A Brief History of French Lick West Baden
French Lick West Baden is a fascinating area in Southern Indiana with a rich history of trials and tribulations. It was once one of the most sought after vacation destinations in North America for the well-to-do, and boasted its own stock exchange, luxury housing, luxury hotels, some of the finest dining in the country, and unrivaled hospitality to guests from around the country. After the Great Depression set the town, and most of the United States, down a path to near ruin, the town was revitalized and is enjoying a major resurgence in popularity, attracting visitors from around the world to marvel at some of the most impressive architecture in the nation, as well as the area’s incredible natural beauty.
The city’s name is derived from French settlers who saw wildlife enjoying the salt licks in and around the town, as well as the ample number of natural springs that used to fill the towns multiple springs with pure, fresh water, and helped the area blossom into an incredible oasis of natural beauty, most of which still stands today. Situated just outside of Hoosier National Forest, and surrounded by native flowers, shrubs, trees, and beautiful rocky outcrops, French Lick West Baden is one of the most beautiful regions in all of Indiana, and absolutely worth a visit.
When to Visit
Since it’s located more or less in the middle of the United States longitudinally, the weather is much more mild than the weather we are used to here in Michigan. Winters are milder, making it a great place to explore during the colder months, and the spring and summer seasons last a bit longer than they do further north. We visited at the end of summer, and while the temperature was in the low 90s all week, the lack of humidity and abundance of flora meant that the air was cooler than the forecast predicted, and since there were so many tall, leafy shade trees, it felt positively heavenly whenever we stepped outdoors. Truly, there isn’t a bad time to visit the area.
How to Get There & Getting Around
To reach the city, fly into French Lick Municipal Airport, or nearby Louisville, KY International Airport, which is about an hour drive away.
when it comes to traversing the area, the city has a trolley that takes visitors between the two massive, historic hotels, French Lick Resort and West Baden Springs Hotel, which are two of the region’s largest draws. Outside of the trolley, the city is quite walkable, and driving is very simple if you own a car or have rented one while in town. It didn’t seem like Uber or Left were very popular in the area, but if you’re staying at one of the two main hotels, they have shuttles that regularly depart for nearby attractions, and both are more than happy to help arrange transportation to wherever you need to go.
Where to Stay
We stayed at West Baden Springs Hotel, which has a massive domed interior, and gorgeous statues filling the hotel space, and we loved our stay. The staff were very friendly, everything was immaculate, and the food within the hotel was great. Our favorite places to eat were Ballard’s in the Atrium, and Sinclair’s, both located within the hotel. It’s also conveniently located near a lot of the main attractions in the city, and there’s a trolley that regularly departs for nearby French Lick Resort, which has a casino, fine dining, and award winning golf courses.
French Lick Resort, located less than a mile away from West Baden Springs Hotel, is another luxury hotel in the city, which has been serving guests for more than 100 years and, like West Baden Springs Hotel, consistently receives awards for excellence in hospitality, fine dining, and excellence in travel. French Lick Resort is also home to the areas casino, as well as the award winning Donald Ross luxury golf course. Both hotels are owned by the same family.
Click here for a video tour of our room, the West Baden Springs Hotel, its gardens, and the Donald Ross Golf Course.
What to Do
Despite the town itself being smaller than most other towns I write about, there was so much to do during our week long stay that we were constantly busy in the best way possible. It seemed like we would never run out of wonderful things to do and explore in the area. Below are some of our favorite things that we did during our time in the area.
Afternoon Tea at French Lick Resort
Bike around town, or the biking paths with bike rentals from either major hotel in the area
Enjoy a massage at The Spa at West Baden Springs Hotel
Explore & boat down Blue Springs Caverns in nearby Bedford, IN
Go bourbon tasting on the French Lick Scenic Railway
Go horseback riding at West Baden Springs Hotel through the woods and along designated trails
Golf at the Donald Ross luxury golf course
Hike Hoosier National Forest
Ski Paoli Peaks in the winter
Swim under the stars in West Baden Springs Hotel Indoor/Outdoor pools
Visit French Lick Winery, take a tour, & do a wine tasting
They make some of the best peach wine and apple brandy we’ve ever had! Plus, the owners are so kind, and their employees are such a joy to learn about wine from!
Visit Patoka Lake Nature Center
Wander West Baden Springs Hotel’s gardens
Where to Eat
There are so many great places to eat packed into this historic town. Here are some of our favorite places we ate while in town.
33 Brick Street (for casual dining)
Ballard’s in the Atrium (inside West Baden Springs Hotel)
Café Sinclair’s (inside West Baden Springs Hotel)
French Lick Winery & Vintage Café (Italian restaurant inside French Lick Winery)
Ohana Hawaiian Grille
Sinclair’s (inside West Baden Springs Hotel)
Table One (inside West Baden Springs Hotel)
Xanadu Coffee & Creamery (inside West Baden Springs Hotel)
Carmel, IN (123.8 miles away)
Cedar Point Amusement Park (377.9 miles away)
Cincinnati, OH (172.8 miles away)
Columbus, OH (279.5 miles away)
Indianapolis, IN (101.7 miles away)
Louisville, KY (74.2 miles away)
This region of Indiana is incredibly safe. The only potential safety concern I can think of would be the danger inexperienced hikers might be in if they head into Hoosier National Forest and happened to get lost. When hiking, always be sure to let someone know where you are parking, where you plan to hike, and when you plan to return, as well as what you’re wearing. We had cell phone service when we ventured into the forest briefly, but as it is one of the largest national forests in the nation, it is possible to get lost. Always be sure to stick to clearly labeled paths, and always take out everything you bring in with you!
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