It’s a child’s dream vacation: Big Splash Adventure, 8524 West State Road 56, French Lick, Indiana, has a 40,000 square foot indoor water park with a retractable roof . . . and an attached hotel.
When I was there last August, the roof was closed, but kids of all ages were squealing with delight as they played in the water. Getting wet was definitely the objective in this enormous glass pavilion. (Yes: the parents were having as much fun as their children.)
There’s a “lazy river” to float along, buoyed by giant sky blue inner tubes; forts and swings, and a humongous waterslide to explore, and intermittent jets of water shooting up from the floor to surprise the unwary. Buccaneer Bay also features “talking” parrots, a mega waterfall, tunnels to barrel through, and stairways to climb.
All of this is available to hotel guests, of course — but the waterpark is popular enough to attract day visitors. (Attention grandparents: there’s a discount for those 60 and over.)
I was booked into a “Pirate’s Paradise”, which is perfect for families of four or five. There’s a king-size bed, two bunk beds and a sofa that can turn into a bed. Bringing four kids? The “Pirate’s Hideaway” has four bunk beds plus the king-size. All the rooms have flat-screen televisions; a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker — plus that current essential for guests of all ages, WiFi. Big Splash Adventure is a completely smoke-free, pet-free facility.
For the water averse, there’s a “Treasure Chest” arcade with twenty different games to try.
When mealtime rolls around, there are three options (one of which is adults only). Those over 21 can head for Lee Wally’s lounge (yes, it’s a bar), while everyone else settles in at The Boatyard, with a full menu of family favorites including bacon-cheddar fries and that Hoosier classic, a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. The third choice? Its a snack bar next to the Buccaneer Bay waterpark entrance.
In the unlikely event your family gets bored with the waterpark and arcade games, you can head out to one of the hotel’s “sister” properties. Shotz features indoor laser tag, a nine-hole indoor “cosmic” miniature golf course, and an 18-hole outdoor miniature golf course. Additional dining options can be found at Gasthof Amish Village.
My favorite of the “sisters” was, hands-down, Wilstem. I could spend a week just exploring all the facets of this unique attraction. Let’s see: there’s a zipline course, side-by-side ATV tours, and horseback riding — but that’s not what drew me there.
It’s the animal encounters. There aren’t too many places in the United States that one can get up close and personal with giraffes and elephants — hand-feeding the former and bathing the latter. New since I was there is the Grizzly Encounter: no touching but lots of learning about these big bears. You also can get acquainted with kangaroos, tropical birds, and an iguana.
(Photos by Susan McKee, who was a guest of Big Splash Adventure and Indoor Water Park)