What do basketball and mineral springs have in common? Give up? It’s French Lick, Indiana, home of basketball great Larry Bird and also home to renowned mineral waters. The West Baden Springs Hotel got a $500 million renovation and has been brought back to glory.
At the turn of the century and for 30 years after, this area was frequented by politicians, socialites and celebrities of the day. Prior to the erection of the Houston Astrodome, this hotel’s atrium was the largest free-span dome and was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”
Who knew that this small town with an approximate population of 1,800 had so much history? So, where is this place? If you were driving, it’s about 5 hours from Chicago, 3 hours from Cincinnati, 2 hours from Indianapolis and about 1 hour from Louisville.
Once you walk inside this magnificent lobby, your eyes will be drawn to the dome and the round shape of the building. You will feel like you’re in the era of the Great Gatsby and will probably spend hours in the lobby watching people, dogs and the world go by. I certainly did and wasn’t disappointed. If the weather is nice, you might want to sit in one of the rocking chairs on the magnificent porch and read, sip lemonade or count the clouds in the sky.
I don’t want it to sound like all you can do here is sit around, because there are lots of activities in the area. If you’re a golfer, you have a choice of playing on three different courses, if you love horses, there are riding stables and trails nearby. Indoor facilities include a lap pool, tennis courts and basketball court. There is also an arcade and bowling.
A shuttle can take you to the Casino – about 5 minutes away. That same shuttle will drop you off at the golf courses and horse stables. In the summer, there is an outdoor pool and there is a full service spa at the hotel that offers a variety of facials, body treatments, massages, mineral spring baths and salon services.
There are shops and an ice cream parlor in the hotel. Restaurants, both casual and more formal, along with afternoon tea are off the lobby. Train rides, historical tours and carriage rides are also available. At night, there is live entertainment from jazz to big band music. This hotel is also pet-friendly and I saw a variety of great dogs while I was there.
This is a hotel that will take you back in time, but the good news is that you can be dressed in today’s casual attire. I highly recommend a visit, it will likely surprise you!
May 6, 2016