Arkansas : Safety by City
- Eureka Springs
- Fort Smith
- Hot Springs
- Little Rock
- Mountain Home
- North Little Rock
- West Memphis
The “City of Spas” awaits in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
If you think this is just a wooded area with a bunch of open ponds of hot water, you couldn’t be farther away from the amazing reality of what Hot Springs really is.
The waters of the hot springs have been said to be therapeutic for centuries.
Some might even call it sacred.
You can even fill up jugs and drink right from the source with no additional water treatment.
(I’m a little wary of that, but the National Park Service encourages you to drink.)
I’m sorry, you don’t drink it, you “Quaff the elixir.”
That’s the famous saying in Hot Springs.
To make sure we’re following along with the wording in this article, there are a lot of references to Hot Springs.
- Hot Springs: City in Arkansas with a population of nearly 38,000 people
- Hot Springs National Park: The smallest national park in the country located in the city of Hot Springs
- Hot springs: The actual springs that spout hot water
The national park here isn’t much like you’ve seen in other natural parks.
Part of the city area is actual park territory, like the famous Bathhouse Row with historic bathhouses and two that are currently available for soaking in tubs.
Hot springs aren’t the only hot thing in Hot Springs.
There’s a casino that also includes live horse racing dating back to 1905.
There’s a resort on-site with a spa as well.
There’s also a theme park and water park here.
The south side of the city is surrounded by a river that opens to a lake with plenty of water activities.
It’s no wonder nearly 1.5 million people visit this awesome location every year.
You won’t believe some of the history hidden in these hills.
Hot Springs is said to be the real origin of Major League Baseball Spring Training.
There’s a mob history here so deep they built The Gangster Museum of America here.
This city was one of Al Capone’s favorite places to relax from a hard day’s work in organized crime.
You’re going to need a couple of days to explore everything Hot Springs has to offer.
There are plenty of spaces for recreational vehicles near all the attractions as well.
Warnings & Dangers in Hot Springs
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Hot Spring is rated as one of the Top 50 Most Dangerous Cities in America. Those ratings come based on the FBI crime data that is organized after local police submit their data. When you look at the number of crimes vs the population, the crime numbers are incredibly high. When you consider the 1.5 visitors each year, the numbers go down. We will give this a medium risk because there are concerning crime rates that impact tourists.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You'll use Intracity Transit to get around town on the public bus system. Taxis and rideshares are available. The park area is very walkable with a lot of activities in one central spot, but there are other attractions outside the park area worth visiting too, so having a car would be ideal, so you can move at your own pace.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of being pickpocketed, as just one was reported in 2020. That struck me as odd, so I did some digging. The crime reports showed a category of theft called "All Other" and there were 994 thefts in that area. How does it impact you? The crimes in the "other" category include items stolen from recreational vehicles, tents, and boats. This is a 1 in 37 risk. Be very careful here with things you leave near an RV or campsite.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The historic severe storm of April 2011 hit Hot Springs. The EF-3 caused a lot of destruction and took the life of an 8-month-old baby. You have to take the severe weather season seriously here. There's a high risk during spring and medium risk the rest of the year. Ice storms in the winter can cause a crippling effect on transportation of any kind. Flash flooding is another concern. Be weather aware in this beautiful area as the weather is one of the ugly sides of this location.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Seven robberies happened in public in 2020, which isn't very high, but it's also a good reminder to keep valuables at home and don't carry a lot of cash. If you are confronted, don't fight back. It's not worth risking your life for a purse or backpack.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of terrorism here. While it's a big tourist destination, nothing about it makes it a hard target for terrorists.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
I would think there would be more scams in a busy tourist area, but there aren't any being reported now or recently. The majority of scams are calls claiming to be a police officer and demanding money or you'll be arrested, but those impact locals. There's a low risk, but don't let your guard down. If something seems too good to be true, it always is.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women flock here for the spas and girlfriend getaways and are catered to, so there's a low risk of anything happening to a woman that couldn't impact a man. There were 39 rapes reported in 2020, so be sure to travel in groups. Don't drink too much if you can't make good decisions, and don't ever take a drink you didn't see opened or poured.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Considering you can drink the water right out of the ground here, there's a low risk in the water. To be sure, I checked the 2020 Water Quality Report and, sure enough, it meets or exceeds all standards of the state and EPA and has no violations.
Safest Places to Visit in Hot Springs
Half of Hot Springs National Park is actually in town and the other half is wilderness.
Bathhouse Row is a great place to start.
You’ve got a line of former bathhouses restored to glory.
Only Buckstaff Bathhouse and Quapaw Bathhouse offer the traditional services of bathhouses.
This isn’t like a Turkish bath with everyone in the same room.
These are private and luxurious tubs providing relaxation from the hot springs and a variety of add-ons, like a massage.
Every bathhouse on the street offers some kind of tour or attraction.
The hotel rooms are still supplied with hot spring water and just about every room has a soaking tub.
The Hot Springs Mountain Tower has two observation decks, and the one at the top gives a look 1300 feet above sea level and the views span 140 miles on a clear day.
You can walk or take an elevator to both decks.
The Gangster Museum of America is in the Bathhouse Row area.
This shows how organized crime ran much of this city for almost 40 years.
It’s also the place “Lucky” Luciano thought would be a great hiding spot until he was arrested by federal agents.
It’s fascinating to see how a small town in Arkansas brought in some of the biggest New York gangsters ever.
Garvan Woodlands Gardens is said to be one of the best spots in the city for an easy walk through incredible foliage and flowers.
This area is dog-friendly too.
You’ve got Lake Ouachita (“wah-chi-TAWH”) and Lake Catherine for boating, fishing, sunning and hiking as well to get away from some of the Hot Springs Park crowds.
Oaklawn Resort has horse racing, slots, table games, a spa, and a large hotel.
You can purchase seats for the racing shows online and there’s an Oaklawn Anywhere app if you want to learn more ahead of time or maybe make some bets (if it’s legal in your area).
There’s just really so much more to do than I could write in this article.
There’s an alligator petting farm, the Mid-America Science Museum, Magic Springs Amusement and Water Park, and plenty of golf options.
Places to Avoid in Hot Springs
Unfortunately, the highest crime reports are in the most popular tourist places.
That also makes sense because there are more people in those areas.
Crime maps show the southeast section of the city is safer, but it’s also where there are a lot of neighborhoods.
In a place with so much to see and do, you just need to avoid letting down your guard.
You need to practice the same safety steps you’d take in Disney World or New Orleans during Mardi Gras.
You should avoid going into the wilderness if severe weather is possible on any given day.
Storms can brew quickly here.
Even in the 2011 storm, one woman said she’d been through tornadoes before, but never saw one pop up that quickly.
Avoid going into the wilderness unprepared.
You’ll need good hiking boots, bug spray, sunscreen, a walking stick, and a fully charged phone.
Don’t touch the plants along the way unless you are 100% sure what poison ivy and poison oak look like.
Those dangerous plants can be thick in these hiking areas from spring through fall.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Hot Springs
- If you’re traveling with kids, you need to know not all restaurants in Hot Springs allow children due to strict alcohol laws in Arkansas. Be sure to check ahead of time if your preferred restaurant is kid-friendly.
- If you’re driving in and out of Hot Springs, or arriving at night, be warned that the roads surrounding it can be very curvy, hilly, narrow, and dark. There aren’t the best road markings either. Put down the mobile device and stay focused on the road, especially if you’re road-tripping and might be a little tired.
- Bring jugs so you can take home some of the hot spring water. There are plenty of places in the park to fill up and it’s free to take. Some people fill up dozens of containers believing the water holds healing properties and say it’s better than any bottled water available.
- The Hot Springs Police Department releases a monthly crime report. I’m looking at one now and it’s very easy to read. You can see crimes and trends for that month, the year, and compared to previous years. You can find it on their website.
- Speaking of the report I’m reading right now, know your limits. One of the growing trends in 2022 is public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and DUI. It’s okay to let loose and have some fun, but when the fun stops – go home so you don’t get arrested.
- If you are going to be gambling, set a limit of how much you’ll spend and stick to it. There are so many ways at the casinos to get money out of every credit card and bank account you have (for a large fee). It’s easy to get wrapped up in “I feel a hot streak coming on” and getting more money. Don’t be Clark Griswold in Vegas Vacation and lose your plane tickets home at the blackjack table.
- I want to go back to bug spray for a minute. These woods and forests are filled with many bugs that can bite and cause a lot of pain. This includes mosquitos, ticks, venomous snakes, and chiggers (small, red insects). Then there are the poison ivy and poison oak plants. Bring bug spray, antiseptic spray, and calamine lotion on all hikes, just in case.
- You might see a black bear in the wilderness too. If you want to be super cautious, bring bear spray with you. If you do come across a bear, don’t turn around and run. That will just encourage them to chase you. Back away slowly and speak in your normal voice to let the bear know you are a person.
- Bring double the water you think you’ll need on a hike in the summer. It’s incredibly humid here and you can easily get dehydrated. You’ve got no excuse since the spring water is free!
- “If thunder roads, go indoors.” That’s the sage advice for anyone outside as a storm is approaching. If you do get trapped in the wilderness during a storm, the National Park Service says to avoid ledges and open spaces. It’s safer to be in the thick woods than out in the open, but always be focused on getting back to the trailhead and then inside the nearest public space.
So... How Safe Is Hot Springs Really?
I get why the “numbers” experts say this is one of the most dangerous cities in the country.
Looking at the numbers, it’s clear to see ratings double and triple the national averages.
My only beef with that is it doesn’t take into account the 100,000 or so people who might visit each month, which would take the crime ratings down.
For example, as the numbers stand, you have a 1 in 26 chance of being a theft victim.
I don’t like those odds.
I don’t know if I would want to go to a place like that.
HOWEVER – let’s add in the tourists.
Then it goes down to a 1 in 113 chance.
The Violent Crime rate, as it stands, is that you have a 1 in 130 chance of being a victim of a violent crime.
That’s nearly double the national average.
Now I’m going to add in the tourists.
You now have a 1 in 565 chance of being a victim.
Another thing we need to talk about is the opioid epidemic in Arkansas.
This is a trend sweeping America.
I looked at the drug numbers of Hot Springs and there was a 1273% increase in prescription drugs seized.
Drug dealers are selling prescription drugs that might look like your Xanax pill, but that same illegal pill might have 2 mg of Fentanyl in it, which is enough to kill you.
Illegal prescription drugs are killing Americans.
Don’t take any pills that don’t come from a legit pharmacy.
How Does Hot Springs Compare?
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- Visas - You won't have to go through Visa processing in Hot Spring as it's handled at the airport. You'll need an ID to drink, rent boats, and gamble.
- Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar here. The casinos take credit cards for the spa, hotel, and dining, but you'll need cash to play the machines or try the table games. Don't carry around a lot of cash with you, and if you can avoid using the casino ATMs, that's ideal. Those machines have very high per-use fees.
- Weather - You've got to be wary of severe weather in the spring, but tornadoes can also happen in the summer or fall. Early winter is the secondary severe storm season because of all the hot and cold air bumping around in the atmosphere. Winter can also bring ice storms to this area, and with hilly roads surrounding the town, travel will be halted. There's just no safe way to drive on ice.
- Airports - The option that makes the most sense is the Little Rock Airport, which is about an hour east. The Memphis Airport would be a three-hour drive, which isn't too bad, either.
- Travel Insurance - The weather here is dangerous and unpredictable at times, so get travel insurance on your trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Hot Springs Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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