10 Awesome Things to Do in Indiana
Indiana is one of the coolest states to visit and one of my favorite Midwest destinations. Here, you will find an eclectic mix of excellent colleges and universities, settings for award-winning movies and TV shows, mansions, monuments, and much, much more. Indiana is known as the “Crossroads of America” and has deep roots in sports and farming, held the first state fair, has a town called Christmas, and was the birthplace of Michael Jackson. Here are 10 awesome things to do in Indiana, The Hoosier State.
#1 Tour Purdue University
West Lafayette is home to Purdue University (founded in 1869), a public university with around 33,000 undergrad students. The school mascot is the Boilermaker Special, tied to a local legend. Purdue offers 210 areas of study and has one of the largest numbers of international students than any other public university. Notable buildings and scenery around campus include University Hall, Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, the Class of 1939 Water Sculpture, and Loeb Fountain, which you can see on a self-guided tour or weekly campus tour offered through the Admissions office.
Fun fact: Do you like popcorn? Orville Redenbacher’s founder graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Agronomy.
#2 Photograph the Patriotic Monuments and Memorials
Indianapolis (Indy as it is called) is incredibly patriotic. With the exception of DC, Indy devotes more space to our fallen heroes than anywhere in the country. Massive monuments and memorials that are so intricate in detail, your jaw will drop are all found over the heart of Indy. Admire the beautiful, neoclassical Confederate Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument at Washington Street-Monument Circle Historic District, the most prominent outdoor memorial in Indiana.
Inside the World War Memorial & Museum, see the Art Deco lobby, a list of the Hoosiers killed or MIA through the Vietnam War, the largest legal flag in the country, and the staggering Shrine Room on the top level. Be sure to stop at the patriotic memorials and monuments including the American Legion Mall, Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial, University Park (with many magnificent sculptures scattered throughout), and Vietnam, World War II, and Korean War Memorials.
#3 Dine in a Famous Mansion
Enjoy dinner in a gorgeous 19th-century manor turned restaurant at the Tippecanoe Place Restaurant. Initially an 1889 mansion owned by the Studebaker family of South Bend, guests can enjoy a fine-dining experience in a casual-feeling space. Lunch and dinner are served in one of the elegant first floor rooms. The second floor houses the Studebaker Lounge and Patio, a lively brewery with a noteworthy cocktail menu.
For starters, indulge in shrimp cocktail, French Onion soup, or Spinach Artichoke Dip. For your main course, try a juicy prime-rib (the house specialty for over 30 years) or the Boursin Chicken, a tasty dish with sun-dried tomato cream sauce. Be sure to check out Tippecanoe Place’s Sunday brunch buffet, too.
#4 Visit a Civil Rights Site (Levi Coffin house)
The Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site is a National Landmark in Fountain City. It is truly one of the best Civil Rights sites I’ve toured in the whole country. This two-story, eight-room home saw an estimated 2,000 fugitive slaves pass through as Levi and Catharine Coffin, of the Quaker religion, risked their lives to help those on the run for 20 years.
The harrowing story is impressive as the Coffins chanced criminal charges themselves to aid in a situation (enslaving people) they knew was not right. Levi and Catharine’s home was often referred to as “the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.” The Levi Coffin House, Historic Site, and Interpretive Center offer a thought-provoking look at how dangerous the Underground Railroad system was, and the living conditions these freedom seekers had to endure. Bring a tissue–you’ll need it.
#5 Stroll the Walk of Fame
The small city of Richmond, Indiana honors its long-gone record industry with the Gennett Records Walk of Fame. Plaques of records cast into the pavement along the Whitewater Gorge Park shares music legends bios and musical hits for those who recorded at Gennett Records.
In its prime (the mid-20s), Gennett Records (created by the Starr Piano Company) produced three million records annually, including jazz, ethnic, blues, gospel, and country. Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Autry, Jelly Roll Morton, Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong, and Hoagy Carmichael all recorded here. An annual festival takes place each fall to induct new members.
#6 Explore the Lilly Library
You can find the Lilly Library on Indiana University’s campus in Bloomington, Indiana. It houses some of the rarest books and manuscripts in the United States. The library’s special collections area will blow your mind as some of the items include a 1454 Gutenberg Bible and the first printed collection of Shakespeare’s works. You can browse through the catalog of archived articles and have them brought up for display. The Lilly Library (created by successful Indiana businessmen J. K. Lilly) is currently undergoing an $11 million facelift.
Lilly Library has 850,000 manuscripts, the New Testament from George Washington’s document accepting the US presidency, and 35,000 puzzles to name a few. My favorite part of the Lilly Library was the 60,000 comic books collection.
#7 Experience Life Back Then
Experience what life was like in the 1800s at Fishers, Indiana’s Conner Prairie, a fantastic living history museum that is a do-not-miss when traveling in the Hoosier State. This science and history attraction showcases 19th-century life along the White River through costumed interpreters telling stories and sharing their trades. Created by magnate Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie is one of the most visited outdoor museums in the country.
Explore 800 acres of wooded property suited with a Civil War journey, Lenape Indian camp, 1836 Prairietown, and lots more. The indoor Makesmith workshop, where you can tinker with real tools (saws, vices, etc.) is tons of fun, too. I loved Conner Prairie’s Animal Encounters, chock full of adorable farm animals in the big barn and surrounding pastures. Go in the springtime to see lamb and goat babies. You have to see the exciting and educational offerings at Conner Prairie to even grasp how amazing it is!
#8 Visit America’s Best Children’s Museum
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis wins every “best of” category for kid’s museums in the country. From the enormous brachiosaur sculpture climbing into the front of the building, you’ll be hooked on learning while having the time of your life at the world’s largest children’s museum.
Take a spin on the carousel, a National Historic Landmark or you can watch live theater shows. I loved Take Me There: Greece exhibit. This kid-friendly hands-on exhibit allows youngsters to learn about the cultures and customs of Greece.
Permanent exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis include American POP, Dinosphere, Beyond Spaceship Earth, ScienceWorks, and Treasures of the Earth. The Power of Children walk-through story of three amazing children: Ryan White, Ruby Bridges, and Anne Frank is a tear-jerker, but incredibly powerful exhibit.
#9 Take in the Vera Bradley Sale
You’ll find amazing bargains on America’s favorite travel gear and accessories at the annual Vera Bradley sale in Fort Wayne, Indiana where nearly 700,000 items will sell during the four-day event. The Vera Bradley sale takes place at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. Handbags, accessories, travel gear, sleepwear, blankets, linens, home accessories-you name it-are sold at rock bottom prices for this highly anticipated shopping event. Make your plans and reservations today through the Vera Bradley Annual Sale website for the next sale which is April 15-19, 2020.
Tip: If you haven’t tried the Vera flip-flops and crossbody purse, you’re missing out. I can’t live without them!
#10 Shop Antique Alley
If you are an antique shopper, you’ll love Indiana’s Antique Alley Trails in Wayne County, Indiana. Two trails encompassing several towns throughout the county offer treasure hunters double the fun. Richmond through historic Old National Road (US40) to New Pari is one route, and Richmond to Arcanum, Ohio is the other.
Enjoy the small charms of Eastern Indiana by browsing these 50+ shops for dishes, jewelry, silver, furniture, and other timeless items. Cambridge City was my favorite part of the trail with shops like Allens Antiques & Curiosities, The Antique Lodge, and National Road Antique Mall.
Indiana: An “Honest to Goodness” Good Time
Visiting unusual and interesting places like these are some of the reasons I love the Midwest so much. Indiana offers a perfect mix of historical, pop culture, educational, memorable, tasty, and fun attractions that are family-friendly and priced just right. I hope you can see why I’m such a fan!
What will you see first on your Indiana visit?
I was comped dinner at Tippecanoe Place and admission to Conner Prairie. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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