Before I begin this tale, a bit of backstory. Before my family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, we vacationed there every year. And so we knew every tourist attraction by heart. When we moved to the town when I was 11, we’d continue to go to places like Mid-America Museum.
So this place and I go way back. Way, waaay back. I could draw you a map of the layout (until the recent update, anyway) of the entire museum by heart. My brothers, now in their 50s, have their own memories of visiting.
So it was a natural choice for a recent family get-together in Hot Springs. We would have gone and paid to get in anyway, but because I’m a rock star travel writer, I managed to finagle 7 free admissions (thanks Jim) before we let loose in the museum for a few hours.
Tribute to the Past
For decades, Mid-America didn’t update much. There were two what I call Rube Goldberg exhibits that had an assortment of hands-on activities, all under the shade of a track you could send pool balls through. I was sad to see these landmarks gone from the museum, but smiled when I saw the hunk of glacier still there.
“That thing has years of our DNA in it,” I remarked to my brother.
A Face Toward the Future
Mid-America seems to have gotten an injection of energy in the last few years, since they’re renovated much of the exhibit space and added some unique permanent exhibits. The interactive water tower, where visitors pump balls through tubes to send them spiraling down into a water vortex kept us busy a while, as did the sand turntables.
One must-see at the museum is the Bob Wheeler Science Skywalk, an architectural marvel high above the ground. It’s a bit like a treehouse, with a musical bench and fog bridge, and pays homage to the beautiful forest that surrounds the museum.
I spoke with Jim Miller, the Director of Marketing at the museum, who told me there were plans to update the museum’s cafe, which they would like to make more of a food destination to attract more visitors.
I love that I have watercolored memories of Mid-America, and that it continues to be relevant and enjoyable for future generations of my (and your) family.