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What to do in Hot Springs

Hot Springs is a national park wrapped around a tiny town in the mountains, and has been famous for its thermal waters since the 19th century. The vacation vibes are strong, and kids will love exploring the area's ranches, lakes and amusement parks.

Hot Springs, Arkansas Bathhouse
Unwind after a long day exploring at one of Hot Springs' most famous bathhouses and spas.hotsprings.org

Where to go in Hot Springs

Hot Springs National Park's most famous area is Bathhouse Row. Older kids and adults can take dips or get spa treatments at the Quapaw or Buckstaff Bathhouses, and everyone will enjoy poking around the fancy Fordyce Bathhouse, which has a music room and once housed a bowling alley. At Magic Springs Theme & Water Park there's a section called Crystal Falls where the point is to get as wet as possible: Think lazy river, wave pool, several slides and surf simulator. The Magic Springs side is packed with landlubbing rides like a thrilling free-fall harness, 360-degree corkscrew roller coaster, and classic carousel.

Magic Springs Theme & Water Park
The kids will have a blast running around the Crystal Falls Water Park, where the goal is to get as wet as possible.hotsprings.org

Where to stay in Hot Springs

The Waters blends a historical location on Bathhouse Row with a fresh, modern sensibility. Guests get discounts at the nearby Quapaw Spa, and there are hiking trails that originate in the hotel's backyard. At Panther Valley Ranch, some of the cozy, knotty pine cabins come with bunk beds. Although it's known for its peaceful, away-from-it-all vibe, the rooms have wi-fi if you feel like stirring up a little Instagram envy.

Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs is full of natural thermal waters.hotsprings.org

Where to eat in Hot Springs

Former Hot Springs resident Bill Clinton, who lived around here as a child, is a fan of MccLard's Barbecue, a family-run restaurant since 1928. The lines out the door prove that the food (giant spicy tamales, ribs and chopped beef with cabbage) transcends all politics.

Hot Springs, Arkansas Barbecue
Playing at a water park and lounging in a bathhouse all day can definitely work up an appetite. hotsprings.org

Superior Bathhouse Brewery, located at the end of Bathhouse Row, uses the area's thermal waters to brew root beer and several alcoholic varieties, like pale ale, Saison, and SPA ("Superior Pale Ale"). It's a perfect snack stop in the national park, and there's a simple menu with sandwiches and beer-friendly snacks like pretzels and pimento cheese.

Looking for more of the best vacations with kids? Check out TODAY's Family Travel Guide.

Lexi Dwyer contributed.