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French Lick Review: Wilstem Guest Ranch and Big Splash Adventure

November 7, 2012

With a new baby, a rambunctious toddler, and a busy work schedule for Nate, life has been crazy. We needed a break, a mini vacation.

As we were searching for ideas (Vegas, anyone?), we came across an email from Living Social about a deal in French Lick (Indiana) that included a two-night stay in a two-bedroom cabin at Wilstem Guest Ranch, an arena horseback ride (at the ranch), and four passes to Big Splash Adventure.

Perfect!

Road Trip

French Lick is just a few hours away; however, car rides with kids are intimidating. But I should have had more faith in my girls! The Baby slept the whole way there and most of the way back. The Toddler happily entertained herself by singing the alphabet song, munching on pretzels, and playing with stickers, a slinky, and an Etch A Sketch. Nate and I sat up front and worked on our Christmas season bucket list. Wow, that was way easier than I expected.

Camping?

We are so not into camping. Sometimes I wish we were (It’s cheap! And adventurous!) But we prefer beds to sleeping bags and a waterproof roof over a plastic tent. The closest we’ve come to “camping” in the seven years we’ve been married is sleeping on the futon mattress in the middle of the living room floor, eating microwave s’mores, and snuggling next to the fireplace. That counts, right?

But the Wilstem Ranch is not a campground. Our cabin had a fireplace, two bedrooms (which was great since our toddler does not sleep well when we all share a room!), a living room, a bathroom, and a full kitchen. After the girls were asleep, Nate and I cuddled on the couch, ate mint Oreos, watched a movie, and pretended like our girls weren’t going to wake us up at 6 a.m. It was lovely.

But the Wilstem Ranch is also not a luxury condo. You’re expected to wash your dishes and take out your own trash. They do not provide daily housekeeping, but you can pick up fresh towels from the office. Those weren’t deal breakers for us, but they’re details worth noting.

Big Splash Adventure

The ranch has a sister property: Big Splash Adventure Water Park. Oh my word, the water park was a HUGE hit! You’d think a child who is barely two might be a little young. But no!  Miss A spent hours (and hours and hours) going down the little toddler slide. When she tired of that, she bounced in the pool swing. Every now and then, she’d take a break from that to go down the bigger slides with daddy. Later she snapped on a life jacket and played basketball, attempted to walk across the moving lily pads, swirled in a whirl pool, and floated down the lazy river.

Even the baby got in on the lazy river/baby pool fun!

My parents joined us for a few hours and held the baby and supervised the toddler so that Nate and I could go down the big people slides. Whoa. They took my breath away. I was laughing and screaming and holding on for dear life. On two of the slides, we grabbed a double tube and slid down together. Somehow we got turned around in this cyclone thing, and we ended up flying down the last half of the tube slide backwards. I screamed like a little girl.

A few details worth mentioning:

Swim diapers are required for those not potty trained. Life jackets are provided for infants on up. (This allowed our kids to enjoy a lot more of the activities than we expected!) The teenage lifeguards were helpful and polite. The bathrooms were merely functional. The water park is enclosed, but the roof retracts for warmer weather. There’s an outdoor pool open during the summer.

Back at the ranch…

One highlight of this trip was that Miss A got to ride a horse. She kept telling strangers and friends, “I ride horsey! I see horsey!” And she was not at all disappointed. She had a little guided tour of the stables and arena on a horse called Sunshine. After her ride, she got to meet the other horses and watch as our guide galloped off to wrangle a wayward cow.

Don’t miss the resorts!

While you’re in the area, you must visit the French Lick and West Baden hotels. It’s so surprising to see such grand buildings in the middle of small town, Southern Indiana. Somehow it’s worked out that we’ve taken both our girls when they are/were 3 1/2 months old. If you can, go at Christmastime! There are carolers, an awesome Santa Claus (see Miss A as a baby with him in the picture below?), beautiful decorations, and even the Polar Express! But if you want to ride on Polar Express, buy your tickets early. Really early. A year in advance early. Anyone want to make plans now to go with us next year? Because we obviously love our trips to French Lick!

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