Oaklawn Park opens Friday, presenting racing in December for the first time in the track’s history. The new schedule includes inaugural stakes, 2-year-old racing, and a day honoring fan-favorite Whitmore. Hot Springs has also grown and changed since the track held its last season unaffected by the global pandemic. Here’s a look at what’s new in the Arkansas resort town.
Places to stay
The Hotel at Oaklawn opened at the end of last season and is an obvious choice if you are heading to Hot Springs during the 118th season. The eight stories-high structure has 198 rooms, including two presidential suites. Guests staying on the track side can watch morning training or afternoon races from their rooms.
A former private mansion and national heritage landmark recently opened as The Reserve at Hot Springs, a 12-room luxury boutique hotel. Located down the street from Oaklawn, it offers a modern take on elevated Southern hospitality traditions. The four-acre property is also a wedding and special-events venue and features the culinary expertise of Executive Chef Joshua Garland and Pastry Chef Brandon Peterson.
Explore a slice of the gangster history of Hot Springs and stay at Capone’s Loft. Sleep where the man himself stayed and enjoy the spacious amenities, pool table, draft beer tower, and third floor balcony overlooking historic downtown.
Food and drink
Oaklawn’s expansion project includes several new food and beverage venues, including The Bugler, which is a signature fine-dining restaurant, and the First Turn Bar. Both settings overlook the track and host guests during live racing.
420 Eats Food Truck Court is a family and pet-friendly hot spot where innovation and deliciousness collide. The eclectic choices include hibachi, southern homestyle cuisine, Thai food, vegan options, and Indian fast food. The Backstage Bar serves beer and wine.
New to Hot Springs nightlife is Splash Wine Bar. Enjoy a wide variety of labels and live music on weekends in a 1900s remodeled building downtown.
Beyond the track
The Astral Spa at Oaklawn becomes part of the town’s history of offering healing waters. It features needle showers, which are representative of the iconic Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park; an infrared sauna; and a Himalayan salt wall. The spa compliments the town’s rejuvenating experiences that include the modern Quapaw Bathhouse and the tradition of Buckstaff Bathhouse, which has been in continuous operation since 1912.
The Northwoods Trails, a system of 26-plus miles of world-class mountain biking trails just five minutes from downtown Hot Springs, continues to add new trails and events. Novices and experts are invited to bring bikes and experience lake views, a floating trail and 2,000 previously unused acres north of the city. The system was designed and built by The International Mountain Bicycling Association and made possible in part by a matching grant from the Walton Family Foundation, who has a goal to make Arkansas a world-class mountain biking destination.