French Lick Family Vacation Ideas

Family Vacation Ideas: French Lick, Indiana


Planning a family vacation for the holiday? French Lick and West Baden are the perfect destination for families. A French Lick family vacation during the holidays is a magical gift. You'll make long lasting family memories. We recently visited and plan to make it a holiday tradition. From the Polar Express Train to the Springs to the Casino, there's truly something for everyone.

This post contains affiliate links.


Polar Express French Lick Railway activities
French Lick Railway train station during the Polar Express.


The famous hotels are historical and just as in years past, the area is filled with vacationers from all over the United States and abroad. The West Baden Springs Hotel is touted as the eighth wonder of the world. Is it upscale? Is it pricey? It can be. We've got some tips on how to enjoy the magic of French Lick on a budget. A French Lick family vacation is within reach when you plan ahead. Keep in mind, that on Thanksgiving weekend, all the prices go up, but everything is extra special.


French Lick Springs Hotel Family Vacation Ideas
French Lick Springs Hotel Family Vacation Ideas.


When you start to plan a French Lick family vacation it may seem overwhelming. The maps online are somewhat confusing, but all of these amenities are less than a 5 minute drive from each other - most are a 5 minute walk! I've rounded up the best things to do in French Lick and listed them here for your convenience.

French Lick Railway - Polar Express or other themed ride depending on the season. These tickets sell out quickly. You'll want to book in advance for the best seats. That means, if you're planning a trip for next Thanksgiving weekend, better get your tickets as soon as possible. Tickets must be paid in advance and are non refundable.

If you wait until the last minute there are a few options. If the website is sold out, the partner hotels may still have tickets. I didn't book train tickets at the same time I made hotel reservations because I was waiting to see how many family members would attend. When I finally got around to it, both hotels where we had reservations were sold out of train tickets for Friday night. I was able to get my train tickets at a nearby Comfort Suites. The hotel was a five minute drive from the French Lick resorts. They held them at the front desk and I picked them up the day of the Polar Express train ride.

We got to ride the train, but we were in the last car. It's a bumpy ride with lots of diesel fumes. On a happier note, when the train heads back to town, it becomes the first car.

There's coach (think of an old school bus), first class (tables and chairs), and dome class (an upper, glass enclosed seating area.) During the ride, the staff tells the story through song and dance. They even serve hot, hot, hot chocolate and cookies! True to the story, you get a visit from Santa who gives every child their first gift of the season.







Check our Instagram for fun French Lick Railway Polar Express vacation videos.

At French Lick Springs Hotel, you'll find a Kids' Activity Area right next to the Casino! This is drop-in child care for hotel guests. The activities are recommended for children 6-12 yrs. old. There's an additional fee for all children's activities. It includes special events like bounce houses.




Old-fashioned trolley rides are free and go back and forth between the French Lick resort and West Baden Springs resort. There's also a trolley on a track that goes around the Casino and back to West Baden.




West Baden Spring Hotel Resort Family Vacation Ideas



At either French Lick Springs or West Baden Springs, the hotel concierge will book Carriage Rides, Horseback Riding, and Golf outings for an additional fee. You can also rent bicycles, surrey carts and other outdoor activities. There's a family golf option called Foot Golf that plays like regular golf but with a soccer ball.







During our stay, over Thanksgiving weekend, the hotels were celebrating 50 Days of Lights with festive decor inside and out. While the hotels have been restored and the common spaces are spectacular, the hotel rooms are nothing special. They are small, the hotel was built in the late 1800's - so think historical. A double queen room includes a wardrobe, a television, and a mirror. There isn't a microwave, refrigerator, or a bathtub. You may want to pay a little extra for a suite.


French Lick Traditional Guest Room.















French Lick Springs Hotel offers a family-friendly area that is open to the general public. So, no matter what hotel you stay in, you can visit the arcade, pizza shop, and bowling alley. Hotel guests have the added benefit of charging the very pricey activities to their rooms. My best tip on this one, it is very small. The bowling alley is 5 lanes cramped together. Be sure to get your name on a waiting list and be prepared for an expensive game. Pluto's Pizza - reviews don't lie. There's not a lot to do in town, so they have somewhat of a monopoly on these type of activities.



This is one quarter of the arcade room. There's a Foosball table in the middle.

The little town village and the hotels offer an array of eating options. From tiny Mom and Pop cafes to the upscale 1875 Steakhouse in the French Lick resort, there's something for all budgets. We dined at the steakhouse when everything else had closed. The staff is reminiscent of the old days when FDR would have dined there. They take care of you, but it'll cost you. If you are a family on a budget, skip this one. If you want an experience to remember and a taste of the Pluto Factory's tomato juice, expect to spend at least $75 per person.


To my surprise, French Lick Springs Hotel does not include breakfast or much of anything else for that matter. Swimming is included, but everything else is an additional fee.

Plus: The rooms are very clean. The shower is nice and big.

You can eat breakfast at the Grand Colonnade Room's Breakfast Buffet, but for what they offer and the fact that they require the tip upfront when you pay a cashier, I'd skip this one. The food isn't any nicer or better quality than anywhere else. You can make lots of trips, but we didn't want to. The wait staff isn't exceptional, the seating is tight... spend your money somewhere else.





You don't need to wait for Thanksgiving, the seasonal activities and themed family weekends are available for fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and more. During our stay, both French Lick resort hotels were offering Thanksgiving Buffets. We chose to make our reservation at French Lick Springs because it offered a non-traditional children's buffet with macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders. Here, the Thanksgiving feast is traditional fare. We enjoyed the food. The room was beautiful but a little chilly, be sure to dress warmly. For a family of 4 (3 adults and 1 child, children are 12 and under) we spent $225 including tip. This can be charged to your room or paid after dinner. No need to stay in either hotel to make a dinner reservation for Thanksgiving dinner. They also do Christmas Dinner with carolers throughout the hotels!

Tip: if you want a special Thanksgiving dinner, eat here and stay up the street at the Comfort Suites. You'll get to enjoy all of the splendor of the hotel without the extra cost. A surprising plus, both hotels are pet-friendly.


Big Splash Indoor Waterpark - Tickets and breakfast are included - it's cheaper to stay here than stay somewhere else and just visit the park or just eat in the restaurant. The rooms are much larger than the French Lick resorts, but not as clean. That's to be expected with all of the families in and out. This hotel also offers family suites in various sizes. Our room, 4 waterpark passes, and breakfast was $20 less than just the room at French Lick Springs resort. We were just as comfortable, but there wasn't as much service. If you're used to being pampered, this isn't the hotel for your stay.

Breakfast was surprisingly good. The buffet was small but loaded full of french toast sticks, scrambled eggs, sausage, cereal, ham, and juices. The trade off is the restaurant is crowded and the wait can be long. My family was too lazy and wanted to skip breakfast so I went down by myself. Rather than taking up an entire table, the hostess allowed me to fill up some to go boxes and take them back to my room. Of course, when I brought the food back, everyone was suddenly starved. We all agreed the food was just as good, if not better than the Grand Colonnade room at French Lick Springs.


Big Splash Indoor Water Park French Lick Family Vacation Tips
Big Splash Indoor Water Park French Lick Family Vacation Tips.

My best tip for visiting this or any indoor water park is to heed the warnings. The windows and roof are closed when it is cold, so the gases build up quicker and can cause flu-like symptoms, rashes, or problems with Asthma. Due to our Asthma, my daughter and I both needed a break after an hour. The pool staff recommends taking frequent breaks every 2 hours.

We headed to the park at the best time, there were no lines, so we all got to do everything in an hour. My favorite was lounging in the lazy river, but I did try one of the tubes. That was an experience. Fun and terrifying at the same time! In the main swimming pool, don't miss the the whirl pool. Our passes were good for the day of check-in and the night of check out! Great deal.




Big Splash also offers an outdoor pool.

The decor in the entry of Big Splash is also a game.



The darker tubes are dark inside. Some tubes require an intertube to slide down.

Whether you stroll or drive through town, you'll find some surprising shops. There's a Denny's across the street from French Lick Springs and a Dollar General across the street from West Baden Springs. In front of Big Splash is a mini golf and laser tag facility. If you're on a tight budget, there's also a McDonald's, CVS, and Jay's Grocery in town. If you don't want to pay $4.00 for a pop, walk over to the Huck's Gas Station across the street from the resort areas. Around the corner from the gas station, tucked away off the street, is a small movie theater, Spring's Stadium.

Don't miss a visit to the French Lick West Baden Museum to learn all about local history and be sure to take a guided historical tour of the resort hotels. Don't miss area attractions like a zip line a few miles outside of town, you can bathe elephants and go on other outdoor adventures at Wilstem Ranch.


Recommended:

History of French Lick Resorts

Follow Kids Creative Chaos on Instagram for more Family Fun Tips

Family Vacation Ideas




Pin it!

French Lick Family Vacation Ideas







Traditional Yule Log Recipe

Easy Yule Log Recipe



Ahh, Ye olde Yule Log. What's a Yule Log, you ask? Depends who you ask. Are you hungry or do you want to keep warm for the holidays? Find out the history of the Yule Log. Is it food - yes and also no! Apparently, the dessert cake, Chocolate Yule Log, was created after the one you place in your fireplace. This traditional Yule Log recipe is delicious, but it also serves as a great family tradition when you make it with your children. Watch the Yule Log video below while you bake. Enjoy!


Traditional Yule Log Recipe


How to Make a Yule Log



This spongy, oil-less Yule Log cake comes from Taste of Home as part of its Chocolate Cherry Cream-Filled Log Recipe. We made a few adjustments. Instead of the whipped cream filling, we used a Cherry Almond Buttercream with chopped Chocolate Covered Cherries folded in. Top your cake roll with chocolate ganache, melted milk chocolate chips, or just dust with some powdered sugar. We made our Yule Log festive by adding green paper leaves that adorn the cherries. You can also make the leaves with edible ganache.


Hallmark's Yule Log Video You Tube







Yule Log Cake:





Ingredients:
4 eggs, separated
1/3 c. plus 1/2 c. sugar, divided
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/3 c. water
Confectioner's sugar

Directions:
1.  Place egg whites in a small bowl and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. Line a greased 15 in. x 10 in. x 1 in. baking pan with waxed paper.  Grease the paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2.  In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in 1/3 c. sugar. Beat in vanilla.
3. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together twice.  Gradually add to the yolk mixture alternately with 1/3 c. water. Beat well after each addition.
4.  In a small bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites on medium until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/2 c. sugar, 1 T. at a time, on high speed until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold egg whites into batter. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 5 minutes. Dust a kitchen towel completely with confectioner's sugar. Invert the cake onto the towel. Carefully peel off the waxed paper. Roll up the cake in the towel, starting with the short side.  Cool completely on a wire rack.
6.  Prepare Cherry Almond Buttercream.
7.  Unroll cake. Spread filling evenly over the cake to within 1/2 in. of the edges. Roll the cake again, without the towel. Place seam side down on a serving platter. Top as desired. Slice off the uneven ends of the cake before serving.


Cherry Almond Buttercream with Chocolate Covered Cherries:

Ingredients:
3 c. Confectioner's sugar
1 stick butter, softened
3 t. almond extract
2 T. milk
2 T. maraschino cherry juice
6 chocolate covered cherries, coarsely chopped

Directions:
1.  Beat butter until creamy.
2.  Add confectioner's sugar and beat until combined. Add almond extract and cherry juice and beat until combined. Add milk, if necessary, for consistency.  Beat until smooth.
3.  Gently fold in chopped candy.



Recommended:

Christmas Holiday Recipes and Activities



Pin it!


Easy Yule Log Recipe





25 Best Holiday Light Displays and Christmas Activities Indiana: Speedway and Beyond

Holiday Fun Activities and Light Shows in Indiana


'Tis the season! Are you looking for fun family activities and things to do this holiday season? We've gathered up the 25 best holiday light displays in the greater Indianapolis area and beyond. During the holidays, Indiana is a festive place. Many of the holiday light displays start the weekend before Thanksgiving. Some of these Indiana holiday activities and light shows are free. 

This post contains affiliate links.





You've eaten until your belly feels like it is going to pop. You've unbuttoned the top button of your pants to make room for desserts. What next? You can sit in the chair and watch the same old holiday movies while in a food coma or you can go for a ride and get in the holiday spirit with a festive holiday light show display or an immersive holiday activity that's fun for the whole family. If you start now, you can do them all before New Year's Day!

25 Best Holiday Light Display Shows and Family Friendly Activities in Indiana


Speedway - Indianapolis Motor Speedway Holiday Light Show

2016 was the inaugural light show at the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway. Pay per car load and take a ride around the famous track.




See over 2 million lights at the Brickyard: 11/17 - 12/30, $25 per car Monday to Wednesday, $30 Thursday to Saturday, $50 for vehicles with 15+ passengers, speedy passes also available for an additional cost. 


Danville - Ellis Park Drive Thru Light Display

Winterland is open daily starting 11/24 thru 12/30 (Closed Christmas Day)
Sunday to Thursday 6pm to 9pm and Friday & Saturday 6pm to 10pm. $10 per car load.

See Santa in the Train Station on Friday, Saturday and Sunday through December 23rd.

Copy and print this discount coupon to save $5 at the gate.






CarmelChristKindlmarkt

The Carmel Christkindlmarkt offers a  blend of traditional German foods and gifts, surrounding a beautiful outdoor ice skating rink. The whole family will enjoy exploring the market and making cherished memories. Event is located at 10 Center Green - Between The Palladium and The Tarkington Theater 11/18 - 12/24 (Closed Thanksgiving Day) Wednesday thru Thursday 4-9 pm and 1-9 pm weekend days.


Kokomo - We Care Park Light Display

Located on the north side of Kokomo in the 2300 block of North Market Street (just west of the intersection of Gano and Lafountain) this outdoor display has over 1,000,000 lights and animated displays. Drive thru the park or walk the 3 acres to enjoy.


Muncie - Minnetrista Enchanted Luminaria Walk

Kick off the holiday season with this family event. Experience sweet treats, winter games and crafts, carriage rides, and holiday music in celebration of the season. Enjoy rides and food for a small fee. Indoors, Minnetrista also hosts a holiday tree event.


Fishers - Conner Prairie by Candlelight  

As a past Conner Prairie Interpreter and Manager of Music and Theatre programming, I participated in this event many times. Dress warmly. This magical, family friendly 90-minute walking tour transforms you back in time to 1836 Prairietown where it’s the night before Christmas. 12/8-12/23, $16/adult ($14/adult member) $13/youth ages 2-12 ($11/youth member) Groups of 15+ guests $15/adult & $12/youth. Tours begin at 6 PM and run every 12 minutes until 9 PM. Best for ages 7+.


Fishers - Winter Wonderland


Celebrate the magic of the season when Fisher's Nickel Plate District transforms into a Winter Wonderland, complete with a place to leave letters for Santa. Starts 11/30, FREE.






Fishers - Reynolds Farm Christmas Light Show
A million bulbs illuminate a 57' tall abominable snowman and donations benefit a local food bank. 11/21 - 1/1, FREE.





Indianapolis Museum of Art - Newfields - Winterlights 

Winterlights is an outdoor strolling experience in the gardens of IMA. Wear comfortable walking shoes and warm clothes. Enjoy millions of lights that dance to music and beverages and firepits to roast s'mores at Newfields (Art Museum).  11/9 - 1/7, $8 to $20, FREE for children 5 and under, 5 & 7 PM  






Indianapolis - Christmas at the Zoo 

Twinkling lights surround the seals, sea lions, walruses and tigers. 11/24-26, 29-30; 12/1-3, 6-10, 13-23, 26-30, $9.95 for children and $12.95 for adults.


Indianapolis - Circle of Lights 

See the Soldiers and Sailors Monument transformed into a giant Christmas tree made of more than 4,000 lights. Lighting of the tree is 11/24, FREE. 


IndianapolisChinese Lantern Festival

Thirty sets of giant Chinese Lanterns light up the Indiana State Fairgrounds. 11/24 - 1/7, $10 to $15, FREE for children 4 and under.



Broad RippleBroad Ripple Lights Up!

Broad Ripple lights up for the holidays complete with a Wonderland activity village and twilight parade. 12/3, FREE.


Mooresville - Victorian Christmas Celebration

The annual Victorian Christmas Celebration features a number of fun stops and activities throughout Mooresville. A free shuttle service takes you to each stop so you don't miss a thing! Enjoy carolers, craft fair, carriage rides, performances and Victorian characters 12/2, FREE.

While in Morgan County, hop over to Martinsville and see the candy canes being made at the Martinsville Candy Kitchen.


Santa Claus  - Santa Claus Indiana for the Holidays

The town with Santa's name is packed with holiday activities. Visit Santa, mail a letter and more. Check the website for dates and details.

Columbus - Holiday at the Farm

Bloomington - Canopy of Lights

French Lick - 50 Days of Lights


Indianapolis Indoor Holiday Events


Garfield Park Conservatory Crossing

See the Conservatory decked with a brilliant display of poinsettias, enjoy model trains and villages, and thousands of twinkling lights. 11/24 – 12/31, Monday-Saturday: 10-5 pm, Sundays: 1-5 pm, Evenings Hours (until 8 pm): December 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23, $4 per person or $10 per family (2 adults max.)


Indiana State Museum - Celebration Crossing 

Celebration Crossing comes alive with holiday merriment from the sounds of bands, bell and vocal choirs and of course Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will entertain visitors in their cozy home through 12/24. Take a trip back in time by gazing into the recreated L.S. Ayres store windows rekindling Christmases past. 11/24 - 1/7, included with museum admission. Don't miss the train - it will make cherished memories for years to come.


Photo courtesy of the Indiana State Museum.


Children's Museum of Indianapolis - Jolly Days

Celebrate family traditions and holidays with Jolly Days Winter Wonderland. Enjoy favorites like the two-story Yule Slide, Jingles the Jolly Bear, and visits with Santa. 11/24 - 1/7, included with museum admission.


The Eiteljorg MuseumJingle Rails  

This popular locomotive wonderland and Indianapolis family tradition opens  11/18 - 1/15, included with museum admission.


Indiana History Center - Festival of Trees

The history center is full of festive activities at the Festival of Trees. Visit the website for a full list of holiday happenings. 11/17 - 1/6, included with museum admission.


Nearby Events - Mason, Ohio - King's Island Winterfest

Ring in the holidays with the return of WinterFest at Kings Island on select nights 11/24 - 12/30. The park transforms into nine enchanting winter wonderlands featuring ice skating on the Royal Fountain, the Eiffel Tower transformed into a magical Christmas tree, up to 17 rides including Mystic Timbers, more than 5 million lights and 14 holiday characters spreading merriment, like Jack Frost and Sugar Plum Fairy. Visit the website for hours and cost.


Recommended:

Things to do in Indiana

Holiday Road: Dress the whole family in festive Christmas pajamas while you tour the light shows from the comfort of your vehicle.

Ring in Ring in the holidays with the return of WinterFest at Kings Island on 
Pin it!


25 Best Holiday Light Displays and Christmas Activities Indiana: Speedway and Beyond

Indianapolis Firefighter Museum: Things to do in Indy

Firefighters Museum Downtown Indianapolis

As homeschoolers, we're always looking for fun, educational things to do for field trips. Downtown Indianapolis is full of great things to do on a field trip or family vacation. If you're ever on Mass Ave, stop and explore the Firefighters Museum. It's free! Live in Indiana? You can take a staycation to downtown Indy and spend the day or the entire weekend exploring.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.


Indianapolis Firefighter Museum: Things to do in Indy


The Fire Fighters Museum is located in downtown Indianapolis at  748 Massachusetts Ave. This museum is newly renovated. In fact, they're still adding exhibits. If you're studying Indiana history, this is an ideal way to immerse yourself. The museum is free and includes a guided tour with open hours from 9 to 5.


Field Trip Ideas for Homeschoolers Indiana

If you choose to walk through the space without a guide, you're welcome to do so. Our guide was a retired fireman who knew all about the history of Indianapolis Firefighters - such a great opportunity to learn! On a side note, this museum is very small. You could walk through on your own in 15 minutes. We spent about 20 minutes touring the exhibit and another 15 playing checkers. So, you'll want to pair this with another Mass Ave activity. We suggest the Sub Zero Ice Cream parlor (they serve lunch too.)


Firefighters Museum Downtown Indianapolis




Upstairs in the museum, check out this cool display of knots while you try on some fireman's gear. Then, you can peek down the fire pole - it's blocked so you can't slide down it. Bummer.

Plus: Clean Restrooms!

We enjoyed our homeschool field trip to the Indianapolis Firefighter Museum in downtown Indy. It was a nice side trip for our day on Mass Ave. What's your favorite Indianapolis field trip? Tell us about it in the comments.


Recommended:

Things to do in Indiana

Fireman Costume and Accessories



Pin it!

Indianapolis Firefighter Museum: Things to do in Indy