Soaking in the baths of Hot Springs, Arkansas is almost a right of passage for every American. The city is steeped in history from the bathhouses to gangsters to drive-thrus. Surrounded by all this history is a former medical building that is now a classically modern hotel. The Waters Hotel is a sparkling addition to Bathhouse Row.
The Waters Hotel
The Waters Hotel is located on Central Avenue across from the Hale Bathhouse. The hotel isn’t technically in Hot Springs National Park since it is on the opposite side of the street from the national park. The commute to the park consists of crossing the street.
The Waters Hotel was constructed during the heyday of Hot Springs. It was built in 1913 by renowned Arkansas architect George R. Mann. The building was called the Thomson Building. The Building was built to house medical offices. Here visitors from around the country and in some cases the world would come to get a prescription for bathing or drinking the thermal waters. The visitors came in the hope that the “healing properties” of the water would treat their illness. The fortunes of the Thompson Building declined with the fall of Hot Springs by the 1940s the building was converted into a hotel and apartments. As more time passed, the upper floors were abandoned and the lower floors converted into retail space.
In the mid-1980s, Hot Springs, Arkansas was blessed with the arrival of two architects. Bob Kempkes and Anthony Taylor came to Hot Springs found their calling in the renovation and revitalization of historic downtown Hot Springs. During one of their presentations on the historic renovations, they met investment banker Robert Zunik. Zunik was inspired by their work and purchased the Thompson Building and a renovation partnership was formed.
In 2015, the Thompson Building started undergoing renovation. It took two years and over 7 million dollars to restore and renovate the building. The new hotel was christened The Waters and the grand boutique hotel was opened to a newer revitalized downtown Hot Springs.
Getting to The Waters Hotel
The Waters Hotel is located at 340 Central Avenue in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The closest major city is Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock is a one hour drive from Hot Springs.
There are two nearby airports. There is Hot Springs Memorial Field Airport which offers flights to and from Dallas. Little Rock has the Clinton National Airport. Clinton National Airport is serviced by Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, and United. This airport has rental cars available and there is an shuttle from the Clinton National Airport to Hot Springs.
A car is not necessary to explore Hot Springs National Park. Bathhouse Row is walkable. The trail system is interconnected and you can hike to both of the parks mountain summits in under 5 miles.
The Waters Hotel Review
Disclaimer: Thank you to The Waters Hotel for hosting my stay. They provided me with three nights of accommodations during my trip to Hot Springs National Park. All opinions are 100% mine.
As I followed my GPS’s direction to The Waters, I was a little curious on how the valet parking was going to work. Central Avenue is a BUSY four-lane road. As I came into the city, I realized that I was going to have to turn across Central to get to the Valet Parking. Given the traffic, I was going to be waiting a while or find somewhere to turn around.
I have been to Hot Springs National Park before and had a slight memory of a roundabout at the end of the street. As it turns out, my memory is correct and there is a roundabout at the end of Central Avenue. I used the roundabout to turnaround and then pulled into Valet Parking.
** For those who don’t know, I drive a 2015 Subaru Forester with a manual transmission. Every time I hand my keys to a valet I have the same feeling of dread a Lamborghini owner does. Do I trust this person with my precious clutch? Do they know how to drive her? I have gotten into the habit of telling valets, mechanics, pretty much anyone I hand my keys to that she is a clutch. The Waters Hotel always has someone on staff who can drive a manual transmission. I checked.
I grab my bag out of my car and looked up. It hits me that The Waters is a historic hotel with an emphasis on historic. The working that turns of the century neoclassical super wealthy building. I half expect someone with the last name Rockefeller or Astor to be walking out.
Alas, I don’t see anyone rich or famous that I would know. But I can appreciate the attention to detail that Kempkes and Taylor put into renovating the exterior and lobby.
The marble lobby feels modern and inviting with a touch of Victorian America. I am quickly checked in and handed my room keys with a map of the hotel. The clerk reminds me that I get 15% off spa treatments t the Quapaw Bathhouse and provided me with a slip to give to the Quapaw front desk.
I head up the elevator. The elevator is new but it has the classic dings to signal each floor. I step out of the elevator and it feels like I am walking to a 1920’s doctor office to get my prescription for the “healing” hot spring water. Locate my room which as the classic doctor’s office lettering on the door. The only thing that hints it’s a modern hotel is the electronic door lock. My room was a King Bed with City View.
I step into the room and am treated to an elegant hotel room. My room is on the 5th floor and has sweeping windows that allow me to look along the entire length of Bathhouse Row. I can see from the historic Arlington Hotel to the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center (aka the Army and Navy General Hospital).
It took me a while to get over the view and explore the rest of the spacious room. I hopped on the bed and found it was a good balance between hard and soft. The soft lighting on the headboard provided a very nice touch and was really helpful when returning to the room after dark. It did take me a bit of searching to find the off switch (look for the sliver button on the headboard).
The room comes with a standard set of hotel amenities. I had a comfy chair, small refrigerator, flat-screen TV, and a desk. On the desk is a glass bottle of Mountain Valley Spring Co water. Mountain Valley is a local company bottling spring water at the source. In the closest, there is a bathrobe.
The bathroom has a sliding barn-style door. The room itself is just as spacious as the main bedroom. The shower is HUGE. It has space for two people to shower at once. I love the fact that the shower controls are opposite the shower head. It means I can start my shower without getting wet. I am excited to see the shampoo and soap dispensers in the shower. I am so glad more hotels are starting to install these. I did find that the shower floors are SUPER slick when you are showering. I spoke with the manager about this safety issue. They have shower mats to put on the floor available. You just need to call housekeeping and ask for one to be delivered.
The best part of staying at The Waters Hotel is its location. It is located in the heart of historic Hot Springs. One simply walks out the front door and then one block in either direction to the cross-walks and you are in Hot Springs National Park.
Fordyce Bathhouse and the Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center is 325 feet from the front door of The Water Hotel. The Bathhouse Row Emporium (Park’s Gift Shop) is a 0.2-mile walk. The Quapaw Baths & Spa and Buckstaff Bath House are stops as you walk to the Emporium.
If you are willing to jay-walk, you can just walk right across Central Avenue and are in the park and can visit Superior Bathhouse Brewery. That being said, Central Avenue is a BUSY four-lane street with no median and the other curb is a two foot step up. If you go this route please, do so safely.
The Waters offers many different dining options in the area. The Avenue Restaurant is located in the Waters hotel. The Avenue offers southern-artisan style food created by Le Cordon Bleu chef. Next door is The Ohio Club. The Ohio Club is a 100 plus-year-old bar and nightclub with a colorful history. Both Al Capone and Babe Ruth have dined here.
A short walk down the street is Food Network’s Cupcake War winner Fat Bottomed Girl’s Cupcake Shoppe. Try there Crème Brulee Cupcake.
The Waters Accommodation
The Waters Hotel offers two different types of rooms. The rooms either come with a King Bed or two Queen Beds. Each room has a slightly different layout as they tried to minimize changes to the buildings and showcase the best aspects of this historic building. Some rooms feature original brick walls or wooden floors. They have several rooms that offer impressive city views. All of these rooms feature a king bed.
All of the ADA compliant guest rooms offer a king bed. The only real difference in the rooms is that the bathrooms have been configured differently to accommodate the ADA compliant showers/tub, handgrips, and other necessities.
The entire building is non-smoking.
Cost: Start at $150 per night plus tax. Prices vary by room type and season.
The Avenue Restaurant
The Avenue Restaurant is located across from the front desk. The Avenue is the brainchild of award-winning Chef Casey Copeland. Copeland won the 2015 Iron Chef Arkansas winner and the Best Chef in 2018 by readers of AY magazine. Chef Copeland incorporates locally sourced food to put an elegant twist on southern dining. The restaurant and bar and open from in the evening for drinks and dinner. They offer a Sunday Brunch. The menus often change with the seasons.
Final Thoughts on The Waters Hotel
I really enjoyed my time at The Waters Hotel. The hotel was elegant and unique and the staff was friendly and warm. I loved walking out the front door and being steps away from Hot Springs National Park. I would gladly stay here again.
If you are planning on doing a spa package at the Quapaw Spa, you can easily save a lot of money by staying at The Waters. That 15% off can quickly add up.