Hoosier Highlights Travel

Hoosier Highlights: 10 Reasons to Visit French Lick West Baden

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Special thanks to Visit French Lick West Baden for their partnership in creating this post!

Take short car ride south of Indianapolis and you’ll find yourself in the middle of nowhere in Southern Indiana. That’s a given. However, while you may feel like you’re lost or taking a very (very) scenic route, I guarantee you that once you’ve made it to French Lick West Baden, you won’t believe your eyes when you see the beautiful buildings that make up the French Lick Resort.

Mid-day, on a regular Monday (actually, it was my birthday), I trekked down to Southern Indiana to take in some of the small town charms of French Lick West Baden. Did you even know that the historic French Lick Resort is located in southern Indiana? I had known about the place for some time now but had never made it down there.

If you’ve yet to make it there yourself, I’m sharing 10 Reasons to Visit French Lick West Baden and why it’s perfect for a quick getaway this summer – or anytime you need a getaway that’s not too far from home!

Related Posts: Read more of my ‘Hoosier Highlights’ series!

Why visit French Lick West Baden?

Take the Scenic Route

As I said before, you might feel a little lost or in the middle of nowhere on the drive down there, but you’re probably not! You can wind through the Hoosier National Forest on a winding road or stick close to the interstate until the last second.

  • 107 miles from Downtown Indy
  • 57 miles from Louisville
  • 156 miles from Cincinnati
  • 91 miles from Evansville

Amenities. Amenities. Amenities.

You could literally post yourself up at either hotel – French Lick Springs or West Baden Springs and have plenty to enjoy on site without having to get back in the car.

  • Take the trolley between hotels and hear fun stories about the history of the resort & community.
  • Visit the Spa – there’s one at each hotel! Plus, they sell full-size bottles of the shampoo & conditioner you get in the rooms and, by far, it was one of the best smelling shampoos that I’ve ever used. I had to grab some before I left!
  • Shopping – Each hotel has a handful of boutiques for gifts, clothing, and some artisan items.
  • Casino – Even if you aren’t a gambler, it’s fun to walk through and see what kinds of machines and tables they have. I played $10 and won nothing, but it was fun to do for a few minutes. Plus, if it’s your birthday, you might get a fun little message like the one below.
  • Free Parking – Need I say more?
  • Variety of Dining Options – Between the two hotels, you won’t be hungry and you’ll find several options for any palette. If you just want to hang out in the beautiful Atrium of the West Baden Springs Hotel, I’d suggest Ballard’s in the Atrium. Belly up to the bar or get a table and enjoy a meal or cocktail while basking in the great architecture of the space.
  • Indoor & Outdoor Pools – With pool hours that run from the early morning to the late evening, there’s plenty of time to hop in an indoor or outdoor pool, maybe even the hot tub during your stay. Or, just hang out by the pool and take in some Vitamin D!
French Lick West Baden Trolley
Historic trolley that runs between hotels
French Lick Casino
Casino floor
Casino Birthday
If it’s your birthday, you might get a little surprise on your slot machine!

So Many Activities, So Little Time

If you find yourself bored on the grounds of the resort, you are clearly hiding from all of the fun things they offer! Some activities do require an additional fee, but check the daily calendar!

  • Golf – No golf for me on this visit, but I did ride on the shuttle out to the golf course and what I did see was beautiful! You can read more about their famous golf courses here.
  • Horseback Riding – Take trail rides, carriage rides, or just tour the stables! You can even pose for a photo with their full-grown miniature horse, Pepsi, on some days!
  • Bowling Alley – Yep, there’s a bowling alley right inside of the French Lick Springs Hotel! Take the kids (or a friend) down for a game!
  • Classes – Yes, they even offer classes if you’re there on certain days! If you’ve wanted to learn more about photography, mixology, craft beer, cake decoration, or even gardening (they are PROS there), you can do that too!
  • Walking the Grounds – You can learn so much about the grounds, the history, the springs, and more just by walking around the properties. Great if you’re just on a mission to relax and explore on your own time.

History

If you’re a history buff and you’ve never visited the French Lick Resort, this is a huge reason to get down there and learn about the history of these two hotels! What is Pluto Water? What were these “springs?” The elitist of the elite would visit to “take the waters.” According to author Chris Bundy, the resort hotels of French Lick West Baden “were the Disney World of their time. In those days, it was assumed that if you could afford to come to America, you would go to French Lick. It was that well-known overseas.”

  • As I mentioned above, you can learn so much just by walking the grounds of the hotel, but you can take it up a step and enjoy one of the tours provided by Indiana Landmarks! The tour I was on was only supposed to last 70 minutes, but the guide and I kept talking about the buildings and the unique stories that have brought the resort into 2019! It was fascinating! A tour that is well worth looking into on your visit!
  • Visit the French Lick West Baden Museum! This was on my list of to-do’s, but I got caught up on the Indiana Landmarks Tour and ran out of time! A short walk from the French Lick Springs Hotel, it’s just one more thing to enjoy without even getting back in the car! But, if you love the history of places as much as I do, I’d highly suggest swinging by to learn more about the area.

Peace & Quiet

If a vacation to you is all about escaping the hustle and bustle of your daily life, this is the place to go. If you want to start your morning by sitting on the porch with coffee solo or with your travel partners, you can do that here. If you want to sit in a beautiful lobby with your laptop for a minute, you can do that here. Or, enjoy a cocktail in the atrium while live music is playing – that’s totally an option here! The tempo of life is a little slower here and that’s perfect if you’re planning a getaway.

Relax on porch
Rocking chairs on the porch are a great start to the day!
French LIck Resort Porch
I was very excited by the trolley’s arrival!
West Baden Amenities
Chill in the atrium with a beverage and checkers!
Walk through the gardens and enjoy the scenery!
Brick-lined streets in downtown French Lick with the resort in the background

Architecture

If you enjoy beautiful architecture and ornate building details (like me), this place is a must-see.

  • West Baden Springs Hotel – The hotel is definitely known for that 200-foot diameter atrium that you see in so many photos of the property. From 1902 to 1913 it had the largest free-spanning dome in the world. The mosaic terrazzo tile floor was created with over one million tiny tiles. The beautiful veranda and sunken garden are truly sights to behold if you have the chance. Plus, you can explore some of the structures that enclosed the famous sulfur springs.
West Baden Atrium
West Baden Hotel Ceiling
West Baden Spa Hallway
West Baden Porch
  • French Lick Springs Hotel – The first version of the hotel went up in 1845 – just when health spas were becoming popular. I was immediately drawn in by the artwork on the ceilings of the beautiful lobby and the gold leafing around the hotel.
French Lick Lobby
Beautiful lobby at the French Lick Springs Hotel
French lick ceilings
Artwork on the lobby ceiling.
The World Famous Pluto Spring
One side of the French Lick Springs Hotel

All. The. Food.

Like I mentioned above, if you’re staying on the resort grounds, there is no shortage of food! A few of the resort dining options are part of the Indiana Foodways Alliance are on the French Lick West Baden Foodways Trail. Just a few steps (or a very short drive) from either hotel, you’ll find more options than you’d expect!

  • 33 Brick Street – This sports bar/restaurant is full of all kinds of sports memorabilia! Including PLENTY of items that are from the collection of French Lick’s own Larry Bird! Jerseys, floorboards, trophies – it’s all there on display for diners to enjoy. If you’re looking for signature Hoosier fare, this is a perfect stop for you! Tenderloins, fries, burgers, beer – there’s no shortage of fried goodness for you (and your family members under 21) to enjoy.
Fried pickles and beer!
Two jerseys amongst all of the memorabilia.
  • The Vintage Cafe at French Lick Winery – I’ll talk more about beverages at French Lick Winery in a moment, but the food here is fantastic! I seriously want to talk to you all about the pizza crust. It’s a sourdough crust that you don’t necessarily expect when you take that first bite of your pizza, but I’d seriously buy their pizza crust and stock it up in my freezer. It’s that delicious. They’ve also got great lunch specials that would be great for accompanying a wine & spirits tasting.
Pizza with the awesome crust.
  • German Cafe – I didn’t get to stop here on this particular trip, but this place ranks HIGH on my list for when I’m in the area again! I mean, authentic German Schnitzel? Yes, please!

Beverages!

Within walking distance of both hotels, head over to the French Lick Winery for a wine & spirits tasting. So many of their wines are made with grapes grown in nearby vineyards. Wines have been created in southern Indiana for a long time, but recently (as in 2013) the specific area where the grapes are grown has been given an official title – the Indiana Uplands AVA. It’s a federally recognized region! Did you know that?

  • French Lick Winery offers a variety of wine for all palettes. Sweet, sparkling, dry, and dessert wines. For example: the Crema Dolce, perfect for after dinner with it’s warm, sweet, butterscotch flavors. Also, some of the wines have great names which will give you a chuckle during a tasting.
  • Spirits of French Lick, literally right next to French Lick Winery, is the largest pot-still distillery in Indiana. Using corn and wheat grown on the family farm, they’ve created some very unique spirits that will surprise you and get you to step out of your comfort zone. I was particularly excited by the SonRoho Immature Brandy (I love tequila and this was VERY close), their two different Aquavits, and my personal fave was the Absinthe LeBleu – Indiana’s first commercial Absinthe!
French Lick Winery Shop & Tasting Room

Live Performances

I wouldn’t have necessarily thought there would have been a lot of opportunities to see live shows in this small town. Um, WRONG!

A short drive from the French Lick Resort brings you to Abbeydell Hall at the Legend of French Lick. Offering family-friendly performances, this event center transforms into a less-traditional theatre space where you can also enjoy dinner along with your show! I got to check out a performance by Illusionist Rick Thomas that I was definitely not expecting. Full of audience interaction, especially the one audience member who got to say “I do, I do, I do-oo-oo” on repeat! Special effects, dancing, disappearing acts, levitating objects, and more made for an entertaining evening. I’d love to swing in a check out one of their musical revues on my next trip!

The French Lick Resort also hosts different concerts and live musical events throughout the year! This summer, they’re hosting the Kentucky Headhunters, Martina McBride, and Gary Allan, plus the regularly scheduled live music around the resort.

Animals?

Yes, animals! And not the farm animals you may drive by on your way down there. Between French Lick & Paoli, you’ll find Wilstem Ranch. This isn’t a traditional zoo, but if you’re an animal lover – you gotta go! I attended the Elephant Encounter and it was a perfect up-close experience. If you’ve got kids, they’d love it too! There was plenty of time for questions, photos, and one-on-one interaction with Lou the Elephant!

Wilstem Ranch
Learning all about elephants!
She’ll eat the fruit right out of your hand!
Elephant skin doesn’t feel like what you think it does!

On the grounds at Wilstem Ranch, you can also check out their Giraffe Encounters, ATV tours, zip lines, and hang out with the cute kangaroos as part of their Roos & Crews Encounter!

Laying out on a beautiful day at Wilstem Ranch
And cute donkeys!

Need More French Lick West Baden?

Don’t worry, me too! I can’t wait to head back! If you want to learn more about the area, check out their website, Facebook, or Instagram for upcoming events and views of the beautiful hotels and surrounding areas!

Special thanks to Visit French Lick West Baden for their partnership on creating this post!

TELL ME: Have you ever visited one of these hotels or visited the area? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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