The seat of Dubois County in Southwestern Indiana, Jasper often appears on lists of the best small towns in the country.
Jasper has long been known as a center for woodworking, and even at the time of writing the two largest employers were furniture manufacturers.
It’s clear that a lot of love has gone into Jasper’s downtown, which has a blend of historic architecture, thriving cultural venues, locally owned stores and visitor attractions.
If you can choose when to come, try to be here for the Strassenfest in August, when Jasper celebrates its deep German roots.
By the Patoka River is a cluster of historic buildings and replicas dubbed, Old Jasper. One reconstruction is the Jasper Train Depot, and from here you can board a restored vintage train car for a trip on the Spirit of Jasper.
1. Downtown Jasper
In the last 20 years Jasper’s central commercial district has become more vibrant than ever, adding visitor attractions, attracting new businesses and constructing mixed-use developments.
The traditional heart of the city is the Dubois County Courthouse, built in the Classical Revival Style in 1911.
On the square around this landmark is an enticing array of stores for furniture, confectionery, fashion and one-of-a-kind gifts.
The Astra Theatre in the southwest corner dates to 1936, and has become a sparkling live performance venue in the last few years.
Head southeast and in a few blocks you’ll come to Old Jasper, the departure point for Spirit of Jasper rides, and home to historic buildings that have been reconstructed, or relocated to this charming riverside spot.
2. Jasper Riverwalk
Now integral to Jasper, this 2.1-mile multi-use path along the Patoka River opened in 2000.
The Jasper Riverwalk runs from the Ruxer Golf Course in the south to 15 Street in the north, passing by the southern and eastern edge of downtown.
Despite being close to the center of the city, the path is tranquil, especially on the wooded and rural northern and southern sections.
A good place to pause for a moment is the Dave Buehler Plaza next to downtown and Old Jasper, with boat access, a playground, a grill and four shelter houses.
3. Dubois County Museum
With more than 50,000 items in its collection, the Dubois County Museum in the north of Jasper is the largest county museum in the state.
One especially interesting exhibit is the main street, recreating local businesses from the 1890s across 17 rooms.
You can also delve into aspects of the region’s past, like the woodworking industry, which continues to prosper, and the county’s German roots, still evident today.
The museum has the largest agriculture exhibit in the state, giving you a complete chronology of farming technology over 200 years, while children and model railroaders will appreciate the extensive model train display.
4. Spirit of Jasper
There’s no finer way to enjoy Southwest Indiana’s beautiful rural scenery than aboard a restored historic train car pulled by an old locomotive.
The Spirit of Jasper offers just that, on an 18-mile round trip in a comfy, climate-controlled railcar. There’s a calendar of excursions, the most frequent being the Jasper Ride & Dine, which has a menu that changes with the seasons.
Catering is provided by the Schnitzelbank, a local authentic German restaurant, and you can go on special trips during the German-themed Jasper Strassenfest in August.
The train departs from the Jasper Train Depot, a replica of the city’s train station from the early 20th century, torn down in the 1960s.
5. Jasper City Mill
Close by in Old Jasper there’s a functioning grist mill, powered by the Patoka River. Built in 2009, the Jasper City Mill is the third mill to be found at this site.
The first was here as early as 1817, shipping its flour by flatboat as far as New Orleans, and was used by a young Abraham Lincoln in 1828.
This was replaced by another mill in 1865, which was dismantled after flood damage in the 1960s. The current structure uses elements from its predecessors, including the millstones, which are French in origin and were brought here more than two centuries ago.
You can take a tour of the mill, see the waterwheel and intricate system of gears in action and savor the peaceful riverside at the rest area.
6. Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame
On the Vincennes University Jasper Campus you can check out the newly expanded Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame, honoring 200+ inductees from the Hoosier state. Among them are legendary players, game changing coaches, umpires and other important contributors.
The display at the hall of fame is designed to resemble an infield and outfield, with Don Mattingly at first base, Scott Rolen at 3rd and other inductees at the National Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, NY, at second.
The attraction is a big celebration of baseball at high school, college and professional level, with an array of plaques, bats, uniforms, photos and gloves to peruse, many going back a century or more. One interactive exhibit is You Make the Call, putting you in the shoes of a pro umpire.
7. Jasper Parklands
An amazing urban renewal initiative has turned a former private golf course in the north of the city into a stunning 75-acre park.
At Jasper Parklands you’ll discover some 25 acres of woodlands, three ponds and a wetlands area, navigated by more than two miles of paths.
There are amenities sprinkled across the property, and a real highlight for families is the splash pad with 42 jets and three rock features.
Also here for kids is a Tree Fort & Musical Playground and an adventure play area, while grownups can keep in shape with the help of the park’s four GTFit outdoor exercise pods, each with ten pieces of equipment.
8. Jasper Community Arts
Jasper has a commitment to the arts that is almost unmatched in this state. When it was established in 1975 the Jasper Community Arts Commission became the only arts commission in Indiana to be recognized as a city department.
Jasper Community Arts has a workforce of four full-time and six part-time employees and is based at the spacious Thyen-Clark Cultural Center, which houses the Black Box Theatre, four galleries, private studios and workshops.
This is a showcase for local, regional and national artists working in all mediums, with new exhibitions by the month and a prestigious annual juried exhibit.
These shows often coincide with lectures by the artist, as well as workshops. For performing arts there’s the Jasper Arts Center on the Vincennes University Campus, hosting live music, comedy, dance and much more.
9. St. Joseph’s Church
In downtown Jasper you’re sure to notice the soaring belltower of this magnificent Catholic church, a few blocks to the north. The community in Jasper goes back to the 1830s, and work began on this imposing sandstone building as early as 1867.
One man crucial to the project was the priest, Fr. Fidelis Maute, OSB, who designed the building, raised the funds, and served as foreman and laborer during its 13-year construction.
The belltower, rising 235 feet, was completed later, in 1904, with a design inspired by St. Stephen’s Tower in London. Plaques around the building give some insight into its history, and there’s also an informative pamphlet that you can pick up inside.
10. Geode Grotto
Something out of the ordinary close to downtown Jasper is a Catholic sanctuary inspired by the pilgrimage site at Lourdes, but constructed without blueprints or building plans.
Built throughout the 1960s, the Geode Grotto was the labor of love of an Italian priest as a place of consolation, to cope with a disaster in his childhood (1908 Messina Earthquake) that claimed the lives of his parents.
The surface of all the monuments are encrusted with thousands of crystal-filled geodes, brought here from Heltonville, IN. where they are profuse.
The centerpiece is the grotto, with a 12-foot ceiling and an image of Mary, and this is accompanied by other geode-clad shrines and a monumental fountain, all in a restful garden.
11. Sultan’s Run Golf Club
This highly rated course just east of Jasper was designed by esteemed golf architect, Tim Liddy.
With a parkland layout and bentgrass greens, Sultan’s Run is couched in 244 scenic, rolling acres, rich with water.
Before the course was built in the 1990s this land was where the champion American Saddlebred horse, Supreme Sultan (1966-1983) was reared and trained.
All 18 holes at Sultan’s Run are special in some way, but you can’t talk about the course without mentioning the spectacular 18th hole, with a green backed by a magnificent waterfall.
12. Bohnert Park
On the southeastern edge of Jasper is a community park endowed with facilities for a wide variety of recreation.
Everything at Bohnert Park is in great condition, with equipment and amenities added or renovated by the year.
When we wrote this article there were two baseball fields, pickleball courts, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts and a walking path that winds through the park for a half mile.
For parents, the path passes close by the playground, which is larger than most and has equipment for ages 2 to 12.
13. Amish Country
Northwest of Jasper, the neighboring Daviess County has one of the largest Old Order Amish communities in the country.
Here since the late 19th century, there are around 900 Amish families in the county, and their presence is most apparent on the picturesque backroads where you’re sure to come across a horse and buggy at some point.
One way to get a sense of Amish life is through an Amish business, specializing in artisan furniture of exceptional quality, handmade quilts and homegrown produce.
There are Amish auctions and flea markets throughout the year, and for a feast to remember, Amish dining involves sitting down to a home cooked meal with a local family.
14. Schaeffer Barn
Just off the riverwalk in Old Jasper is a curiosity that points to Dubois County’s Germanic roots. Constructed by a Prussian family, the Schaeffer Barn took shape in the mid-19th century around ten miles away in Ferdinand.
The main material is cedar, and a unique detail is the overhanging loft, harking back to traditional timber-framed buildings in Germany. The logs are joined by half-dovetail notches, and one of the beams measures a remarkable 50 feet.
The Schaeffer Barn can be rented out, and is a quaint setting for public events all year, including the Jasper Strassenfest, which we’ll cover below.
15. Jasper Strassenfest
Like much of Southwestern Indiana Jasper has strong historical ties with Germany that endure to this day. Jasper’s sister city is the winegrowing village of Pfaffenweiler in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg. Around 200 inhabitants from this village settled in Jasper in the 1850s.
This German heritage lives on with events like the Jasper Strassenfest, downtown on the first weekend in August.
There’s a southern German theme to proceedings, with lederhosen, polka, a biergarten and a parade led by a Hofmarschall (Grand Marshall). You’ve also got carnival rides and games, three stages for live entertainment, all kinds of fun contests and a slew of booths.