50+ Free (and Frugal) Kid-Friendly Activities in Hot Springs

 

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Healthy kids are ACTIVE kids. The sad fact is that this is the first generation that may not outlive their parents. That is not acceptable. Let’s do our part to turn the tide by increasing the activity levels of our youngins. To get you started, I’ve collected over 50 cheap or FREE ideas that won’t break the bank. Many of these ideas are for local Spa City dwellers, but many can be used in your neck of the woods. Enjoy!

For the active family, consider participating in the Iron Ranger Challenge over the course of the year. Visitors can choose to hike, bike, paddle, walk, run, or roll 100 miles in any or all of the Arkansas National Parks. http://www.ironranger2016ar.org/

If you can rustle up an alligator farm t-shirt, kids get in free if they wear it. http://www.alligatorfarmzoo.com/ No t-shirt and don’t want to pay? Park beside the building and look at the half dozen deer that are right inside the fence. Hold up some grass, and Bambi might just saunter up to ya.

Walk the Grand Promenade and end by dipping your hand into the hot springs. Aaaah. That’s nice, isn’t it? See who can hold their hand in the longest. http://www.nps.gov/hosp/planyourvisit/grand-promenade.htm

Grab your tent and camp out at the gorge for just $10 a night! http://www.nps.gov/hosp/planyourvisit/campground.htm

Check out fishing poles from the Garland County library and fish at Family Park or Entergy Park. Here’s the schedule of when fish are stocked at those locations: http://www.agfc.com/fishing/pages/fishingprogramsfcfstock.aspx

Walk the trails around the lake at Entergy Park. There are two playgrounds — one with a huge spider web type jungle gym and one for toddlers. http://www.cityhs.net/Facilities/Facility/Details/Entergy-Park-6

Fly a kite at the Cedar Glades Park. http://www.hotsprings.org/places/cedar-glades-park-garland-county/ The Hot Springs R/C Flying Club also flies their planes there sometimes. Nifty. https://www.facebook.com/HotSpringsRCFlyingClub/

Ready for a hike? Choose a long or short trail, take a sack lunch, and enjoy the gorgeous views of our national park. http://www.nps.gov/hosp/planyourvisit/hiking-trails-list.htm

Go on a hunt for treasure with geocaching. http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationProgramsGEO.aspx

Restaurants in town where kids eat FREE (may be provisional with purchase of an adult entrée):

Cajun Boilers – on Mondays

IHOP – on Thursdays

Ruby Tuesdays – on Tuesdays

San Francisco Bread Co. – daily after 5

Trejo’s – on Tuesdays

Xaxby’s – daily after 5

*These days/times are subject to change. Please contact restaurant beforehand.

Gather your sand toys and have a grand old time digging and creating in the sand volleyball court at Family Park.

Give your children a chance to sell their homemade wares by participating in the Youth Market at the Farmers Market during the summer. Once a month it’s FREE! http://www.hotspringsfarmersmarket.com/Youth-Market.html

Check out seeds (don’t worry — you don’t have to return them!) from the Garland County Library (up to 10 packs per card for spring and fall) and start on that garden.

For truly brave souls, experience the death-defying thrill of a metal merry-go-round at Chattanooga Park.

Don’t miss when the AKC Dog Show comes to Hot Springs at the convention center. Your kids will love to see the hundreds of beautiful pups competing to be top dog. (no current event schedule available)

The Garland County Library has tons of free activities available: Lego club, board gaming club, movie night… Go pick up a calendar and schedule some free library activities.

Readers are LEADERS. You won’t regret signing your kids up to participate in the library’s summer reading program. They’ll receive prizes for hitting pre-set reading goals, and there is even an end-of-summer party for those who log 100 hours of reading.

Participate in Lowe’s Build and Grow projects. http://www.lowesbuildandgrow.com/

Hot Springs native Sonya Chittum offers a free city-wide Children’s Celebration Choir on Monday evenings at 5 pm at Gospel Light Baptist Church. Perfect for your little songbird. Contact Gospel Light to get in touch with Mrs. Chittum: 501-624-5288.

Tour the Fordyce Bathhouse downtown. They’ll love the gymnasium room. http://www.nps.gov/hosp/planyourvisit/fordyce.htm

Take Fountain Street from the downtown area and fill up your water bottles with the cold springs there. (There are also cold springs available down Whittington Avenue.) **Continue up the mountain after filling up those bottles to see the park lookouts.**

Go see the sweet dogs and cats at the animal shelter. (Don’t forget to ask to see the puppy room!) You might just leave with a furry friend. http://www.cityhs.net/126/Animal-Services

Tour the Mountain Valley Spring Museum and sample the water. http://www.mountainvalleyspring.com/water/visitor-center/

Did you know that Babe Ruth trained in Hot Springs NINE times? Check out the Historic Baseball Trail here. http://www.hotspringsbaseballtrail.com/see-the-trail/

Close your eyes, and you’re *almost* in Destin… Spend a day at the sandy beach-type area at Brady Mountain. http://www.ouachitasailing.com/TheLakes/BradyMountain/bradymountain.html

Take your horse enthusiast to Dawn at Oaklawn. http://oaklawn.com/racing/dawn-at-oaklawn/

See the M60 tank at Desoto Park and find the secret cave. https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DmVVBUkb0CVw&h=dAQHrqW-K

In the winter, take your own cocoa mix and styrofoam cups and make your own hot cocoa with hot water downtown.

In the middle of December be on the lookout for announcements about the luminaries in the historic district. Slowly drive through and enjoy the beautiful display.

Take a drive around the city and spot the different holiday light displays in the historic district, downtown, the courthouse, Trivista, and Eastgate.

Use the bike path at Whittington Park and then check out the playground equipment at Linden Park. Don’t forget your ball for the full-size soccer field. http://ar-hotsprings.civicplus.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/Linden-Park-12

Take a bike or scooter ride at Hollywood Park. Bring a basketball and shoot some hoops on the court there. http://ar-hotsprings.civicplus.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/Hollywood-Park-10

Gather loose change and go treasure hunting at Goodwill and Salvation Army and other thrift stores. Abilities Unlimited will sometimes have toy bag sales for a buck.

Stroll through Dryden Pottery (341 Whittington Avenue) and peruse the beautiful pieces there.

Enjoy Frost-T-Treat “Throwback Thursday” prices for cones and burgers.

Visit the Family Dollar stores (5 or 6 in town) following holidays and rack up on 90% 0ff sales.

Run relay races at public school tracks when not in use.

Take your pooch to the dog park located across from Hollywood Park. There are separate areas for large and small breeds.

Discover the waterfall while hiking at Lake Catherine State Park. http://www.arkansas.com/outdoors/hiking/trail-detail.aspx?type=H&trail=2&owner=Arkansas+State+Parks

Grab your tennis racquets and serve up some aces on the courts at Family Park. http://ar-hotsprings.civicplus.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/Family-Park-7

Did you know that the Spa City actually boasts SIXTEEN city parks? Grab this list and make it a summer goal to check out each one: http://www.cityhs.net/210/City-Parks

Visit the Hot Springs Slot Car Speedway at 419 Albert Pike for an inexpensive, yet exciting, time enjoying the whiz of the slot cars. It’s $5 for 30 minutes of fun, including the car.

Become a junior ranger. https://www.nps.gov/hosp/learn/kidsyouth/beajuniorranger.htm

Find the “lonely spring.” https://www.facebook.com/HotSpringsBroadcast/videos/1673942156221231/?hc_location=ufi

Dig for crystals at Miller Mountain. Ages 9 and under are free. Adults are $10. Make it an all-day excursion and bring a lunch. 58 Bighole Rd, Jessieville, AR 71949 (501) 984-5752

Not crazy about springing for Magic Springs passes but still want to hear the summer concert series? Grab a blanket or chairs and sit out on the old Magic Hills Golf Course at dusk on Saturday evenings in the summer to hear acts like Hunter Hayes perform. Here’s the entire concert schedule: http://www.magicsprings.com/concerts.php

Set up a time on Tuesdays or Thursdays to tour the old Army/Navy hospital. 624-4411

Visit the fish hatchery. http://www.arkansas.com/attractions/detail/andrew-hulsey-fish-hatchery/93190

Park behind the racetrack and watch the horses run without having to go inside. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1436/

Shred the new skatepark on Valley Street near the Boys’ Club.

Make the 1,300 foot hike up Mount Riante and take in the spectacular view. http://www.peakware.com/peaks.html?pk=3407

Visit Fox Pass Pottery. http://www.foxpasspottery.com/studio.html

Check out Movies at the Market in the summer at the historic downtown Farmers Market. Movie events begin on June 2, 2016. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1970/

2016 Scheduled Upcoming Events

Attend Cutwell 4 Kids at the Maurice Bathhouse and let your children create crafts on the first Saturday of each month. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1844/

February 26-28 – Hot Springs Boat and Tackle Show at the convention center. Children 12 and under are free (adults $5) http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1583/

March 10-12 – Kids 4 and under are free (everyone else $8 for the whole day) to watch the best high school basketball in the state for the high school state finals at the Bank of the Ozarks Arena. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1584/

April 1-2 – Free admission for your own Katniss Everdeen fan at the Archery Shooting Sports Tournament at the convention center. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1585/

April 21-23 – Free admission on April 23 from 9 am – 2 pm for the Corvette Show at the convention center. 400 – 500 Corvettes expected to be there for your car fanatic to see up close. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1590/ http://www.centralarkansascorvetteclub.com/

April 23 – “From Salvage to Sculpture…” Check out the UPcycle Cultural Festival at the farmers market. No fee if your children wish to enter their statue. Apply here: www.hsfac.com http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1872/

May 6, 2016 is National Public Gardens Day at Garvan Woodland Gardens. Free to ages 0-5, $5 for ages 6 -12, $15 for adults http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1939/

Enjoy a beautiful handbell concert presented by Ouachita Hills Academy on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016, at 3 pm at the gorgeous Anthony Chapel at Garvan Woodland Gardens. Concert is free and open to the public. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1940/

May 22 – Interested in dance? Check out the Dance City Studio Annual Recital at Horner Hall at 2 pm. Free admission. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1725/

June 4 – Bring your water guns and wear your shower cap, robe, and slippers while you watch the hilarious annual Running of the Tubs downtown. Parade begins at 9 am and the Running of the Tubs at 9:30 am. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1482/

June 18 – The 4th Annual Tinkerfest at Mid America Museum is free to members and $7 for children and seniors ($10 for adults). You can spend all day mesmerized with the scores of eye-popping science exhibits. Don’t miss it this summer! http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1795/

July 1 – There are several free fireworks shows around the 4th of July. The Spa Blast at Oaklawn is one of them. Begins at 4 pm http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1811/ If you don’t dig crowds, drive up to West Mountain at dusk and watch from there. Beautiful!

July 30-31 – Lions Club Gun and Knife Show at the convention center with free admission for kids 12 and under (adults $7) www.hslionsgunshow.com

September 8-10 – Motorcycles aren’t really my thang, but if you like the dissonant sound of Harleys wafting into your eardrum, check out the annual bike rally. http://www.thehotspringsrally.com/

September 23-25 – Heard of Comic Con? Neither had I up until a couple of years ago. With the excitement of the new Star Wars movie and the constant influx of superhero movies, Hot Springs was bound to host its very own version, the 1st Annual Spa Con. http://www.hotsprings.org/events/event/1880/ For more info, call 321-2277.

December 2016 (exact date TBA) – attend the annual Tree Lighting and Gingerbread House Celebration at the Arlington Hotel (and if you’re lucky around New Year’s, watch it be taken down and snag some wrapped candy).

Do you have more ideas to share? Comment to let me know!

Monica Brown, FIT administrator

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