There was a time when West Baden Springs Hotel was called the Eighth Wonder of the World and it is easy to see why.
At the beginning of the 1900s, the elite hotel was a Mecca for gamblers coming to Orange County for fun and glamour.
According to the Indiana Historical Society, a stay at West Baden Springs Hotel in the 1920s cost twice as much as an overnight at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
At one time 14 trains a day serviced West Baden and French Lick Resort just down the road, bringing in both celebrities and everyday people. Al Capone, John Dillinger, the Marx Brothers, Lana Turner, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope all visited.
But once gambling was banned, West Baden fell into disrepair and was only recently fully restored to its full glory.
West Baden, with its formal gardens, statuary, fountain and gazebo, reflects the turn of the last century elegance it was once known for.
Built in less than a year, the hotel was famed for its free standing dome. It was the world’s largest and that record would hold for another 60 years until the Houston Astrodome was built. But there’s no Astroturf here.
The rotunda, with its 200 feet of mosaic floor tiles (original to the hotel which was built in 1902) is breathtakingly magnificent.
The large expanse is filled with an immense Rookwood tile fireplace said to be worth over a million dollars, potted palms and Victorian era furniture reproductions. In the center of the 100-foot-high dome is a pendant chandelier which reflects prisms of light creating, at night when the dome is darkened, a light show extraordinaire.
Dining options include the upscale Sinclair, ice cream, snacks and specialty coffees at Xanadu and wonderful rotunda seating at Ballards, the perfect place for a glass of wine and a lighter meal.
There’s a stable for guided trail rides through the rolling hills, golf courses, an indoor and outdoor pool, a luxurious spa, restaurants, ice cream parlor and shops. A free shuttle runs every 15 minutes between the casino at French Lick Springs Resort and West Baden. French Lick Winery is just down the road for tastings. And there’s also an indoor waterpark nearby.
Further down the road, visit Patoka Lake, the second largest manmade lake in the state.