Hinshaw Rock N’ Gems: A Cut Above the Rest


Merrill Hinshaw (named by Lapidary Journal as one of the top ten stone polishers in the nation) has always loved the outdoors, he enjoyed spending time with his dad and camping as a child and has always been intrigued by rocks. Merrill and his father would hunt arrowheads and collect interesting artifacts. The Hinshaw business came to be a reality after Merrill’s father was able to purchase some equipment to cut and polish stones, what had started as a hobby quickly became a trade for Merrill. (left pic. Merrill can be seen above holding a picture of himself working on his first piece of equipment. right pic. The Display above was created over 50 years ago from when Merrill taught lapidary classes.)

Soon Merrill’s wife Janis (pictured below) and children were involved and travelling across the country with him in search of rocks that could be turned into unique hand made jewelry. On one certain trip to Wyoming in the late 1960’s, Merrill and the family ventured into a manganese mine, he quickly realized that he had a great find. Today he still has about 300 pounds of rock left from the 1000 pound find. (Pictured below are necklaces made with the find.)  Merrill stated, “I’ve never taken a vacation, but I’ve seen all of the United States, half of Canada and Mexico!”



The most impressive fact is that Merrill is all self taught and each piece of jewelry is hand crafted. The unique craftsmanship can take anywhere from a week to a month to create one spectacular piece of jewelry. Merrill’s son Matthew and grandson cut and polish the stones (pictures below) while Merrill’s daughter  Kim has always been her fathers shadow and has loved going on rock hunting expeditions with him. It’s no surprise that she is a geologist today full of knowledge about each one of the exceptional finds. Janis worked shows with Merrill over the decades and now works inside Hinshaw Rock N’ Gems shop, located in French Lick.



Their Favorite memories of collecting were from the Yellowstone River and the Manganese Mine in Wyoming. The beauty of Merrill’s creations can be seen below. Although Merrill  says they are not his creations, “the colors and pattern are already there, I just cut them.”


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Merrill stated, “You never know what you’re going to find, it looks like a rock until you cut it open.” The Mexican coconut pictured below is a great representation of what you can find, even though you’re not expecting it. All of these natural creations take place because of minerals being dissolved and then re-hardening in their own time allowing for the natural construction of these magnificent pieces.


The Hinshaw’s have been revealing the hidden beauty of stones in the lapidary (the art of cutting and polishing stones) business for 57 years. They are Nationally and Internationally known artisans creating unique treasures. Once you have been to Hinshaw Rock N’ Gems you’ll never look at a rock the same way again! This is how I enjoy #MyFrenchLick.

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Patoka Lake Boat Cruise


Outdoor Blog- Patoka Lake


Eagles and Osprey grace the sky above the magnificent 60-foot tour boat. Patoka Lake Scenic Boat Cruise is an exciting narrated cruise the whole family can enjoy. Start off the cruise on the Patoka Voyagers lower deck with some instruction from the tour guide. Then move atop the vessel to enjoy the sights and sounds of Patoka Lake. This gentle cruise is an excellent way to enjoy the beauty of the 8,800-acre lake, the pristine undeveloped shorelines and fresh water make for a picturesque view. Be on the lookout for herons, loons and other wildlife aboard this magnificent scenic tour!


patoka voyager


Sunset Wine Cruises on Patoka Lake are a fun way to sample a varietal of wines. Enjoy a fun relaxing summer evening aboard the Patoka Voyager Cruise Boat and sample Indiana wines paired with hors d’oeuvres and desserts to accent each flavor. The beauty of the lake at sunset is an unforgettable experience; adding wine to the mix only makes it that much more enjoyable!




Southern Indiana is beautiful but Southern Indiana in the fall is astounding. The hues of oranges and yellows transform the trees around Patoka Lake highlighting the scenery for the perfect setting aboard the Patoka Lake Voyager. Fall Foliage Wine Cruises are a wonderful way to enjoy a relaxing tour with Indiana wine, hors d’oeuvres and desserts that accent each variety.



Patoka Lake Boat Cruises are available from May through October. Find out how else you can enjoy #MyFrenchLick.

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Get Outdoors in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana


There’s nothing better than fresh air and natural beauty. Luckily, French Lick – West Baden has so much to offer outdoor enthusiasts. From breathtaking hiking adventures, to horseback riding, and ski trips – you will find it all in one area!


Hiking the Hoosier National Forest

Outdoor Blog- Hiking

Outdoor enthusiasts must explore the Hoosier National Forest. Witness over 203,000 acres of unspoiled natural beauty in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana. Deep in the forest you will discover nature, wild animals, and beautiful scenery everywhere you look. Enjoy manicured hiking paths maintained by the French Lick Resort, or hike along the Spring Valley Lake. While you are there, discover the “lost river” which emerges out of a cave, and travels through limestone and underground channels. Ultimately, no outdoor adventure is complete in French Lick – West Baden without a visit to the Hoosier National Forest.


Spend a Day (or Two) on the Lake

Outdoor Blog- Patoka Lake


Swim, fish, waterski, hike, bike, or lounge on the beach in the Patoka Lake Area. This 8,800 acre lake is the perfect place for a family getaway, or a romantic adventure for two. There is no shoreline development, giving you the chance to see unobstructed views of the water, and wildlife such as otters, bald eagles, even freshwater jellyfish! If you are looking to unwind, the area is an ideal spot for a laid back picnic, or a relaxed game of disc golf.


Horseback Riding

Outdoor Blog- Stables


Enjoy the great outdoors on horseback in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana. There are two locations which offer horseback riding adventures in the area. The Stables is home to nearly 30 trained horses and features guided tours (45 or 90 minutes long). Experts and new riders are welcomed to join. Plus, you can choose pony rides for little equestrians! Horseback riding is also offered at Wilstem Ranch, which boasts 1,100 acres of natural beauty. Children ages 7 and up are permitted to ride, and guided tours last about an hour.


High Adrenaline Fun



Take your outdoor adventure to the next level! Soar through the great outdoors on a zip line course at French Lick Zip Lines. Feel like you are flying with nearly 2 miles of canopy tours and 9 zip lines total. This is sure to get the adrenaline pumping! You can also partake in the ultimate hunting experience at the Lost River Game Farm. Hunt pheasant, quail, and chukars at this unique attraction. You can choose to have a professional guide or request a professional hunting dog for your excursion!


Unparalleled Golfing Experiences

Outdoor Blog- Golf


There are so many golf courses from which to choose in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana. Featured courses are designed by legends such as Donald Ross, Pete Dye, and Tom Benedelow. These award-winning courses are a wonderful way to witness the beautiful scenery in Southern Indiana, and spend time in the great outdoors!


Skiing for Winter Adventures

Outdoor Blog- Peaks


Don’t miss out on the winter fun in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana! Paoli Peaks is home to over 65 acres of skiing adventures to make the most of the cold weather. All skill levels of skiers and snowboarders will find something to enjoy with 15 trails, 5 ski lifts, and 3 surface lifts. There are also over 10 tubing lanes for some fun for the whole family. Want to leave the skis at home? Not to worry. The facility offers ski and snowboard rentals so you can travel lightly!


When you experience the great outdoors in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana, be sure to share your experience on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and use #MyFrenchLick.

The Abbeydell Hall at the Legend of French Lick Dinner & Show!

The Dinner & Show is back at The Abbeydell Hall at the Legend of French Lick! They have added more show dates for the 2018 line-up and have even added an extra special treat for fans of the Thomas Brothers: a one night only special show featuring Ross and Rhett Thomas! This perfectly blended duo has toured with the Osmond Brothers and their recognition continues to grow with appearances on television, cruises, corporate events and benefit performances.


Thomas Brothers Promo


“Twist the Night Away” the rockin’ 50’s and 60’s style Dinner & Show featuring favorites from the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Patsy Cline, and of course Elvis! Filled with classic love songs and unforgettable dances this show will leave you with a new appreciation for the era that brought music and dancing to  new heights.


1.Twist the Night Away - Promo Pic


“I’ve Got the Music in Me” a musical production featuring the music of the 60’s and 70’s. Audiences will enjoy the electrifying sound of music from the BeeGees, the British Invasion and Motown! Enjoy this high energy Dinner & Show and take a journey through the music of the day!


I've got the music in me promo picture


“Christmas Treasures” will get you in the mood for the holiday season, with classic sounds that we’ve all grown to love! This production is jam packed full of fan favorites from greats like Bing Crosby, Amy Grant and the Carpenters! Of course, they will celebrate the Saviors miraculous birth with heartwarming numbers that surround you with the love of the Savior.


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The Dinner & Show at The Abbeydell Hall at Legend of French Lick is a family oriented event. Those young and old will delight in the joy of each of these fantastic ensembles. The shows are filled with great talent that leave you wanting to visit #MyFrenchLick again and again!


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The Dogwood; A Symbol of Traditions, Hope and the Little Town of Orleans Celebrating the 50th Dogwood Festival

Lovingly referenced as the front porch of Orange county, with the slogan to “Come and Sit Awhile”, the small, quaint town of Orleans founded in 1815 is one where you’ll feel that hometown charm each and every time you visit. As part of a beautification project led by Elizabeth “Bill” Wheeler, flowering dogwood trees were planted and then a festival was started several years later as a way of boosting local moral and the economy. Kate Noblitt who had helped to found the first Dogwood Festival in 1968, petitioned the Governor in 1970 to proclaim Orleans “The Dogwood Capital of Indiana”. Governor Edgar Whitcomb signed the proclamation on October 26, 1970 making it official.


Orleans front porch


Traditions are a big part of the Dogwood Festival and with this being the 50th Annual Dogwood Festival, it plays a big part in the traditions of the community. Traditions of community members like John Noblitt, (Kate Noblitt’s son) who was voted citizen of the year in 1991. John was the President of the town board when the Festival began and was the chairman for the festival 7 years in a row. John says, “It’s a chance to get to know others in our community, we should know our neighbors.”

Robert Henderson the town clerk and President of Orleans Chamber of Commerce stated, “We need reasons to come together, to build a community, we need to engage in our community. Embrace and share traditions to create new and happy memories.”



Of course, the Dogwood Festival has grown throughout the past 50 years. With 9 days and 40 events, there is something for everyone to enjoy! Some of the events are a part of the traditions that bring you home in search of that familiar hometown feel; one that has long been a part of you as a young child attending the town fair. Events like the Kiwanis breakfast, the pet parade, electing a queen, the bean supper, the bubble contest and live music have all played a part in creating memories of festival goers over the 50-year span of the fair.  Some things have come and gone but these events seem to play an important role in bringing the community together and keeping them coming back again and again.

Opening ceremonies will include a special community event, “Mayberry Values” featuring entertainment special celebrity guest Rodney Dillard of The Andy Griffith Show, a wonderful evening of songs, stories, and humor. Newer events like the Dogwood Pedal Ride and a murder mystery dinner theater hope to bring new generations to love the Dogwood Festival as much as the rest of the community has over the past 50 years. Evolving the festival with new ideas and events helps to ensure that it will be a part of the fabric of Orleans for years to come!



Art has also been an ongoing part of the festival,  A local Orleans High School advanced art student created the artwork below which will be featured on the cover of the Official 2018 Souvenir Program to be published by The Orleans Progress Examiner.

Also, this year a Dogwood art collectible ornament will be offered as a souvenir to commemorate the 50th anniversary. The local artist was commissioned to create one-of-a-kind artwork specifically for the project.

50th Dogwood Festival

“Celebrating the blossom for a Season-Celebrating the Memories for a Lifetime” is the theme for the 50th Dogwood Festival. So, when the Dogwoods bloom in Orleans this year, bring yourself on home to sit on the front porch of Orange county and enjoy the hometown festival that kisses winter goodbye and welcomes spring with beautiful blooming trees and heartfelt memories.


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Spring in to French Lick West Baden to Celebrate Easter.

Family gatherings, spring showers, flowers blooming, Easter egg hunts, the Easter bunny and warmer weather are on all of our minds, after being inside all winter. We have all of this and more to celebrate the season! French Lick West Baden is full of fun for the entire family!

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Easter Bunny Express

easter egg hunt

Hop aboard the Easter Bunny Express at the French Lick Scenic Railway and enjoy a fun filled train excursion complete with an Easter Egg Hunt, prizes and a chance for pictures with the Easter Bunny! If you can’t make it for the Easter Bunny Express The French Lick Scenic Railway also offers Scenic Train rides, Wild West Hold Ups and Tasting Trains.


Big Splash Adventure Indoor Waterpark and Hotel


Big Splash Adventure Indoor Waterpark and Hotel a 40,000 square foot waterpark with a retractable roof. With exciting fun that includes multiple water slides, lazy lost river, splish splash pool for toddlers and Buccaneer Bay with nearly 50 interactive play features the entire family will find a reason to have a splashtacular time!



Mommy and Me Tea


Little princes and princesses will enjoy spending quality Mommy time while sipping gourmet tea and enjoying finger sandwiches, scones and petit fours. Be treated like royalty while practicing your manners in the spectacular West Baden Springs Hotel Atrium.



Twist the Night Away

1.Twist the Night Away - Promo Pic

Relive the rocking era of the 1950’s with sounds like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers and Patsy Cline. This family oriented dinner and show is an exciting way to spend an evening out with family. The show is jam packed with live singing and dancing leaving you wanting to “Twist the Night Away”!


Find all of these exciting events and more right here in #MyFrenchLick come and Create Memories Here!


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Close Encounters with Elephants in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana

Have a once in a lifetime experience with elephants in French Lick West Baden, Indiana. Wilstem Ranch houses three elephants during March – November every year. Plan your visit to the area so you can make memories with the largest mammals on the planet!


Bathe the elephants


At Wilstem Ranch, you can sign up to participate in a “Spa Day” with the elephants. One of the activities involves bathing the enormous creatures! The elephants enjoy splashing around, and you can join in on the fun. Help these big animals cool down with a nice bath, and watch them play in the water.


“Paint” their toenails



There’s nothing like a relaxing pedicure, and the elephants at Wilstem Ranch agree! Children participating in the elephant spa day can “paint” the toenails of the elephants. This moment is sure to produce an ear-to-ear grin on any little one’s face! (Please note all children must be accompanied by an adult.)


Spa days last an hour, and are followed by an hour long elephant encounter experience.


Spend an hour learning about the elephants and ask questions.


If you are not interested in the “spa package” perhaps you would enjoy the hour long elephant encounter! Get to know the elephants by asking the elephant experts questions like…How do elephants sleep? How much food do they eat? And how much does that thing weigh??


Touch the elephants and their ivory tusks.



Who hasn’t dreamed of petting an elephant? These gentle giants have captured the hearts of humans for centuries, and now you finally have your chance to pet them! The elephant encounter allows all the participants to have a bucket-list-worthy moment by softly petting the elephant and their ivory tusks.


Take a selfie with the elephants!



Break the internet with your best selfie yet! Everyone gets the chance to snap a pic with these beautiful beasts. When you are done taking the selfie of a lifetime, be sure to share it using our hashtag #MyFrenchLick. After you have posted your selfie, check out more photos of elephants, and things to do in the area on our Instagram.


Visit with other animals at Wilstem Ranch.


Think you can handle more excitement? Wilstem Ranch also provides the opportunity to interact with special animals like giraffes, kangaroos, and more! You can also arrange private encounters with the giraffes – making this a dream destination for animal lovers of all ages!


Request a copy of our visitors guide to learn more about Wilstem Ranch and other attractions to add to your itinerary in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana!

Spring is Coming it’s Time for a BREAK!

Spring is quickly approaching and everyone needs a break, we are the perfect choice for a getaway with the kids. There are plenty of  activities available here in French Lick West Baden. Of course it wouldn’t hurt for Mom and Dad to take a little down time  too!


Start off your trip at Big Splash Adventure Indoor Waterpark & Hotel with over 40,000 square feet of space and a retractable roof you can’t go wrong. The excitement of jetted water slides, lagoons, and  a relaxing lost river are sure to have your kids (and the kids at heart) ready for a splash around good time!

Spring Break it Down

Spring Break it Down at KidsFest at the French Lick Resort is full of exciting entertainment; Indoor pool parties with a DJ, Pajama Jam dance parties and movie parties. KidsFest is full of plenty of activities and crafts for everyone to enjoy! Bike and Surrey Cart rentals makes getting out doors even more fun! Don’t forget to stop in for a Rock Star Photo Op or to decorate your very own Tie-Dye Rock n’ Roll shirts and bandannas!

Go Karts_preview 2

Dry off and race to French Lick West Baden Indoor Karting where they have Go Karts for ages 4 and up! The whole family can enjoy a race on the tracks. For more fun check out Shotz for outdoor mini golf, indoor cosmic golf and laser tag. For bowling and bumper cars head on over to nearby Paoli Rock n’ Bowl, plenty of fun for the kids including bounce houses!


Up next the experience of a lifetime at Wilstem Ranch. Enjoy spending time with elephants,giraffes, kangaroos and More! This one-of-a-kind up-close and personal elephant encounter will leave you with memories to last forever! Giving an elephant a  bath, petting and feeding giraffes and kangaroos is a can’t miss experience here in French Lick West Baden!

French Lick Scenic Railway

Out door enthusiasts will enjoy the number of opportunities French Lick West Baden has such as a laid back, relaxing ride aboard the French Lick Scenic Railway  A 20-mile scenic  train ride through the Hoosier National Forest. Go through the Burton Tunnel (the second longest tunnel), see limestone outcroppings and more! Go horseback riding at West Baden Springs Hotel Stables or even Zip-line your way through the forest at Wilstem ranch.


For the family that wants to see even more here in French Lick West Baden the Visitor Center has a Social Media Scavenger Hunt available! Find out what else Visit French Lick West Baden has to offer with each clue!

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6 Breathtaking Wedding Venues in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana

Choosing to host the wedding of your dreams in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana will make your special day one to remember forever. Not only can you treat your bridal party to a spa getaway, host your rehearsal dinner at an elegant restaurant, entertain your guests at the casino, but you will find plenty of venues to fit your exact needs. Whether you are looking for something big, small, indoor, outdoor, laid back, or truly extravagant – you can find it here in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana.


French Lick Scenic Railway

For a truly unique and memorable day, recite your vows on the French Lick Scenic Railway. Have the train as the backdrop, or host your ceremony inside as your guests travel through the Hoosier National Forest. Consider booking the rest of your celebration with French Lick Scenic Railway by hosting a tent reception. They also offer tons of services such as a professional photographer, invitations, dance floors, catering, music, and decorations.


French Lick and West Baden Springs Hotel


These venues are ideal for all types of weddings! Big or small. Indoor or outdoor. Your perfectly crafted special day will be skillfully executed by the well trained staff at this elegant location. Everything you need can be found at the facilities, from your officiant to your DJ! Plus, your guests can stay right in the hotel. Everyone can have as much fun as they would like, and get to bed safely.


Legend of French Lick Boutique Hotel & Resort


Enjoy this secluded setting with nearby attractions for your special day. Everything from the rehearsal dinner to the reception can be held at this venue, making it extra easy on your wedding party and guests. There is a beautiful walkway up to the gazebo, which will serve as the perfect backdrop for your ceremony. Plus, a professional onsite coordinator has all the right ideas and connections to make planning your wedding a stress-free experience!


Patoka Lake Marina


This amazing waterfront view is ideal for your dream wedding. Large enough to seat 70 people, you can recite your vows in front of your friends and relatives for an unforgettable moment. You can also choose to recite your vows on the Patoka Lake while cruising aboard the Voyager. White chairs can be rented through the marina, making this outdoor event easy to plan.



Wilstem Ranch


The entire 1,100 acre property is available for the ultimate outdoor wedding. The ranch is also home to horses, and exotic animals such as giraffes and elephants. For an Americana vibe, host your ceremony inside the loft barn. The bride and groom can rent an onsite honeymoon suite, making your special day a breeze! One thing is for certain, the expansive landscape will provide an ideal backdrop for photos to remember your day forever.


Want more information about planning your wedding in French Lick – West Baden, Indiana? Contact us, and we will do our best to help you with your special day!

Love is in the air in French Lick West Baden!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, surprise your significant other with the perfect plans and make this Valentine’s Day one you’ll both cherish forever.




French Lick West Baden has the ideal getaway for lover’s this Valentine’s Day, indulge your senses here! Pampering your significant other is a given for this special day, why not pamper them at one of the most magnificent places in the country. French Lick West Baden is offering several different events to treat your sweetie right during this season of romance. From a Wine and Dessert Soiree in the beautifully historical West Baden Springs Hotel atrium to Indiana Uplands Wine Trail Chocolate Lover’s Weekend at the French Lick Winery, we’re sure to hit the spot with your significant other this Valentine’s Day! The romance continues at French Lick Resort’s Annual Chocolate Festival where you will sample a scrumptious spectrum of all things chocolate.




Now that you’ve impressed your sweetheart with chocolates and wine, relax with a couple’s massage at one of the award-winning spas in French Lick West Baden. This tranquil, world-class spa experience is sure to have you both feeling your best! Check into one of the historic hotels to complete your romantic weekend, packages offering long stem roses and fine dining are available for those looking to impress their significant other with a classic Valentine’s Day surprise!


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