Hot Springs, Arkansas
We’ve been to a few parks, National and State, and it didn’t prepare us for Hot Springs. First of all, it’s the city. No entry fee, no gate. It is just part of the area. Secondly, there are spots for people to park up and fill their containers with the spring water. Even though it’s a natural resource intended for people to use, it’s neat to see it in action. We filled our normal drink cups, while others were filling gallons of jugs. There are tons of walking trails not to mention shopping and spas. We couldn’t do a spa because our kids are on the young side, this was the biggest disappointment.
Pick a day that is overcast during the summer months. That is going to be the best advice you can receive. It gets quite humid here and there’s a lot to see, which means walking. The first visit was perfect but our later visits showed us how hot it can get. Bring empty, clean jugs for water. And use the FREE parking. It’s on Exchange Street. The first visit we used a parking meter and almost paid for a lot on the second visit but noticed the free parking behind it.
While you are about and getting hungry, stop by Superior Bathhouse Brewery. The beer is so smooth. Maybe it’s the water, they do use the hot springs. Tasting flights start at $7 and the pours are pretty generous. We arrive just past happy hour and had to take seats near the big picture windows. The view was great but the heat from the sun was BRUTAL. So unless it’s winter, stay clear of those seats.
Stay at Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis, Arkansas even though it seems to be located in the middle of nowhere. It’s conveniently located to Memphis; you can fish in a few ponds and watch the riverboats pass by. Plus the weekly rate wasn’t too bad for a full hookup. The only obvious additions would be a pool, playground and some tree coverage. But the above mentioned positives far outweigh the negatives.
You cannot visit Memphis without going to Graceland. You could, but really, what would be the point. Our whole reason for the Memphis stop was to see Elvis’ home and history. It did not disappoint.
We chose the Graceland Platinum tour + Airplanes and it was well worth the price. When you pay for your tickets, you are assigned a timeslot to visit the mansion. This helps to control the amount and time when people are visiting the home and you know how much time you can spend doing all of the other activities. It was well thought out and we didn’t feel rushed.
I would certainly suggest going during a cooler time of year. While we timed our visit early in the morning, it was already getting really hot by 10 am. Luckily, we heard someone say go to the planes first since it’s outdoors (sometimes accidental eavesdropping works in ones favor). Graceland’s Crossing is a bit of a walk across the parking lot and done after noon was brutal. There’s no shade and if you had to do it during rain, you’d be soaked. So plan ahead!
Seeing photos of Elvis and watching clips of his career is just breath taking. You can understand why he had such a following and of course his music is still great to hear today.
Sometimes, GPS is not your friend. Okay, maybe not GPS but choosing the wrong location as your destination. Imagine driving a 36 foot rig towing a car with your entire family inside with the anticipation that you are going to at LEAST a two lane road toward your rv campground. Well, this time, was completely different. This time, we were going up the side of a ‘small’ mountain that had only one lane. Luckily it was only one way but it was still terrifying not to have any sort of shoulder. The kids were losing their minds because that’s what they do towards the end of ANY trip. And none of us could enjoy the view.
How did it happen? The place we chose to stay was called Raccoon Mountain RV Park and Campground which is NOT on Raccoon Mountain. Instead, it was a few more miles away. Had we used the address and not the name, we would have gone to the right place the first time, OOPS. Lesson learned.
Raccoon Mountain RV Park and Campground has a beautiful view of Lookout Mountain. While, we’ve stayed in places with a bit more space between neighbors, there’s a huge green area for kids to play in. Our visit coincided with Fourth of July. We were even able to see the nearby neighborhoods firework shows.
Additionally, onsite are the Crystal Caverns with discounted rates for campers. And the caves are definitely worth the visit. We took the cheaper tour and it was just under an hour. Perfect for little kids because they do not get restless and it’s a great way to beat the heat midday. Since it’s not a big draw like Ruby Falls, the tour group was on a smaller side and our guide was great about pointing out cave ammonites, salamanders, and formations.
We enjoyed going Downtown a few times. Chattanooga has free trolleys that going over the river as well as downtown. It made getting around easier in the heat with two young kids.
Ruby Falls and the whole lot
We did Ruby Falls, the Incline Railway and Rock City. While it was enjoyable, it was a whole lot to do in one day. If they allow it and you have time break the visits up into a few days. We didn’t realize it would be so much and waited until the last day to do it.
It’s a long way down to the Falls but totally worth it. There are lamplight tours that do not include the colored lights and would have loved to have seen it that way. But even in purple and pink, it’s still quite lovely and over so quickly once you are there. By the time we were out of our tour, the line was getting really long and we were late getting started, 10 am. So I would suggest making a visit earlier in the morning rather than later.
While this isn’t a long ride, it’s still pleasurable to take. And our boys love trains, so it was a must see. When you get down the mountain, you can visit the town of St. Elmo and get a pizza or some ice cream before heading back up.
There’s a lot of oddity with Rock City. Caverns filled with storyland dioramas lit by black lights. It’s the epitome of strange while also being curiously enjoyable. If we lived on this mountain, I would definitely consider a yearly pass because there’s live music and lots to discover. There is a lot of coverage by the mountains and trees that it wasn’t too hot in the afternoon.
Café on the Corner
If you are visiting Ruby Falls and need a place to eat, you HAVE to stop here. It was not intentional for us to stop but we did and we were not disappointed.
Their menu is small, one page. Which made it easier to choose and neither one of us were disappointed. Michael had the Café Quiche. The eggs were fluffy and pastry so flakey. While I had the Memphis- grit cakes, a fried egg with bacon/tomato confit. Nothing like a runny yolk but firm whites over some grit cake to make your day a whole lot better… Have I ever mentioned that I get hangry?