The next morning we arrived at the Oaklawn Horse Racing Park (http://www.oaklawn.com/) and were greeted by Lou, who served as our VIP escort for the day. He made sure we received the full tour of the race stadium, including the press box, announcers’ booth, paddocks, Oaklawn Club and gaming area. With Lou’s connections, we were able to watch Race #3 trackside and got a photo with race winner Speedy Escape. After the grand tour, we were ready to eat, drink and place bets! We ordered a few dozen raw oysters and as many Bloody Marys as we could carry and made our way to the betting window, then to our box to watch the races. We cheered on our favorites and collected our winnings. Our next stop was the Club Room where we met Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who is originally from Arkansas. We had such a great time!!! Does an afternoon in Arkansas get any better? As the races came to an end, we went to Oaklawn’s gaming room for some more gambling. From slots to craps to blackjack, the gaming room has it all and offers something for any level gambler.
After Oaklawn, we checked into the Arlington Hotel (http://www.arlingtonhotel.com/) for my last night in Arkansas. Since 1924, this Arlington (there were two others prior) has served as one of the most prominent structures in downtown Hot Springs, and it was designed for vacationers and bathers who traveled to Hot Springs for the thermal waters The hotel has hosted notables such as Barbara Streisand, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Yoko Ono, Tony Bennett and Babe Ruth. One of the hotels most notorious guests was Al Capone, who stayed in room 442, and rented the entire floor for his staff and bodyguards. Capone was such a fixture here that his car is on display in the hotel’s lobby.
The lobby and restaurants of the Arlington have undergone recent renovations; however, the hotel rooms still represent the nostalgia of the past. In fact, on the back of our hotel room (#911) is some of the original thermal bathing instructions from the 1960s for guests to know what temperature and duration their soaks should be. The information certainly served as entertainment for the evening.
My last Arkansas dinner was at Angel’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Hot Springs. We sat down and were immediately greeted by Debbie, who was a wonderful hostess for the evening. We started asking Debbie about the restaurant and owners and she told us all about the nice couple who own this restaurant and a few other businesses in town. It was refreshing to hear someone speak so highly of their boss, and Debbie’s loyalty to them was undeniable. Our meal was delicious and Debbie made us feel right at home.
After dinner, we checked out the Hot Springs nightlife, which included Maxine’s (named after Hot Springs most famous madam, Maxine Temple Jones) and Lucky’s (named after gangster Lucky Luciano). Both venues featured live music and were a lot of fun (what happens in Hot Springs stays in Hot Springs).