Around 30 minutes northwest of Mile Square, the small town of Lebanon is the seat of Boone County.
The city dates back to 1832, and if you’re wondering about the name, it comes from an early pioneer coming across a grove of hickories here and comparing them to the cedars of Lebanon mentioned in the bible.
Downtown Lebanon coalesces around the impressive Boone County Courthouse, which has long set the scene for community festivals year round, from a Christmas parade to a 50s-themed bash in September.
There are plenty of family-owned businesses in Lebanon that have thrived for decades, like the confectioner, Donaldson’s Finer Chocolates and Titus Bakery & Deli, making some of the best donuts in the Indianapolis area.
1. Lebanon Courthouse Square
Lebanon has a compact central commercial district, concentrated almost entirely on the historic square around the Boone County Courthouse.
This space has long been a gathering place for the city, and hosts a newly created two-day music festival in June. The courthouse itself is in the Classical Revival style, and was completed in 1911.
This is the fourth to be built in Lebanon and is noteworthy for its magnificent art-glass dome and massive pillars in the Ionic order.
Standing 35 feet, 3 inches tall, these were thought to have been some of the largest single piece limestone columns in the country at the time.
There’s something of interest on all four sides of the square, with lovely old facades and a variety of shops for gifts, games, handmade candles and clothing, along with a distillery in the old jail and an old-fashioned butcher (Saint Adrian Meats & Sausage).
2. Donaldson’s Finer Chocolates
Into its second generation, Donaldson’s Chocolates has been a fixture in Lebanon since 1966.
Through all that time this beloved chocolate shop has made its confectionery the old-fashioned way, by hand and using pure cane sugar, fresh creamery butter, whole milk and chocolate of the finest quality.
The menu features chocolate-covered fruit pieces, truffles, barks, buttery caramels, nut clusters, butter creams and a wide choice of innovative specialties and seasonal favorites.
If you’re not sure where to start you can purchase assortments, showcasing Donaldson’s most popular treats.
3. Seashore Water Park
This top notch outdoor pool complex in Lebanon’s Memorial Park attracts people from far beyond Boone County’s borders. Open in the summer, Seashore Water Park has enough to keep even the most restless children and teenagers happy.
A standout for parents with smaller children is the zero-depth entry Kiddie Pool with play equipment including a slide and giant tipping bucket.
There’s also one of only four wave pools in Indiana, as well as a lazy river, a pair of water sides and a unique water walk challenge with slippery floating lily pads.
There are ample sun loungers all around the park, and you’ve also got a concession stand for fountain drinks, slushies and snacks like hot dogs, nachos and pizza by the slice.
4. Memorial Park
The park surrounding Seashore Water Park covers 40 acres and sits within walking distance of downtown Lebanon. Something that might grab your attention here is the Herr Cabin, a genuine log cabin that was first raised in 1839 and relocated to this spot in the 1960s.
This is a rentable facility for events, with heat, water, a bathroom and two functioning fireplaces.
Among Memorial Park’s other features is a 1.1-mile trail with fitness stations along the path, as well as amenities for tennis, basketball, sand volleyball, pickleball and baseball.
There’s two playground areas for kids, as well as a gazebo, open green space, bandstand and Lebanon’s war memorial.
5. Titus Bakery & Deli
Now into its third generation, this bakery & deli first opened in Lebanon in the 1950s and has earned recognition for making some of the finest donuts and pastries in Indiana.
The business moved to its present location at 820 W South St in 1980 and also has a branch in Westfield.
If you’re taken aback by the choice of more than 30 donut flavors, a good place to start is the Pershing, made with swirled cinnamon dough and topped with maple icing.
The delicatessen was added in 2014 and is stocked with Boar’s Head brand premium meats and cheeses, making four different signature sandwiches on homemade hoagie buns.
6. The Cragun House
A couple of blocks west of downtown, the Strange Nathanial Cragun House has been standing since 1893. This Queen Anne-style residence has some distinctive elements like a circular corner tower and a wraparound porch.
The building has been home to the Boone County Historical Society since 1988 following a donation by the Cragun family.
In line with their wishes, the interior is a faithful recreation of a late 19th century home, with a mixture of Cragun family heirlooms and donated period items. The Cragun House is open for tours by the historical society.
7. Abner Longley Park
Hiding on the south side of Lebanon is a lovely 50-acre park filled with recreation amenities. In the summer the newly added splash pad is a hit with children, and was added as part of the Seashore Water Park project.
In winter, Abner Longley Park offers one of the best sledding hills in the city. There’s also a mixed-use path, a disc golf course, a lighted basketball court, a softball field, football field, a large playground area, a dog park (membership required) and two picnic shelters.
8. The Trophy Club
On the scenic banks of Prairie Creek northwest of Lebanon, Trophy Club golf course has a link-style design with expansive greens set in an undulating landscape with a mix of bluegrass and fescue.
There are four sets of tees on every hole, while the fairways are 60 yards wide, in keeping with a links layout.
Two especially challenging holes on the back nine are the 14th, a 202-yard par 3, and the 16th, a short-ish par 5, made trickier by the presence of Prairie Creek.
9. Flap Jack’s Pancake House
Founded in Brownsburg 2002 this local comfort food chain has four locations, all around the western outskirts of Indianapolis.
As you might guess from the name, Flap Jack’s is all about breakfast and lunch, and is usually open from 6:30am to 2:30pm. Top of the list of things to try are the light and fluffy flap jacks, made with buttermilk and served fresh off the griddle.
These come with all kinds of combinations, both sweet and savory, from gourmet fruit topping to sausage and bacon.
Also on the menu are French-style crepes, waffles, French toast, omelettes, egg skillets, eggs benedict, biscuits and gravy, or good-old oatmeal if you want to keep it light.
10. Boone County Jail Building
During a visit to the Courthouse Square, make sure to take in the old Boone County Jail on the square’s northeast corner.
Originally a log building behind the courthouse, the jail was moved to its current location in 1877 and was refortified in 1938. People were incarcerated here as late as 1992 when a new facility opened on Lebanon’s outskirts.
When you stand in front, it’s interesting to remember that there’s a tunnel beneath your feet linking the jail with the courthouse.
The building was purchased in a county auction in 2014, and now houses the Boone County Jail Distillery, making bourbon, gin, vodka, moonshine and absinthe, using corn from the Midwest.
11. Oak Hill Cemetery
This sprawling burial ground on Lebanon’s eastern fringe dates back to 1872 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
Oak Hill Cemetery is recognized for its numerous examples of 19th-century funerary art and the William L. Powell Chapel, which is in the Neo-Gothic style.
The cemetery is the burial place of the 28th Governor of Indiana, Samuel M. Ralston (1857-1925), a United States Senator who was considered the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1924 before dropping out due to ill health.
On a somber note, another burial is Sylvia Likens (1949-1965), whose murder at the hands of her caregiver and members of her own family caused a national outcry. In June 2001, a six-foot granite memorial dedicated to Sylvia’s life and legacy was unveiled in Lebanon’s Willard Park.
12. GQT Lebanon 7
Opposite Memorial Park, this seven-screen movie theater has been on the scene since 2001, and was purchased by the Goodrich Quality Theaters chain in 2021.
What you get at GQT Lebanon 7 is stadium seating and state-of-the-art digital projection at every screen. People come from as far away as the Indianapolis suburbs to watch the latest blockbusters here.
The concessions are always good, especially the popcorn, and the lines move quickly even on busy weekend evenings. Come on a Monday and Tuesday and tickets cost just $5 no matter the time of day.
13. Back to the Fifties Festival
The big annual event in Lebanon is a lighthearted two-day celebration of all things 1950s. This event has its origins in the 1970s, with a craft fair on the square.
The festival gradually expanded over time, and the theme is rooted in previous generations’ nostalgia for the post-war years.
Organized by a volunteer committee and attended by the Pacers Fan Van, the Back to the Fifties Festival takes place on the third Friday and Saturday in September at the Boone County Fairgrounds.
On the schedule is a 50s-themed costume parade, 50s and 60s-inspired music, classic car, truck and bike shows, tons of craft and food vendors and a swap meet.
14. Boone County Summer Fest
On the first weekend in June there’s a big party on the Courthouse Square lawn. The Boone County Summer Fest is a music event, with two days of live music, kicking off at noon each day and continuing into the evening.
The lineup is diverse to appeal to all tastes and includes cover bands, tribute acts and much-loved performers from the Indianapolis area.
This event is completely free and open to all ages, and you can grab food from the various eateries (Arni’s, Greeks’, Kinnard and Drakes), around Courthouse Square.
15. Christmas Parade
On the first Saturday in December, Lebanon really gets into the Christmas spirit with a charming parade. Typically this departs from Memorial Park and makes its way down Meridian Street to the Courthouse Square.
Each year, a big crowd gathers downtown to welcome a long line of floats provided by local fire and ambulance services, clubs, businesses and schools.
There’s carol singing, seasonal treats and a festive atmosphere set off by the Christmas lights and tree on the square. To coincide with the parade, children can normally meet Santa Claus in the quaint Herr Cabin in Memorial Park.