Learn about Indiana by
reading Having Fun is In In Indiana by Charlie Spence,
Travel Writer. It features a mini, but thorough tour of the
destination, plus all you'll need to know to plan your trip
including getting there, objective information on places to stay and
eat, and things to do. At the end of the article, we've provided a
summary of the contact information for your easy reference. Enjoy!
Having Fun is In In Indiana
Spence, Travel Writer and WTA Member
A white-water raft ride for the whole
family, riders on Raging Rapids are warned, "You will get wet!"
Photo courtesy of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
Wherever you start your visit to Southern
Indiana you will find something different and interesting. Take the kids to the
only town in the world that can use a postage cancellation stamp of “Santa
Claus,” visit Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home, or settle in to be pampered and
take your chances at the casinos in the French Lick-West Baden area.
Christmas is the most festive time in and around
Santa Claus, Indiana, but it is a fascinating place any time of the year. Of
course, your first stop will be at the little post office. Every year thousands
of letters pass through this postal facility with volunteers called “Santa’s
Elves” stamping the envelopes to make certain each child receives an answer from
Santa. Drop off a few of your own cards or letters for the recipients to receive
this famous postmark. You’ll find eight Santa statues scattered about this rural
community but the largest is 22 feet high with a base in the shape of the Star
of Bethlehem announcing its dedication to all the children of the world.
And the children know they are welcome. The
world’s first theme park is here. Opened in 1946 under the name Santa Claus
Land, the park now is known as Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari. From the
beginning of just a Santa Claus Train, toy displays and a souvenir shop, the
park has expanded to include other holiday themes and a water park.
You’ll find most of the businesses here have
Christmas-theme names: Santa’s Lodge, Christmas Lake Golf Course, and Holiday
Foods. Even the streets put you in the holiday mood with names like Candy Cane
Lane, Mistletoe Drive, and Christmas Boulevard. During summer months, visitors
outnumber the residents of this community.
Just down the road from Santa Claus is the
boyhood homeland of Abraham Lincoln. He lived here during his early youth before
moving to Illinois. The National Park Service operates the Lincoln Boyhood
National Museum and features a film documentary. The actual site of his log
cabin is on a reenactment of a working 1800s farm. The site also has the grave
of his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln.
For another interesting visit, drive a few miles
to the Gasthof Amish Village where you will enjoy the recreation, shopping, food
and peace and quiet in the “Simple Life.” At Der Heuboden Shop you will marvel
at the assortment of handcrafted quilts, Amish-made furniture and crafts, spices
candy, and gifts. For a delightful meal, drop in at the Gasthof Amish Restaurant
and Bakery, known throughout Southern Indiana for its Amish recipes and quality
food. Be sure to take home some homemade apple butter and peanut butter spread.
After enjoying this, are you ready for a totally
different kind of travel experience? Drive about 50 miles north to the French
Lick-West Baden spas, resorts, and casinos.
In years past, French Lick was strictly for the
millionaires who came in their chauffeured limousines to partake of the “miracle
waters” and to try their luck at the illegal casinos. Today, however, the entire
area is an attractive destination for persons of any means seeking a different
kind of get away. Gambling will no longer be illegal and the resorts that
catered to the wealthy in years past are totally redone for today’s visitors.
French-Lick and West Baden are but about a mile apart on Indiana 56.
The area called French-Lick was one of the
earliest outposts in the middle-western wilderness, first settled by French
traders more than 200 years ago. Rich mineral springs attracted animals to lick
the waters and wet rocks. To those settlers this site became known as “The
Lick.” At one time the mineral waters were considered to have medicinal value.
Over a hundred years ago, gambling, elegant hotels, and mineral water baths
turned the area into a destination for the famous and wealthy. Movie stars, U.S.
presidents, corporate leaders came. In the heydays of the 1920s there were as
many as 17 casinos; four major league baseball teams came for spring training,
and it was difficult to get a reservation.
Over the years the healing powers of the waters
have been met with skepticism. The illegal but-tolerated gambling was ended in
1949. The area still attracted visitors, but the elegance was missing. Now, it’s
back. Gambling in the area has been approved. The two luxury resorts are
preparing and other facilities are welcoming the expected revival of large
numbers of guests. The French Lick Springs Resort and Casino sports a
multi-million dollar restoration. The 440 guest rooms and suites have been
outfitted with completely modern furnishings and the Resort reopened in early
November 2006. A new 84,000-square-foot casino houses 1,200 slot machines and
table games plus a 14-table poker room. There is a six-lane bowling alley and
six new eateries.
You can pamper yourself in the
20,000-square-foot full service spa, salon, and health club. Personal services
range from manicures to mineral baths in the noted mineral waters.
The West Baden Resort is now undergoing a
renovation and will reopen in late spring of 2007. The elegance of the hotel may
be seen these days for tours, afternoon teas and special events.
Entrance to Donald Ross.
Photo courtesy of Benchmark Hospitality International
Golfers will drool over the courses. The French
Lick Resort has two courses: the completely refurbished The Hill Course and a
nine-hole executive course. The Hill Course by Donald Ross was the site of the
1924 PGA Championship and in 1959 Betsy Rawls defeated Patsy Berg for the LPGA
championship. The West Baden Resort will have a new 18-hold championship course
opening in 2008.
You’ll find much more than these two resorts in
the French Lick area. At nearby Patoka Lake take your lodging in a log
cabin—with all the modern amenities. Take a boat or cast a fishing line. If you
like, you can even rent a cabin floating on the lake. Travel back in time at the
railway museum and ride a train through the Hoosier National Forest and Burton
Tunnel. If you take the ride on one of the special weekends don’t be surprised
by a Wild West “train holdup.” Or maybe you like skiing. Paoli Peaks has this
Whether you are looking for a quick get-away
weekend or want an extended vacation that can mix relaxation with excitement,
this area of southeastern Indiana is certainly a place to look into. What once
was the gathering place for the elite is fast becoming an elite place for
How To Get There
You have a choice of arrival points
when coming by air. Evansville or Louisville, Kentucky, would be
your best bets if Santa Claus is your first destination; Louisville
if heading for French Lick. It’s about a 50-mile trip out I-64 to
I-150. From Indianapolis you’d have about a 100-mile drive. From any
direction, it’s a pleasant ride with beautiful scenery almost any
time of the year. Driving from Chicago takes about five hours.
Where To Stay
Places to stay are as numerous and
varied as are the attractions.
- French Lick Resort and Spa has
470 newly-renovated rooms and suites with rates beginning about
$140. Casino and mineral baths right on the property.
- Motels include Lane’s (43
rooms) and Michael T’s (10 rooms) at French Lick; and Midwest
Inn (20 rooms) at Ritz (18 rooms) at nearby Paoli.
- Bed & Breakfasts include
Beechwood Inn (6 rooms) at French Lick; Eb Rhodes House (4
rooms) at West Baden; and Big Locust (6 rooms) and Underwood Inn
(5 rooms) at Paoli.
- If you like more rustic, check
into Wilstem Guest Ranch (4 cabins) or Pines T Patoka Lake
Village (12 cabins) at French Lick, or Patoka Chalets (2-4 & 5
bedroom cabins) at W. Paoli.
- In the Santa Claus area, look
into Santa’s Lodge or Locust Inn Motel, Baymont Inn & Suites,
Rockport Inn B& B.
Where To Dine
Several fine eating places are in
the French Lick Resort and Spa. Try Jack’s Steak House or La Bistro.
Beechwood Inn B & B is another excellent spot with elegant
surroundings in French Lick. In West Baden try The Villager. Also,
stop in at The Winery where award-winning wines are produced on site
and where the Vintage Cafe serves Italian cuisine.
information is current as of October 2006. It is recommended that you contact
the numbers, and/or visit the web sites above to determine any changes to the