Don’t miss our Our Unforgettable RV Road Trip: Part 1 where I pull my hair out!
Waking up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I immediately rushed to look out the window. No locusts. No zombies. No horsemen of the Apocalypse blazing through the hotel parking lot. Things were finally – finally! — looking up for the Smith Family Vacation.
After letting the kids sleep in, we decamped at The Waters Hotel, a beautifully renovated historic hotel. My boys are not big on museums, but we felt like we were interacting first-hand with history just by wandering around the building. Once known as the Thompson Building, the hotel was constructed in 1913 to house doctors’ offices. The architect behind the building had also designed the Arkansas State Capitol, and he was clearly big on stately details, because the building’s signature terra cotta Corinthian pilasters were imposing like a mutha.
The doctors’ offices were important back in the day when people would travel from all over the country to “take the waters,” which is like turn-of-the-century slang for bathing in the hot mineral springs. Back in the day, folks believed the springs held mythical healing powers, and plenty of people probably still believe it today. (They may be on to something — these legendary springs have been a thing since the 1500s). Sadly, COVID-19 restrictions prevented us from fully diving into the city’s aqua epicenter, called Bathhouse Row. Because we were shut out of the town’s signature spa experience, we hit the next best thing: Go-Cart rides! The boys were in Seventh Heaven.
What did we love most about Hot Springs? It wasn’t the architecture, sports or the therapeutic waters that the town was named for, although all of that was awesome. Honestly, I just appreciated the chance to spend time with my family minus any travel drama. No accidents, storming or schlepping. Just four people having some low-key fun together. We walked around town with no agenda and no schedule. We stuffed our faces with delicious pizza at Grateful Head, and Reed and I enjoyed a terrace dinner on the rooftop of our hotel that was positively magical.
Thing To Do:
- Gangsters Museum of America
- Mid America Science Museum
- Magic Springs Water & Theme Park
- Fordyce Bathhouse Museum
- Hot Springs Farmers Market
- Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop
- Funtrackers Family Fun Park
- Grateful Head (Pizza)
- The Ohio Club (Best Bar in Town)
- The Pancake Shop (Breakfast)
- Rolando’s (Mexican)-Best Roof Top
- Luna Bella (Italian)
- Back Porch Grill (Steakhouse on the water)
- The Vault (American)
- The Avenue (Fine Dining in Waters Hotel)
- In The Raw (Vegan)
Alas, road trips are meant to be spent on the road, so it was soon time to move on. Next stop: Gaston’s White River Resort, where we enjoyed a trout fishing experience extraordinaire.
Gaston’s Fishing Lodge
I have the fondest memories of this upscale-yet-affordable resort from my childhood – it was always a favorite destination for Dunaway Family Vacay’s. And it was just how I remembered when I was a kid, only much, much better (and not just because I can now drink wine).
We stayed in a rustic, two-bedroom cottage that I found wonderful, and not just because I didn’t have to cook in it. We dined at the resort’s restaurant, which specializes in seafood, steaks and fine wine and boasts tables overlooking the picturesque fast-flowing White River.
I am glad I got my fine-dining fix in, because the next morning, we were all up at the crack of dawn bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to float fish in a 20-foot John boat. We had two guides whose sole job was to make sure the Smith boys caught some rainbow trout!
The Arkansas fishing laws state that you can only keep five rainbow trout per person, per day. We made our quota in an Arkansas Hot Second – and kept going, returning numbers 21 and above back to the waters. We even hooked some brown trout – man, those suckers had some fight in them! Those, however, we threw back immediately because they’re rare and it’s the law.
I know, I know. You’re wondering, how did Jet Setter Christy Smith get so darn good at something that involves squishy, slimy, slippery stuff? Easy: Our guides were not just great fish-locators, they also handled baiting hooks, setting lines and taking flip-flopping fish off hooks. All I had to do was cast, pull and celebrate!
At the end of our day on the water, the guides cleaned and gutted our 20 rainbow trout, and we took four of them directly to the resort restaurant for a “you catch ‘em, we cook ‘em” dinner, and froze the rest. I have been on every type of diet under the sun, but I have to say, nothing tastes quite as amazing as something you caught for yourself.
We all wanted to stay longer at Gaston’s, but it was time to put the road back in road trip and onward we went.
Stay tuned for the final post about our very adventurous RV road trip. And be on the lookout for a wonderful little giveaway for the travel enthusiast in Our Unforgettable RV Road Trip: Part 3.