Indiana embodies the quintessential essence of Midwestern America. Home to bustling cities like Indianapolis and adorable small towns like Santa Claus (read more about this town below!), it balances a mix of sophisticated art and refreshing natural getaways to attract visitors from around the globe. Whether you are dying to break in your new hiking boots, head out into the prairie on horseback, or experience history face-to-face in their museums and historical towns, Indiana always has something to offer you.
Lets explore the best things to do in Indiana:
1. Brown County State Park
Affectionately called Indiana’s Playground, Brown County State Park is an ideal destination offering activities guaranteed to please visitors of all ages. The park is located in Indiana’s historic artists colonies in Nashville county and offers a variety of vacation options for different budgets and interests! It’s conveniently located an hour away Indianapolis, so you don’t even have to travel far outside the city for this peaceful nature retreat
Stay in a romantic cabin or luxurious hotel suite. The Lodge at the center of the park has an indoor aquatic center with waterslides and a whirlpool for those more inclined to put their feet up and relax. Or, you can rough it at their many campsites and reconnect with nature. There are many hiking or biking trails through the gently rolling Indiana hills. You can also go fishing or take a horseback ride! You’ll never lack for ways to stay active to do here in Brown County.
2. Antique Alley
While many people are interested in seeing something new or browsing for different accessories, some consider making something “old” their “new”. For those who consider Antiquing to be very serious hobby and are always in search of something classic instead of the latest fad, Indiana has the perfect haven for you: Antique Alley in Richmond County!
Hop in the car and explore a 60 mile stretch of the Historic National Road that links Richmond to Knightstown (even that name seems antique, right?). Over a thousand antique dealers line the national road, their shops filled with treasures awaiting your discovery. Browse thousands antiques and experience the peaceful Indiana countryside. The hub of this popular route is located in historic Cambridge City – there is an antiques mall and several dealers in a compact 3 block radius!
3. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest children’s museum in the world, with 472,900 of square feet, 5 floors of exhibits and over 100,000 artifacts! There are 3 different sections to choose from: the American Collection, the Cultural World Collection, and the Natural World Collection. You can see a simulated dinosaur at the Dinosphere exhibit, or an old fashioned steam locomotive! The museum is also home to the world’s largest water clock.
Sometimes, adults need to be children again, and parents need to connect with their children on the child’s level. The interactive displays at this museum are educational and entertaining – everyone loves an old Carousel ride, right? Span that age gap and connect with the younger generation, and keep the Children’s Museum in mind for your next family vacation! You’ll learn something new and have fun while you do it.
4. Spirit of Jasper Train
Nowadays, people hop into their cars without a second thought and speed off into the distance. We’ve forgotten how we lived before the automobile, such as the invention of the steam engine that revolutionized train travel, a formerly popular way to travel, but a blast for the past for us now. Whether you are a train enthusiast or simply interested in history, pay a visit to the historic train line in Jasper, Indiana, a perfect way to take a trip back in time.
The Spirit of Jasper train departs from the historic Jasper Depot and allows you to ride in style to French Lick, Indiana or any of their organized excursions. We recommend booking your ticket in advance to save a seat on their comfortable, climate controlled lounge cars. You can even take a romantic dinner train – the meals and drinks are locally catered and the train takes you on a relaxing ride through rural Indiana. Leave your car in the parking lot and relax; let someone else take care of the transportation for once.
5. Parke County’s Covered Bridges
Parke County calls itself the world capital of covered bridges, and is home to over 30 covered bridges! One of the biggest tourist attractions in the county, people flock in for the self-guided driving tour of these bridges that span 9 counties. Whether you manage to coincide with their fun-filled Covered Bridges Festival in October or not, the county is full of beautiful views and nature all year around.
Bring your camera – Parke County proudly maintains their idyllic roads and covered bridges that harken back to simpler times. Take your time, around each bend is a new, quaint world waiting to be discovered. Don’t miss the oldest one, Portland Mills Covered Bridge. You’ll find your pictures come out like an old-fashioned post card! And stop in at any one of the charming villages along the way – locals are friendly and the food is delicious.
6. Turkey Run State Park
Turkey Run State Park is a nature lover’s paradise. You’ll be in awe of the sandstone cliffs and deep ravines that dot the park, as well as the hemlock groves and old trees that have lived through more history than one could imagine. Bring your camera and explore nature much like that seen and experienced by the Native Americans hundreds of years ago – it hasn’t changed much. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of wildlife, deer and turkey vultures are just two of the animal species that call this place home.
Bring your walking shoes and hit the trails, or hop on a horse and go deep into the wilderness. You can camp and enjoy the outdoors, or stay at the Turkey Run Inn if you don’t want to rough it. Take a canoe out on Sugar Creek or go fishing. Cool off in the summer at their swimming pool or take a dip in the river. Reconnect with Mother Nature when she’s at her finest and let the time here rejuvenate you.
7. Indiana Dunes State Park
Indiana Dunes State Park is located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan and boasts over 15 miles of coastline, 70 miles of hiking trails and more than 300 species of birds. It draws millions of visitors every year for a myriad of reasons – whether you’re a beach bum, hiker, or wildlife enthusiast, the dunes are filled with surprises sure to keep you busy.
Explore the Little Calumet River Trail and wander the tallgrass Mnoke Prairie. You can cool off at the Central Avenue Beach or schedule a tour of Mt. Baldy. Bring your fishing pole and rent a boat to see if the fish are biting on Lake Michigan – Latitudes Waterfront Dining will even clean and prepare your catch! Whether you want a beach getaway or a natural paradise, your options abound here at Indiana Dunes State Park.
8. Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
Many people dream of it being the holidays all year round, and here in Indiana, that dream has become reality. This theme park/water park combination is located in Santa Claus, Indiana, and if the name isn’t enough to convince you, its four sections devoted to Thanksgiving, Christmas, the 4th of July and Halloween will. Initially conceived as a retirement community idea in the 1940s, it soon evolved into a theme park for people of all ages when the founder, Louis Koch, decided to make Christmas happen for the children who visited the town of Santa Claus, only to be disappointed that he wasn’t home.
Pick your favorite holiday and start in that section. Each offers rides, live entertainment, and games and attractions for children and adults of all ages. Take a ride on their famous wooden roller coasters, The Ravine, the Legend, and the Voyage. It is also a perfect place to cool off in the summer – the water park has the world’s two longest roller coasters, the Wildebeest and the Mammoth, as well as slides and raft rides. You can see Santa wandering the park, or chat with George the Eagle in the 4th of July area!
9. Indy 500
Ask most people what comes to mind when they think of Indiana, and they’ll usually say NASCAR or the Indy 500. Founded in 1911, the 100th race was held on Memorial Day, 2016. The race is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the race car drivers complete 200 laps for a total of 500 miles driven. The Indy 500 is the largest single-day sporting event in the world!
Whether you make it in May for the actual race or not, visit the stadium affectionately nicknamed the Yard of Bricks that holds up to 300,000 people on race day – enough space to fit all of Vatican City! If you DO decide to brave it on race day, find a parking spot and participate in the world’s largest tailgate party: a quarter of a million people drinking beer and eating hamburgers at the epicenter of race car mania. You can even pay $500 and have a professional driver take you for a whirl around the track!
10. Falls of Ohio State Park
Located in Clarksville, Indiana, the Falls of Ohio State Park is right on the banks of the Ohio River and across from Louisville, Kentucky, and was the meeting point for Lewis and Clark before they embarked on their expedition. Keep your eyes peeled while you are here, the park is known for having strange wildlife visitors like alligators and crocodiles!
The most popular attraction at the park is their fossil beds at Jeffersonville Limestone that date back to the Devonian period. Bring your camera to capture the beautiful limestone formations along the Ohio River. The park also features an interpretive center that takes you through the natural history of the fossil beds and the human pre-settlement and early settlement history of the surrounding areas.
11. Tour des Lakes
Whether you are a professional cyclist or cycle more as a hobby, this is an event worth considering. Leave the car behind and discover the rural countryside and gorgeous lakes that Indiana has to offer. Tour the gorgeous Kosciusko County and contribute to raising funds for the Syracuse-Wawasee Trail System – you can help a good cause and have a rich cultural experience at the same time!
There are three routes depending on your level of expertise: the 25k, the 50k and the 100k. On any of these, you’ll cycle across the county and see some beautiful lakes like Webster Lake, Winona Lake, and Lake Wawasee. They even put on a professional BMX show and offer a family-friendly Tours de Parks Scavenger ride for those with little ones. Stay tuned and participate in the next June ride!
12. Conner Prairie Interactive History Park
Conner Prairie is an interactive history park experience located in Fishers, Indiana. It preserves William Conner’s National Historic Place home (William Conner was a prominent politician and businessman in Indiana in the mid-1800s). Conner Prairie has created a way for visitors to interactively experience what life was like in Indiana in the 19th century.
The grounds are divided in different sections to represent different time periods that follow a living timeline. The staff wears period clothing and perform every-day activities from their time periods while explaining these facts to visitors, who are often invited to participate. Plan your visit around their events, such as “Taste the Past”, candlelight tours, a country fair, or their Civil War reenactments! What better way to learn about our history than experiencing it in person?
13. Eiteljorg Museum
Located in downtown Indianapolis, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is a must-see if you’re in the area. Internationally recognized for its fine collection of Native contemporary art, the pieces were collected by philanthropist Harrison Eiteljorg who wanted people to understand and appreciate the art, history and culture of the Native Americans and the West.
The museum covers a wide array of diverse subject matter from the intersection of Native Americans with African Americans, the art evolution of pistols and motorcycles in the West, and Jewish life in the West. It has even explored the LGBTQ presence in Western films, women’s roles, and hosts Western and Native artists in residence each year. It’s a fascinating opportunity to see one of the only museums that addresses Western and Native American history. You’ll be sure to enrich your mind and discover something new and fascinating.
14. Monument Circle
Next time you’re in Indianapolis, stop by Monument Circle, a can’t-miss attraction in the heart of the downtown area. Whether you stop by in the middle of the day or for a specific event, it is always teeming with life.
You can’t miss the Soldier and Sailors Monument. Go to the top to the observation deck for a spectacular view of the sprawling metropolis – take the stairs if you feel energetic, or pay $1.00 to take the elevator. After snapping a few photos of the view, head down to the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum to complete the experience.
15. Historic Metamora
This Indiana town is the only canal town in the state and a haven for shoppers and those in search of a cozy getaway. When here, take a canal ride on the only wooden aqueduct in the United States, or pick up a bag of freshly stone-ground cornmeal at the local gristmill. Take a gorgeous ride on the Whitewater Railroad, or hike through the Whitewater River Valley!
Metamora is also a shoppers paradise – enjoy the backdrop of this scenic, historic town while you tour the quaint downtown shops. There are over 40 businesses, and they all get to set their own hours! The best time to visit is on the weekends. Lighten your wallet and be sure to stop in for something sweet at Grannies Ice Cream to complete the experience!