In the space of a couple of decades, the population of this suburban city north of Indianapolis, has more than doubled to 70,000.
Noblesville is the seat of Hamilton County, and the city’s long history is reflected at the beautiful central square, commanded by the Hamilton County Courthouse.
A museum at the old Sheriff’s Residence and Jailhouse here recalls the history of Noblesville and the surrounding county, while there’s an assortment of local shops and restaurants all around.
The White River flows down the west side of the city, and its safe waters are perfect for a canoe, kayak or tubing trip in the summer.
1. Historic Noblesville Square
Although big swathes of Noblesville are brand new, the city has more than 200 years of history, and this comes to the fore on the square surrounding Hamilton County Courthouse.
That monument, in a splendid French Second Empire style, was completed in 1879 and is the focal point for a charming little district with lots of locally owned businesses.
Fronting Historic Noblesville Square are shops for jewelry, fashion, children’s clothing, antiques, gifts, board games and vintage clothing.
There’s a tempting lineup of eateries, especially on the north and east sides, for breakfast food, pan-Asian, frozen treats and Tex-Mex.
This square is also within the Noblesville Cultural Arts District, and organizations like Nickel Plate Arts ensure a lot of exciting events.
2. Ruoff Music Center
Something that brings a lot of people to Noblesville is the largest permanent outdoor music venue, not just in the Indianapolis area, but the United States, and even the world.
Opened in 1989, this giant venue can fit crowds of almost 25,000, with over 6,000+ under a pavilion and another 18,000 on the enormous lawns that climb the slope in front.
Usually the Ruoff Music Center’s season is early May through September, during which time there’s always a blockbuster roll-call of performers.
A few big names from the last 30+ years are Frank Sinatra, Metallica, Coldplay, Dave Matthews Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Chicago. At these shows there’s always a great selection of local food trucks and craft beer.
3. Forest Park
This treasured 150-acre park near the west bank of the White River has a history going back to 1925.
One special feature is the Little Beauty Carousel, which was hand-built by the Allan Herschell Company in 1920 and installed in the park in 1996.
A summer staple at Forest Park is the Aquatic Center, with a heated Olympic sized pool, a splash pad, zip line, zero-depth kiddie pool, climbing wall and the popular Fast Freddie waterslide.
And as if all that weren’t enough, Forest Park also has a nine-hole executive golf course and a mini golf course, as well as typical park amenities like tennis courts, a skate park, agrill, a picnic shelter and horseshoe pits.
4. Nickel Plate Express
Forest Park is also the boarding point for trips on the Nickel Plate Express, which recaptures the golden age of railroading from the mid-20th century.
On 12 miles of track between Noblesville and Atlanta at the north end of Hamilton County, this train runs from April to December, with brunch and dinner trips and special season rides like the Reindeer Ride Express and the Pumpkin Express.
You’ll travel on the upper level of shimmering metallic Santa Fe El Capitan passenger cars, so will need to climb a set of stairs to board the train.
5. Hamilton County Museum of History and Old Sheriff’s Residence
On the southwest corner of the courthouse square is the old Hamilton County Sheriff’s Residence and Jail, dating back to 1876.
This building has seen a lot of notorious characters come and go, like a teenage Charles Manson in the 1950s and Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon D. C. Stephenson, whose trial and murder conviction in 1925 struck a lasting blow against this organization in Indiana.
The building is now in the hands of the Hamilton County Historical society, and you can visit the cells that once held those figures.
The museum has riveting exhibits about the county’s 200-year history, as well preserving the beautifully appointed Sheriff’s residence in the style of the Victorian period.
6. Potter’s Bridge
In the north of Noblesville you’ll come across a genuine covered bridge, dating back to 1871. In the park of the same name, Potter’s Bridge is a Howe truss structure, measuring 260 feet long and on the National Register of Historic Places since 1991.
This is the only remaining bridge of its kind in Hamilton County and is in fine condition, having last been restored in 1999.
Potter’s Bridge can also be the first step on a little journey on the White River Greenway Trail, which we’ll come to below.
7. White River Canoe Company
A great way to experience the landscapes around Noblesville is on the West Fork of the White River, which is primed for tubing and paddling adventures in the summer.
The White River Canoe Company offers a whole range of canoeing and kayaking trips, with half-day trips embarking from spots a few miles upriver from Noblesville like Rusty Oar and the White River Campground.
You can also opt for full-day trips from as far away as Perkinsville, 18 miles upriver, as well as a special overnight camp.
The main tubing option is a relaxing 3.5 mile trip back to the company livery from Potter’s Bridge, taking between 2.5 and 4 hours.
8. Morse Reservoir
On Noblesville’s northwestern shoulder is a reservoir constructed on Cicero Creek in the 1950s as a water supply for Indianapolis.
The Morse Reservoir encompasses around 1,500 acres and is owned by the Indianapolis Water Company. When summer comes around you can make the short trip to the superb Morse Park & Beach on the south shore.
There’s a welcoming strip of sand here, and the beach season is Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day.
Accompanying the beach is a new aqua adventure park, a boat dock and bathhouse, as well as an array of other amenities including an 18-hole disc golf course, volleyball courts, four shelters, a baseball/softball diamond, a playground and gaga ball pit.
9. Strawtown Koteewi Park
On the banks of the White River north of Noblesville, the largest park in Hamilton County is a true hive of recreation all year round.
Covering more than 800 acres, Strawtown Koteewi Park is on the site of a Native American village inhabited some 700 years ago.
There’s an educational attraction exploring this history, which we’ll cover next in this list. Elsewhere you can discover the park’s woods, prairies and wetlands on eight miles of trails, with designated trails for horseback riding.
K-Trails Equestrian Adventures offers riding experiences in the park, as well as pony rides for children under 7.
On top of all that, there’s an archery center, Koteewi Range, treetop ropes courses at Koteewi Aerial Trail Adventures, while in winter the park is home to Indiana’s only specialized snow tubing hill, extending for more than 700 feet.
10. Taylor Center of Natural History
If you’re curious about Strawtown Koteewi Park’s Native American past, you can check out this archeological attraction in the park.
Inside, the Taylor Center of Natural History displays the results of digs in the park, including arrowheads, fragments of pottery, animal bones and enthralling details about the lives of the people who lived at this place hundreds of years ago.
Outside, the Koteewi Trace Exhibit presents a reproduction of the village, with life-sized structures of a kind that is believed to have been dotted around the landscape from the 13th to the 15th century CE.
Also on the grounds is a mock dig site where you can get a sense of the scientific methods used to uncover the many artifacts left behind by the village.
11. Nickel Plate Arts
At 107 S 8th Street you’ll find the permanent gallery for Nickel Plate Arts, a nonprofit coordinating cultural experiences in eastern Hamilton County and supporting community artists and arts organizations.
Nickel Plate Arts is responsible for a slew of exhibitions, workshops, performing arts shows and recurring events like the First Friday, with live music, exhibits and drinks.
The gallery is inside the five-bay Judge Earl S. Stone House (1849), designed in the Greek Revival style and thought to be the oldest building in Noblesville. Look out for Gold Standard, Nickel Plate Arts’ annual juried exhibition for local art, taking place in November.
12. White River Greenway
The best way to see some of Noblesville’s best features without using a car is this 2.85-mile multi-use trail, mostly hugging the riverbank.
You can pick up the White River Greenway downtown, just behind the Hamilton County Courthouse.
From there the trail crosses the White River before cutting into Forest Park, so this is a handy way to reach attractions like the carousel, Aquatic Park and mini golf course in the summer.
After Forest Park the greenway crosses back to the east bank and enters a tranquil linear park tucked into the river bend, eventually depositing you at Potter’s Bridge.
13. Russell Farms Pumpkin Patch
When it comes to cozy autumn agritainment you’re in good hands in Noblesville. The Russell Family has owned this farm east of the city for more than five decades, and since 2002 has welcomed the public for weeks of fun in fall.
The pumpkin patch is a family favorite, growing several different varieties, and you can take a ride on a hay wagon to pick the one that’s right for you.
The country store is stocked with all kinds of goodies like warm apple cider, apple butter, fudge and cute fall decorations.
There’s also two corn mazes, a snack shack, live music, educational farm exhibits and a petting zoo with miniature horses, pigs, boer goats, pygmy goats and more.
14. Hamilton Town Center
There’s an upscale outdoor mall in Noblesville, a couple of minutes from the Ruoff Music Center.
What you get at Hamilton Town Center is an enticing mix of shopping, dining and entertainment, on a small grid of walkable streets and alleys, with trees, flowerbeds and benches.
A few of the stores in the directory include JCPenney, Loft, Old Navy, rue21, GameStop, Victoria’s Secret, Kay Jewelers, Claire’s and American Eagle.
Among the dining choices there’s Red Robin, Five Guys and Qdoba, while you’ll find an Emagine movie theater just next door for family outings and date nights.
Keen golfers will be spoiled in Noblesville, which has a rare abundance of public courses, a couple of which are run by the local parks department.
The first of these is Fox Prairie, a traditional-style course on rolling terrain, with mature trees all around and large greens.
That nine-hole course at Forest Park dates all the way back to 1927, and is the perfect starting point for newcomers thanks to its forgiving layout, low price and absence of water hazards.
Also public is the highly-rated Pebble Brook Golf Club, with a traditional layout on one course (South Course) and another with a remarkable Scottish links design (North Course).
But maybe the pick of them all is Purgatory Golf Club, a links-style course that poses a stiff challenge for all players.
This 18-hole par 72 is officially the longest track in Indiana, noted for its tallgrass prairie rough, more than 130 bunkers and numerous risk-reward situations.