Southern Indiana is beautiful country with rolling hills; small, quaint towns; and narrow, winding roads. The little town of French Lick was once a famous resort where people came from all over the country to swim in the supposedly medicinal suffer springs. The resort hotel was built there in the latter part of the 19th century, and it flourished.
At the beginning of the 20th century, 1901 to be exact, the new hotel was erected about a mile away in West Baden Springs. The new hotel featured expansive grounds with sulphur baths, an enclosed, second-story bicycle track, bowling alleys, walking paths, and the dome. The dome, which was the hotel atrium, was known as the ninth wonder of the world. And this hotel flourished too.
But with the depression in the 30s, times became tough. Both hotels did poorly. While the old hotel in French Lick remained open, it became dilapidated and not a place where most people would want to stop overnight, much less make a special trip. The "new" hotel closed, and by the 1990s become a ruin, almost falling into itself.
In the late 90s a group of entrepreneurs obtained a gambling license for the French Lick hotel. It was completely refurnished, and a luxurious casino was added on. Suddenly conventions and tourists returned. The old hotel was beautiful again, and families with and without children crowded the place. And they still do. There's music, gambling, water parks, wineries, and swimming pools. The place is jumpin.
And after they finished the old hotel they began restoring the new hotel. The restoration was intricate, time-consuming, and beautiful. When you turn your car over to valet parking and walk into then atrium, you will be shocked. No written description can do, it justice. They have rebuilt the old bars and restaurants, the barber shop, the dining room, the eight-foot high fireplace, the stores and the long wide porches with rocking chairs. The grounds are beautiful again. You feel like you've taken a time machine back a hundred years.
You'll find that the hotel is busy but not noisy. In the evening the grand piano fills the atrium and porches with ballads and show tunes. On the weekends, a jazz trio plays the classics in the library. The room has been darkened a bit, and the waiters bring wine and aperitifs.
The hotel rooms are large and decorated like they are a hundred years old. There's the spa, the old indoor pool, and the luxurious new outdoor pool. The restaurants are good, the prices are reasonable, and the service is remarkable.
So if you want a break from century 21, go to West Baden Springs. It's an hour by car from Louisville, and 2 hours from Indianapolis. It's inconvenient to get to. It's in a tiny town with very little to offer. But if you're over 45 years of age and wish you could find a place to escape, you will become addicted.