We’re so fortunate that our writing gigs get us invited to travel the world, seeking out incredible stories and destinations worthy of sharing with our readers. Often times, it’s the least expected places that surprise us in wonderful ways.
When we were invited to Southern Indiana back in October, it was a part of the United States we’d never considered a prime vacation locale. Especially traveling from Texas. So we immediately accepted the trip invitation to see exactly what SoIN has to offer.
And we must say, we were overwhelmed at the gorgeousness of this part of the Hoosier State. We were expecting Children of the Corn at every turn, but instead, we were treated to lush forests, rolling hills, and beautiful lakes and rivers.
We visited several towns during our week in Indiana, but it was French Lick (and its adjacent town West Baden) that truly won us over. Not only do we love the name French Lick (remember, we’re third-grade boys at heart), we found the town to be very friendly and quite welcoming to all the flamboyant queens I was traveling with.
If you’re looking for a holiday getaway jam-packed with small-town charm (and also jam-packed with jam, of course), book a quick getaway to this picturesque part of the Midwest. (Don’t worry, it’s not always snowy if that’s not your thing.)
Abraham Lincoln called it home for during several of his formative years. And if it’s good enough for Captain Top Hat, that’s endorsement enough for us.
From Dallas-Fort Worth, the quickest route is a quick, two-hour, non-stop flight on American Airlines out of DFW. Then it’s less than 90 minutes by car to French Lick/West Baden with plenty to see on the way and in surrounding areas. So it’s definitely worth renting a car to get the most out of everything the Southern Indiana region has to offer.
Where to Stay
The moment you walk through the door of West Baden Springs Hotel, we’re confident you’ll be in awe of the space laid out before you. With an atrium spanning 200-feet, 243 guest rooms and suites, and a history dating back to 1855 (and 1902 in the current structure), it’s Old World elegance meets modern amenities. Plus, along with its sister property, French Lick Springs Hotel, it’s a designated LGBTQ+ friendly hotel, which earns extra bonus points for us.
If you’re looking for a getaway that doesn’t require leaving the property, you’ll easily be able to soak up some relaxation time in the 28,000-square-foot Spa at West Baden. Or compare and contrast by taking the complimentary shuttle to neighboring Spa at French Lick. There’s an indoor pool and hot tub, too, so even if the weather’s frightful outside, you can splash around and stay warm and cozy inside.
Rooms are well-appointed, but make sure you get an atrium-facing room with a balcony if you wish to thoroughly appreciate the splendor of the architectural feat.
Eat, Drink & Be a Mary
Both hotels have multiple restaurant offerings and Sinclair’s Restaurant at West Baden Springs Hotel should absolutely not be missed for breakfast. Whether you’re a fan of biscuits or Benedicts, they’ve got you covered—in gravy and hollandaise. Nearby, French Lick Winery and Spirits of French Lick will keep you busy and buzzed with a variety of tasting opportunities. Plus, they’re located in the same building for added convenience).
If you’re planning to explore (scroll down to the next section), two standout eateries we enjoyed outside of French Lick should be added to your iteneary. In nearby Orleans, Indiana, Speakeasy Pizza offers up some incredible pizzas and numerous whiskey options in a casual, no-frills space. And to enjoy an authentic (and filling) taste of the area’s German immigrants, head to Common Haus Hall in Jefferson, Indiana. Opt for a flight of sausages, or spaetzle, schnitzel and sauerbraten and ask them to pair your order perfectly with a German brew. Worth noting: This place is also LGBTQ+ friendly and even flies a rainbow flag out front.
Explore the Region
In French Lick and West Baden, both hotels offer everything from horseback riding to a full-service casino. But if you want to explore some awesome nearby sites, we have three more than worth the drive.
Indiana’s home to a whopping 4,000+ caves under the surface and we only had the opportunity to visit one, but it’s a great one (and also a National Landmark). Marengo Cave is the most visited in the state (operating tours since 1883), but when you book a tour (required to explore), you’ll hardly know anyone else is around. They even offer lodging options, as well as an overnight cave experience for the truly adventurous. Marengo Cave is a 40-minute drive from West Baden Springs Hotel.
When we were offered the chance to hike in an abandoned theme park, we had a different mental picture, but the Rose Island Abandoned Theme Park easily ranks among our favorite hiking spots ever. A few remnants of original structures remain (read all the plaques and listen to the hand-cranked audio for complete details). It also boasts some breathtaking views of the Ohio River and the state of Kentucky located just across the water. Rose Island Abandoned Theme Park is a 90-minute drive from West Baden Springs Hotel.
And over at Spring Mill State Park, the Pioneer Village bursts with history and cool stories, plus some love-worthy photo ops. We’re not usually fans of old-timey villages such as this, but the setting and the still-working facilities (ask someone to saw a giant log for you on a gnarly-looking contraption worthy of a horror movie and you’ll know what we’re talking about). You’re also surrounded by multiple places to hike and convene with nature throughout the state park.
Build Your Own Itinerary
To create the perfect-for-you vacation to Southern Indiana, head to VisitIndiana.com, DiscoverSouthernIndiana.com or GoSoIN.com. These sites have all the latest info, as well as seasonal events to help make the most of your time as an honorary Hoosier.