Traveling Arkansas' Scenic Highway 7: Day 3
Above: Doug’s Special Burger at DJ’s Drive-In at Bismarck
Spring Break is a great time to travel to a destination and enjoy experiences with your family. But what do you do when you’re used to travel? For me and my daughter Hunter, it’s time for a road trip.
This week, we’ll be traveling the entire length of Scenic Highway 7, the longest state highway in Arkansas. We’re going to find attractions along the way and share where we went. You can follow us at @TieDyeTravels for live updates.
We slept very well at DeGray Lake Resort State Park and were sad we had to leave our comfortable room in the lodge, but we had plenty of things to do this Wednesday.
The first order of business was a program called Animal Tracks, Scat and Sign at the park. Interpreter Jonathon shared with us the different tracks and scat we might find in the park. Scat, in case you were wondering, is animal poop. The kids find that fascinating.
After sharing the information, we set off with the group in attendance on a walk on Towering Pines Trail, a half mile trail that weaves through the pine forest, out to the lake and along a babbling brook. Jonathon tried very hard to find some "sign," but the best area for doing so was underwater. The lake, like the Ouachita River that was over Highway 7 to the south, was very high.
Finally, we found scat, and the whole group stopped to check it out. Using the handkerchief guide he brought along, Jonathon allowed us to guess at what sort of scat we had found. It was either possum or skunk. We continued on, but didn’t see any tracks.
After the program, Hunter and I roamed around the park for a bit, looking at all the other things available to do and see. We made it out to the point where the yurts are located, and immediately decided that next time we visit, we’re staying in a yurt.
These really cool tents are based on the Mongolian gher tents from centuries past, but have all sorts of amenities inside, such as real beds and electricity. There’s also a fire pit close by, and great views of the lake.
For lunch, we decided to try out DJ’s Drive-In at Bismarck. I’ve passed this place so many times over the years meaning to drop in. Hunter went the easy route and had chicken and fries, and I tried out the Doug’s Special Burger. What makes the burger special is that it’s seasoned with steak sauce. Though the waitress heard me wrong and went no mayo instead of no mustard, it was still a good burger.
Hunter really wanted some ice cream and asked for a banana split. I was expecting the usual five inch long banana boat you get at most drive-ins. Imagine my surprise when our banana split came out to the table in what appeared to be a mixing bowl! The massive amount of ice cream sat on top of two bananas cut lengthwise, and it was all covered with dollops of pineapple, strawberry and chocolate and a whole lot of whipped cream. We really weren’t expecting something that massive, and felt a little bad that we weren’t able to finish it.
From there, we drove on into Hot Springs to visit the new Mid America Science Museum. I was really surprised to get there and see people parked along the road to the museum. The parking lot was full. We were lucky to get a spot when someone else pulled out. I can’t remember a single time I have ever seen that parking lot full.
Inside, the new front desk is steel and there are things to do the moment you walk in the door. SO many things… I mean, a whole lot of things. Too many for me to cram everything in (which is why you can do that over at Tie Dye Travels).
We crossed the skywalk, which is now called the Skybridge, and played a bit with the different light displays. Right inside the main building, there’s a two story water sculpture that the kids just adored—with kids below lining up balls to be shot by water up to the second story, and the kids on the top aiming balls to go into a giant spring that drops balls into a water funnel to take them back down. It’s far more impressive than I just described it.
We walked to the back of the top level, where Hunter attempted (but didn’t care for) the Arkansas Underfoot adventure. What she really loved was this crazy 3D topographical activity where kids use these little rubberized pellets to make mountains and river, and with sensors and light the machine they’re in makes them into topographical details, even putting snow on mountaintops and “raining” when you hold your hand over an area.
Down below, Hunter immediately had to attempt the Gyroid, a geodesic playground structure. There were kids all over this thing. It had handholds and curves. Hunter couldn’t figure out how to get to the top, but that was okay.
There was also a Tinkering Studio, and Hunter was soon absorbed in creating electronic circuits. She really liked making these little fans and lights go.
We went outside and climbed the steps to get up to the Skywalk. This neat structure takes visitors high up in the air on a walkway.
There’s a musical bench on the first landing… but to use it, you have to hold hands with others on the bench.
At the end, there’s a giant trampoline structure and a couple of tightropes. Hunter was all gung-ho to get on the tightrope, but once she got down she declared it was never for her again.
The museum was really, really cool.
We went to check in at our hotel, The Arlington Hotel and Spa. It’s the biggest hotel in Arkansas, and it’s very historic. The rooms are neat and the spa operates with the famed thermal waters from the hot springs that gave Hot Springs its name. But that wasn’t what Hunter was interested in.
She wanted to go swimming again, and she was absolutely gleeful when she discovered that there was more than one pool. The one on the deck right outside the seventh floor is three feet deep—perfect for splashing and playing. And then there’s one above it that’s five to six feet deep for larger kids and adults. There’s also a great hot tub up on the side of the mountain.
For dinner, we went to Rolando’s Restaurante, another favorite of mine, where we shared the Plato de Adventura. It’s a platter that includes a quesadilla, tamale or taquito, a big flattened chicken breast, shrimp, pickled cucumbers and onions, guacamole, black beans and rice and it is very, very good. It really surprised Hunter when it came to the table.
Tomorrow, we’re heading north again. We’ll do some cool things in Hot Springs and then make our way to our next stop, Mount Nebo State Park.
If you’d like to read more about our adventures, feel free to check out my blog, Tie Dye Travels; and follow our spring break Highway 7 travels all week here with Little Rock Family!