Written by Kathy Witt
When you round the bend in the road and spy the massive, magnificent dome partially encircled by towers you’ll feel you must be in Europe, but you’re in Hoosier National Forest in West Baden, Ind. And you’re eyeing what was once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” West Baden Springs Hotel has pedigree reaching back 160 years when it was built as a respite for those wishing to take advantage of the alleged healing powers of the area’s mineral springs.
Designed to evoke Germany’s world-famous thermal spa, Baden-Baden, this southern Indiana hotel in its early years had an opera house, two-deck pony and bicycle track, full-size baseball field and a reputation as a sophisticated resort where the hoi polloi would take to the so-called Sprudel Baths to restore and rejuvenate their health.
When the 1855 structure burned in 1901, builder Lee Sinclair decided it was time to erect his dream resort, a circular building topped with the world’s largest free-spanning dome and decorated in the manner of the grand spas of Europe. Completed in 1902, the new hotel wowed with this engineering marvel, which topped an atrium stretching 200 feet in diameter.
Today, this National Landmark Hotel and member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts is the recipient of countless accolades, including being named the “No. 1 hotel in Indiana” in 2013 and 2014 by U.S. News & World Report. It is known for its stunning elegance and architecture, Euro-glam rooms with no two exactly alike, fine and casual dining, spa services, which include the once-famous Sprudel Baths, and a range of other amenities.
New to the resort is the return of trolley service between West Baden and French Lick. Back in 1903, when dirt roads and horse-drawn carriages were the norm, the arrival of an electric trolley was a marvel that both fascinated and delighted. Like the guests of more than a century ago, today’s visitors can catch the streetcar to make the mile-long jaunt between the two resorts. A new depot has been built at West Baden Springs Resort adjacent to the gardens near the original entrance and another near French Lick Casino. The trolley runs seven days a week.
The resort remains a respite for those wishing to escape and rejuvenate. Loll about the spa. Do laps in the lap pool or slip into the hot tub. Visit “next-door neighbor” French Lick Springs Resort for Vegas-style casino gaming or bowling. Play a round or two of golf at the fully restored 1917-designed Donald Ross Course or the 18-hole Pete Dye Course, both at French Lick. Enjoy afternoon tea accompanied by music in the atrium. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride, stroll through the resort’s formal gardens or sign up for the historical tour.
ADVENTURE GUIDE TO DON’T-MISS MOMENTS
H Round the bend on State Road 56 in southern Indiana and to see West Baden Springs Hotel emerge amidst the foliage. With its massive dome, European architecture and fairytale towers, the hotel is simply breathtaking.
H Pay a call on West Baden Spring’s sister hotel, the 443-room French Lick Springs Resort, a Grande Dame in soft butter yellow brick on the National Register of Historic Places. For the best perspective, take a horse-drawn carriage tour to take in the hotel and its casino, formal gardens and gently sloping grounds.
H Intimate, exclusive and a gourmand’s culinary dream-come-true, dinner at Table One is the private chef’s table, placed right in the kitchen at West Baden Springs Hotel, yet separated with glass walls. With the flip of a switch, the walls will frost to provide complete seclusion as your party sups on custom menus served on chic Versace dinnerware.
H Avail yourself of the Sprudel mineral bath in the West Baden Springs Spa, the only place in the world this can be experienced. This relaxing 25-minute soak, homage to the baths of the early 20th century, will draw out the toxins and leave you feeling relaxed, refreshed and energized.
H Play a round of golf on the Pete Dye Golf Course, which will have the eyes of the golf world fixed firmly on it in May, 2015, when the Senior PGA Championship presented by Kitchen Aid takes place here.
West Baden Springs Hotel and its 243 luxury guest rooms and suites are part of French Lick Resort, which also includes French Lick Springs Hotel and the French Lick Casino. Named America’s Best Historic Resort by Historic Hotels of America, the French Lick Resort provides Four-Diamond accommodations. 888.936.9360, www.FrenchLick.com/hotels/WestBaden. The resort offers a number of special packages (www.FrenchLick.com/hotels/packages for details), including these:
New Year’s Eve at West Baden packages start at $599/couple and include overnight accommodations, dinner for two, a gala celebration in the hotel’s atrium that begins with hors d’oeuvres and open bar followed by dinner service, a midnight champagne toast and music by Sarah Stivers and her orchestra. Formal attire required.
Second Annual Taste of Scotland package, starting at $300, celebrating Scotch, whiskey, Scotland and all things Celtic, includes an overnight stay at French Lick Resort for two, dinner for two at the Robert Burns Tribute Dinner on Sat., Feb. 21, 2015, and access to special events, including breakout sessions and spirits parade. Stay day before or day after and receive 20 percent off additional night.
Author, travel and lifestyle writer, and travel goods expert Kathy Witt feels you should never get to the end of your bucket list; there’s just too much to see and do in the world. She can be reached at KathyWitt24@gmail.com or KathyWitt.com.
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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