Monday, August 27, 2012

French Lick Flourishes

Since the early 1900s, French Lick, Indiana has been the destination, not only to luxuriate at the classy French Lick and West Baden Resorts where such rich and famous (and infamous) personages as Franklyn Delano Roosevelt and Al Capone spent time but also to enjoy the rural beauty of its rolling hills, creeks, springs and woodlands. For more information on the area, visit 

A Little Log Cabin in the Woods
6538 W. CR 875 S., French Lick, IN 47432
(812) 936-3000       

Enjoy rusticity among the natural setting of Orange County with its woodlands rolling hills, small streams and Patoka Lake, the second largest man made lake in the state. Terri and Carl Pryor, owners of two historic, hand-hewn log cabins, A Little Log Cabin and A Big Log Cabin and Blue Prairie Bed and Breakfast, a luxurious bed and breakfast offer total privacy, rustic luxury and modern amenities.
A Little Log Cabin is a cozy 150-year old cabin with a great stone fireplace set in the center of a 40-acre private, nature preserve, adjacent to Hoosier National Forest and close to Patoka Lake, French Lick and Paoli Peaks Ski Resort as well as being on the Uplands Wine Trail.

A Big Log Cabin in the Clouds is often described as an experience akin to being on a mountaintop with awesome views set upon a private 120-acre preserve. The two story cabin, built in 1863, boasts a chef’s kitchen, designer bathrooms, state of the art entertainment center and charcoal grill, is also on the Upland Wine Trail and conveniently located to the French Lick Resort Casino and Patoka Lake.
Strictly non-smoking, the Pryors have preserved their acreage to enhance wildlife habitat, planting wildlife food plots, wildflowers and other plants attracting birds and animals giving guests an opportunity to view nature on every visit.     

Wildlife lovers will want to book one of the places their fall during the Sandhill Crane Migrations. The cranes are visible and audible in their southern migrations that pass over here as their flights begin in October or November and continue until Christmas time. Witness the migrations of these magnificent prehistoric birds!

Bear Hollow Wood Carvers
8695 W. Jack Carnes Way, Suite 8
French Lick, IN  

Creating art with a chainsaw is a no-brainer for Jason Emmons, owner of
Bear Hollow Wood Carvers, who with his team are considered leaders in chainsaw carving industry. Though they’re often on the road Traveling Carving Shows, Custom Commissioned Sculptures, On-site Custom Carvings and even turning old tree stumps on people’s lands into works of art, Bear Hollow Wood Carvers has a fantastic retail store in downtown French Lick where their works and the works of others are on display.

Indeed, Bear Hollow Wood Carvers are so well known that they’re featured on the reality show series "Saw Dogs" which can be seen on the Discovery Channel. Catch the show here at

Big Splash Adventure Indoor Water Park & Resort  
8505 Indiana 56  
French Lick, Indiana
(812) 936-3866

Big Splash Adventures offers a 40,000-square foot water park adventure for the entire family. Forget about what’s happening with the weather, Big Splash is enclosed in a beautiful glass structure – one of the few retractable roof water parks in the world and the is the largest indoor water park with a retractable roof in the United States.

The water park offers 12 themed water features including the 3-story Buccaneer Bay with its 10 platforms and nearly 50 interactive play features like the two body slides and 1,000 gallon dumping bucket, outdoor leisure pool, indoor family pool, 318-foot lazy river, wet deck play area, activity pool, tot wading pool and tot bouncers and 25 person tropical hot tub.

Guests experience tropical luxury in a family friendly environment as the resort has 154 smoke free and pet free, family friendly rooms and suites many of which have bunk beds. There’s also the Treasure Chest Arcade and four dining options. Check their Website for frequent package deals.

Comfort Inn
9530 West State Road 56
French Lick, Indiana
(812) 936-5300

The award-winning Comfort Suites, a French Lick hotel near the French Lick Casino which in addition to a variety of gaming options offers lively entertainment shows, spas, salons, shopping opportunities, golf and more. The  French Lick Comfort Inn, an affordable overnight option, is also near a number of local points of interest like Big Splash Adventure water park and is less than one mile from the Hoosier National Forest where guests can enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding and scenic driving through the rolling hills and country trails and roads. Also nearby is Indiana’s second largest man made lake, the 8800-acre Patoka Lake that features a full-service marina and offers an abundance of recreation options like boating, fishing and swimming.

Also there are a number of world-class golf courses in the vicinity as well as several entertainment venues, historical landmarks, shopping centers, restaurants and cocktail lounges.

The hotel’s features and amenities include free wireless high-speed Internet access, free The Wall Street Journal, fitness center, indoor heated pool & hot tub and a free hot breakfast featuring eggs, meat, yogurt and fresh fruit, cereal and more, including your choice of hot waffle flavors. For those leaving early, a Your Suite Success™ Grab & Go bag is available for the two hours prior to breakfast. Other conveniences are the business center, including a public computer with Internet access and copy and fax services.  All well-appointed guest suites have flat-screen televisions, microwaves, refrigerators, coffee makers, curved shower rods, work desks, irons, ironing boards, pillow-top mattresses, sofa sleepers and cable television. Some rooms feature whirlpool bathtubs, robes and safes. Connecting rooms can be requested.

French Lick Cabins
Lake Village Drive
7900 W. CR 1025 S.
French Lick, Indiana

Great for both sports-minded people and those who want a peaceful spot to get away from it all,
French Lick Cabins at Patoka Lake Village is located just 10 miles south of French Lick, in the heart of the Patoka Lake recreational area. These modern log cabins including some that are pet friendly offer  the perfect opportunity to experience the wonders of nature without giving up the comforts of home.

The cabins are next to Patoka Lake's Osborn Boat Ramp and has a 158-foot wheelchair accessible fishing pier and are also conveniently situated for those who are want to enjoy the many activities the 8800-acre lake has to offer. Also on the property are numerous hiking trails that showcase the scenic beauty of Southern Indiana and Patoka Lake, the second largest man made lake in Indiana. Swimming and boat rentals are available at Newton Stewart State Recreation Area just a short drive away

French Lick-West Baden Museum
489 S. Maple St.
French Lick, Indiana  
812-936-FLWB (3592)

The mission of the French Lick West Baden Museum is to educate and entertain visitors while sharing a historical perspective of the towns of French Lick and West Baden. 

The museum was created as a facility for preserving the heritage of the area, acting as a repository for historic artifacts. The entrance of the current museum space includes an original Pluto (In its early years, the French Lick Resort was known for its Pluto waters – spring waters said to cure whatever ailed you) wall painting from the early 1900's which was uncovered by a crew working on the renovation of the town’s old dime store building.  Another rare artifact is the original Rookwood Pottery water color design for the magnificent Sprudel fireplace in the West Baden Hotel, circa 1917.

French Lick Winery & Coffee Company
8145 W Sinclair St
West Baden Springs, IN

One of the pioneers in Indiana’s now burgeoning wine industry, the French Lick Winery was established almost 20 years ago and now is known as one of the state's premier wineries having been awarded more than 250 medals in state, national and international competitions.

Located near both the historic West Baden and French Lick resorts, vintner, John Doty, who co-owns the winery with Kim Doty, cellar master, offers visitors an opportunity to watch their wine making craftsmanship through the large observation windows inside the winery’s tasting room.  French Lick Winery crafts their wines from grapes planted at their Heaven's View Vineyard located approximately 20 miles west of the winery on Kim's family Hoosier Homestead Farm in Martin County overlooking the White River Valley.  

Besides wine tasting and wine watching, visitors can dine in the winery’s Vintage CafĂ© which specializes in freshly made Italian cuisine using local produce in season.  

French Lick and West Baden Resorts
8670 West State Road 56 
French Lick, Indiana

At the beginning of the 1900s, West Baden was a Mecca for gamblers. But others came as well. Visitors included those seeking to take advantage of the mineral waters which are so prevalent that the town next door is called French Lick after the springs that abound there. According to the Indiana Historical Society, a stay at West Baden Springs Hotel in the 1920s cost twice as much as an overnight at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. 

There was also gambling at the French Lick Springs Resort just a half mile down the road.  And like the hotel in West Baden, French Lick was a grand place with gilded ceilings and a broad front porch.  At one time 14 trains a day serviced the two resorts. Al Capone, John Dillinger, the Marx Brothers, Lana Turner, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope all visited.  In 1931, the Democratic Governor’s Conference was held here and Franklyn Delano Roosevelt, who was attending, won his party’s nomination for president. 

But glory passes and when gambling ceased (never mind that it long been illegal, the owner was connected and it wasn’t until 1949 that, as in the movie “Casablanca,” officials were shocked to find that there was gambling on the premises and finally shut down it down) even the waters couldn’t attract enough visitors. West Baden was sold to the Jesuits for $1.  French Lick, though it remained open, languished, its intricate mosaic tiles chipping, its glorious gilt dulling.

Fortunately, William Cook, an ardent preservationist was determined to make the resort profitable. Opening a casino would do that. But he also resolved, at a cost of almost $400 million, to restore both places to their former splendor.  It was a gamble built on gambling, legal again in Orange County.

West Baden, built in 1902, was famed for its free standing dome.  It was the world’s largest, a record that held for another 60 years until the Houston Astrodome was built. The atrium below is filled with an immense Pewabic tile fireplace said to be worth over a million dollars, potted palms and Victorian era furniture.  In the center of the 100-foot-high dome is a pendant chandelier which reflects prisms of light creating, at night when the dome is darkened, a light show extraordinaire.

Though its style is different, the Beaux Arts French Lick (note to basketball enthusiasts – Larry Bird’s hometown is French Lick) has also been beautifully restored including the royal crown moldings and hand painted tapestry ceilings. It is estimated that more than 5000 square feet of gold leaf was added during the renovation.  The down at the heels dining room became the elegant 1875: The Steakhouse with a not to be missed lobster macaroni dish.  There is also a lavish spread at the Grand Colonnade Buffet and drinks and casual fare at the Power Plant Bar and Grill.  The historic hotel is connected to the casino by a long, glassed in promenade lined with shops.

A shuttle runs frequently between the two resorts, both of which have luxurious spas, indoor and outdoor pools and many other amenities.

French Lick Villas
P.O. Box 108             
French Lick, Indiana
(800) 522-9210

Each of the French Lick Villas are 1600-square-foot townhouses capable of accommodating eight people in comfort and luxury in the lush garden setting of the  French Lick  Resort Casino.  Villa owners and guests can enjoy the pool and workout facility located next to the office overlooking the Villas. This new feature has a hot tub, swimming pool and workout facility.

Many amenities are also available at the adjacent French Lick  Resort Casino including the 18-hole Donald Ross Course and 9-hole Valley Links as well as the 28-room Spa at French Lick with its diverse menu of treatments that allow you to relax and rejuvenate the mind and body while soaking in the legendary Pluto Mineral Bath or pamper yourself with a luxurious Sacred Stone Massage. Other amenities include the resort’s bowling alley, fine dining and casual restaurants and the Power Plant Bar and Grill.

French Lick/West Baden Indoor Karting
8331 Indiana 56  
West Baden Springs, Indiana
(812) 936-5390

Perfect for rainy days, winter days and days you just want to go fast and have fun. This 65,000 square foot facility provides the ultimate in racing experiences with fast karts, great food and family fun. Get your motors going and speed along at up to 40 miles per hour (junior karts get speeds up to 20 miles per hour) on the challenging quarter mile road course. There’s also an observation area for watching. Visit the game arcade. 
Be sure to enjoy a great meal at the  Black Buggy Amish Buffet. Menu items include a fresh salad bar with soups daily, as well as a large hot buffet containing a wide selection of homestyle meals like fried chicken, meatloaf,  beans, mashed potatoes and casseroles.  But be sure to save room for the dessert bar with over 25 selections of pies, cakes, cobblers, and cookies and the ice cream sundae bar.

Visit the general store to browse the Amish made gifts and snacks such as jams, jellies, breads and pies. 

Hinshaw Rock 'n Gems
1232 S. County Rd. 650 W.
French Lick IN
 (812) 936-7255  

For more than a half century, the Hinshaw family has been designing and creating beautiful jewelry and decorator pieces.  Silversmith Merrill Hinshaw specializes in one-of-a-kind jewelry and Hinshaw Rock ‘n Gems, known both nationally and internationally, also offers expert polishing and silversmithing.

The Hinshaws ability to collect rough stones, then cut and polish stones by hand to create works of art has earned them the ranking as one of the top ten stone polishers in the nation from the Lapidary Journal.  The store also features items of interest for all ages and pieces to give and cherish for all occasions. Specialties include artistic jewelry design and custom cabochon cutting. The store is a wonder with unique jewelry. bookends, unusual rock specimens, minerals and much more.

Indiana Landmarks
Landmarks Emporiums & Tours
8670 West State Road 56
French Lick, IN 47432

Indiana Landmarks is a nonprofit organization, fighting to defend architecturally unique, historically significant, and communally cherished properties. The organization rescues, rehabilitates and gives new purpose to old buildings, saving the state's shared heritage and bringing new life to communities.

Unprecedented in the nation, the grand hotels in French Lick and West Baden Springs—both listed in the National Register of Historic Places and located one mile apart in southern Indiana—offer a fascinating window on the grand hotel era of the early twentieth century and the tradition of “taking the waters” meaning the waters from the mineral springs which bubble up from the ground here.

Guests from  the past include Al Capone, FDR, Bing Crosby, Gloria Swanson and Helen Keller, captains of industry and pampered socialites came to imbibe the waters and take spa treatments, enjoy sports and entertainments, and perhaps test their luck in the casinos.

Today, the lavishly restored French Lick and West Baden Springs Hotels still draw visitors for the same pursuits. Like Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, and Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, French Lick and West Baden Springs offer overnight accommodations in an atmosphere steeped in history.

Indiana Landmarks leads one-hour guided tours of the hotels, highlighting their fascinating histories, spectacular architecture and gardens and award-winning restorations. They also offer a specialized Twilight Tour at West Baden where tour guides dress like many of the legendary greats that once stayed at the hotel and even those who worked there like the gypsy fortune teller take visitors on a trip to the past.

Shortz Miniature Golf and Lazer Tag
8529 W. State Road 56
French Lick, Indiana
(812) 936-2386

Shortz Miniature Golf and Lazer Tag, open year round, is a one-of-a-kind facility featuring indoor Lazer Tag, a 9-hole indoor Miniature Cosmic Golf Course, Lazer Frenzy as well as an 18-hole outdoor Miniature Golf Course and arcade. Perfect for family fun and a must visit vacation destination.

In fair weather, play the 18-hole outdoor miniature golf course, an extravaganza of large rock formations, bridges and seven waterfalls. The course is perfect for all ages – young and old, making it perfect for families.
Indoor fun include Lazer Braze, a lazer maze using the latest in technology that lets participants set their own difficulty level and attempt to tackle the maze without getting zapped by any of the lazers. Friends and family can compete to beat each other’s scores. 22 people can play at a time in Lazer Tag so get a group together and let the games begin.
Then jump into an imaginary Jeep to venture through the jungle themed Cosmic Golf Course. A 9-hole course will be a great adventure for the entire family.

Wilstem Guest Ranch
4229 U.S. 150 
Paoli, IN
(812) 936-4484

Embrace your inner cowboy or girl at the 1100-acre Wilstem Guest Ranch, located at the southwestern edge of Southern Indiana's Hoosier National Forest and known for its 30 miles of trail rides through hill and dale and along ride along Lick Creek, the same body of water that gave French Lick its name. Wilstem is the perfect place for peaceful retreat, rest and relaxation, its bucolic beauty and rolling farmland making it one of the premier guest ranch destinations in the Midwest.

The ranch, almost a century old, was first purchased in 1915 by Ed Ballard, who developed the area including owning a large interest in the West Baden Springs Hotel. Ballard used it as a hideaway for wealthy and famous people as well as for his string of blooded show horses he annually entered in horse shows around the country. 

Famous people who stayed here included President Franklin D. Roosevelt who hunted pheasants and quails throughout the large stands of walnut trees as well as actors Henry Fonda and Tom Mix.  Al Capone, who married one of his wives in front of the fireplace in the historic lodge and heavyweight world boxing champ Joe Lewis trained on the Wilstem grounds, in the forest and in the ranch's historic Red Barn.

All the buildings on the property were restored including the 10 bedroom lodge, built of solid walnut logs cut on the property, by owner Jerry Fuhs, a Southern Indiana entrepreneur. Fuhs, who for years managed concerts for mega stars including George Jones, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Hank Williams Jr.and Ray Charles; and groups like Alabama, The Grass Roots, Dr. Hook among others, also cleared and restored the riding and hiking trails, restocked the ponds with fish and added modern guest quarters.  

The cabins and the lodge are perfect for vacation stays of fishing, hiking, riding and enjoying the beautiful countryside.

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