French Lick is one of those places that you can think of a million occasions to visit. A short road trip, just two hours from Indianapolis, is exactly what you need, trust me. French Lick is a hot spot for the wealthy and famous to visit but not at all out of reach or out of touch with what typical families are looking for. The adventures you’ll find in French Lick are anything but average.
Things to do in French Lick
If you’re looking for relaxation and indulgences, French Lick is the perfect destination for you. With world class spa facilities, famous golf courses, on-site child care at the Kids’ Camp, a casino and wonderful dining options, you’ll never want to leave. If you’re looking for fun and adventure, French Lick also has you covered.
Drive-Thru Animal Safari
If squeals of delight make your heart sing, the Drive-Thru Animal Safari at Wilstem Ranch is a can’t miss. Roll down the windows and get ready to have animal visitors pop inside your car to say hi. You’ll see up to 40 species of animals including bison, zebras, cows, ostriches, deer and alpacas. Many of the animals will saunter right up to your car and eat from your feed cup (available for purchase), stick their face in your windows and check you out.
Family ATV Tours
The side by side ATV tours at Wilstem Ranch are a bucket list item for sure! Licensed drivers over the age of 18 can operate an ATV on the trails behind the scenes at Wilstem Ranch. Children can join in as passengers as long as they are 36″ or taller. You’ll splash through mud, stir up dust, kick up grass and get a unique look at Wilstem Ranch and the adjoining historic Castle Knoll Farm. Your guide will show you former sites where moonshine was made as well as tell you stories and show you the sites where famous people came to visit.
While there aren’t any activities for children, both Patoka Lake Winery and French Lick Winery are kid-friendly. Bring along some busy bags for the kids and then indulge in local wines.
French Lick Winery is a treasure, serving up tastings of their delicious and flavorful wines. Enjoy reds, whites, sweet and dry wines made from grapes grown just 20 miles away in the Heaven’s View Vineyard. Ask for Teddy to guide you through your tasting, he’s a phenomenal host and he really knows the French Lick Wines. In addition, the Spirits of French Lick Distillery has a tempting selection including, absinthe, brandy, bourbon, gin and other spirits. Step away from the tasting counter and enjoy an enchanting meal at the French Lick Vintage Cafe.
The Patoka Lake Winery is a hot spot for lake goers and even offers a wine cruise. With unique accommodations in the silos and lots of lodging areas nearby, this is a busy place. In addition to their luscious fruit wines, you can’t miss the bay of wine slushie machines located in the winery. Try wine slushies in unique flavors, like Peanut Butter and Jelly or Blueberry Pomegranate.
Wilstem Ranch is home to many favorite outdoor adventures near French Lick, including Animal Encounters. These educational encounters allow guests to get up close to some of their favorite animals and learn about their habits, environments and how to help with protection and conservation. Get friendly with giraffes, elephants, grizzly bears, sloths and kangaroos.
Patoka Lake is an Indiana State Park with a giant lake for swimming, boating and fishing. The public beach has a sand and swimming area. Visitors will also love the hiking trails, paved walking trails and even camping.
Hiking in French Lick
With trails ranging from moderate to rugged, both short in length (1 1/2 miles) and longer (5 miles), you can hike in the Hoosier National Forest, connected to the French Lick Resort. You’ll see wildlife and beautiful native plants and trees. Patoka Lake State Park also offers hiking trails. In addition to hiking trails, there are gorgeous gardens to walk through at the historic West Baden Springs Resort.
French Lick Scenic Railway Train Rides
The French Lick Scenic Railway will take you on a ride through the Hoosier National Forest. This Indiana train ride is most popular in the fall while the leaves are changing. Snacks, beverages, beer & wine are available for purchase. Before the train reverses and returns back to the train station in French Lick, you’ll be able to get out and stretch your legs. Experience themed train rides like the beloved Polar Express Holiday Train Ride (typically sold out months in advance), the Easter Bunny Express, Wild West Hold-ups (also known as train robbery excursions, where “robbers” ride up to the train on horseback) and Tasting Train Rides (chocolate, bourbon, scotch and rum.)
Snow Tubing, Skiing and Snowboarding
Paoli Peaks offers wintertime fun for all ages. Kids and adults love snow tubing at Arctic Blast. Ride the snow escalator to the top of the hill and then hit speeds of 30-40 miles per hour on the 700 foot slope. Thaw out at the outdoor fireplace and warm up with a snack.
Big Splash Adventure Indoor Water Park
This indoor water park and resort is a year-round favorite for families with young children. In addition to the water slides and lazy river, Big Splash has mini golf, laser tag and an arcade. The water park is included in your resort stay and day passes are available for purchase during select days.
French Lick West Baden Museum
This museum takes a fascinating look at the history of French Lick and is home to the worlds largest circus diorama. Adults will love perusing the artifacts that tell the story of a resort for the rich and famous, a restful home for the circus in the off season and where baseball spring training hit a home run. See what fun discoveries were made in French Lick and learn the stories of its residents and investors. This would be a great first stop, as you won’t look at the city in the same way after. Children AND adults will spend quite a while inspecting and exploring the massive circus diorama setup.
The French Lick Resort has so many family friendly offerings, including Pluto’s Bowling Alley. In addition, guests can partake in fantastic activities like “Dive in Movies,” where a movie is shown on a big screen under the swimming dome so you can enjoy a movie while swimming. During non-COVID times, KidsFest is a special building that’s full of fun for kids! Children ages 6-12 can be signed up for a session with childcare workers and adults can leave to enjoy other resort activities. Children of all ages and their adults can stop by this fun kids’ club and play together.
Ride the Trolley
Guests can take a ride on one of the French Lick trolleys between resort properties. Choose from the fun trackless trolley shuttles or the antique trolley that runs the rails between properties.
Where to Eat in French Lick, Indiana
33 Brick Street
This sports bar and grill is a great place for the sports fan. Owned by friends of the famed Larry Bird, you’ll see quite a bit of sports memorabilia around the restaurant, but especially pieces belonging to Larry Bird. Guests can try on the Larry Bird jersey and pose for photos. We highly recommend the 8 oz. filet and the Southwest burger. If you enjoy craft beer and good food, 33 Brick Street is your place.
Bagel Bistro Coffee Shop
This cute shop is just a hop, skip and a jump from the French Lick Resort. Enjoy made to order coffee beverages, bagel sandwiches and brunch cocktails. I recommend the Oh Gnome You Didn’t signature sandwich: pepperoni, provolone, smoked cheddar, onion, banana peppers and pizza sauce on an onion bagel. Also the BALT (Bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, Colby and cream cheese on an asiago bagel. My kids fought over the Nutty Monkey, banana slices, almond slices, Nutella, honey and peanut butter on a cinnamon bagel.
Power Plant Bar & Grill
The Power Plant Bar & Grill is named for the giant electric switchboard on the front wall of the restaurant. Rumored to be the controls for the hotel power grid, it’s a fun space to look and pose for photos. Enjoy sandwiches, burgers, salads and other typical American bar food.
French Licks Ice Cream & Coffee Bar
Who can resist the small batch creaminess of artisan ice cream flavors like Dark Chocolate Cayenne, Mississippi Mud, Cake Batter, Strawberry, Chocolatey Chocolate, Pecan Pie, Dark Almond Cherry, Spearmint Chocolate Chip, Blueberry Lemon Sorbeto Cranberry Pear Sorbet. Stop in and grab a cold treat or a warm drink and stay to play table top games.
The Vintage Cafe at French Lick Winery
Sit for a nice lunch or a relaxing dinner at The Vintage Cafe. Expect the freshest food and the nicest service as you enjoy delicious stone hearth baked pizzas, savory pasta dishes and scrumptious sandwiches. Pair your food with your favorite French Lick Wine and you’ll swear you’re somewhere in Italy sitting in a bistro.
Places to Stay with Kids in French Lick
French Lick Resort
You can’t go wrong staying at the French Lick Resort while visiting French Lick. This iconic property has two hotels, the French Link Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel. Both retreats are known for their relaxing environment, live music, swimming pools, delicious food, luxurious gardens and proximity to fun. Enjoy live music from the quintessential front porch of the French Lick Springs Hotel or nestle in to a plush chair and enjoy harp music under the dome of the West Baden Springs Hotel.
The hotel at Big Splash gives you access to year-round entertainment and is conveniently located in downtown French Lick. Most of the rooms at Big Splash accommodate four people and even have bunk beds. Several rooms are larger and have space for larger families or small groups. Many families love staying here during the famous French Lick Polar Express train ride weekends during the holiday season.
Patoka Lake Floating Cabins
If you’re always on the lookout for unique accommodations, the floating cabins at Patoka Lake are perfect for your family. The cabins have either two bedrooms or three bedrooms, a kitchen, bathrooms and other amenities to make your lake stay even more fun.
The perfect property for families or groups who want to camp out in a cabin with modern conveniences. You stay at Wilstem lets you easily walk to any of the animal encounters you book, the ziplines and other attractions.
While we enjoy staying in the midst of all of the fun, there are other options for your stay near French Lick. AirBnB lists several options for your stay in French Lick.
Where are your favorite places to stay and play in French Lick? Let me know in the comments below, I’m ready to plan my next visit.
Disclaimer: Our lodging, two meals and wine tastings were provided complimentary during our stay. One of our animal encounters and drive thru animal safari were also provided for the purpose of sharing our visit with you. As always, we only write about the things we love and we skip writing about places that were not a good fit for our audience or our story. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section.