Take Your Rig to the Races

The outside of Oaklawn Jockey Club

The outside of Oaklawn Jockey Club

You horse racing fans out there should seriously consider  visiting Hot Springs, Arkansas -- home of the Oaklawn Jockey Club and the soon-to-be-opened Catherine's Landing: an RVC Outdoor Destination.

Although this year's round of races at Oaklawn started a month or so ago, there's still much to see since the races will continue into April. Oaklawn is special because it is one of the few horseracing facilities in the country that gets 10,000 visits on an average day. The biggest race days at the park at  the Rebel Stakes on March 19 and the Arkansas Derby on April 16. Grandstand seats are  $2.50 on weekdays and $4.50 on weekends. You don't have to bet to watch a race, but if you want to try your luck, the minimum bet is $2. If you are feeling even luckier, head on over to the gaming facility  which offers poker, reel games and electronic blackjack. Even if gambling isn't your thing, there's still a lot to see and do at Oaklawn. While at the races, you can see the horses as they get ready, people watch, wander around inside and enjoy one of their famous corned beef sandwiches. The best part for RVers is that while you having fun at Oaklawn, you can park your RV in the North Lot for only $2 a day.

smoke_it_right__the_mountain_valley_up_trackHot Springs isn't just for race fans. Other destinations in Hot Springs include Garvan Woodland Gardens and Bathhouse Row. Garvan Woodland Gardens is the botanical garden run by the University of Arkansas. And for history buffs, Bathhouse Row offers a glimpse into the health spa craze of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Once host to such famous historical figures as Babe Ruth, Al Capone and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the bath houses are the centerpiece a national park which also features hot spring (hence, the name Hot Springs). Only one bath house, The Buckstaff, is still in operation today. Architecture lovers will also appreciate the different building styles of the individual bath houses, including Neoclassical Revival, Renaissance Revival, Spanish and Italianate.

After a busy day at the races or the hot springs, there are several nice RV parks where you can park your rig (several of which are mentioned at the end of this article. There will soon be a new RV park in the area as well -- Catherine's Landing, an RVC Outdoor Destination. This will be the biggest RVC Outdoor Destination yet. Located on one mile of water frontage on Lake Catherine, it is a mere ten minutes away from Oaklawn making it an ideal place to stay during the races. All of the RV sites have full hookups, 50 amp service, WiFi and cable. There will also be a boat ramp and pontoon boats. Catherine's Landing is also a good place for your pets to stay since it has a Bark Park off-leash area. They also have cottages and yurts. Since photographs of the RV sites at Catherine's Landing aren't available yet, here are pictures of a cottage, a yurt and the outside of the park.

Cottage2 smaller


Yurt Smaller

Yurts CL

Catherine's area

While the official grand opening of Catherine's Landing won't take place until May, the general manager says that the park are aiming for an April 1 opening. The amenities may be limited then (for example, the pool and boat dock probably won't be open), but you will be able to get a discounted rate. How much of a discount? If you book by June 1, you'll get 50% off of your stay.

So if you love RVing, gaming, horse racing and big discounts, Hot Springs, AK is a great place to park your rig.

Other RVParking.com Picks for Hot Springs, AK

Hot Springs RV Park

"Very nice, clean, swimming pool, breakfast served by Grandpa's Griddle, lots of shade trees, pond with fish and ducks, cable tv, pull-throughs (many of the surrounding RV parks don't have pull-throughs)." Read more.

J & J RV Park

"Awesome RV park!" Read more.

Gulpha Gorge Campground

"Great park in the forest." Read more.


History and Homeschooling on the Road with the Jr. Ranger Program

Our family loves the freedom that RVing together gives us.  We enjoy the time we get to spend with one anther, the wonderful and varied places in creation that we get to visit, and the incredible learning opportunities that we are offered along the way.  One of the best learning activities that we have found on our travels has been the National Park Service's Jr. Ranger program.  Offered at many of the over 390 National Parks, the Jr. Ranger program is an interactive learning opportunity that is hands on, age appropriate, and always interesting!

If your family intends on visiting very many national parks, I would highly recommend purchasing a National Access pass; for $80 per year, it will admit your vehicle, with it's occupants, into into most National Parks.  We have one for each vehicle since sometimes we will take in the truck and RV to camp within the park, in addition to the van.   Once we have arrived at the National Park, our first stop is always the visitor's center.  Here, we stop by the information desk, watch an introductory movie if one is available, and the kids pick up Jr. Ranger booklets from the ranger there.  The program is almost always free.  So far in our travels, we have come across only 2 parks where there was a fee for the books - those parks were Zion, which charged $1 for each book, and Jamestown, whose booklets were $1.75.

alamo 004

Each park's ranger books are different, but they usually include at least half a dozen activities for the kids to complete; some parks even have different booklets for different ages of kids.  For many parks, the worksheets are directly related to what the kids will learn in the visitor's center and while touring the park.  Many of the booklets contain crossword puzzles, word finds, fill in the blanks, drawing pictures, and identifying activities.  The booklets are an easy and fun way to learn about the new location that we are in, and we have often found out interesting facts about that specific park that we would have never learned about without the Jr. Ranger program.

alamo 006

Some of our favorite Jr. Ranger programs have been:

Grand Canyon (AZ) - not because of the booklets themselves, but because we were required to attend a Ranger-led talk.  We enjoyed the first talk so much that we attended several others.  If you get a chance to visit the Grand Canyon, be sure to go to the talk about legends of the G.C. - Emma still remembers the mystery surrounding the Hydes and how there has not been 'hyde' nor hair of them seen since they set off to float the caynon.

Fort Fredrica (GA) - the program at Fort Fredrica is subsidized by a private grant, and their Jr. Ranger booklets are very well done.  Their booklets are in color, have pop-ups and removable map and letters.  Here the kids got to check out haversacks full of items to help them complete the booklets, and borrowed tri-cornered hats and mob caps!  Fort Fredrica also has a fun visitor's center, which includes costumes for the kids to dress up in, and period toys.

Saguaro National Park (AZ) - the kids liked Saguaro's program because they were able to check out a Jr. Ranger backpack full of items to help them complete their booklets, items like a magnifying glass, an animal track identification sheet, binoculars...

Appomattox National Historic Site (VA) - Appomattox was especially fun since we happened to arrive on the anniversary of the signing of the Confederate surrender (which happened at Appomattox Courthouse - which is, incidentally, the name of the town; the signing occurred in a private home, not the courthouse).  Their Jr. Ranger program was quite educational, and we enjoyed that it really encouraged the kids to find out info about the Civil War instead of focusing on environmental issues like some programs do.

Harper's Ferry National Park (MD) - Harper's Ferry is such an interesting site!  It is most famous (to our family) as being the spot where the abolitionist John Brown seized the US armory and held off troops until his capture (and subsequent hanging), but there is so much more to the area - which we found out through their Jr. Ranger program!  (did you know that Harper's Ferry changed hands EIGHT times during the Civil War?)  This park's program was unique as it offers 3 levels, and therefore 3 different badges!  With 3 varying difficulty levels, your young ranger can choose to achieve the apprentice, journeyman, or master badge.  We weren't sure when/if we would be back, so the boys did all 3 (it was a long day. LOL!).

Generally, our kids 9 and up can complete the booklets without help, and the younger ones need a bit of assistance with spelling.  After the kids have completed the required number of activities in their booklets, we return to the visitor's center and find a ranger!  Generally, the ranger will ask the kids a few questions about the park, and look through their booklets at what they have accomplished.  The ranger will then lead the kids through the ranger pledge promising to help care for the park system (varies slightly from park to park), and the kids receive a plastic badge that looks much like the rangers uniform badge; each badge has the name of the park, and a different logo in the center.  There are a few parks that give out embroidered patches instead; the kids are always tickled to receive these colorful patches, which we sew onto their Jr. Ranger vests.  We have received patches from Fort Clatsop (OR), Fort Davis (TX), Big Bend (TX), Amistad NRA (TX), Gettysburg (PA), and Carlsbad Caverns (NM).  The badges make great souvenirs!  The kids also get to keep the booklets - we sometimes make them go back and complete all the activities as part of their schoolwork.

You can find out online if a park offers a Jr. Ranger program simply by going to http://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm - choose a state, then a park - once you're on a parks page, look for a tab on the left that says 'for kids' - clicking will lead you to a page that tells you what that park offers for kids.  Sometimes you can even print out the booklet at home, and the kids can then work on it on the drive to the park!

palo alto 018
We have also found, that for some parks, you don't have to actually go there to become a Jr. Ranger.  This past week, our family went to Palo Alto National Battlefield in Brownsville, TX (clear down in the southern tip).  While we did the booklet onsite, we also noticed that you can download their Jr. Ranger booklet and print it.  Once the kids have completed the booklet,  you can mail it to the address provided, and a ranger will send you back a Palo Alto Jr. Ranger badge!

Another great educational program that the National Park Service offers along the same lines as the Jr. Ranger program, is the Web Rangers program!  This is an online Jr. Ranger program that offers over 50 different activities to complete about national parks and nature!  Once you have completed a set number of activities, you will be emailed a link to fill in your name and address, and the National Park Service will snail mail you an embroidered Web Ranger patch!  Makes a great addition to those Jr. Ranger vests :) . While both the Jr. Ranger and Web Ranger programs are targeted towards children, they are offered to anyone, of any age, that would like to participate!

My children retain so much more knowledge when the information is presented in engaging, hands-on, multi-sensory form - and they have learned, and retained, so much from the Jr. Ranger program.  Our goal, as a family, is to collect Jr. Ranger badges/patches from every National Park in the country that offers them!  Along the way, we will be learning much about this incredible country that we live in, and having a great time making memories that will last a lifetime!  Check out the Jr. Ranger program and see if your family would enjoy it also!

Dana is blessed to be able to full-time RV with her hubby and 10 of their 11 children.  They enjoy roadschooling as they travel the country; one of their goals is to earn Jr. Ranger badges from every National Park that offers the program.  You can check in on their progress, and follow their travels as they chronicle the journey at: http://ticknortribe.blogspot.com/

RSS Feed