On the shores of three beautiful lakes in North Central Indiana, Warsaw is the endearing seat of Kosciusko County.
If you’re wondering about the Polish connection, the county is named for Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746-1817) a hero in the Revolutionary War.
Warsaw is a tribute to his home country, and is known in the medical community for the high-quality orthopedic implements that have been manufactured here since the late 19th century.
The downtown area has a lot of life, with monthly First Friday events, an award-winning craft brewery and a cosmopolitan lineup of restaurants.
Warsaw’s lakes are moments from downtown, and are fronted by scenic parks and beaches open during the summer.
1. Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts
Warsaw is home to a spectacular yet intimate theatre-in-the-round, staging professional and community shows and concerts.
The center is also the seat of the Wagon Wheel Symphony of the Lakes, enriching Northern Indian with exceptional live music performances.
Shows at the Wagon Wheel Center attract people from far beyond Warsaw and Winona Lake, and a benefit of the unique layout is that you’ll never be more than a few rows from the stage.
Initially a temporary structure, the theatre was founded in 1955, and was inspired by the first theatre-in-the-round in the country, at the Penthouse Theatre in Fort Lawton, Washington.
2. Downtown Warsaw
Even at a time when downtowns have been revitalized across the country, Warsaw’s central business district is unusually vibrant for a city of this size.
Across several blocks, the area south and east of the Kosciusko County Courthouse has a welcoming assortment of restaurants, bars, cafes and stores you can’t find anywhere else. Food-wise, there’s everything from Japanese to Indian and Mexican.
An acclaimed spot is the One Ten Craft Meatery, sourcing ingredients from Indiana and neighboring states. Also in the news is the Mad Anthony Craft Brewery, with award-winning ales and lagers on tap.
Downtown Indiana also merits a little walking tour, with fine old facades to be admired on Center Street and Market Street in particular.
3. Kosciusko County Courthouse
Warsaw’s townscape is defined by a magnificent courthouse now used as an administrative building. Sitting in landscaped grounds that host community events throughout the year, the Kosciusko County Courthouse was built in the early 1880s.
Architecturally, the building is in the Second Empire style and clad with Indiana oolitic limestone, beautifully carved into pilasters, Corinthian columns and pediments.
The crowning dome rises to just over 150 feet above the downtown streets. To give you a sense of the scale of the construction, if the courthouse’s bricks were laid out end to end they would extend for around 85 miles.
4. Pike Lake Beach
Slightly smaller than Winona Lake, Pike Lake is still a substantial sheet of water in the northeast of Warsaw.
The southern shore is lined with parks, and at a green, lightly wooded point sits Pike Lake Beach. The park here features a waterside campground, a playground and swings, a boat launch and rentable docks.
This is a fine spot for a fishing trip (largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, yellow perch), and there’s a fish cleaning station by the water.
The sandy beach faces west, and has lifeguards on duty all summer through Labor Day.
5. Old Jail Museum
The museum for the Kosciusko County Historical Society is in an exciting location a block east of the Courthouse Square.
The old county jail predates the historic courthouse, and was constructed in 1870 in a Gothic Revival style, with castellations, pointed arch windows and rusticated limestone blocks.
The Sheriff’s residence was integrated with the building so he was essentially always on duty, while his wife cooked meals for the inmates.
Remarkably this building was in service for 112 years, and is an apt place to encounter the county’s rich history.
There’s much to see inside, including items relating to John Dillinger’s time in Warsaw, musical instruments, a 1930s refrigerator belonging to the Sheriff and early orthopedic medical equipment produced in the city at the turn of the century.
You can also visit the cells to get a taste of justice in days gone by.
6. Kosciusko County Farmers’ and Artisan Market
On Saturday mornings in summer, the stretch of Center Street in front of the Kosciusko County Courthouse is taken over by a diverse market that has existed in some form for almost 50 years.
Running May through October, this is a wonderful way to shop for fresh and local fruit and vegetables, meat, eggs, flowers, herbs, syrup, preserves, honey, baked goods and much more.
On the artisan side of things you might come across a unique piece of handmade jewelry, clothing, home decoration or fashion accessory. Most weeks you’ll also be serenaded by talented musicians from the area.
7. Central Park
Bounding the north side of downtown Warsaw is a picture perfect place to stroll before or after a meal.
Central Park is just in from the south shore of Center Lake, and in the 1990s was chosen as the setting for a delightful perennial garden.
Whenever you visit there will be something blooming in these flowerbeds. Also in the park is a generous grassy area for informal games and picnics.
Central Park is spellbinding in the holiday season when the Christmas lights are on, and in the summer there’s a concert series at the plaza here.
8. Center Lake Beach
Warsaw’s parks and recreation department maintains an attractive beach on Center Lake, within walking distance of downtown.
This can be found at 119 East Canal Street, by Central Park. So if you’d like to take a dip in these spring-fed waters, the beach is open and has lifeguards Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
It’s worth remembering that the lifeguards won’t be on duty if the temperature drops below 70°F. There’s a long pier, a diving board, playground equipment, as well as a grassy area with picnic tables and trees for shade.
9. Lucerne Park
On the southwest shore of Pike Lake, Lucerne Park is home to Warsaw’s parks and recreation department, as well as the Pete Thorn rec center.
For early risers, this is a fantastic place to be at sunrise when you can watch the sun coming up over the lake.
The park also has an exercise trail with Apollo equipment, as well as a playground, a disc golf course, lake access, four rental shelters/cabins and an amphitheater with seating tiers that offer a stunning vista.
10. The Bowling Alley
In the north of Warsaw, this attraction is a little more than the name suggests. Yes there are 16 lanes of bowling, with digital flat-screen displays overhead.
Everything is in great condition, from the surface to the balls and shows.
This is all accompanied by the Game Room, which is arguably the best arcade in Warsaw, with new and classic game cabinets, pinball machines and redemption games.
You’ve also got the Cafe, known for its excellent pizza, and the Pub, pouring craft beer.
11. Winona Lake Limitless Park & Splashpad
The north and west shores of Winona Lake are part of Warsaw, while the remainder belongs to the neighboring town, also called Winona Lake.
On the west shore here you’ll find another wonderful place to pass a few relaxed hours in the summertime.
As well as a beach, there’s a splash pad that kids are sure to adore, as well as a limitless playground allowing children of all abilities to enjoy themselves safely.
On top of all that you can rent kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and paddle boards at the park, either by the hour or day.
12. The Lake House
During the summer this business by the canal on Lake Winona is another recreation hub. You can head to the Lake House to book wakeboarding, wakesurfing and inland surfing lessons.
This is also a top notch store for these water sports, while stocking skating equipment and making custom longboards.
For something a bit gentler you can rent paddle boards or book a sunset cruise on the lake. During the winter the Lake House rents snowshoes and cross-country skis for a snowy adventure.
13. First Friday
In case you need a reminder, once a month you’ll find out just how effervescent Warsaw’s cultural scene is. First Friday takes place May through December and has a slightly different flavor each month.
So there might be interactive art, a car show, an art walk, live music or a Christmas parade. One special occasion is November’s Thanks for Giving, when the community comes together to fill a dump truck with non-perishable items for The Salvation Army and Combined Community Services.
Whatever the month there’s always something happening on the Courthouse Square, with a lineup of vendors, live music and children’s activities including bounce houses and kiddie rides.
14. Beyer Farm Trail
If you’re visiting the park on Pike Lake and are in the mood for a walk, you can join this trail that begins right here and heads east for just under a mile.
Opened in 2004, much of the Beyer Farm Trail passes through a wetland on the eastern shore of Pike Lake, crossing a boardwalk measuring 1,800 feet.
Interpretive signs along the route will inform you about the flora and fauna in this important habitat. After leaving the wetlands you’ll come to a stone amphitheater close to the Kosciusko Community Hospital.
15. Summer Concert Series
A great way to unwind at the end of a long week is with some live music in the open air and in the company of friends or family. Totally free, Warsaw’s Summer Concert Series offers just that, with weekly concerts on Friday evenings, May through August.
These happen at the Central Park Plaza and the Lucerne Park Amphitheater, and there’s a lineup to ensure that no music fan will be left out.
Genre-wise you’ve got everything from jazz to Motown, classic rock, country, Latin music, blues, gospel, acapella, traditional Irish music and big band.