America’s oldest national park, Hot Springs is 40 years older than Yellowstone. (Who knew?) “America’s Spa”-not to be confused with Canyon Ranch, but nevertheless intriguing-encompasses eight historic bathhouses plus 47 hot springs and their watershed. Tour Bathhouse Row, hike along the forested Ouachita Mountains, and drive to the observation tower atop Hot Springs Mountain. Sit (and sizzle) in a thermal bath, operated by park concessioners.
Little Rock’s Aerospace Education Center is a must-see for aviation mavens. Among the cool aircraft suspended from the ceiling here: the humpbacked Sopwith Camel F-1, the most successful combat aircraft of WWI; an exact replica of the Apollo Command and Service Module; and a full-scale replica of the flying machine that started it all, Orville and Wilbur Wright’s 1902 Wright Flyer. Save time to take in a show at the IMAX theater.
You might say Crater of Diamonds State Park is a real gem-visitors can prospect for, and keep, real diamonds. Diamonds were first discovered here in 1906, and more than 70,000 have been unearthed since then. The whopper: the 40.23-carat “Uncle Sam” diamond. Other gems are also mined here, including opal, amethyst, and garnet. Park interpreters help you identify what you find.