The most scenic views often come from nature: peaks and valleys, lakes and rivers, high deserts and dense forests. But not always. Beautiful settings can include cobblestone streets, European-style plazas and Spanish missions. Whether crafted by Mother Nature or the hands of man, these meeting destinations don’t skimp on the scenery.
French Lick, Indiana
Although French Lick, Indiana, began as a French trading post, its hot springs and natural beauty made it widely known as a resort and spa town by the late 1800s. Curvy roads take visitors over rolling hills and through old-growth forests to the town, which borders Hoosier National Forest, said Misty Weisensteiner, executive director of Visit French Lick West Baden.
The beginnings of French Lick Resort took root in 1845. Today, the resort boasts two historic hotels, both of which underwent a $500 million restoration between 2006 and 2008, as well as a 105,000-square-foot event center and a casino. The French Lick Springs Hotel was established in 1845, and the east wing was built in 1901. The West Baden Springs Hotel was built in 1902, and the intricate white building is topped with a giant, red dome. Guests can head to the resort’s stables for horseback rides or rent bikes and surrey carts to explore the area.
The Walnut Lodge at Wilstem Ranch can host events for about 30 people, or groups of up to 250 can book the Big Red Barn. The ranch has a lodge that can sleep about 20 people and has several cabins and cottages. Groups can go horseback riding or take ATV tours on more than 30 miles of scenic trails. Also available are hiking, biking, fishing and zip lining, and the ranch will do hayrides and bonfires.
“Once you enter that property, that’s all you see: pure 1,100 acres of secluded beauty,” Weisensteiner said.
Along Portland, Maine’s working waterfront, people can watch incoming cruise ships, fishing boats and lobster boats and seals hanging around in the harbor hoping for scraps.
“It’s really neat that the food you’re about to eat at a restaurant was pulled off a boat you’re looking at,” said Elissa English, director of sales and marketing for the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Casco Bay is dotted with nearly 100 islands. Two major islands are home to year-round residents; others boast historic homes, forts and lighthouses. Visitors can explore Casco Bay and the islands aboard the Casco Bay Ferry by chartering a boat for private cruises or, as the locals do, by hopping on the Mail Run, the boat that delivers mail to the islands.
“Island hopping is a great way to explore the scenery,” English said.
Onshore venues deliver views of the bay and marinas. Ocean Gateway sits on a pier over the water and has floor-to-ceiling windows in the 5,600-square-foot Ocean View Room. Also on the water is DiMillo’s, a floating restaurant in a 1941 car ferry. The boat has three stories: an outdoor upper deck, a private banquet level and the restaurant and lounge on the bottom deck.
In the Old Port district, visitors find cobblestone streets and historic architecture. The Custom House reopened in 2013 following a $2 million renovation of the 1872 building, which served as a port gateway and merchant hub for 140 years. The building is available for tours as well as meetings and events.