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Old 10-17-2013, 10:43 AM
4,817 posts, read 7,092,624 times
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I wanted to start a thread on this because these are the sort of places we have to stay in when we make our trips to Arkansas because of our budget. Anyone who has knowledge of these types of places, please chime in!

What got me started on this was searching for a lower-cost place to stay when we go to the Hot Springs area. I ran across the Royal Oak Inn in Mt. Ida on Trip Advisor, and it had review after review raving about how clean the place was (though dated, but dated doesn't bother me) and how friendly and accomodating the family is who owns and runs it. It has a pool, and the reviews even mentioned how sparkling clean it was. The rates are very low, by today's standards. I think they even have music out in the "courtyard" on the weekends, but not sure about that, I could be getting it confused with some other place I've read about (and I've read about thousands of them!) They have a web site: Royal Oak Inn - Home And, according to Slim, the Mt. Ida Cafe, just down the road, is a good place to eat.

I also ran across the Shangri-La resort on Trip Advisor. It's right on the shores of Lake Ouachita. Most reviews said it was clean and very family friendly, though also dated. Like it was straight out of the 60s. That suits me, as I grew up in the 60s and that kind of stuff feels like home to me. The biggest rave, however, was for the homemade pies served in the on-site restaurant. Web site: Shangri La Resort Home There were several comments about a certain grouchy waitress who had been there forever....just have to be forewarned and determine ahead of time to try to kill her with kindness. (Waitresses have tough jobs, especially older ones.)

We've stayed in the Gordon Motel in Jasper before. It's fairly cheap, but not the cleanest, and a little run down. There is a small pool, but it usually has a good bit of stuff floating around in it. (At least, those were the conditions years ago.) It would be the greatest place if someone could take it and do a little fixing up and keep it clean! The owners are not the friendliest...they'll talk, but they have to be drawn out. They're a little bit grumpy about all the rules. Seems like I remember signs everywhere with all sorts of warnings and exclamation marks. LOL Guess you can't blame them, as I know how nasty and just downright annoying some people can be, especially when they're staying in a room they're not going to have to clean up! They rent canoes and provide shuttle service directly from there. Web site: Gordon Motel & Canoe Rental I just noticed on the web site that they say they have expanded....I'm wondering if they took in the Parkway next door....we used to stay there a lot, and they had shut it down for a long time. The Gordon lady told us last time we were there that they wanted to buy it but the family wanted too much for it. I always wanted to buy it and fix it up. There was a little apartment there you could live in while you ran the place....well, that was just one of my many daydreams about Jasper. Great little town.

We've also stayed in one of the little cabins at Dogwood Springs RV park and campground in Jasper (just north of it on Hwy. 7). It was fairly cheap and was clean, the pool was clean (and the kids loved the little slide....don't know if they still have that or not, it's been years since we were there), the grounds were clean, and at the time they had a little petting zoo that the kids loved. I'm thinking they may have gotten rid of that. The man who ran the place was friendly and nice, but there was one grumpy lady, don't know if she was his wife or what...we just had to avoid her.

The Cliff House has some rooms below the restaurant with a million-dollar view of the Arkansas Grand Canyon. I've never stayed in them (have always wanted to!), but everything about the Cliff House has always looked very clean. The breakfast used to be great! I haven't been there in a long time. Last time we were there, the owners were looking to sell the place....don't know if that came about or not. They were slightly grumpy, but that was probably because they were wanting out. Anyway, the rooms are fairly inexpensive. I don't think the breakfast is included in the price of the room, but it's right upstairs anyway, and it's good (and wasn't terribly expensive last time I was there). I don't think I've ever eaten any other meal than breakfast there. Web site: The Cliff House Inn -- On Arkansas Grand Canyon in Buffalo River Country There is plenty to do in the Jasper area (outdoor stuff), but just sitting on the deck of the Cliff House, gazing out at the Arkansas Grand Canyon, and listening to the wind blow and that little indigo bunting sing his heart out is also plenty good!

There is also The Front Porch Inn in downtown Jasper, right on the square across from the courthouse. I've never stayed there, but the prices seem reasonable, and the pictures look nice. Breakfast at the Ozark Cafe right next door is included in the room price. Web site: Ozark Cafe - Front Porch Inn Summary This is also one of the places I want to try in the future.

Well, that's all I can think of right now (and all the typing my old hands will take!). I'm very interested in hearing of other people's experiences with these types of places.
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Old 10-17-2013, 03:44 PM
Location: Hot Springs Village, Ark
427 posts, read 981,204 times
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I have stayed at Shangri-La several times but not since the mid 90's. We moved back to Arkansas in 2011 and I wanted to go back there to see what it was like so I drove over there for lunch back in April of this year. The place is still as it was the last time I stayed there. The motel section still looks like it's kept up, the cabins are still very presentable and the boat dock and slips are still decent looking. The food at the restaurant was very good but did not try the pie. As info, they are closed every year in November, December and January.

I would recommend it and it is a beautiful location being right on the lake.
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Old 10-19-2013, 06:36 PM
Location: Little Rock AR USA
2,457 posts, read 6,519,092 times
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Shangri-La I have never been there but it is surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest and many of the ONF people eat there and rave about the pies. And as bt mentioned, it is seasonal.

And about the waitress; all of us who have spent lots of time on the road know that a waitress can be a in the eyes of one customer and a sweetheart to another. I have found that many of the "old" waitresses tease a lot and everyone is "honey" or "baby". Some people who are kinda "thin skinned" and "ain't from around here" resent that from a "lowly" waitress. Oooops Didn't mean to get on my stump
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Old 10-20-2013, 08:51 AM
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As someone who relocated from the north to Arkansas, I really enjoy being called " honey" or " baby".

I haven't even heard that from my wife in a long time so it is music to my ears.
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Old 11-15-2013, 08:59 AM
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Here is a place that Slim told me about in a direct message, and he said I could post it here in case anyone else might be interested in it.

"Hey Luvv, here's something you may check out the next time you are in the area. Background: Several years ago I bought a railroad country depot when the rr was abandoned, and later sold it to a man who had been bugging me for it for several years. He was Burl, who owns "Burl's Country Smokehouse" at Crystal Springs, between Hot Springs and Mt. Ida. He moved it to his business property and turned it into a small rental cabin. It has a bedroom with bath and small kitchen/sitting room. The phone number is 501-991-3875 if you would like to talk details with them. His next door "Smokehouse" makes great smoked meat sandwiches and a cinnamon roll that's big enough to last all day, and tastes great.

How many people can say they have spent a night, in a bed, in a depot?"

And then, after I told him about reading the reviews on the web about the Smokehouse and not seeing a rental cabin mentioned, he said:

"I suspect no one except me and possibly a few others know about the rental, so it wouldn't be on the reviews. And I don't have much faith in the reviewers anyway because just like here on C-D, there is always some who have nothing positive to say about anything. My personal review of the food is that it is great. I have eaten there many, many times, in, and carry out, and I have never had a bad experience. The reviewer from Hot Springs; depends on what he/she was comparing it to.

Burl told me at the beginning that he turned the depot into an "apartment" for his seasonal hunting guides, so that is the reason I called to check on it to see if it was available to the public; and it is, if it is not being used that particular night."

It sounds to me like a great place to spend the night while in the Hot Springs/Mt. Ida area. The crystal mines are out that way, and so is Lake Ouachita. It is on Hwy. 270 West, otherwise known as Albert Pike Rd. The actual street address number is 10176.

The place is also a "Country Store" with some Amish-made stuff, and also sort of a museum with lots of Native American artifacts and such. Google it and read the reviews. He apparently doesn't have his own web site.
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Old 11-20-2013, 08:20 AM
Location: Harrison, Arkansas
64 posts, read 133,533 times
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There's two places near me, which I haven't stayed in myself but they're worth a look. They are both in Marble Falls (formerly called the town of Dogpatch) which is on Route 7, south of Harrison and north of Jasper.

Both of these are on the former parking lot of the Dogpatch amusement park, which was a family theme park based on the Lil' Abner comic strip.

Back when the park was still operational, they tried to expand it to include a ski resort. Not a terribly practical idea, since it doesn't stay THAT cold in Arkansas for most of the winter! So that idea didn't work out, and the amusement park closed about 20 years ago, with its buildings falling into dilapidation and the property caught up in legal fiascos.

However, there are still intact portions of the ski resort which have been repurposed (the parking lot area north of the former amusement park and up the hill from it). There are cute little ski chalets lining the hill above the 7 Spur, which are occupied as apartments. (I'm not aware of any of them being rented out by the night, though I talked to a couple who rents one out as an apartment, and there is a perpetual For Sale sign by them... I would love to live in one but a chalet wouldn't fit my family.) There's even a little doghouse built to look like a miniature chalet outside one of them, you can see it as you drive up the hill from the highway.

Down the hill from the chalets there used to be an apartment complex called the Overlook Apartments, which overlooked Route 7 and was rather striking to look up and see as you drove down the highway. Unfortunately the Overlook Apartments burned down a couple years ago.

So, up in the Dogpatch parking lot there have been various businesses that come and go (e.g. antique stores, not sure if there's one in business there at the moment), and there are several buildings vacant so it does have a bit of an air of a ghost town, but there are two different lodging accommodations still open there.

The first is called the Buffalo River Art and Nature Lodge. It's very nondescript on the outside, a blocky building in the middle of, well, a big asphalt parking lot. I saw the sign outside it and wondered "what's that?" I thought maybe they gave crafts classes or something. And then one night I saw the place lit up with a whole bunch of people inside, and then the next day they were gone. So that piqued my curiosity and I searched the name online, and found out it's a lodge for groups to stay in. There are pictures on the website of how it's furnished inside and it's really nice looking! Not at all what you'd expect seeing the place from the outside. Not sure if this counts as a "motel" since it is geared to groups, and it would be be fairly expensive for a single or couple to rent the whole place out for themselves, but VERY economical for a group of 10 or 18 people.

The second is The Hub, "Mid America's Motorcycle Resort" which is a motel and restaurant, and a convention center which can accommodate up to 1500 people! I haven't been inside, and from the outside honestly I am a tiny bit skeptical about fitting 1500 people in there, but that's what it says on their website. (I cracked up when I just looked at their website and saw them touting "lots of paved parking" because that's such an understatement. I don't know about fitting 1500 people inside, but you could fit several times that many cars in the parking lot.)

I didn't intend to write such a novel when I started writing this post, but I got carried away because today's Dogpatch is such a unique spot and it doesn't seem well known at all. The area just oozes with potential and I have had many daydreams of coming into a couple million dollars and buying up everything that's left of it and turning it into a vibrant little destination.

In the meantime, those two lodging facilities are open, and would be someplace Truly Different to stay while taking an outdoorsy-yet-sleep-indoors vacation to the Buffalo River, or as a stopover while traveling Route 7 on your way to Somewhere Else.
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Old 11-20-2013, 09:57 AM
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I've been there! Several times!

I've seen those cute little A-frame chalets and have always wished that I could have one just like them, only on my own piece of land somewhere, not there. The last time I was there the area where they are was looking a little seedy, but hopefully it's been cleaned up.

I wish also that someone would do something with the old Dogpatch, but it sure would take a lot of money!
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Old 11-20-2013, 11:18 AM
Location: Harrison, Arkansas
64 posts, read 133,533 times
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It's still a little seedy, but if you were last there when the apartments were still standing, I'd say it's changed since then. They were low-rent apartments. I don't know of anything truly unsavory that was going on there (not that I'd know about it if there was, I didn't spend much time there), but I knew some people who lived there, and they had 4 people and 4 cats in a one-bedroom apartment. Someone was also feeding outdoor cats. And not having a lot of money, people drove older cars and trucks that were parked crammed in by the apartments, maybe hung their laundry out, that sort of thing. (Ironically with ALL that parking up the hill, there wasn't enough of it down by the apartments, and it was a longish walk.) I'm not passing judgment, people are just trying to live their lives and get by. But when visitors come through, even if they're not snobby people that's maybe not the type of ambiance they want while they're on their vacation, right?

So there were a few dozen people in full-time residence who aren't there anymore. So it's even emptier than it was, but maybe with less of the "mini-urban" presence that can make a place seem seedy.

I thought of something I didn't quite say the right way in my last post, I said that there are "still" these lodging establishments open there, as though they were holdovers from the Dogpatch USA days that haven't quite bitten the dust yet. That's not accurate, those are both new (within the past few years) businesses, albeit in old buildings, and as can be seen on their websites they've done a LOT of work to spruce things up and get new, fresh places going.

And yes, there's still a lot of work yet to be done, but IMHO it's fit to visit, as long as people have their expectations set realistically that it's still rough around the edges, and it is still undeniably a huge empty parking lot with a couple of places to lodge and a number of empty buildings (and of course, the chalets, which go a long way toward giving it some charm). It isn't going to be like staying in Eureka Springs.
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:39 PM
Location: Little Rock AR USA
2,457 posts, read 6,519,092 times
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Hey mother m, thanks for the update on Dogpatch. Few people are still around who knew it when it was a booming place. At that time I took my family up there for a weekend and had a great time. Since it shutdown though it seems to be snake bit. Legal issues, vandalism, and the motorcycle rider who was "garroted" by a cable which had been put up as a barrier to keep people off the property.

I was in the neighborhood a few years after it closed and stopped to take a look. It was so sad, knowing what it had been and the dreams and ambitions of the developer[s]. Thanks.
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Old 06-17-2014, 07:31 PM
Location: The Natural State
1,223 posts, read 1,434,819 times
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Hey Luvv, it's been a few months since you posted requesting info about small motels and I know you have since made your trip but thought I'd bring this Post up-to-date anyway. I was in the Mt. Ida AR area today visiting an archeology job and found that one of the archeologist is staying at the Royal Oak Inn in Mt Ida and I asked him for a report on it. He said it was just a run-of-the-mill motel with nothing especially good or bad.

But I learned of another. For several years I have been passing a sign of the Aqua Motel and thought it may or may not still be operating because it is a few miles north of Mt Ida on AR Highway 27 well off the beaten path, and kinda up in the woods off the highway. Well, one of the archeology crew got to town so late Sunday night there were no rooms in Mt Ida but of of the motel people made calls to find her a place to stay and found a room at the Aqua. She said when she got there she didn't know what she was getting into because of it's location, but she said the lady running the place was very gracious, the room was spotless, and the bed was very comfortable. Rooms were available with or w/o kitchenettes. My friend was happy with what she found.
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