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Arkansas: Soak in the history of gangsters, presidents and stagecoach riders

Tour the eclectic cities that once lured gangsters and future presidents. After a dip in medicinal hot springs, take a trip to the state capital, Little Rock, where a presidential library awaits your inspection. Finish your trip in Conway, where a legendary trail meets a pioneering mail route.

Drive 85.3 miles, 1 hour, 20 minutes

Hot Springs CVB

Hot Springs CVB

1. Hot Springs    

Starting Point

Located in the Ouachita Mountains, ”Spa City” welcomes travelers to relax and refresh in the thermal mineral waters that have made this town legendary. Numerous spas and bathhouses proffer thermal baths and soaks amid the steamy vapors for soothing relief of pains and tension. The hot water is also pumped into several hotels. Once you’re feeling up to snuff, it’s time to check out those bad boys at the Gangster Museum of America. Get an inimitable look into the Roaring  ’20s and the rough-and-tumble ’30s, including the mobsters and gangsters who gambled their time away in Hot Springs, including  Al “Scarface” Capone, Owney “The Killer” Madden and Charles “Lucky” Luciano. The museum exhibits antique slot machines as well as weapons carried by the gangsters.


Catherine’s Landing At Hot Springs
Hot Springs, AR
(501) 262-2550

2. Little Rock

54.6 miles, 52 minutes

History is at home in Little Rock, and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center lets you enjoy it all. Explore the many exhibits for an up-close look at the day-to-day operations of the Clinton White House. The Presidential Library is a treasure-trove of memorabilia relating to our 42nd president. Watch the Clinton inauguration from 1993 and follow the presidential timeline through both terms, then visit a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room before a quick look at the presidential limousine. Delve into nature at the 33-acre Riverfront Park, located on the banks of the Arkansas River, before a trip into the William E. Clark Presidential Park Wetlands.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

3. Conway         

30.7 miles, 28 minutes    

Conway is home to Arkansas’ first settlers, thanks to river access and new trade routes. Many of these are now designated as Heritage Trails. Cadron Settlement Park provides a glimpse into pioneer life with the two-story replica of an 18th-century blockhouse, originally used as a residence, tavern, trading post and protection against the Cherokee Indians. Walk a part of the Cherokee Trail of Tears, the route hundreds of Native Americans took during their forced trek to Indian Territory. The legendary Butterfield Overland Mail Route also ran through the area.