to use my arms to cover my lady parts. I took the cup and sipped. The first time I remember drinking bath water. Well, maybe when I was 5, but just that one time. Dorothy slid one of the white boards behind my back. “Lean back.” I did. “There ya’ go.” Dorothy turned on the whirlpool. Whoosh!!!! That thing was powerful! “You just rest there and I’ll be back to check on you in about 20 minutes.” She smiled and headed back out of the curtain.

I drank the bath water and laid back, and actually, uncharacteristically, relaxed. I mean really relaxed. Now and then I would wonder if 20 minutes was up yet, and what was next, but I didn’t want to let my “need to know what’s next” ruin my experience, so I closed my eyes and let the whooshing drown out my thoughts.

Dorothy popped back in, just as quickly as she had left. “I’m gonna scrub your arms and legs and your back.” She grabbed the brown bottle of liquid soap and the loofah that I had been given at check-in. It still wasn’t awkward. I swear to you, it wasn’t. The scratchy loofah actually felt good on my legs and back.

I told Dorothy that I didn’t think anyone had bathed me since I was a little girl, that it reminded me of my Mama. Dorothy chuckled and grinned as she reached over and pulled the plug in the tub. “Ok. Get out.” She held up my sheet.

She held the sheet up high to protect my privacy as I climbed out of the deep old tub. “Back into it.” she instructed. Dorothy was a woman of few words, but it did not come across as short or unfriendly, more like a Mom or a caretaker. I was really comfortable with her. She tucked my toga back around and handed me a small cup of ice water. “Do you want to get in the sauna?” “Sure. I guess so.” “Some do, some don’t.” Dorothy let the way across the room to the traditional sauna. “Go on in. I’ll come back after you in a minute.” she closed the door as she left. The sauna was probably 8′ x 16′. Not too large, not too small. I was the only one in there. I peeked out the window a couple of times, as I munched on the ice that was left in my cup. I hoped that one of the girls would join me, but no such luck. I finally saw Mandi, but she had gotten too hot in the whirlpool and wanted nothing to do with the sauna. Turns out, I was the only person in the whole joint who wanted anything to do with the sauna. I stared at the sweat as it began to glisten on my arms. I just knew it contained toxins, and gluten, and all of the bad stuff that I had been consuming on this trip.

Just as she said, Dorothy came back, about 20 minutes later. I had not died in there. That was a good sign. Next, I was escorted to the “needle” shower, which was a slew of ancient copper pipes that were shaped in a rectangle around each edge of the shower stall, and holes were drilled in the pipes every couple of inches. Water sprouted out of some of them, no others. It ran constantly. The water was barely warm, and felt good. I imagined all the gluten glisten that had made it’s way down that drain. It had to have been a lot!

Dorothy was back in just a couple of minutes, and held up my sheet, once again. I was then escorted into the “cooling room”. I’m not exactly sure why they call it that, but it made a little sense to have an area to cool down after the warm/hot treatments. This was the room with the lined up massage tables. Dorothy wrapped my extremities with hot towels, (I asked her not to wrap my feet-I really need someplace for some of that heat to escape!) and then handed me another glass of ice water, and had me lay down. She then placed an ice-cold rag on my face. IT FELT SO GOOD! Those few minutes of rest, probably 20, were fabulous. Just fabulous.

Mandi was laying beside me, and I could see Candi and Haley at the other end of the room, probably 6 or so tables away. They looked so relaxed. There was no air conditioning, but it was not too hot or stuffy. There were fans overhead, and they offered just the right amount of breeze to keep us from getting a chill.

After the cooling room, our attendants (Dorothy and Susan) had completed their portion of the service, and we waited in another cooling room with wicker seating (still in our towels) for our massage therapists. Candi and Haley were already gone back by the time I got brought into the room, and Mandi left a couple of minutes later.

The history was rich, and my imagination ran wild as I sat there, waiting my turn with the half dozen or so other ladies. (There were separate men’s and women’s facilities.)  The receptionist offered us water several times, and checked on us often, and there was a little hustle and bustle between her and the attendants, as they finished their services with one group of guests, and started on another.  The walls and the room were old, just like the rest of the building, and I imagined that the transom windows probably offered a great breeze, back in the day.

Our massages were stellar, and we all left there feeling pampered. It was a wonderful experience.

The biggest family (kids) experience was at Magic Springs Water Park. It was just a hop, skip and a jump from Hot Springs, easy to get to, and not too crowded.

The kids (young and old) enjoyed the water slides, and the little ones had a great time in the two designated children’s areas.  We purchased advance tickets at a discount, (they are non-refundable and that really freaked me out when the storm was expected!) and purchased the food package, too. We had printed out certificates to trade in for certain foods at their food places. We had hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken tenders, pizza and a salad. It was typical, expensive, water park food, but we enjoyed it. Jackson tried a frozen drink, too. There were lockers for our belongings, and we felt as if our tote bags were safe, just sitting nearby on a table.  They have pavilions by the wave pool, and by the children’s play area, some even had TV’s, lol, but we did not rent one. We all played hard for a few hours, and headed back to the villa.

There was a Habitat Re-store (I had never been to one) and a Salvation Army in Hot Springs Village, and I stopped at each of those to pick up some small pieces to paint for my store. I think I enjoyed that more than the kids did, and honestly, I could have shopped twice as long, they really had some good junk!

All-in-all, it was a GREAT family trip, and I can’t wait until next year’s Great Mother’s Day Adventure! (or my next trip to Hot Springs-I would love to do a girl’s trip with my besties!)

 

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