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'Who Knew?' America's Travel Writers Discover French Lick & West Baden for the First Time

October 26, 2022
Inside West Baden Springs dome

Anyone who’s a proud Hoosier or has made a visit to French Lick Resort is well aware of the magic and mystique of this place.

Outside of our little circle, it’s still a hidden gem of sorts – even for those who travel the world for a living and know the tourism industry up and down.

Recently, in conjunction with Visit Indiana, we had the pleasure of hosting more than a dozen journalists from all corners of the United States. They got the full range of experiences that southern Indiana offers – from staying on a houseboat at Patoka Lake to savoring a balcony room view at West Baden Springs Hotel.

Safe to say that this group has been there and done that. But even the savviest world travelers can be blown away by the experience that French Lick and West Baden offers. Today we’re sharing some thoughts from a few of them:

Todd Walker

Frequent contributor for Mpls. St. Paul Magazine and the St. Paul Pioneer Press

Interior of West Baden Springs Hotel

On the first impressions of West Baden Springs Hotel:
“Before we got here I saw the pictures and I was anxious to see the property — but as with most things, I know how you can make things look bigger, greater or more lavish than they are. When I got here, the pictures do not even do justice what you experience firsthand when you’re here. This is even more dramatic than the pictures gave whisper to. When you go to your room – and if you’re lucky enough to have a room that’s on the inside with a balcony view – and you open it up and look out on the atrium, it’s one of those ‘aw gosh’ moments that’s just rather astonishing. Prior to coming here, I was in south of France for a week and was on the Rhone River, and was in Amsterdam for a week. I only share that because I was in two amazing, dramatic, beautiful cities. Then when you come to some place like Southern Indiana, you don’t expect it to have that same gasping feeling when you see something such as the property at West Baden.”

Letting everyone in Minnesota know about his newest little discovery:
“The magazine I work for, I sent a picture of the atrium at West Baden, and they’re all like, ‘Who knew?’ All my Instagram posts, they’re like, ‘Where is this?’, and nobody knew.

Skeet shooting at French Lick Resort

What he’d do on a return trip to French Lick Resort:
“I would go horseback riding; I’d take people out and show them the beautiful area (near The Stables). I’d go out go skeet shooting, because it’s just so fun and interesting experience. Go for a nature walk perhaps, and be able to experience the property that way. Spend a day at the spa and swim … maybe spend a day pampering yourself between the spas at French Lick and West Baden. Maybe walk between the two properties, to have quiet time to yourself and be able to take in the properties.”

Erin Deinzer

Freelance journalist for publications including Reader’s Digest and Country Living

On the allure of French Lick Springs Hotel and the other resort hotels:
“Americans for the longest time have been trying to create Europe in America, because we all love that luxury and the beautiful architecture and marble columns and gold leaf. I think that sort of craftsmanship and a sense of opulence appeals to people. I’ve seen some of the people coming into the hotel, and it’s been everybody from four 85-year-old ladies on a trip together, to honeymooners. And families. And businesspeople. It runs the gamut. At the end of the day, what do all these people have in common? They want to go somewhere where they feel like there’s a sense of elegance; a sense of decorum and grace. I think there is a sense of wanting to have an experience that is outside of the everyday and the ordinary.”

Lobby of French Lick Springs Hotel


On traveling from the West Coast to the Hoosier State for the first time — and finding great travel discoveries close to home:
“When I got the invitation I was like, Indiana? I’ve never been to Indiana. What’s it look like, what’s the vibe, what are people into? What is there to do there? Oftentimes when people think about adventures or places to discover, it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m going to Japan because I don’t speak the language and the architecture’s going to be different. You can also go to Indiana where the architecture is different and the accent is different and the experience is different.' For me there was a sense of curiosity, but it’s kind of like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz – you can travel to Oz, or you can be like, ‘Geez there’s a lot of adventure in my own backyard that I don’t even think about.’”

horseback riding at french lick resort

On enjoying life at a different pace:
“This morning we went on a horseback ride. By the time I’m on my horse, it’s 9:30 here but it’s 6:30 to me – which by the way, normally I would not be up at 6:30 (laughs). We’re plodding through the forest, and I was like, ‘What a lovely way to start the day.’ I don’t care where you’re from, what time zone you’re in … how lovely to be out here in the forest on this magnificent creature and you’re just chit-chatting. It was a brilliant way to start the day. And then when I got back to the hotel room, and I look downstairs from the balcony (to the atrium), there are people doing the crossword puzzle and sipping tea. It just ratchets everything down a notch.”


coffee maker and large floor checker board

Regina Cole

Regina Cole

Freelance travel journalist contributing to The Boston Globe, Old House Journal and Northshore Magazine

On experiencing “the other” claim to fame of French Lick:
“The only reason I had heard about anything about this area was because Larry Bird was from French Lick, and living near Boston, Larry Bird was a big hero for a long time. But I didn’t know where French Lick actually was, and I’d never heard of West Baden at all.

I have been places that I didn’t know about that I found impressive when I visited — for example, Hot Springs Arkansas and seeing Bathhouse Row. But I don’t think I can compare walking into the West Baden atrium to anything that I’ve experienced. Certain spaces in antiquity — maybe the first time you see the Pyramid of Giza, you sort of go, ‘Wow.’ But I haven’t been to Egypt. So for me, it was unique. Physically being in a space like that is pretty amazing.”

exterior of French Lick Hotel at night

On admiring the history and preservation of the property:
“It just struck me that this is such an architectural gem and such a historic treasure. It was amazing to me that I hadn’t heard about it. Now that I’ve been here, I’m thinking, ‘How come I’d never heard about this before?’ Where I live, when I told people where I was going, most of them said, ‘Where? Huh? What?’ I think this is a place that should be a lot better known than it is.

Now that I know a little bit about the history of the hotel and West Baden and how the Cook family has restored it, I am just so grateful that there are people like that who have the resources and the love of history, and of these treasures that they love, that they want to do what they can to keep them standing and make them shine again. I don’t know much of anything about the Cooks, but I think well of them.”

interior of west baden springs hotel from balcony

On the West Baden Springs Hotel vibes:
“The building is gorgeous. And my room is lovely. I slept like a baby last night. Last night I was getting ready for bed and had the French doors open, and up came drifting voices of people laughing and talking, and it was really, really nice. It felt sociable and celebratory, you know? Sounds of people having a good time"










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