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Monday, July 22, 2024

Hot Springs Vacation on a Budget

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Our family had the pleasure of taking a weekend vacation recently. Most weren’t out in full summer mode, which made everywhere less crowded than I imagine it will be in the coming weeks. So what do you do in Hot Springs with a 3.5 year old and an 11 month old, while on a budget?

Well, for starters we stayed on Lake Hamilton. Being right on the lake meant when us parents were tired, but the kids wanted to do something we could take the few steps to the lake and be “doing something”. We fished a lot, watched the boats, and waded in the cool waters. If we hadn’t stayed on the lake we likely would have found somewhere with a pool. Airbnb is my favorite way to vacation, though. We don’t have to worry about our noise level, or those around us like we would in a hotel. Our cottage was pricey, and we could have chosen more cost effective places to stay but it was important to me to be very close to the water.

Lake Hamilton Sunrise

While I think my older child would have had fun at Magic Springs, the thought of taking both kids there seemed daunting. The baby wouldn’t ride anything, save maybe the carousel. So Magic Springs was not an attraction we visited this time. I also will add, it’s quite expensive for just a day ticket, and while we already weren’t planning to go that should be considered when budgeting. It would easily feel a whole day, and could be a good option for families with older children.

We did choose to go to Mid America Science Museum, and it was my personal highlight of the trip. We went on a drizzly day, but that just made the Dino trek much more bearable and not swelteringly hot. Even the baby enjoyed all the sights, and can now tell us how dinosaurs roar! There is much fun to be had, and lessons to be learned. It is a must go back place in our minds. Total cost for a family of four $30.

Walking the Dino Trek, very stroller friendly!

After we got to our lake cottage we planned to stay in for the night until the oldest saw an ad for miniature golf. Off we went to Fun Trackers for a round of golf! I believe 3.5 is probably the most comical age for this. Each hole we came to, he would carry his ball right up to the hole and knock it in. A hole in one every time! The baby enjoyed the water fall and the cars going by on the highway. He sat in our stroller wagon, and this course was very stroller friendly! It was easy to maneuver for the whole family. Total cost for a family of four $17.

On Saturday we ventured over to the Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t go back. It is a neat concept to see so many alligators in one place, and have the option to feed them from a stick. Feedings also happen in the large pens at noon most of the year, but we didn’t stay for that. Overall, if you have a child who is really into alligators this would be awesome for them. Also they hand out bread to feed to goats, miniature donkeys, and emus; which is fun for kids. I think it is more of a one time attraction, at least for our family, and not something to necessarily return to annually. Honestly in hindsight I would have rather saved this money and made another trip to Mid America. That is just my personal opinion, read other reviews before making a decision if you are planning a trip. Total cost for a family of four $25.

The last place we went to was Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf. I can vaguely remember going here as a kid myself, and it was very neat to take my kids! The decorations here are creative and fun. The place is overrun with pirates! But don’t worry, they are pretend my big kid kept reminding us. There are two courses to choose from, or you can choose to do both. We did Blackbeard’s course so we could go across the pirate ship. Again, the baby rode in the stroller wagon. This location is not very handicap or stroller friendly. It has an abundance of stairs. We managed to get all the way around, but it was not an easy task. I do recommend this course, but if you have a baby you will have to find a way to carry them other than a stroller, or be prepared to navigate the stairs by carrying the stroller often. Total cost for a family of four-$15 (we had a $1 off coupon from a tour guide book).

The total for all our excursions for the weekend was $87. We took coolers with our food on the trip, but ordered through DoorDash a couple times to keep from having fussy kids in a restaurant. Having a full kitchen made it possible to make most meals at the cottage, though. Total estimated cost for a family of four for the weekend (housing, DoorDash, gas, and attractions, I didn’t include food we brought because it came out of our food budget)-$550.

Could we have gone for less money? Absolutely. We booked close to our date, which meant a lot of houses were booked up. If you plan in advance by a couple months there is a better likelihood of having your choice of places to stay. Additionally, we could have stayed in a hotel for a lot less. The lake cottage was just my personal preference. We could have skipped the Alligator Farm and second miniature golf course and opted to go to Hot Springs National Park to check out Bathhouse Row and hiked. All would have been free. Or we could have simply spent more time playing on the lake. We set our budget and were even a little under it! The point is, if you want to take a trip there likely is a way, just think out of the box and utilize as many free attractions as you can!

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Madison VanRavensway
Madison VanRavensway
Don't let her quiet nature fool you. Madison is a force to be reckoned with in the outdoors, or creating amazing recipes from scratch.
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