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Romantic Winter Getaway in French Lick, Indiana

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The American Midwest can be a sexy place. From the South Dakota Badlands to the forests of Ohio, the region oozes romance. Smack dab in the middle of the Midwestern love fest is Indiana, a state rife with beauty and iconoclastic mystique. Much of it pulses through a wonderful small town within its boundaries: French Lick.

The French Lick Springs Hotel with its massive Christmas tree in the foreground (Photo by Gabe Miller)

The French Lick Springs Hotel with its massive Christmas tree in the foreground (Photo by Gabe Miller)

A portion of The Philosophical Travel Daddy’s stay was hosted by French Lick Resort and French Lick, Indiana. This story includes affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help to keep a free resource for readers like you.

A Midwestern Getaway to French Lick

French Lick has charms aplenty, with a quiet atmosphere that welcomes couples and other travelers. The French Lick Springs Hotel is the town’s most visible edifice, its mere size inspiring awe. My wife and I had picked the destination based on its reputation—romantic, opulent, refined, and in possession of a profound history. Having never been to French Lick, and seeking a location within driving distance, we thought it’d be a simply divine setting for our weekend of love.

The area surrounding the French Lick Resort is rife with mineral springs, many of which seduced the original founders of French Lick Springs Hotel in 1845. At the turn of the 20th century, the hotel was redecorated to reflect the aesthetic of its new owners, which was opulence without restraint. Floors were redone with Italian mosaic and a championship golf course was erected. The hotel also served as the site of a pivotal governors’ conference in the 1930s, during which Franklin D. Roosevelt first explained his ideas about the New Deal.

The French Lick Springs Hotel

When we arrived on a Friday afternoon, our backs and legs were stiff after a six-hour drive from Michigan. Dropping our car off with the valet, we stared upwards at the majestic Christmas tree standing before the resort and let out simultaneous sighs of pleasure. That old rush of holiday warmth was rising in our bodies, and the grogginess induced by our car trip was quickly dissipating.

The ornate painted ceiling in the lobby at the French Lick Springs Hotel (Photo from the French Lick Resort website)

The ornate painted ceiling in the lobby at the French Lick Springs Hotel (Photo from the French Lick Resort website)

Entering the French Lick Springs Hotel lobby, our jaws dropped off their hinges. The walls were lined with golden sculpture, and the floors were a hallucinogenic funhouse of history’s mystery. The majestic ceiling served as a functional canvas for a mural of passion and fury, illuminated only by the warm light of chandeliers.

For dinner, we opted for the resort’s 1875 Steakhouse, a restaurant that promised delicious food. It delivered. The mood was sultry and evocative, and as we drank red wine and indulged in spousal nostalgia, the world began to spin in a most delightful way. Enter the meat, at once tender and delectable. Our meal concluded with two punchy cups of coffee, awakening our senses for the evening’s tree lighting ceremony.

The Tree Lighting

By the time we bundled up and emerged from the lobby, throngs of giddy guests were already huddled with chattering teeth and steamy breath near the towering tree. We joined their ranks, nestling between the insulating bodies of strangers. A cheery choir soon emerged from the darkness, all of its members from a local elementary school. They belted out familiar tunes of Christmas bliss, and we sang along like willing minions. There was no formal countdown to the tree lighting, and its commencement was startling. For that one moment, we all succumbed to the fantasy of Blitzen, Donner, and Mr. Claus himself. Drunk on fantasy and merlot, we stumbled off to our posh room.

The impressive indoor pool - an outdoor pool is available too! (Photo from the French Lick Resort website)

The impressive indoor pool – an outdoor pool is available too! (Photo from the French Lick Resort website)

As the morning light rose, we made our trek to the resort’s storied pool. A pristine tub of impressive girth, the  turquoise water was just the right temperature, sparing guests the electrocuting sting of cold that many hotel swimming holes inflict.

Before and after lunch we strolled through the town, admiring the peacefulness of French Lick, Indiana. More than a place to don binoculars and go Larry Bird watching, French Lick is puzzling and intriguing in equal measure. The history of the place is not confined to the resort, and we felt this in our freezing bones. In the late afternoon, we returned to the resort, finding ourselves in quiet and reflective moods. Hence, we headed to the onsite casino and blew some money to fire up our juices.

French Lick Town Square (Photo from the French Lick Resort website)

French Lick Town Square (Photo from the French Lick Resort website)

One Last Hurrah in French Lick

On our final night, we took a shuttle to West Baden Springs Hotel, sister of the French Lick Springs Hotel, both of which make up the French Lick Resort. Equally impressive as our home base, its lobby was even larger. It held under its roof a full-sized tree of green, adorned with the ornaments that turn a regular tree into a Christmas miracle. It served as the subject for another lighting that evening, and sipping hot cider while the procedure unfolded was bittersweet. We knew the following morning would usher in the long ride back to Michigan.

But as we circled the historical realms of West Baden, timelessness again gripped our souls and gave us a lovely thrashing. We returned to our rooms at some ungodly hour, collapsed in a romantic heap and dreamt of what we’d seen. Today we’re awake and far away, but the dreams continue. Indeed, they’re more compelling every day.

Would you consider booking a romantic getaway in French Lick? Let us know in the comments!

About Gabe Miller, The Philosophical Travel Daddy

Long before Gabe Miller was a Travel Daddy, he was a Travel Son. Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan during the early 1980s, he was exposed to the town’s intellectual, hippie aesthetic before becoming functionally bipedal. He had barely shed his lanugo by the time he began to travel, going on modest trips that were nonetheless profound. His wife is equally passionate about traveling, and together they’re sharing new adventures with their baby boy. From the day of their son’s birth, they’ve rejected the idea that having a child means staying indoors with the blinds drawn. They take him everywhere they go, and his smiles are proof that he’s perpetually prepared for adventure! Gabe and his family currently reside happily in the small rural town of Dundee, Michigan. Gabe has a B.A. in English and works as a middle school English teacher. Connect with Gabe on Twitter as @thetraveldaddy.

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