Story by Amy Lynch
French Lick hosts fun filled family events all year long
The gorgeous rolling hills of southern Indiana provide a splendid backdrop for a year-round schedule of festivals and activities in and around French Lick. Mark your calendar now to attend these upcoming events throughout 2020:
French Lick Resort Chocolate Fest
Chocoholics won’t want to miss a second of this sweet French-themed retreat; this year, taking over French Lick Springs Hotel’s Hoosier Hallway and Ballroom on Feb. 8 from 1 to 4 p.m. The resort’s pastry staff goes all out to create and present a decadent spread of more than 50 chocolates and desserts, along with cooking demonstrations, a mixology class and live entertainment. Several ticket packages are available; see the web site for details. Patrons who just can’t get enough also have the option to add on a “Chocolate on Canvas” art experience for an additional fee.
Indiana Uplands Wine Trail — Chocolate Lover’s Weekends
What goes better with chocolate than wine? Visit French Lick Winery as part of the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail’s Chocolate Lover’s Weekend over not one, but two romantic weekends in February to experience wine and chocolate pairings like you’ve never seen them before. Each participating winery on the trail highlights Indiana-made chocolate treats and dessert samples matched with wines from its own inventory of products. No ticket purchase is necessary, just pop in to enjoy the offerings and don’t forget to ask for a stamp in your wine trail passport while you’re at it.
Orleans Dogwood Festival
More than 50 years old and still going strong, the Orleans Dogwood Festival celebrates the annual appearance of the blooms each spring in Indiana’s Dogwood Capital with a weeklong festival that includes viewings of the trees, arts and crafts, food vendors, carnival rides, family-friendly activities, live entertainment and a parade.
Wine Cruises on Patoka Lake
Take to the lake on select Friday evenings from June through August with a Sunset Wine Cruise hosted by Patoka Lake Marina. Scenic views of the Indiana sunset from the water look even better when accompanied by wine tastings, appetizers and desserts during a relaxing two-hour excursion aboard the Patoka Voyager. Each cruise features products from a different Indiana winery; for a full schedule and reservations, visit patokalakemarina.com.
Thunder Over Patoka
Traditionally held each year on the closest Saturday to the Fourth of July, Thunder Over Patoka lights up the night sky over Patoka Lake with a fantastic fireworks display and other patriotic festivities. The beach area inside the main Newton Stewart S.R.A. entrance provides prime seats for viewing; boat owners and their guests are welcome to watch from the water.
The Jaycee Park grounds come alive with art, music, food and fun during the two-day Paoli Fest each August. A diverse lineup of performers covers a vast range of musical genres across several stages, while artists and makers showcase their wares in Art Alley. Best of all, admission is free.
Each summer, many Hoosiers look forward to the delicious joy of biting into a perfectly ripe, sun-warmed Indiana tomato straight out of the garden. French Lick’s annual Tomato Festival captures the spirit of this distinctly Indiana pleasure with a full day of food and craft vendors, bounce houses and kid-friendly fun activities, live music, cornhole and a tomato salsa contest.
In September and October, the hills of French Lick transform into idyllic leaf-peeping territory as the trees slowly cast off their summer greenery in favor of burnished gold, rich orange and fiery red autumn hues. For many visitors, fall is the most alluring time to visit precisely for this reason. Fall Foliage Wine Cruises launching from the Patoka Lake Marina offer a unique vantage point from which to appreciate the seasonal scenery from the water, along with wine, hors d’oeuvres and dessert.
On the third weekend of September each year, Bear Hollow Wood Carvers return to French Lick for an awesome weekend of chainsaw art demonstrations with amazing results. More than a dozen wood carving artisans fire up their chainsaws and let the wood chips fly as they produce masterpieces to auction off. Winetasting, an artists marketplace, live entertainment and a classic car show round out the schedule of events. (P.S. You might want to pack some earplugs.)
Art on the Green
Browse one-of-a-kind works by regional artists during this juried art show held in downtown French Lick on the second full weekend in October. A colorful collection of treasures just waiting to be discovered includes garden art, ceramics, metal works, textiles, jewelry, dolls and more. Food, drink, face painting and live entertainment are all part of the package as well.
Bring the whole family along for a magical ride on the Polar Express, conducted by French Lick Scenic Railway on select dates throughout November and December. Inspired by the modern holiday classic film, journeys travel round-trip to the “North Pole,” complete with hot cocoa, Christmas carols, gifts, treats and a visit with Old St. Nick himself. Dress code: pajamas.
50 Days of Lights
French Lick Resort dons its holiday finery each year to wow guests and visitors with festive decorations and activities throughout this joyous season.
Indiana Artist Holiday Exhibition
This annual art event fills the West Baden Springs Hotel atrium with works for sale by guild member artists from November through January.
French Lick West Baden also hosts additional events, happenings and tours all year long. For the latest news, info and updates, go to visitfrenchlickwestbaden.com/events/.