There is not much I miss about our sticks and bricks house, but I do occasionally miss having a bathtub. When we were in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in January, the hot springs were closed for their annual maintenance (of course!), so all of the bathhouses were closed. However, when we decided to come back through the area, I had to schedule a bath.
Due to the shut down in January, Hot Springs was a quaint, sleepy little town that we absolutely loved. Now that the water was back on, though, it was a completely different place. I drove into town thinking I would run a couple of errands before my appointment and maybe walk around to a few stores I had visited in January. However, as I neared downtown, my path on Google turned from green to orange to red. Where there was not a soul to be found in January, now the sidewalks crawled with people. All the street parking was taken. It was a mad house!
I forewent my plans to run errands and made my way directly to the free parking garage we had previously used. In my heart, I knew it was not going to be pretty, but I had naïvely made no back up parking plan (the parking garage was empty every time we used it only 6 weeks before). As I pulled in, there was a steady stream of cars going up and down and not a spot to be found. The 2-way traffic in the garage was kind of a nightmare given the number of trucks (myself included) trying to maneuver through a space clearly intended for teeny tiny cars. However, I slowly made my way up trying to figure out what my Plan B was going to be. I reached the top where there is blessedly a turnaround area, did a ±3,000-point turn, and started back down.
As I rounded the first turn, I saw a family doing their “getting ready to leave” shuffle. As I got closer, the driver let me know they were in fact leaving, then hustled everyone into the van so they could leave. Blessing #1. As they pulled out, I realized that they were parked next to a walkway, which gave an extra ¾ space that I could use to wedge my way into the spot. Blessing #2. I felt beyond blessed to have wound up in this spot and to have simply gotten a spot at all.
Part of my pre-appointment plan was to get a snack along the way, so instead I scrounged around the truck and found some fruit snacks. I could have still fit in some time walking around town, but I had seen the craziness and knew I wanted to calm down, try to relax a little, then make my way to the bathhouse.
I made my way to Quapaw Baths, arriving about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. They took my temperature at the door, had me fill out a COVID questionnaire, had me sign a waiver about getting in the hot springs water, then directed me to the reception area. I got all checked in for my private bath and selected my aromatherapy (oatmeal and honey), then made my way to the café to wait for my appointment.
Even though this was a splurge for me to get some time to relax and enjoy myself, I found myself really wishing that I could experience this with Will or a few friends. There were several groups waiting for their turn to go in the public hot springs and it made me yearn for gatherings and friends and hugs. At the same time, though, I was super excited to experience the hot springs in any form and to soak in a bathtub!
The bathhouses are very historic and have been updated enough to make them modern but still have a bit of rustic feel to them. When my name was called, I was led into a room with about 12 private rooms with bathtubs around the perimeter. The center room had nice tile floors and a gorgeous stained glass ceiling. It felt very European in a way. The private rooms were less fancy but had a nice tub with jets. The bath attendant gave me a quick run down, including instructions to ring the bell if I started to feel lightheaded or faint, and I was left to get ready and enjoy my 20-minute bath.
Now, I have been known to feel lightheaded when in hot tubs in the past, so I knew going in that I was going to take precautions to keep myself from having to ring the bell. The water in the tub was nice and hot, which meant I took 3 short breaks in the course of my 20 minutes. It was a little unnerving hearing people talking on the other side of the wall while I soaked in the tub, but it was relaxing nonetheless.
Once my time was up, I returned to the common area outside the private rooms to cool down. They provided cold peppermint-infused towels and cucumber spring water to continue to relax and also aid in cooling the body. As I sat there, I was surprised to see that all of the rooms were full. I was one of the first people called back, so although I had heard people talking, I did not realize that people were in every room. But as their baths ended, they started slowly emerging. At the small tables, there were envelopes for tips for the bath attendants. I had done a little research online, so I made sure to have cash on hand, but you definitely want to be prepared if you find yourself heading to a bathhouse. The bath attendants were very attentive while also disinfecting the tubs as people vacated the rooms and keeping an eye on everyone to make sure we were all cooling down appropriately.
After my cool down, I stopped back at the café and got my long-awaited snack before heading back and tackling the exit from the parking garage (the truck and I both made it out without any dings or scrapes!).
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Quapaw Bathhouse and am so glad we made our way back to Hot Springs. I highly recommend the experience to anyone visiting the area, even if you have your own bathtub at home.
Are you heading to Hot Springs, Arkansas, be sure to check out these related posts: Finding the Terrain Cure in Hot Springs National Park, Hiking the Caddo Bend Trail, and Looking for Treasure in Arkansas.