Nestled in southern Indiana, the quaint town of French Lick offers group travelers an abundance of resort amenities, lively attractions and the natural beauty of the nearby Hoosier National Forest. While most of the buzz surrounding the French Lick and West Baden region is related to its famous resort complex and accompanying features, the area also offers a varied selection of activities for faith-based groups to enjoy.
“Most people wouldn’t think you would find this stuff in Indiana,” said Mindy Groff Rogers, guest engagement specialist at Visit French Lick West Baden. “We have the two historic hotels, all the way to a wildlife park. It’s an unexpected surprise for people.”
The French Lick Resort Complex includes both the French Lick Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel. The former’s origins can be traced back to 1845, though an additional wing was added in 1901. This vast, yellow brick building features 443 guest rooms, a fitness center and indoor and outdoor pools. Every detail of the hotel embodies luxury, from the ornate gold and marble details of its lobby and mezzanine to the period furnishings in each guest room.
Equally opulent is its sister property, the West Baden Springs Hotel, built in 1902. Its atrium spanning 200 feet makes a beautiful centerpiece and attraction in and of itself, but its formal gardens and European architecture only add to the property’s beauty. The dome of this atrium was the largest free-standing dome in the world until the 1960s when it was unseated from this title by the Houston Astrodome. This hotel features 243 rooms, many of which have an interior view of the atrium.
The resort complex is home to a 24-hour casino and plenty of other amenities such as award-winning golf courses, horseback riding stables and historic tours of both hotels. Each hotel features an award-winning spa and multiple options for both casual and fine dining. Everything a traveler could need for a getaway that’s both relaxing and exciting can be found at this resort complex. However, for groups looking to spend time off resort grounds, there are plenty of adventures waiting at these nearby attractions.
Wilstem Wildlife Park
A wildlife safari may be one of the last things travelers would expect to find on an itinerary for a trip to French Lick, Indiana. But at Wilstem Wildlife Park, groups can have close-up and personal experiences with dozens of uncommon animals. The park is home to 50 different species, including elephants, grizzlies, giraffes, sloths, kangaroos and otters. Whether they opt for a drive-through safari to view the park’s animals or a more intimate experience, like giving an elephant a bath or snapping a photo with a giraffe, groups visiting this park are sure to have a one-of-a-kind adventure.
Abbeydell Hall Dinner Theater
Another one of French Lick’s claims to fame is its status as the hometown of the famous basketball star Larry Bird. Bird’s former residence, an estate set on 20 acres near West Baden, is now known as Abbeydell Hall. It’s been transformed from a celebrity home to an impressive dinner theater venue. Groups can catch an original musical production while enjoying a buffet-style meal consisting of slow-cooked meats and plenty of salads, side dishes and desserts. Abbeydell Hall offers multiple shows that rotate seasonally, including a Christmas show during the holiday season, but each is sure to delight its audience with song, dance, bright costumes and family-friendly comedy.
French Lick Scenic Railway
Winding through the hills of southern Indiana and around the Hoosier National Forest at about 15 miles per hour, the French Lick Scenic Railway offers groups a chance to experience rail travel firsthand. Groups depart from the historic depot, dating back to 1907, and ride aboard vintage coaches from French Lick to Jasper while watching the beautiful natural scenery unfold around them. In addition to the surrounding forests, popular sites include the second-longest railroad tunnel in the state and an 1850s log cabin. Light refreshments such as crackers and candy bars are offered during the train ride.
Furnished throughout with warm wood tones and authentic German décor and knickknacks, the German Café is a homey French Lick staple that serves up authentic German food and beverages. This pale green, brick building looks more like a storybook cottage than a restaurant, but it’s a local favorite known for its huge portions and charming, down-to-earth atmosphere. Groups can enjoy a selection of German classics, such as bratwursts, goulash, potato cakes and Jägerschnitzel, as well as more familiar cuisine, like warm pretzels and beer cheese. Meals can be served family-style alongside a selection of refreshing German beers and wine.