While planning a recent weekend getaway, my husband and I browsed through many websites looking for relaxing recreational activities to do in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Such things are definitely not limited in the area, for the city is well-known for its bath houses and spas. However, we weren’t really interested in those at the time and searched for other options. Then my husband came across the Garvan Woodland Gardens website and decided that a stroll through a tranquil garden setting might be just what we were searching for. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the idea at first, and I barely even checked out the website prior to the trip. He sparked my interest by mentioning that a Japanese garden and Koi pond were on the premises, therefore I agreed to go. However, my first thoughts on the matter was that it would have a short walking trail through a typical wooded area, some random shrubs and bushes, two Koi fish in a shallow pond, and then boredom would kick in after 30 minutes.
Boy was I ever wrong.
Garvan Woodland Gardens is located on more than 200 acres of beautifully landscaped terrain surrounded by sparkling Lake Hamilton shorelines. Not only does it have picturesque plant life, but it also has charmingly constructed bridges and walkways that lead to intricate architectural structures and gorgeous overlooks, streams, and waterfalls.
After wandering through the Bonsai and Japanese gardens for about an hour and a half, I realized that we had only covered about one fourth of the grounds! There were so many beautiful things to see, and it certainly converted my initial impression of boredom into fascination and enjoyment. My favorite section is the Japanese-style “Garden of the Pine Wind.” It features a large Koi pond (filled with many thriving fish by the way), a lovely 12-foot waterfall, beautiful streams, scenic rock formations, attractive garden art, and hundreds of Asian flowers, trees, and plants.
Other foliage specific sections of the botanical garden include brilliant displays of ferns, vines, daffodils, azaleas, tulips, and so much more. There were also two new areas under development: the Rose Garden and the Wildflower Meadow. The main garden path is also connected to the Hixson Family Woodland Nature Reserve, which offers a one-mile interpretive hiking trail with benches and observation points for bird watching and lake viewing.
Unique structures like the Garvan Pavilion and Klipsch Amphitheater accent the serene environment. These facilities play host to a variety of special events throughout the entire year. Workshops and activities such as tea parties and dinners are offered to the general public. The stunning Anthony Chapel, along with its Anthony Family Carillon and separate bride and grooms quarters, provide the perfect romantic setting private weddings and receptions.
Overall, I was really impressed with Garvan’s grounds and facilities. Everything was immaculate and attractive. The Welcome Center had a friendly staff, a cozy little gift shop, and remarkably clean restrooms. I would highly recommend stopping by if you plan on traveling through central Arkansas. It is definitely a must-see attraction and well worth the time and money!