The genuinely friendly welcome sets the tone for stellar service and an unforgettable stay at the West Baden Springs Hotel, a two hour drive from Indianapolis. The 243-room West Baden Springs Hotel is an extraordinary historic property, one of two hotels in southern Indiana’s French Lick Resort complex. An old-fashioned porte-cochere provided cover on a cloudy drizzly Friday when we arrived at the West Baden Springs Hotel n, a National Historic Landmark built in 1902.
The West Baden Springs Hotel was originally built in 1850 by Dr. John Lane, and ultimately renamed for the famous mineral springs in Wiesbaden, Germany. Fast forward to several property owners and a 1901 fire resulting in a $414,000 transformation, the resort attracted celebrities, gamblers, political figures, and infamous gangsters, such as Al Capone, drawn to the European charm of the historic building.
A 1929 stock market crash, a 30-year stint as a Jesuit seminary followed by the 1967-1983 Northwood College tenant deteriorated the grandeur of this property, before it became an abandoned building for 13 years.
In 1996, philanthropists Bill and Gale Cook invested in the renovation of West Baden, restoring also the French Lick Springs Hotel and re-establishing the historic hotel in the books.
Walk through a foyer and then you’re immediately wowed by the oversized domed atrium spanning 200 feet, earning it the nickname as the Eighth Wonder of the World.You’ll feel as if you’ve entered a grand 1920s ballroom.
To the right are a bar and a dozen or so tables, with the illusion of dining al fresco, and several sofas and chairs are scattered throughout the atrium, including oversized chaise lounges built for two. The hotel rooms surround the atrium, giving it the feel of an elegant European courtyard.
To check-in, guests pass through the atrium to the reception desk. Although the bellman did offer to deliver my luggage, I opted to carry my own, and immediately regretted it as the carpeted foyer made it difficult to push or pull my suitcase. (My fault entirely.) I arrived prior to the 3pm check-in, but fortunately my room was ready.
Finding your accommodations is a bit complicated as the 243 rooms rise six tiers around the dome. A circular corridor on each floor brings you to your room, and you can’t get lost as you continue round and round, ending up in where you began.
The room decor channels Victorian, and my second floor room was a suite with king-size bed, sitting area and desk.The bathroom is separate and oversized and equally as impressive with a bathtub/shower.
I was immediately drawn to the windows overlooking the atrium. The downside is guests who wish to call it an early night might be distracted by the noise from the atrium, so request an outer room with views of the manicured gardens.
You will not be bored at the West Baden Springs Hotel. Activities are only limited by time. Take the guided historic tour of the property, or stroll the shops located off the atrium.18-hole Pete Dye Course at French Lick
The 28,000 square foot spa and fitness center is worth a visit, and my therapist Mark’s magical Swedish massage was perhaps one of the best I’ve experienced.
I swung my rental clubs at legendary 18-hole Pete Dye Course at French Lick, designed atop one of southern Indiana’s highest points. Photos don’t do justice the absolutely spectacular panoramic views from every hole! Bonus: there are three other courses to play.
For active guests, biking and hiking trails surround the complex with bike rentals available.
Horseback riding at the Stables at French Lick Resort cater to all levels of riders. Choose from 45 minute to 2 hour trail rides (minimum age 8, maximum weight 260 pounds, from $38 to $75), and pony rides for the kids.
Of course, guests can also try their luck 2 miles away at the French Lick Resort Casino.
West Baden offers several options for dining: upscale dining and wine tasting area at Sinclair’s Restaurant; exclusive chef’s table at Table One; casual breakfast and lunch at Café at Sinclair’s; Ballard’s Bar for cocktails and light fare; and Xanadu and Sprudel’s for snacks and beverages.
For a truly memorable experience, the complex’s signature dining venue is 1875 located at the French Lick Resort. Known for its steak, I’d highly recommend Lobster Mac & Cheese as an appetizer.
Don’t let the southern Indiana location mislead you. The West Baden Springs Hotel might be off-the-beaten path, but the property’s mid-western hospitality combines with its luxurious setting to offer guests a one-of-a-kind retreat.
West Badin Springs Hotel Rack rates start at $229
Photos courtesy of Diana Rowe & West Baden Springs Hotel