Originally inhabited by the Paleo-Indians, Indiana is a North American state located in the Midwestern and Great Lakes region. With Indianapolis as the state capital and the largest city in the state, Indiana is the 17th most populous and 38th largest state in the United States of America. The state borders with Lake Michigan, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois, and is nicknamed as the “The Hoosier State.”
A major supporter of the US during the American Civil War, Indiana is a part of the eight American states that comprise the Great Lakes region, other seven being Illinois, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
While Lake Michigan shares the northern border of the country, the Ohio River separates it from Kentucky in the south.
Indiana is a land of several state parks, museums, outdoor activities, and significant landmarks.
Among its many attractions is the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest of its kind in the World, Scottish Rite Cathedral, the biggest cathedral of this kind in the world, and the underwater dolphin viewing dome at the Indianapolis Zoo, the first of its kind.
While there is plenty to see and do in Indiana, there are several that are unseen and unheard of – at least to the masses.
Let us explore some of those hidden gems in Indiana and make the best out of your visit.
1. Market Street Catacombs, Indianapolis
One of the only few tunnels that still exist in the United States America, Market Street Catacombs is one of those hidden attractions in Indiana that lays in plain sight.
If you are a resident or have visited the city, you may have crossed, visited, or ate at one of the many restaurants in the famous City Market in Indianapolis, but, what you may not know is that just beneath your feet is a long stretch of interconnected passageways that were created about a century ago to transport and store meat products and other produce that required a cooler atmosphere to stay fresh.
At the time, the catacombs served as refrigeration for the whole market since there were no freezers or cold storages.
However, in the present day, the tunnels remain concealed and almost forgotten.
Book a tour or buy a ticket to visit the Market Street Catacombs – autumn and Halloween are perfect.
2. Bluespring Caverns, Bedford
Flowing through the Bluespring Caverns in Bedford, Indiana, lays the longest underground river in the United States of America which is home to an abundant species of albino animals and other aquatic species.
First discovered in the 19th century, the Wide limestone caverns stretch for miles over the river, acting as a canopy, and ensuring a cool, moist, and dark atmosphere that makes surviving convenient and sensible for even the blind albino creatures.
Crickets, frogs, spiders, beetles, and crayfish are some of the creatures that live in, under, and over the river and around the caves.
Though the whole cavern and its resident river are equally striking, what stands out the most is the group of creatures that are either pure white or nearly see-through, and an exceptionally extraordinary group of blind cave fish!
3. Indiana Medical History Museum, Indianapolis
Imagine a medical history museum that stays frozen in time for over a century!
Indiana Medical History Museum, set in the Central State Hospital for the Insane in Indianapolis, was established before the discovery of germ theory.
The facility has managed to preserve most of the instruments and vintage tools from the time, and thus, may give away an extremely eerie feeling.
Within the museum, you can find an autopsy room, old photo archives, laboratories, and even most of the hospital records from the time.
A recreation of a doctor’s office can be found in an adjacent building.
The oldest pathology facility to exist in the United States, Indiana Medical History Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A visit to the teaching amphitheater from 1896, where students reportedly fainted in their own chair while observing autopsies, is a must!
4. Knightridge Space Observatory, Bloomington
Built between 1936 and 1937, the Knightridge Space Observatory was a simple, two-story telescope dome with two rooms, one on each floor, with the upper room created to hold a four-ton telescope that looked out of a retractable window.
The exteriors of the Observatory were made of solid brick while the interiors, including the dome, were crafted out of wood.
A stand-out feature, the dome was fitted with rollers and was placed on a track so it could be moved for best viewing angles.
Eventually, urbanization led to its downfall and led to its subsequent desertion.
Though none of the original instruments can be found within the observatory and most of the structure is dilapidated, the Knightridge Space Observatory ruins are a great exploration site.
5. Periodic Table Display, Greencastle
Remember having to memorize the periodic table in our science class as a child? For some, it was a dreadful activity while some loved the rhythmic sense that chanting the table brought.
Whichever category you associate yourself with, there is a display at the DePauw University that gives the periodic table a whole new image.
Crafted together by Theodore Gray and Max Whitby, the Periodic Table Display at the university in Greencastle, Indiana presents all the elements that comprise the universe gathered in one large, strategically decorated box that is open for public viewing.
While most of the elements have been put on display in their actual form or by way of products and items that are made of them, the more radioactive and dangerous ones are epitomized by a photo of their creator/founder.
Among the demonstrated elements are Uranium, Copper, Explosive Potassium, and Bismuth.
6. New Harmony Labyrinth, New Harmony
Originally crafted in the early 19th century by an ultra-religious German Society known as the Rappites, the New Harmony Labyrinth was a center of meditation and reflection.
Perceived by the community as an attempt to overcome the issues of life and a challenge in doing so, the Rappites’ hope for survival came to an end because of their celibacy vow.
Until the mid 20th century, the labyrinth remained as ruins, but, renovation of the structure in 2008 based on the original blueprint restored the original labyrinth in its original fundamental form.
Standing proudly on the main street, the New Harmony Labyrinth allows free entry to its visitors throughout the year.
You could take the actual challenge and find your way to the Rappite Temple via a channel of mazes, or, you could take a shortcut and reach the center of the temple directly.
7. The Garret, Bloomington
Originally the headquarters for BG Hoadley Quarries, The Garret is one of the oldest and the most decorative buildings in the city, constructed out of limestones.
In the 1960s, the Garret family occupied the grandiose edifice and used it as a private collection filled with taxidermy, furniture, geologic specimens, antique pornography, and a MUMMY!
Dennis Garrett ran a lapidary shop in the building’s basement, and, reportedly, The Garrett stocked better supply of boots, tents, and such related items than most other stores in the state.
Since Dennis passed away, his wife has been running the structure as an antique shop where you could buy some of the less valuable items on display.
8. Mooresville’s Gravity Hill, Mooresville
Running along East Keller Hill Road in Mooresville, Indiana, is the mysterious Gravity Hill, which, as opposed to gravity, pulls everything UP!
Like other Gravity Hills around the world, the most reasonable definition for the phenomenon is ideally optical illusion, but, legends have a different explanation (of course, there is).
So, as the story goes, once upon a time, a school bus filled with children stopped functioning and got stuck at the rail track, and, was hit by a passing train, killing people on board.
Since then, the ghosts of the children have been haunting the site and pushing vehicles and things uphill to protect them and keep them away from similar mishaps.
That is not all.
Some claim that if you sprinkled the bumper of your vehicle with flour, you could see the imprints of the ghosts once they have safely put you out of harm’s way.
Whether you prefer to put your car to neutral or roll a basketball “uphill”, a visit to the enigmatic Gravity Hill of Mooresville is a must.
9. Rose Island, Charlestown
Once named as “Fern Grove” by entrepreneur David Rose who purchased the already-popular recreational park and added a range of other useful attractions to make it an absolute heaven for summer vacationers, Rose Island (although a peninsula) was once a popular theme park that attracted several visitors from all around the nation.
Opened to the public in 1923, the Island comprised a swimming pool, a roller coaster, a hotel, and a small zoo with monkeys, wolves, and “Teddy Roosevelt” – a bear.
A suspended bridge connected visitors to the park by foot or motor cars.
At the time, you could also take a steamboat to Rose Island.
The Recreational Park which sternly stood its ground and popularity, even during the Great Depression, was brutally destroyed during the 1937 Ohio River Flood.
The remnants of what was once a celebrated amusement park now hold ruins of a stone fountain, leftovers of the original footbridge, and the swimming pool.
10. Rotary Jail Museum, Crawfordsville
It is known and believed that no science and intelligence can overcome that of the human mind, and, when such a brain inclines towards darkness and negativity, it not only creates a threat for the society but also for himself.
Such a mind and soul should, unfortunately, be contained and kept away from the outside world.
The Rotary Jail Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana is among the many spinning jails in America that were built with an innovative architectural design and concept which had the prison cells constructed like wedge-shaped spaces that were strategically arranged around a central hub.
The entire cell compound could be controlled and rotated by a hand crank which spun them around to ensure that the entrance/exit door could only be accessible from one direction.
Unfortunately, the construction wasn’t full-proof and often trapped the prisoners’ limbs in between the bars, crushing and breaking them.
An increased number of such incidents led to permanent closures of all such prison cells but one – the present Rotary Jail Museum.
The historic site is the only one of its kind that still functions – no longer as a holding cell for inmates but as a strange example of innovative construction.
11. Indianapolis Moon Tree, Indianapolis
“To the moon and back” – a tall Sycamore Tree, also known as the Indianapolis Moon Tree, stands firmly on the grounds outside the Indiana Statehouse.
Among the several intriguing and commemorative trees that are on display, the Moon Tree is undeniably the one with the most significant and strange history – it rose from a seed that was taken to the moon and back – literally!
Originally taken to the moon by astronaut Stuart A. Roosa during the Apollo 14 lunar mission, the Tree is one of the 50 trees in the world and four in Indiana state that still exist out of the original lot of 500 seeds that Roosa took along.
While the Moon Tree was planted on April 9, 1976, it is still a matter of research and study for scientists who continue to monitor this post-orbital tree for its growth and development patterns.
12. Bedford Limestone Pyramid, Bedford
Speaking of “Pyramids” almost instantaneously evoke thoughts of Egyptian mummies, sphinxes, and deserts, but, the same can’t be imagined for the Bedford Limestone Pyramid.
Bedford, as is widely known, is the limestone capital of the world.
The limestones found in this part of Indiana has contributed to the construction of many notable monuments around the country, most prominently, the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.
To commemorate their pride and stature, residents of Bedford decided to create a Limestone Tourist Park that included a smaller replica version of the Pyramid of Cheops, as well as that of the Great Wall of China.
The idea was to attract visitors to the Bedford and help them see the opportunities that the limestone-rich town could offer.
Unfortunately, the project came to a permanent halt after laying the only layer of limestone when a Wisconsin senator awarded the project with a ridiculed “Golden Fleece” award.
The layer still remains and the heartbroken ruins can be found nine miles north of the city.
13. John Dillinger’s Grave, Indianapolis
John Dillinger – a name in the history of America which could only be associated with theft, robbery, murder, and all things anti-social.
Why should then he rest so securely under layers and layers of iron and concrete?
Dillinger was perhaps one of the most infamous outlaws in the world but when he passed away, his funeral service was attended by over 5,000 people.
Admirers? Maybe not.
But, whoever they were, they definitely wanted to steal something off of it.
Some even managed to shamelessly snatch flowers and dirt from the fresh grave.
Fearing that the remains of Dillinger’s body were in danger of being stolen, his brother and father decided to exhume the body and rebury it under layers of impenetrable iron and concrete.
Despite the strenuous effort, the headstone has reportedly been replaced at least four times while chunks and corners of the low block, unpretentious structure continue to be chipped off.
Stealing from the grave of a notorious theft seems appropriate or almost a tribute of some sort, doesn’t it?
14. Kinsey Institute Gallery, Bloomington
Founded by and named after Alfred Kinsey, the legendary Kinsey Institute was established in 1947. Tucked away secretively within the premises of Indiana University, the Gallery has been known for its impressive exhibition of artwork representing human sexuality.
With a collection that goes back to 2,000 years in time and comprises creative treasures from all over the world, Kinsey Institute Gallery is celebrated for its groundbreaking research on human sexual behavior.
Significant works include that of artists like Marc Chagall and Picasso and an interesting collection of small pornographic comic books from the 1930s and 40s that came to be known as “Tijuana Bibles.” The items have been skilfully displayed on a rotating podium.
Open regularly from Wednesday to Sunday, some of the artworks stored at the Museum can be viewed in digital form on their website.
15. Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Indianapolis
Born in Indianapolis in 1922, Kurt Vonnegut was best known for his short stories and the satirical war novel, Slaughterhouse Five, which was his personal recollection of the times he fought the Battle of Bulge, was captured by the Germans and survived the Dresden Bombing.
The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is a homage to the war veteran, critic, and famed author and has been keeping his memories alive since 2011.
Established in 1902, the library is listed on National Registry of Historic Places and is housed in a building known as the Emelie.
Staff and the workers at the museum not only maintain and preserve his work but also cherish Vonnegut’s ideals.
The museum houses a collection of Vonnegut’s books, letters, drawings as well as a recreation of his workspace and a small art display.
16. World’s Largest Ball of Paint, Alexandria
In 1977, Mike Carmichael, a resident of Alexandria, discovered a new technique of keeping his son occupied – he let the kid cover a baseball in layers of paint, perhaps a habit he developed out of his time working at a paint store.
A few decades later, the baseball is now the Largest Ball of Paint in the World.
The father and son duo continued covering the ball in different colors which slowly added to the size and weight of the object, so much so, that an exclusive barn had to be built to store the giant ball of paint.
So many years and almost 24,000 coats of paint later, the baseball now stands as the largest of its kind, even though much of its real circular shape is gone and lumps have developed across the surface, making it look like a huge alien cocoon.
Visitors are allowed to paint the ball in the color they like (out of the various bucket of paint available), or walk away with shaved sections of the original ball to prove they contributed to one of America’s extreme achievements.
17. Hall of Heroes, Elkhart
A visit to the ultimate hall of superheroes needs to be booked in advance for you just can’t waltz into a room full of some of the greatest superheroes and comic characters of all time.
Hall of Heroes, a small homemade display of over 70-years of the superhero genre, the collection was fuelled by Allen Stewart’s lifelong admiration of superhero comics.
An Indiana resident, Stewart had a massive compilation of action figures, collectibles, comic books, and props.
Among the most prominent items on display are a replica of the Bat cave from the 60’s show, a Batarang from Batman and Robin, and several comic book art from artists such as Curt Swan.
Of course, you can’t miss the façade that highly resembles the Hall of Justice from Superhero.
18. East Race Waterway, South Bend
First established in the 1840s, the East Race Waterway was originally meant to generate power for a sawmill for the city.
However, after years of desolation, the water channel was filled in and left to be forgotten among the downtrodden surroundings.
In 1984, the local mayor along with the community members put forward a plan to resurrect the water channel and modify it into a waterway where prospective kayakers could train to participate in the Olympics.
The only man-made white-water training program in America at the time, it now retains its title as the first of its kind.
Now, the East Race Waterway welcomes rafters and kayakers from all around the world to navigate the 2,000 feet long channel, irrespective of their level of expertise.