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.
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|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.|
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.
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.
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.|
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.
History of French Lick Resorts
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Family Vacation Ideas