The last week of July 2011, PJ and I took the 45 minute drive from our work location in Little Rock to visit Hot Springs, AR - a totally unique, turn of the century town – now a National Park. The town felt old – it was. Tourist shops lined the west side of the old main street. Six or so old bath houses lined the east side, set against beautifully wooded hills.
The largest bath house is now maintained as a museum by the Park Service. It demonstrates an amazing array of old-style bathhouse facilities.
It was so unique we decided we had to “take the bath”. Two of the bathhouses were still operating. We decided to visit the less expensive Buckstaff. We paid our $30 each fee and entered our separate bath areas (the male and female areas are separate).
Attendants led me to a stall to undress. I was given a sheet wrap that I soon found unnecessary, and was led to a large porcelain tub just filled with hot water. An old fashioned motor (it looked a lot like a outboard trolling motor) created a relaxing whirlpool effect. After about 20 minutes the attendant scrubbed and rinsed me, and led me to a sitz bath where I soaked my bottom for about 10 minutes.
I was then led to an extremely hot steam room for about two minutes (all I could stand), and then wrapped in hot towels on a padded table for another 10 minutes.
Finally, I was led to a cool-down room where I enjoyed a nude time relaxing on a comfortable padded lounge, before returning to the stall to again dress, and to return to the lobby to meet PJ who had had a very similar experience.
The bathhouses had been very popular from the late 1880 to the early 1920s - yearly attendance was nearly 68,000 baths. Now they are hardly used at all. At least part of the reason is that people today are frightened of nakedness – even in a bathhouse. I was talking about our experience with a female Manager and she was amazed that we got naked to take a somewhat public bath. I explained that it was a bath – didn’t she bath naked? Crazy!
While not a real naturist experience, we highly recommend “taking the baths” when visiting Hot Springs, AR. It was by far the best part of our visit.
Here are our photos: http://imageevent.com/kenandjane/hotspringsar
Here is a link to more information about Hot Springs, AR: (http://www.hot.springs.national-park.com, http://www.buckstaffbaths.com)