GAMING AND RACING destinations make great weekend getaways. Thereâ??s the thrill you get when you play and win, which seems to instantly melt away the stress from the past week. Then thereâ??s the abundance of food, which is delicious and filling while hitting the spot.
When itâ??s time to leave, you gather your winnings and head home, but sometimes it doesnâ??t feel like the getaway was long enough. What you need is the excitement gaming provides paired with the relaxation of a scenic destination, a chance to explore the area attractions on a relaxing journey, rather than just a quick getaway.
Arkansas is a great place to spend some time off the beaten path while also getting your fill of gaming and racing. The state is home to two first-rate gaming and racing facilities, Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs, and Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis.
In addition to the two facilities, Arkansas also boasts Southern comfort food, thriving downtowns, scenic byways, fascinating history, unusual museums and quaint towns. Start and end with racing and gaming, but guarantee a win with these views along the drive between Oaklawn and Southland.
OAKLAWN AND HOT SPRINGS
Kick off your trip with a visit to Oaklawn, which was named Southern Gaming and Destinations Readerâ??s Choice for Best Racetrack/Racino facility in the Mid-South for 2014. Grab a bite at two new dining experiences: Silks Bar and Grill, and The Bistro.
While youâ??re in Hot Springs, stroll along Bathhouse Row and pamper yourself with a luxurious spa treatment. Stop by the â??jug fountainsâ? downtown and taste water straight from the hot underground springs, and if you want to be a true tourist, pick up some bottles and take a sample of the refreshing water home as a souvenir to serve at your next get-together.
Make time to visit the numerous area lakes and take in the picturesque view of the town from atop the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Grab a meal at one of the local restaurants along Central Avenue downtown to complete your Hot Springs experience.
Enjoy a bit of well-preserved Wild West spirit in Fort Smith, the place where federal marshals once rode out of the United States and into Indian Territory. Explore sites that commemorate and preserve the Trail of Tears, Civil War and Butterfield Overland Mail Company route history.
Enjoy the nightlife and dining in the stateâ??s second largest city at one of the many local joints downtown, and enjoy a nostalgic visit to a 1920s replica pharmacy with a working soda fountain and ice cream floats and sundaes, an experience guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
To complete your trip, enjoy a scenic train ride through the foothills of the Boston Mountains and through a 1,700-foot tunnel in vintage passenger cars dating back to the early 1900s.
Venture off the main road on scenic Highway 71 north of Fort Smith and experience the breathtaking views of the Ozark Mountains with plenty of charming stops along the way.
Spend some time in Bentonville, a city with a small-town feel that includes the international headquarters of Walmart, and learn about Walmart history in a museum that is housed in founder Sam Waltonâ??s original variety store.
Walk the halls of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a premier art institution with state-of-the-art galleries and a surrounding park. Brush up on your history at some of the more than 140 Civil War sites in the area. Take a walk in the town square and enjoy the beautiful gardens and quaint shops as you wrap up your visit.
Eureka Springs, also known as the â??Little Switzerland of the Ozarks,â? is a secluded and peaceful town with winding mountainside streets that has a flair like no other town.
Enjoy block after block of distinctive shops, boutiques, fine art galleries, craft emporiums, spas and museums. Soak up live jazz and blues music at one of the townâ??s many local restaurants and bars as you savor regional cuisine. Visit the beautiful 48-foot Thorncrown Chapel, which contains 425 windows with over 6,000 square feet of glass. Round out your trip with a relaxing trolley or carriage ride as you savor one last glimpse of the town.
Pick up the pace in Little Rock, Arkansasâ??s capital city, which contains the greatest concentration of restaurants and entertainment in the state. Eat and drink your fill at neighborhood restaurants and breweries with specialties from barbecue to fine dining and everything in between.
Spend time at the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, where you can walk into replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room. Check out the eclectic River Market and South Main Street districts downtown, and explore what the local vendors have to offer. Enjoy a quiet stroll with a spectacular light show after dark on one of the three lighted bridges across the city.
Hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain to experience a panoramic view more than a thousand feet above the Arkansas River Valley. Wrap up your stay with a visit to the Old Mill in North Little Rock, an authentic reproduction of an 1880s grist mill made famous by its appearance in the opening sequence of â??Gone with the Wind.â?
SOUTHLAND AND WEST MEMPHIS
Conclude your vacation with more gaming at Southland in West Memphis. Enjoy non-stop action in the new gaming facility opening in late 2014, which will include a 41,000-square-foot gaming center expansion with 500 new games, bringing its total to 1,950.
Experience the dramatic live greyhound racing, as well as simulcast Thoroughbred and greyhound races from premier tracks around the world. While youâ??re there, relish the delicious dining at Bourbon Street Steakhouse and Grill or eat your fill at the World Market Buffet.
Sure, everyone loves a good gaming destination. But part of any great trip also is how you get where youâ??re going. Arkansas beauty ensure the payoff of the journey is as rewarding in its own way as any royal flush.