Nineteenth century-old hotels have survived the eras--The Arlington being the most prominent of them all--while bed and breakfasts dot the mountains and neighborhoods beyond the downtown streets. But there’s a new kid on the block.
Walking down Central Avenue in Hot Springs is like taking a walk into century-old history. Historic bathhouses line the east. Shops and restaurants in nineteenth century buildings line the west.
It was the first piece of land to be designated as a “federal reservation” in 1832, a concept that predated the “national park.” Because of this, the National Park Service actually credits what is now Hot Springs National Park as being the first national park in the country, predating Yellowstone by 40 years. But the springs were famous in the area before the 1800s. Native Americans called the area the “Valley of Vapors,” and it was believed to be an area of neutral ground between tribes, where all could enjoy the healing waters in peace. The “Bathhouse Row” that stands today is made up of eight bathhouses that were constructed between 1892 and 1923, preserved perfectly in their Victorian-style.
Nineteenth century-old hotels have survived the eras--The Arlington being the most prominent of them all--while bed and breakfasts dot the mountains and neighborhoods beyond the downtown streets.
But there’s a new kid on the block, as in just-a-couple-of-months-old-new. The Thompson Building, across from the last bathhouse on the “Bathhouse Row,” underwent a multi-million dollar renovation over the last couple of years, and has culminated in one beautiful, astonishing piece of hotel real estate. The building is now called The Waters, a full-service boutique hotel that is completely fresh and modern, contrasting completely with its surroundings.
White stone glides to the top of the five story building, with embossed metal placed across the second story windows, making the chic colors and lines of the building stand out like the freshly printed pages of a book.
Inside, the white stone continues, and meets a lobby space with wood floors in perfect harmony. Woven gray armchairs sit beside cool blue armchairs, with pastel and blue floral glass art pieces on the wall above. Succulents have been placed on the coffee table and side table, and the walls are a clean white, the entire space resounding fresh and calm, yet fully alive.
Continuing down the white stone hallway, you’ll find the front desk, and beyond it, the elevators and the beginning of a staircase. The stairs go all the way up to the fifth floor. The handrails are the original charcoal-colored wrought iron from the building’s erection in 1913. The vibe of the white (and swirling of gray) stone and the charcoal hues give the feeling of an old bank, but in fact the building housed medical offices until the 1940s.
As you ascend to your floor and look for your room, don’t be fooled by the numbers on the glass above each door. They’re the original numbers from the building’s office days. Room numbers for the hotel are on the actual door. As you wander through the hallways, notice the flooring. It’s the original hexagon tile of white and charcoal, and it continues the color scheme in a happy pattern.
Once inside your room, you’ll see that the gray and white color scheme continues, now in a modern and cozy atmosphere. The carpet is gray, the walls and bed linens, white. And a light, birch-like wood goes above the charcoal backing, making a sort of “headboard” that extends to hold lamps on either side of the bed as well as side tables. One large, beautiful piece, utilized perfectly. Glass bottles of Mountain Valley Spring Water, bottled just down the street await guests in each room, recognizing the beauty and history of the area. The bathroom has a walk-in shower and an illuminated vanity mirror, and some rooms have the original exposed brick walls from the building’s beginning.
Once you’ve settled in, and drank the whole bottle of pristine Mountain Valley, head down to The Avenue restaurant. It’s positioned inside the hotel, to the right of the front entrance, and is a full-service fine dining restaurant. The hard wood floors greet white walls with modern light fixtures hanging above. Royal blue tablecloths cover the tables and floor-to-ceiling windows make up the front wall of the restaurant on Central Avenue. Further into the restaurant, exposed brick walls and vibrant linens create an ambiance of classic, calm and rejuvenation.
On the menu, check out the appetizer section for items like the Almond Gremolata. Almost like a bruschetta, the almonds are chopped small, citrus herb oil is added, and crusty bread is served to the side, as well as a large brush of spiced mascarpone. The balance of the nutty flavor with the citrus, plus the spice and sweet of the mascarpone, creates an unexpected combination, so good, you might order a second.
The Brussel Salad is made with buttered Brussels sprouts, cranberries, garlic montassio cheese, white balsamic vinaigrette and toasted pecans. With this dish, once again, sweet and savory meet, with a depth of profile that would cause anyone fall in love with Brussel sprouts (if you’re not already).
The Drunken Pimento is a must try, with bourbon cheddar, lavash, watercress chimichurri and pecans, making the concept of the cheese ball flourish like never before.
Make sure you visit The Avenue’s restroom facilities. Instead of soap, there’s a luxurious sugar scrub for handwashing. One that will make you want to take the bowl with you.This scrub will make you believe you (or at least your hands) have been to the spa.
After you’ve had your fill at the restaurant, head back up to your cozy bed and plan out your sightseeing for the next day.
In the morning, before you head out on your adventures, stop in the lobby seating area for the continental breakfast of pastries, fruit, coffee and tea. Or, if you’re wanting a larger selection, the front desk staff will gladly point you to the Pancake Shop. The Pancake Shop opened in 1940 and serves a selection of pancakes, toasts, cereals,eggs, omelets, meats, fruits and juices. Our recommendation? The simple buckwheat pancakes. Add the butter and syrup and they melt in your mouth; you can take some to-go too.
If you’re looking for the traditional Hot Springs relaxation, head into one of the two bathhouses that are still alive and well today. Buckstaff Bathhouse and Quapaw Baths and Spa are the only two that remain both fully functioning and updated for guest experiences with modern amenities.
Superior Baths is now home to Superior Bathhouse Brewery, both brewing their own selection of beers and featuring great brews from around the region. They also operate as a restaurant and are open for lunch and dinner. Head in for a different kind of bathhouse experience. Tip: order a flight of beer for a nice sampling of what’s available.
Don’t forget, you’re actually in Hot Springs National Park in the Northern-most portion of the city. There are a lot of beautiful hiking trails awaiting you, just beyond and above Central Avenue. In fact, there is a trail entry point just 50 feet from the back door of The Waters!
No matter what activities you choose though, The Waters awaits you, crisp, clean and chic, as your home base. Cheers!
The Avenue Restaurant: 75
Want to learn even more about what The Waters had to offer? Go visit them.