Hot Springs Arkansas Bathtub Race-It’s a Must See

If you’re a fan of quirky, unusual things to do when you travel, put Hot Springs, Arkansas, and the World Championship Running of the Tubs on your radar. This bathtub race takes place every June in downtown Hot Springs and pays homage to the history of Hot Springs National Park and provides good clean (pun intended) fun for residents and visitors alike. Yes, you read that right. I said bathtub race.

Hot Springs Arkansas Bathtub Race

Running of the Tubs in Hot Springs Arkansas
Image Credit: Jill Robbins

The World Championship Running of the Tubs has been happening in Hot Springs, Arkansas since 2005. Bathtubs on wheels are raced down Bathhouse Row. Four people run the tubs on foot while a fifth person sits in the tub, which is filled with water. The tubs are elaborately (often hilariously) decorated and themed, adding to the spectators’ fun.

Even a Bathrub Race Has Rules

Like all serious sports, bathtub racing has serious rules. At least 10 gallons of water must be left in the tub at the finish line, and each of the runners, referred to as attendants, must carry one of four items throughout the race and present said item at the finish line. The articles are a bar of soap, bath mat, loofah mitt, and bath towel.

Various obstacles and challenges await the racing teams as they charge down Bathhouse Row. These challenges are facilitated by bathrobe-clad judges who like to introduce rule changes and even make up new rules on the spot to keep the shenanigans interesting.

Different Categories and Prizes

Firefighters compete in bathtub race in Arkansas
Image Credit: Jill Robbins

There are three categories of entry: traditional, modified, and stock. Prizes are given for the most spirited, most original, and best overall. There’s also a famous “Battle of the Badges” race between the local police and fire departments.

Tips for Watching The Race

I don’t have tips for actual bathtub racing other than running faster than the competition and not spilling too much bathwater, but I know a few things about watching the race.

Crowd participation is encouraged, and that is not limited to clapping and cheering. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet, and bring those super soakers and water cannons. Troughs will be filled with water along the course so everyone can “reload.”

Be Prepared To Get Wet

Racing down the street with a bathtub in Hot Springs
Image Credit: Jill Robbins

Stand further from the street if you want to watch the bathtub races but aren’t keen on getting wet. Even then, there’s no guarantee you won’t catch an accidental (or intentional) blast from someone’s squirt gun, so if staying dry is that important, this might not be the event for you.

Get there early to get a good seat and consider taking a folding chair; otherwise, you’ll sit on the curb. Ensure you’ve got sunscreen, a hat, drinking water, and any snacks you’ll want for the race.

Where To View The Bathtub Race

There’s no bad spot along Bathhouse Row if you’re close to the street. You’ll have to decide whether you want to be nearer to the start or finish but getting there early ups your chances of getting to pick a good spot.

It’s generally expected that adults will let the enthusiastic kids with the water cannons and super soakers up front do their thing. The actual races will last two-three hours.

A Bathtub Race That Honors Hot Springs History

Each of the eight historic bathhouses on Bathhouse Row is built on a natural hot spring. The bathhouses were built between 1892 and 1923 and were once popular spots for tourists to relax in the hot mineral waters.

Bathhouse “attendants” racing a bathtub through the promenade of historic buildings (the area is now designated as a National Landmark District) is a fun and lighthearted way to remember how the city and Hot Springs National Park came to be.

Today’s bathhouse buildings house the National Park Visitor Center, a museum of the bathing industry (very cool and more than a little weird – don’t miss it), a gift shop, a spa, and a brewery.

Time your summer stays with the 2023 Running of the Tubs.

This Year’s Race Is Saturday, June 3, 2023

Bathtub racers get creative in the Hot Springs Arkansas Bathtub Race
Image Credit: Jill Robbins

I recommend getting a room within walking distance of Bathhouse Row. Parking in downtown Hot Springs is generally challenging, and street closures occur on the morning of the race.

I stayed in the Hotel Hot Springs last year, and it’s an easy walk to downtown Hot Springs and Bathhouse Row. There’s plenty more to do in Hot Springs – besides the National Park, Lake Catherine State Park, a charming botanical garden, a theme/waterpark (Magic Springs), and a fun, walkable downtown area with lots of shops and restaurants.

Want to do more than cheer the bathtub racers on? There’s still time to enter – the deadline is May 5, 2023.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Jill is an expert travel writer focusing on family and adventure travel as well as practical tips to help travelers get the most value out of their vacation experiences. In addition to Wealth of Geeks, Jill has written for Business Insider, MSN, Tripsavvy, Matador Network, Canadian Traveller, and Travel Awaits. She lives in San Antonio with her husband and sons but she’s usually somewhere else.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button