Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Garland County, AR

  • Published 2022/11/06

Situated on the rugged terrain of the breathtaking Ouachita Mountains is Garland County.

Established in 1873, Garland County was formed from sections of three different counties, namely, Hot Springs, Montgomery, and Saline.

With its location, it is no surprise that Garland County is home to a whopping 28 gorgeous mountain features.

The county is well-known for the beautiful natural sights and destinations that it offers to all its guests.

Whether you are a fan of the great outdoors or looking for a place to kick back and relax, Garland County has something for everyone.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Garland County, Arkansas:

Enter a Paradisiacal World at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Children's treehouse at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Kit Leong /

Be mesmerized by the picturesque views that Garvan Woodland Gardens has to offer.

Located in Southwest Arkansas in Hot Springs, Garvan Woodland Gardens is a botanical garden overseen by the University of Arkansas.

This garden was established to preserve and beautify the unique beauty of the environment of Ouachita.

If you have been looking for a place to appreciate how beautiful nature can be, this is the spot to visit.

Vibrant tulips at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Kit Leong /

Explore the gardens and see pines reaching the sky, beautiful flowering plants, and many different animal species.

This is also a great learning place if you want to learn more about the area’s natural environment and ecosystem.

Remember to take snapshots of the unforgettable sights when you come to this garden.

Small waterfall at Garvan Woodland Gardens

Kit Leong /

Stimulate Your Mind at the Mid-America Science Museum

Skywalk at Mid-America Science Museum

Melissa Tate /

Feed your curious mind with intriguing scientific facts from the interactive exhibits at the Mid-America Science Museum.

Touring this museum is a fun and engaging activity for visitors of all ages in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

First opened in 1979, the Mid-America Science Museum is the first interactive museum that fosters an informal learning environment in the state.

The pond of Mid-America Science Museum

Melissa Tate /

You will enjoy roaming around this 73,500-square-foot establishment sprawling over 21 wooded acres.

Learn more about different scientific concepts at this museum through interactive exhibits.

DinoTrek sculpture at Mid-America Science Museum

Melissa Tate /

One example is the Light Bridge, an operational bridge where you can see how natural light is used for filters, colors, and prisms.

The Oaklawn Foundation DinoTrek is the perfect place to take your kids if they enjoy dinosaurs and being outdoors.

This museum is a great place to visit and a destination guests will enjoy no matter their age.

Dinosaur sculptures at Mid-America Science Museum

Melissa Tate /

Escape the City and Camp at Hot Springs National Park KOA Holiday

Spend quality time with your folks while being surrounded by the beauty of nature at Hot Springs National Park KOA Holiday.

Whether touring Hot Springs City for a month or the weekend, this is a great place to stay if you love the outdoors.

Hot Springs National Park KOA Holiday is a campground nestled right at the foot of the Ouachita Mountains.

It is also located only a few minutes from the city’s National Park and downtown area, making it convenient for you to access all the must-see spots.

The campground also has complete amenities, including a pool, pavilion, mini golf, and Wi-Fi.

A pet playground allows you to run around with your furry companions and hiking trails to explore your surrounding environment.

Discover the History of the Spa Movement in the County at Bathhouse Row

Ozark bathhouse at Bathhouse Row

K I Photography /

Explore historic bathhouses with exquisite architectural designs at Bathhouse Row.

Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Arkansas is the home of the most extensive collection of bathhouses from the twentieth century.

These bathhouses are significant because they reflect the time when bathing was considered to be a vital leisure activity in society.

Check out the iconic bathhouses that attracted visitors to the city long ago.

Buckstaff baths at Bathhouse Row

Andriy Blokhin /

The Hale Bathhouse, built in 1892, is the oldest bathhouse in the area and still standing.

If you want to witness an operational bathhouse, go to the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which has been offering rejuvenating services since it first opened in 1912.

Whether you are a history buff, an architecture lover, or a spa enthusiast, this place is a must-see.

Interior of a bathhouse at Bathhouse Row

Andriy Blokhin /

Take In the Panoramic Sights of the Ouachita Mountains at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower

Exterior of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower

Kit Leong /

Go up 1,256 feet above sea level and check out the breathtaking views at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

This tower offers a 360-degree view of Hot Springs city, Ouachita Mountains, and Hot Springs National Park.

Take the elevator 216 feet to the top of the tower, observe the captivating sights, and snap pictures of the beautiful scenery.

If you love visiting different tourist spots, this is the place in Arkansas where you can see up to 140 miles away.

Top part of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower

Kit Leong /

A visit to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower will surely make your visit to the city memorable.

Make your visit even more unforgettable by checking out the tower’s gift shop at the ground level.

Purchase unique items and memorabilia to take home or gift to a special someone.

Scenic view from the Hot Springs Mountain Tower

Zack Frank /

Relive the Life of Crime of American Gangsters at The Gangster Museum of America

If you’re fond of watching gangster films or mobster television shows, spend some time in The Gangster Museum of America.

This museum contains exhibits displaying numerous images, documents, and other items from historic gangsters that have inspired movies and TV shows.

Some galleries feature Owen “The Killer” Madden, an Irish gangster who was a known figure in New York during Prohibition.

Another is Al Capone, famously known as “Scarface,” whose reign as a crime boss inspired many films and books.

If you are a certified fan of the gangster genre or a curious history enthusiast, you will have a great time listening to the gang stories from the 20s and 30s.

Follow the knowledgeable tour guide as you take a trip down memory lane and discover more about the intriguing era in the country’s history.

Unwind and Spend Time with Your Loved Ones at Lake Hamilton

Boat on the waters of Lake Hamilton

Kat Byrd I /

Treat your family and friends to some TLC as you savor the breeze at Lake Hamilton.

Located on the southern portion of Hot Springs, Lake Hamilton is one of the state’s most well-known lakes.

Hang out and chill at the numerous parks around the lake, or else fish and swim in its waters.

A gazebo overlooking Lake Hamilton

NicholasGeraldinePhotos /

Other recreational activities include boating, jet skiing, or hiking the accessible trails around the area.

This is the perfect place to escape the city life’s hustle and bustle.

Delight in being surrounded by your family while relaxing and appreciating the area’s natural environment.

Gorgeous sunset over Lake Hamilton

Kat Byrd I /

Investigate the Opulent Historical Artifacts at Fordyce Bathhouse

Exterior of Fordyce Bathhouse

Kit Leong /

Check out the antique furniture and other historical artifacts at Fordyce Bathhouse, the largest property on Bathhouse Row.

Fordyce Bathhouse sits on a 28,000-square-foot property.

It first opened in 1915 and took more than $212,000 to complete.

Hydrotherapy room in Fordyce Bathhouse

Kit Leong /

Despite its grand and majestic aesthetic, Fordyce Bathhouse is the first one on the Row to stop operations in 1962.

After 27 years, however, the city restored it as a museum.

Today, Fordyce Bathhouse is filled with artifacts that will allow you to glimpse the history of bathhouses in the county.

Exhibit in Fordyce Bathhouse

Kit Leong /

See how the past rich and famous enjoyed taking a dip in luxurious pools by visiting the bathhouse.

Enjoy roaming around its opulent halls and check out the unique tubs within its vicinity.

Explore numerous rooms that still look the same as they did back then.

A tub in Fordyce Bathhouse

Kit Leong /

Travel to a Galaxy Far, Far Away at The Galaxy Connection

If you prefer (super)heroes from a galaxy far, far away, The Galaxy Connection may be up your alley.

Kids and kids at heart who have been fans of the Star Wars franchise will surely have a great time at this museum.

This interactive museum is located in Hot Springs city and features numerous high-grade props and costumes from Star Wars movies and other superhero films.

Enjoy the guided tour, where you will discover numerous behind-the-scenes facts about these action-packed movies.

You will also have access to rooms that feature vintage arcade games.

Guests will also get a chance to interact with movie props and use them when they take photos.

Don’t miss the gift shop that sells Star Wars and other superhero collectibles; keep them for yourself or gift them to another super fan.

Get Up Close and Personal with Alligators at the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo

Observe alligators of all sizes and get a chance to touch them at the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo.

Founded in 1902, the Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo is one of the oldest attractions in Hot Springs.

Watch live shows that involve feeding grown alligators and holding baby alligators.

There is also a designated area to pet other animals like sheep, pygmy goats, and emus.

If you are lucky, you can also see mountain lions, wolves, and peacocks all over the park.

The Arkansas Alligator Farm & Petting Zoo is also home to the mysterious merman mummy, which is an attraction that features a half-human, half-fish display.

This is a great place to visit if you are a certified animal lover, particularly of reptiles.

Marvel at the Genius Architecture of the Anthony Chapel

Exterior of the unique Anthony Chapel

RN Photo Midwest /

Located within the Garvan Wood Land Gardens is the Anthony Chapel, a breathtaking place of worship with a stunning architectural design.

Situated on a hill overlooking Lake Hamilton, this chapel is one of the best places to get married.

This 160-seater chapel is built with glass and wood and was designed to be a natural extension of the gorgeous garden surrounding it.

Interior of the Anthony Chapel

Barbara Kalbfleisch /

Due to its beauty and the materials used to construct it, this chapel received the Arkansas Chapter AIA Merit Award.

Take a gander at the ceiling-to-floor windows, which will let you see the beautiful sights all around even if you are inside the chapel.

No matter your relationship status, a visit to this gorgeous chapel might just make you feel ready to tie the knot and walk down the aisle.

Ceiling of the Anthony Chapel

Erik Ao /

Go on a Hike at Lake Catherine State Park

Scenic view of Lake Catherine State Park

David7 /

Reconnect with nature and go hiking at Lake Catherine State Park.

This stunning park is situated on Lake Catherine in Ouachita Mountain.

Enjoy various outdoor activities at the park, including fishing, boating, and hiking on its trails.

One of the trails at this state park leads to a beautiful waterfall.

Waterfall at Lake Catherine State Park

Carol Elise Photography /

Take a quick dip or capture stunning images of the environment.

There are also picnic sites around the park to relax and spend time with friends and family.

Bring kids along and chase them around the playground.

If you want to stay longer, don’t worry about having to pitch a tent because 20 cabins are fully equipped and available.

A trail at Lake Catherine State Park

David7 /

Experience Some Fun under the Sun at Magic Springs Theme and Water Park

A visit to Magic Springs Theme and Water Park is the best activity for families or those young at heart.

Based in Hot Springs, Arkansas, this park offers all the thrills you can experience in an amusement park and water park in one place.

With more than 80 attractions, including thrill rides like rollercoasters and large slides, this is the perfect place for all adrenaline junkies.

Experience blood-pumping twists and turns while riding the Arkansas Twister or sliding down the High Sierra Slide Tower.

If you prefer a relaxing day, visit the Crystal Falls pool to bask in the sunshine.

Have a Relaxing and Elegant Staycation at The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa

Exterior of The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa

Kit Leong /

Indulge in a little R&R at The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa.

The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, located in Hot Springs, is the largest hotel in the state.

First opened in 1875, this hotel has been serving countless guests and satisfying their needs for a luxurious break.

This hotel is right next to the Bathhouse Row and is perfect if all the touring you did at the bathhouses have made you crave some relaxation.

Unwind at the Thermal Bathhouse’s mineral waters from the hot springs.

Additionally, sign up for their swanky spa services to complete your day of relaxation.

Place Some Bets at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

Arkansas derby at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort

BroadSports, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a chance to win big bucks and place bets as you watch horses race at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort.

Located in the seat of Garland County is one of the top racetracks in the county.

First opened in 1904, this hotel is well-known for its Thoroughbred racing events.

Many people flock to this place just to witness one of its horse racing events and place some bets.

Today, the hotel has a grand casino; play slot machines and outsmart the dealers on blackjack tables.

If you want to take a break from betting, visit The Astral Spa within the vicinity for a refreshing treatment that uses healing waters and other traditional remedies.

Final Thoughts

Garland County in Arkansas has the perfect activity or destination regardless of age, group size, or interests.

This county has everything, from exploring the gorgeous outdoors to enjoying some heart-pounding amusement park rides.

Add these 15 best things to do in Garland County, AR in your itinerary and make the most of your next visit to the county.

© All rights reserved.