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For our son’s 2nd birthday, we wanted to travel somewhere from our home state of Indiana. Our friends talked about West Baden Springs in French Lick, IN and how they spent a weekend there.
We looked up the place and learned that it has one of the historical hotels in the country. West Baden Springs was the go-to place for the affluent people of society in the 1900s. World renowned, this was like their Walt Disney World. It was known for its majestic dome and the miracle water previously manufactured there. Aside from the casino, which seems to be a major draw to its guests, there are also family friendly activities available in the area. Hubby and I like history so we booked it.
Our travel party included 5 adults and 1 infant. My mom, my grandmother and my sister came with us. My choices were either to get a family suite or 2 separate rooms. The online booking site for the West Baden Springs resort does not allow for booking of more than 1 room so I had to call their reservations department. I’m not a fan of this because I prefer to read and see information. However, they were able to accommodate our room requests and give us room promotional discounts.
What they missed to do is ask me if I have or suggest that I sign up for their rewards program so I can earn points. I found out about this when we checked in and totally lost all potential reward points from our stay. The rewards membership has to be opened before booking. Lesson learned. Always check for reward programs.
Similarly, you can book a room in West Baden Springs via Hotels.com and get reward points through them.
We packed our bags to take a road trip south of Indianapolis. We rented a minivan to fit 6 of us with our suitcases.
It took 6 hours to get to French Lick, IN from where we live. We planned to stop 3 hours into our trip nearby Indianapolis. Indy is the perfect halfway point. It wasn’t in the middle of nowhere and there are several options for places to see and to eat.
After so many good choices, we settled for a burger place called Bru’s Burger Bar in Carmel, IN. We love the burgers. The atmosphere of the restaurant was also very clean and inviting.
Off to French Lick again. We lost a lot of time in these new system of highways south of Indy. Apple Maps nor the GPS didn’t even have them in their maps yet. According to the maps, we were driving over farmland or a lake. Not all who wander are lost…except us.
It was scenic, sure, rolling hills and meadows…until we got to these narrow roads in the gloomy wooded hills with houses and yard made up of scrap items. I found myself praying that no one steps out and yell, “Get off my property!” with a shotgun in their hands.
After minutes of praying for our lives, we finally saw the top of West Baden’s dome. We were driving in a road parallel to the main road! Oh, Apple Maps!!!
The surrounding area of the hotels was very charming and Old World like. What a sigh of relief to see the touristy welcome signs and banners on the street posts.
It’s a bit of a drive from the welcome arch before you get to the main building to check in.
The ground level entrance to the hotel with the valet service, regular parking and bellhop is at the back of the hotel. The front entrance leads directly to the check-in desk but you would have to climb a set of stairs. No ramps available in that entrance.
Valet is an extra charge so we just parked in the nearby parking lots after unloading our bags. Bellhop were great at helping us and making sure we got everything we need. While we unload, we helped ourselves to the complimentary cold bottled water by the door. There’s also a water dish for pets.
We were then instructed where to head next to check in while bellhop ensured our luggage bags will be in our rooms.
Going in, you will notice the hallway goes around an atrium. The building is virtually a circle or a donut. As we move towards the atrium, we stopped for a moment and stared at the great dome above us. I almost forgot that I still needed to check-in and spent a good time taking pictures of the grandeur that was above and around me. 360 degree Hollywood shot moment. At least, I wasn’t laying down in the center of the great room while taking the picture of the dome like that other lady. Doing it for the ‘gram, friends.
Guests are just lounging on the chairs in that same room in their little nooks while listening to live piano music. It’s so roomy I didn’t mind that Andy was running around. You still get your personal space in a public area.
You have to get across the atrium to get to the check-in counter. Service was quick and polite. They gave us our suite numbers, showed us a floor plan and where our rooms were located and directed us to the nearest elevator.
The elevator can barely fit 6 of us. It was also slow. It is pretty tight in there when we bring the stroller with us.
We have 2 suites in the same floor. They were not connecting rooms because of the floor layout–the standard rooms are between them. The one nearest to the elevator went to my grandma so she can walk less to the room.
There were 2 rows of rooms. The inner circle featured rooms with a view of the atrium, some having a balcony. We opted for the outer circle rooms which had views of either the garden or the parking lot.
The rooms are basically 1-bedroom suites with both rooms opening to a huge living room area equipped with a 3-4 person couch and a coffee table. This is where the wet bar is as well. There is an armoire to store your clothes as well as a cabinet. The cabinet has robes, flat iron, ironing board, safe, and laundry bags.
The bathroom can be accessed from this living area too and it is very spacious as much as the rest of the room. While my Grandma’s room has a bigger living space, their bathroom only featured a shower tub. Our bathroom had a separate glass door shower and a shower tub. The toilet in our room also was enclosed in its separate room.
The sleeping area is separated by a door. There are 2 queen beds and another dresser. There is also a table with 2 chairs in a corner under the huge television. The table is as big as a 4-seater dining table.
We requested for a crib at no added cost and we still had a lot of space. The crib provided was similar to those pack and play bassinets and had little cushion in it. Our son preferred to sleep in the spare bed that we have.
Food and Beverage
Plenty of options here as you have the roster of both French Lick Resort and West Baden Springs Hotel accessible via shuttle. From burgers to steaks, casual to fine dining, you are covered. We tried to dine within the resort and tried what was available.
After checking in, we head to French Lick Springs Hotel for dinner at the Power Plant Bar & Grill. Their menu features typical bar and grill eats: appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches and mixed drinks. When you go in, you would see the large electrical switchboard that once powered the French Lick Springs Hotel as the focal point of this lounge. During Fridays and Saturdays, the lounge plays live music from different cover bands. We were disappointed that we kept being sat outside in a corner booth and weren’t able to appreciate the decor inside. The taste was also mediocre for what you expect to get with their price. If given the choice, we would not have dined here twice. However, for some unlucky reason, all the other dining options were closed or unavailable while we were there.
For breakfast, we tried Café Sinclair’s. In our opinion, this was the only restaurant that we ate at that was worth it. The atmosphere is great and leaves a feeling of sophistication. The food did not disappoint either. The Cafe is a sit down setting and offers a varied menu from a bowl of fruit, cereals, pancakes to classic eggs benedict for breakfast. The restaurant is located in West Baden Springs Hotel, just behind the huge fireplace in the atrium.
The other dining option that we tried was The Grand Colonnade Restaurant located in French Lick Springs Hotel. This restaurant is buffet style and offers bountiful of choices. It serves both breakfast and Sunday brunch. Children under 5 dine for free while those ages 6-12 dine at 50% off with an adult. Like the Cafe Sinclair’s, the environment looks fabulous in here. The hotel used the former ballroom where US President Franklin D. Roosevelt received nomination in 1931.
Honestly, the restaurants leave much to be desired. The only restaurant that we all agreed we like was Café Sinclair. Otherwise, the other dining places seem to be overpriced for what they offer or was not cut for what their food taste like.
Just like most hotel dining options, you are probably better off dining outside of the hotel.
Free Shuttle + Trolley
West Baden Springs Hotel together with the nearby French Lick Hotel provides several options to have fun and spend time with your family. These amenities are easily accessible by the complimentary shuttle service between the two hotels. Sometimes, you can even request the driver to drop you off a local store or restaurant outside of the resort. The drivers will then give you their business card so they can pick you up when you’re done roaming around the locality. If you are happy with their service, there’s an optional tip jar by the front of the vehicle.
The shuttle service is also handicap friendly. However, there were some drivers that refused to get the ramp down and had us fold the wheelchair and assist our grandma ourselves. I was unimpressed with this.
Check the schedule as well to catch a ride on the trolley that connects both hotels.
Take More of my Money
Want to take your luck to the test? Head to the casino by the French Lick Springs Hotel. We took our grandma there and let her play some slots. We tried our luck as well. Most are slot machines with a some tables for your classic poker, black jack or roulette games. If you’d rather play with the electronic versions, those are available too. Disappointing that the non-smoking area is at the very back and had only a select games available to its patrons. By the time you find the non-smoking area, you might as well start smoking for having to walk through the smoking area to get there. Additionally, if you want to play anything else than the slot machines, you would have to go to the smoking area.
Don’t forget to ask where to sign up for their membership club, where you get some sort of discount in casino credits to your play card.
There’s an available bar nearby where you can order drinks and some appetizers.
Bowling and Arcade
For a more family-friendly activity indoors, you can bring the kids to Pluto’s Alley where you would find the six-lane bowling alley and the arcade. A pizzeria and a bar is nearby too. Keep score, loser buys pizza.
Gardens and Nature Strolling
The property is big enough and has gardens that you can roam around. You can speak to the concierge desk for tours available.
Both French Lick Springs Hotel and West Baden Springs Hotel have activities that let you explore the outdoors. Hike some trails with the family or bike around using a surrey cart. Don’t worry, they offer bicycle rentals. At the stables, there are enough horses for the entire family to go horse back riding. You can also rent a carriage for a more leisurely tour of the property. When you’re done, you can go play Footgolf, which is a hybrid game of golf and soccer. Yes, you kick the ball the size of a soccer ball in to a huge hole in the ground. Both adults and kids will surely enjoy!
Lots of History
Being a historical hotel, this resort offers a lot of this. West Baden Springs Hotel has exhibits in some of their common rooms that showcase relics from the bygone era. Stories of the then opulent era and guests, including celebrities, that once stayed here are on display. To put it in perspective, this used to be the Walt Disney World a century ago and was even dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. Plenty of great stories that will keep you interested including how the town became infamous for its then miracle spring water and how the once luxurious hotel fell to its demise as an abandoned property. Several relics and documents are showcased to take you back to that time.
There’s also a museum called French Lick Museum outside of property that you can visit too. This, however, requires an admittance fee.
Just Keep Swimming
Swimming is always a winner activity for the traveling family. West Baden Springs Hotel has an indoor and outdoor pool only accessible by hotel guests. Don’t forget your hotel key card! This area is accessible via an elevator by the spa.
Take note, they don’t have a splash pad or waddling pool for the young ones. The hotel does not lend floaties or float noodles either. You would have to bring your own or cater to your younger kids. The pool starts at 3 feet 6 inches depth.
The swimming area has a hot tub near the main pool. It was a nice break while parents take turns swimming with the kids. Or so I wish.
The outdoor pool is smaller in size than the indoor one. A handicap lift is available for those who need it.
Where do I even begin?
Don’t get me wrong. There were some that were commendable. However, there’s just too many missed instances that just kept upsetting us during our stay. For instance, denying a lift for a handicapped elderly on a wheelchair. We had to escort our grandma up the steps of a shuttle to her seat. Another incident is a broken handicap elevator to get to a lower level. Again, no detour sign that suggested an alternative route nor was there any staff that knew or cared to suggest what to do. We had to discover later on that there’s an access door right by the drop off that led straight to the corridor of the restaurants.
This ruined it for us and we might not even come back just for this. I am hoping that this was just a temporary hiccup and they were able to fix them when we were gone.
The hotel, as well as the resort, offers plenty of room to enjoy both indoor and outdoor fun with your family. The rooms are great and spacious. The amenities will keep you occupied for your entire stay. The staff is inconsistent with the level of service they provide. The food leaves room for improvement as well. For the amount we paid to stay there, it left us disappointed. If you can look past the so-so dining options and service quality, your family might just have the perfect weekend spent here.