Fordyce Bathhouse is not only the Visitor Center for Hot Springs National Park, but also a museum! Guests can tour the grand bathhouse and marvel at the beautiful stained glass ceilings, marble walls and statues. Whether you take the narrated tour or the self-guided tour, you are sure to enjoy the exhibits, stories of the bathhouse and park’s history. Come along with me as I take you on your own personalized tour of the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum & Visitor Center.
Fordyce Bathhouse Museum & Visitor Center
The Fordyce Bathhouse operated on the historic Bathhouse Row from 1915-1962, when, due to declining business, it sadly closed its doors. It wasn’t until 1989 that it reopened as the museum and Hot Springs National Park Visitor Center. Even before you walk into the building, you can see see just how grand it was and still is. The detailing around the windows is so intricate and the pattern made by the placement of the tile work on the outside is the result of what had to be hours upon hours of hard work. For those guests who want to sit back and enjoy the view for a while, the covered porch which is made of limestone is lined with stationary seating and rocking chairs.
Where your Fordyce Bathhouse Museum Tour Begins
A tour of the Fordyce Bathhouse Museum will give you a sense of what it was like in those bygone days when millions flocked to the “American Spa”. The lobby, located on the first floor of Fordyce Bathhouse Museum & Visitor Center, is where you’ll sign up for the free guided tour. The guided tours usually take place at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. but those times may vary depending on the time of year you visit. We prefer the self-guided tour as we can take it at our own pace. While waiting on your tour to begin or before starting your own, stop for a moment and take in the beauty of the lobby’s marble and stained glass transoms. The waters from the hot springs once flowed through the elaborate shell shaped ceramic fountain located in the lobby.
Touring the Men & Women’s Bathhouse Facilities
Your tour of the first floor will take you through the lobby, attendant dispatch room and the men’s and women’s facilities. The men’s facilities are quite large and include a cooling room, pack room, steam room, hydrotherapy room, and a bath hall. Considerably smaller are the women’s facilities which are located on the other end of the building. If you choose the self-guided tour, have no fear that you’ll be missing out on the details. Located in many of the rooms are signs which tell what you are looking at and the services which were provided to the Fordyce guests.
Both the men and women’s facilities have stained glass windows, elaborate dressing rooms and gorgeous marble but, the most impressive piece is the magnificent stained glass skylight in the Men’s bathhall. This aquatic themed piece of stained glass features swimming fish and mermaids and when, lit by the sun, it sends beautiful colors throughout the bathhall. Situated in the middle of the same room and centered under the skylight is a near life-size statue of DeSoto.
The Opulence of a By-Gone Era
The second floor of the Fordyce was originally the location of the dressing rooms and men’s massage rooms. Now, guests can view modern exhibits in one of the former dressing rooms and watch a short film. On the third floor, there is the music room, a Knabe grand piano, and displays of the fashionable clothing worn by the men and women back in the bathhouses’ heyday. Frequented by baseball players, prize fighters and other sports figures, the Fordyce gymnasium was the largest in Arkansas in 1915.
The Visitor Center
Hot Springs National Park and the Fordyce Museum & Visitor Center helps kids achieve their National Park Junior Ranger status! The NPS Junior Ranger program offers young visitors the opportunity to join the National Park service as Junior Rangers. For more information on this program, click here. If you are keeping a National Park Passport, you can get it stamped in the lobby.
Other information available to Visitor Center guests is a hiking map that includes the 26 miles of park trails in the area. You will also find information on where to find the three spring fed jug fountains within the park. Want to know more about the two operating bathhouses on Bathhouse Row? They can help you with that too!
Links to other Hot Springs National Park related articles
We visited the Hot Springs National Park in October, 2016 and I’ve written several articles on where to stay, where to eat and what to see and do.