Passionate Pursuits in the Natural State
Tourist crowds thin in the winter in Arkansas, but temperatures are rarely frigid. Summer is busy at popular destinations like mountain lakes and big cities, and autumn is as popular with leaf peepers as it is in New England states. Whether you take the waters in Hot Springs, blow the bank in Little Rock or enjoy a quiet drive through the countryside, remember to make a mix tape of Delta blues to accompany your romantic getaway in Arkansas.
A Day in Hot Springs
Leave the kids with a sitter and begin a romantic day in Hot Springs with a stroll along the elegant Grand Promenade or Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs National Park. The brick-paved Grand Promenade passes the tumbling hot springs cascade and cliffs veined with quartz. After your stroll, check in at the Buckstaff Bathhouse (509 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR) for a mineral bath and Swedish massage in a historic bathhouse, or book a couples massage at Thai-Me Spa (5001 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR). Pack a picnic lunch and hike the Peak Trail to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower (401 Hot Springs Mountain Dr., Hot Springs, AR) where you’ll have panoramic views of the surrounding Ouachita Mountains. End the day with a romantic dinner at Rolando’s Restaurante (210 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR), a Latin fusion restaurant downtown.
Overnight in Little Rock
Book one of the tasteful suites at The Empress of Little Rock (2120 Louisiana St., Little Rock, AR) for an over-the-top romantic getaway. Housed in a High Victorian home completed in 1888, the Empress is a AAA Four Diamond bed-and-breakfast where the morning meal is served by a bow-tied butler. Rooms have double hot tubs and hydrotherapy steam showers with aromatherapy. Romance packages include a champagne picnic, couples massage and service workers in period dress.
The Rosemont Inn & Cottages (515 West 15th St., Little Rock, AR) is an equally romantic but more budget-friendly option. Choose a private cottage or standard guest room and add romantic touches like a bottle of champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries from the inn’s menu of add-ons. Some rooms have double hot tubs or showers big enough for two.
If you decide to venture from your room, Ristorante Capeo (425 Main St. North, Little Rock, AR) serves classic Italian dishes at mid-range prices in a cozy, romantic dining room. The restaurant also offers a three-course wine pairing dinner. One Eleven at the Capitol (111 W. Markham St., Little Rock, AR) uses fresh local ingredients to prepare entrees like roast duck breast and diver scallops. The sophisticated bar and dining room set the tone for a special evening.
Arkansas’ Scenic 7 Byway meanders through the center of the state from north to south. South of Interstate 30, the two-lane road winds through fields and small towns, but portions of the section from Interstate 30 north to Harrison are breathtaking. If you have little ones, strap them into their car seats and hope they nap as you make your way through Hot Springs and into the Ozark Mountains. The curving road hugs the higher elevations, and drop offs provide dramatic views. If you don’t have time to drive the entire 193-mile section, begin in Hot Springs and end in Russellville, about a 70-mile drive that includes the Ouachita National Forest.
Many people think of Louisiana when they hear the words “Mississippi Delta,” but the largely flat, fertile land along the river on Arkansas’ eastern border with Tennessee and Mississippi is also considered part of the Delta. If you begin your drive at Interstate 40 and head toward Helena, you’ll find yourself mostly alone on the back roads that connect small towns. In Marianna, stop by Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (219 W. Louisiana St., Marianna, AR), an unlikely winner of the James Beard Award, for hickory-smoked barbecued pork sandwiches. From here you can head north on the Crowley’s Ridge scenic byway or southeast to Helena, once the blues capital of Arkansas. If you’re there in October, experience real Delta blues music at the annual King Biscuit Blues Festival (assorted venues, Helena, AR).
- Buckstaff Bathhouse
- Thai-Me Spa: Massages
- Hot Springs Mountain Tower
- TripAdvisor: Rolando’s Restaurante
- The Empress of Little Rock
- TripAdvisor: The Empress of Little Rock
- The Rosemont Inn & Cottages
- TripAdvisor: Rosemont Inn & Cottages
- Ristorante Capeo
- TripAdvisor: Ristorante Capeo
- TripAdvisor: One Eleven at the Capitol
- Arkansas Scenic 7 Byway
- Best of the Road: Arkansas’ Route 7 Tour
- Arkansas: Crowley’s Ridge
Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.