Explore scenic, quaint and friendly French Lick, Indiana

Art Weber

        The West Baden Springs Resort is an incredible place, a landmark wherever it would have been built.
        The fact that it’s a four-star resort is just the tip of the iceberg. See a photo of the resort’s atrium and it’s likely to strike you as something built during the elegant eras of Europe, something to be found in Paris, or Berlin, or Rome. A place from another time when dinner jackets were in vogue for men and evening gowns for women.
        Now consider that there are two such four-star resorts side-by-side, complete with a casino.
        The French Riviera? Monte Carlo, maybe?
        French Lick. Indiana.
        Best known as the hometown of Boston Celtic legend Larry Byrd, French Lick is a quaint and friendly town of fewer than than 2,000 residents. Before Byrd, it was known for its mineral springs and bottled mineral water, which were touted as having healing qualities for a variety of ailments.
        For sure, the limestone-sourced springs were effective as a laxative. So good that the water was bottled and sold under several brand names, notably Pluto. Pluto’s slogan was “When Nature won’t, Pluto will.” And it did, until traces of lithium were found in the product and in 1972 bottlers turned to other products that continue today.
        The West Baden Resort and its sister-property, the French Lick Resort located next door, are still riding the tradition of elegance and service on which they were founded.
        The elegance prevails today, but the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming. They call it “classic American sophistication and leisure.” Fine dining is the norm, service is pervasive, tradition is paramount. There’s horseback riding, nature trails, birdwatching, breathtaking views, spa services, sporting clays, and some scenic and very challenging golf on a rolling links-style course.
        The setting in the rolling forested hills of southern Indiana is undeniably beautiful.
        French Lick is worth a visit, too, especially the Bear Hollow Wood Carving Gallery and its next-door neighbor, French Licks Ice Cream.
        A wonderful way to start exploring is the French Lick Scenic Railway, a 20-mile excursion from an old-time railroad station on a historic train. The route passes through a corner of Hoosier National Forest and through the 2,200-foot Burton Railroad Tunnel. Refreshments and bar service are available. Special themed excursions are also available, notably The Polar Express train ride during the Christmas Holiday season.
        There is a litany of tourism opportunities within easy drives of French Lick – cave tours, Spring Mill State Park, Falls of the Ohio State Park, historic sites, prehistoric sites, breweries and wineries, fine dining, Ohio River attractions, and another tourist center at Patoka Lake.
        The mindblower is smack in the middle of the West Baden Resort. It’s the hotel’s amazing six-story atrium capped with a monstrous skylight. The resort sports 243 luxury guest rooms and suites, many facing the 200-foot diameter atrium, once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
        The resort and many other destinations are all just a five-hour drive away. For more information and to plan a visit start with VisitIndiana.com and GoSoIn.com. Other sources include FrenchLick.com, FrenchLickScenicRailway.org, MarengoCave.com, TheOverlook.com, and FallsOfTheOhio.org.


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