Explore Hot Springs National Park and dig for treasures at diamond mines in Arkansas including Crater of Diamonds State Park

Deep among the diamond mines, crystal lakes, dark leafy hollows and mountain towns of Southwest Arkansas, explorers will find hidden histories and tranquil getaways. Exceptional hunting and fishing areas around the Ouachita Mountains draws adventurers and sightseers from near and far. Experience its many resorts, golf courses, boating opportunities, water sports and scuba diving excursions.

Hot Springs catches the eye of travelers looking for a lush escape. The healing waters for which the city is named have continued to entice people to the valley for centuries. Its historic center was a vacation hotspot for bootlegging gangsters and organized crime leaders during the 1930s. Today, the city is filled with museums, gorgeous architecture, exciting activities as well as the region’s famed natural beauty.

Hot Springs Offers History, Sports and Natural Splendor

Hot Springs Arkansas

Natural hot springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park is located within the city of Hot Springs. In 1832, it was the first land set aside for protection by the federal government, making it the first national park. It’s best known for the 47 hot springs that come out of Hot Springs Mountain at an average of 143 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors can, and are encouraged, to drink the water when it arrives at the surface. Thousands of tourists endorse the good quality of the water and emphatically fill bottles to take it home.

This pristine area is also a popular place for hiking and features a museum and visitor center. Another beloved element of the park is its historic Bathhouse Row, which displays eight bathhouses designated as a National Historic Landmark District. Constructed between 1892 and 1923, these buildings are a wonderful place to stroll and enjoy the distinct architecture.

One of the more popular attractions in Hot Springs is the Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort. Here, visitors will find a wealth of year-round excitement from horse racing and sports wagering, to live music, and of course, the casino.

Oaklawn Racing and Casino Resort in Arkansas

Oaklawn Racing and Casino Resort in Hot Springs, Arkansas

Other highlights of the town include the National Park Aquarium, the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, Galaxy Connection and the Josephine Tussaud Wax Museum. Equally, the Garvan Woodland Gardens on the peninsula of Lake Hamilton is also a vibrant experience. With more than 100 permanent and traveling exhibits, Mid-America Science Museum is a favorite stop for student and adult groups.

Visitors can retrace the steps of 20th century crime bosses at the Gangster Museum of America. It features exhibits on Al Capone (who frequented Hot Springs in the early 1920s), and other infamous outlaws across the country. After treating yourself to a dip in the springs, jump on board a cruise ship with the Belle of Hot Springs. Sightsee, dine and take in the sunset on Lake Hamilton with your own private party. https://www.hotsprings.org/

Hope Has Presidential Ties

Just over 80 miles from Hot Springs is Hope, the birthplace of former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Go back in time to the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home National Historic Site, which preserves the home where Bill Clinton spent his formative years. This is the spot where Clinton says “In this house I learned to walk and talk, I learned to pray, I learned to read and I learned to count by number cards my grandparents tacked on the kitchen window.” Clinton lived in this house for the first four years of his life with his mother and maternal grandparents. https://www.nps.gov/wicl/index.htm

El Dorado Provides Festivals, Art, Food and Culture

Stories have long told of El Dorado, a city of abundant riches. This town certainly lives up to the myth. El Dorado was at the heart of the 1920s oil boom. Concurrently, its connection to the railroads helped launch the state’s petroleum industry. Today, 19 of Arkansas’ best festivals, carnivals, gun shows, historical reenactments, museums and dining experiences occur here.

The Murphy Arts District brings music, theater, dance, art and food to El Dorado through a range of immersive events and programs. Visit one of the regular farmers markets and see a play in the renovated 1920s-era theater. Afterward, explore photography and sculptures at the Mad Art Gallery before dining on farm-to-table food at the Griffin Restaurant. If that’s not enough to satisfy a culture craving, head to the South Arkansas Arts Center. They offer monthly gallery exhibits, community theater productions and a range of creative classes for groups to get their hands on. https://www.arkansas.com/el-dorado

Crater of Diamonds State Park is a Must-Visit Diamond Mine

Crater of Diamonds State Park Arkansas

Dig into diamond mines at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas

Although this region is bursting with natural beauty, you can’t take the view home with you. However, you can take with you its treasures from Arkansas’ unique diamond mines. The Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro is without a doubt especially unique. It’s one of the only places in the world where the public can hunt for real diamonds and take them home. Search the 37-acre eroded surface of a volcanic crater for gemstones and rocks as souvenirs.

The visitor center displays uncut diamonds and exhibits which demonstrate the unique geology of the region. Rent diamond-hunting tools and learn the best techniques to find precious stones. Another fun fact is the public has found more than 33,000 diamonds in this park. In addition, it is also the place where the largest diamond in the United States, the 40.23 carat Uncle Sam diamond, was discovered! https://www.arkansasstateparks.com/parks/crater-diamonds-state-park

Mount Ida Has A Bounty of Crystals to Uncover

Wegner Crystal Mines

Wegner Crystal Mines in Mount Ida

Explorers looking for a guided experience should head to the Wegner Crystal Mines in Mount Ida. A guided group tour brings you into the 40-acre mine site and teaches you how to get the most out of your dig. Tools are provided in this collecting experience which is great for people of all ages. At the site’s museum, visitors can marvel at a 2,000-pound quartz crystal, a 4,400-pound amethyst geode and a hoard of other treasures.

There are many mines to explore: The Crystal Forest Mine, the Phantom Mine (famous for rare Phantom Quartz Crystals) and the Tailings Area are just a few. Group accommodations and customized digs are available here. https://www.wegnercrystalmines.com/

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By Lauren DeLorenzo