Last week, Angie and I took the kids to Hot Springs, Arkansas for our family vacation. The decision to go to Hot Springs was made as the result several variables...the most important of which was that the vacation had to be affordable. We are saving for our 'no expense spared' vacation to all things Disney next year, so we wanted something that wasn't going to break that budget.
Secondly, the kids wanted to be near water (not surprising since they are part fish). The difficulty was deciding which type of water, salt or fresh. We considered the gulf coast, from Corpus Christi, TX all the way to Destin, FL. In the end, the kids wanted fresh water because of the options it provided - boating, tubing, knee boarding and fishing.
Once we new it was fresh water, we started searching for lakes. We wanted to go out of state for something new...and Angie found an affordable condo on the shores of Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs. That type of destination was perfect...several days of boating and a couple of days of sightseeing and other fun activities.
We left on Monday and drove north east through East Texas and ultimately to Texarkana where we stopped for lunch. Texarkana is the halfway point from Dallas to Hot Springs and the bulk of the trip travelled along I-30 which runs pretty close to our house. We arrived at the condo and got our bearings. The kids tried out the pool, we drove through downtown Hot Springs, we found our boat slip and the marina where we were to pick up our pontoon boat for a two day rental.
The first two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) were spent almost entirely on the water. Thanks to the GPS on my iPhone we were able to locate our position at all times on the lake. On day one, we checked out the lake, tubed, knee-boarded and swam. We all got sunburned pretty bad, as well. We did the same on day 2, but explored other sections of the lake.
Everyone enjoyed being on the water as there was a little bit for everyone. The kids played in the water, Angie and her mom looked at the million dollar homes, and I played Captain Scott. It was fantastic and cemented our decision to purchase a boat soon.
We played minigolf the first evening - Dylan beat Angie and I by a stroke with Cassie coming in a distant fourth. It was HOT, but we had a good time. The second evening, we drove through Hot Springs trying to get an idea as to what we wanted to do the next day. Whenever we weren't doing anything, we were swimming at the pool at the condo.
On Thursday, we went into Hot Springs. We walked 'Bath House Row' taking in the National Park tour and checking out the spas. That was really interesting. At the end of bath house row is a cascade from the spring. As we walked to it, we could feel the heat coming off of it. Dylan plunged his hand into the water and quickly pulled it out as the water can reach 147o Fahrenheit. It wasn't until we saw the spring and felt the water that the history of the bath houses came alive. Once we could feel the heat of the water, we could imagine the crowds bathing and soaking in what they believed to be the healing powers of the waters.
We continued down Central Ave. and ended up at "The Gangster Museum of America". An hour later we knew we had been had. Basically the museum consisted of small exhibit areas where they make you watch a 5-10 minute film on the history of organized crime, corruption, and gambling in Hot Springs. Although interesting, the way the museum presented the information was horrible. Thankfully, although dreadfully bored, the kids behaved wonderfully. We ended the day back at the pool and with a pizza dinner. The memory of the wasted hour at TGMOA faded.
Friday was supposed to be just a leisurely drive home day, but the museum really soured us (and we wanted to end on a good note since the kids had been so well behaved), we decided to add a couple of stops to our itinerary.
The first stop was "The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo". Now, I understand that anything with "petting zoo" in the name is going to suck, but the kids were into it, so we went. Our expectations were low and were met. The petting zoo had some goats and a donkey. We weren't allowed near the deer that were advertised. I've been to better petting zoos at the fair or at the zoo. This one was really bad. The rest of the place was poorly done, as well. The alligator pits were what you'd expect and the cougars and wolf were pathetic. I really felt bad for them in their small enclosures. The rest of the animals didn't look so great either. The kids were happy, so when it comes to something like that, it's all that counts.
Our last stop was the "Mid America Science Museum" where we could touch and do the activities. Dylan was the only kid who wanted to go, but the girls persevered. Once we got their, they were pleasantly surprised - and so was I. We built bridges, boats, airplanes, buildings, windmills and a ton of other structures - all to see various scientific properties. The kids thought it was about playing with stuff, but we know better. They were learning, and so were the grownups. Their 1.5M volt Tesla coil was my favorite - and I learned that Tesla was working on wireless power long before Apple, Sony and IBM.
We left the museum, and Arkansas at about 3:30. We stopped at Ta Molly's on I-30 on Greenville, TX. I mention that because the food was some of the BEST Mexican that we've ever had. If you ever have opportunity to eat at one of them, do so - it is fabulous.
We came home to two very excited dogs and crashed...although vacations are wonderful, it is ALWAYS great getting home. And, it is unbelievable how tired you are when you do get home. I know that for now on, I will always include a weekend between the end of a vacation and a return to work - so I can rest from what was supposed to be a restful week.