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Looking for Places to Visit in Indiana?
I'll admit it, I love to travel. I've been to many of the states in the US, Canada, Mexico, some Caribbean Islands, Spain, Italy, France, and Japan but I would love to travel much further. Time and circumstances however have conspired to keep me away.
Sightseeing however is about more than distance and even more than just the discovery of something more "exotic", it's really about a curiosity and an interest in all that is around you -- wherever you are. I made this page for all of those curious people who may find themselves in, or traveling through Indiana; those who hope to find some unique things to see. Sightseeing Indiana can be fun and economical. I'll focus on things off of the beaten path.
Out-of-the Way Sights in Indiana
Sightseeing is a great way of learning. When visiting out of the way places, travelers can gain a much richer experience, learn a great deal about the local area, and even manage to completely avoid crowds and high costs. I try to reserve time on every trip, including business and regional car trips for getting to some of the local sights.
Most of the sights I'm talking about aren't the typical high traffic attractions like large amusement parks, hotels and casinos, well known museums, architectural landmarks, memorials, or much visited parks. The ones I'm referring to are those which one stumbles upon while looking at a state or local map, merely notes while driving through, or even more likely may miss altogether if thorough research hasn't been completed.
For instance, I've scouted around Indiana a bit and found a few things worth mentioning which are off the beaten path but perhaps worthy of a leisurely drive for those who have time to spare. Let's go sightseeing Indiana!
Places in Indiana: Wolf Park
Wolf Park is an education and research facility which was opened in 1972. It's located in Battleground, Indiana 130 miles southeast of Chicago. Among other things, Wolf Park is home to several packs of gray wolves, foxes, a herd of bison, and even some coyotes. They offer tours of the area daily from May through November.
Howl night, every Saturday evening, is another interesting experience that's offered. It allows visitors to listen to a lecture regarding the wolves and on several occasions, an opportunity to howl with the wolves; great fun for people of any age. Visitors can also learn more and observe the interaction between the wolves and Bison on Sunday afternoons.
For the more serious minded, Wolf Park also offers seminars on wolf behavior, wolf mythology, and more with many opportunities to interact with the wolves. Seminars vary from 5 to 3 days and also include artist and photo seminars. A variety of kids programs are also available.
Experience Wolf Park
Places in Indiana: Fall Creek Gorge Potholes
One section of Fall Creek is surrounded by steep walls and is characterized by deep "potholes" in the sandstone bed. The potholes create small pools within the creek that can provide a cool and relaxing respite as you wade down through the creek itself. The potholes vary in size, from foot sized to large enough for a child to stand in. The experience is akin to skinny dipping in a pond except that clothing isn't optional and actual swimming isn't really possible; lots of splashing and good old fashioned fun are however the focus.
This rural site is just a mile or two outside of Attica, Indiana along a lightly traveled, winding gravel road. It's generally relaxed and great for families trying to escape the summer heat. Some rather rugged hiking is also available and the short walk up the creek will end at a small waterfall.
Places in Indiana: Mug N' Bun
Ok, most towns have some type of old style hot dog and root beer drive in but many are "chains", few make their own root beer, and it's rare for them to be as old as Mug N' Bun. Grabbing a bite might not qualify as "sightseeing Indiana" but it's still a learning and cultural experience!
In tiny Speedway, Indiana (yes, home of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) is this antiquated drive in, that serves up some great homemade root beer, out of this world shakes (Banana and Butterscotch being my personal favorites), some heart stopping Jalapeno (cheese) poppers, gigantic tenderloins, fabulous fries, and much more. The drive in is open year round.
No, you don't want to make this stop part of your regular dining experience, but if you're going to be bad, do it right! If you happen to be a race fan, skip the overpriced track food and drift on over to Mug N' Bun and let the car hops take care of you.
Places in Indiana: The World of Motorcycles Museum
A good offering for road warriors is The World of Motorcycles Museum located just outside of North Judson, Indiana. The Museum is located adjacent to Kerstings Cycle Center which sells motorcycles and related memorabilia. The museum occupies a 40,000 square foot space that is jam packed with all types and vintage of motorcycles.It even includes the first motorcycle that that Jim Kersting ever had; one he built himself from an old motorcycle frame and his mother's washing machine.
Enthusiasts however should be encouraged as the exhibit includes rare and authentic machines from more than eight countries and represents even the earliest days of two wheeled transportation. It's a non-profit family run operation built by Kersting himself. A $5 donation for admission is standard and there are no crowds or lines to wade through just sprawling Indiana farmland surrounding the site.
Places in Indiana: Fair Oaks Farms
The Fair Oaks Farm site has grown in recent years and now has advertising along major routes to pull in visitors. Located at the exit for Winamac, Indiana on Interstate highway 65 it's still notable however as it provides the chance to witness what dairy farming is all about, and if you're sightseeing Indiana, farming of some type is a must.
Visitors get the chance to learn about how manure produces electricity, dairy products are produced, and baby calves are born. There are barn tours, a 4D theater, a cheese factory tour, and a birthing barn visit where guests are sure to see at least one of the 80 calves being born there each day. It's a must see for anyone less familiar with farm life and a great summer day for kids and adults who love learning and enjoying ice cream.
Take a Peek at Fair Oaks Farms
Places in Indiana: The World's Greatest Amateur Circus
Peru, Indiana is also known as the "Circus City" and is located 70 miles northeast of Indianapolis. In the late 1800's and early 1900s, Peru was home to the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus and others. Even the Ringling Brothers Circus wintered there for awhile. For ten days in July each summer, Peru celebrates the Circus City Festival with rides, crafts, food, games, and more.
The highlight however is the live amateur circus that has performances throughout the festival. A unique and authentic experience that echos the early, heyday of the circus, this is a fun event not to be missed. Performers are locals, some of whom are direct descendants of professional performers in the earlier shows. Even if a visit is timed to occur outside of July, a visit to the small but impressive International Circus Hall of Fame might be worth the trip.
See More About the Amateur Circus in Peru, Indiana
Places in Indiana: Wilbur Wright Birthplace
For those interested in the history of flight, a visit to the rather remote birthplace of Wilbur Wright can be an interesting side trip. Located outside of tiny Millville, Indiana is Wilbur's first home and a museum dedicated to his life and achievements with his brother Orville.
Wilbur was actually only one of seven children in the family. He was born in 1867 and lived in this Indiana home through most of his high school years.
Both guided and unguided tours are available and a special summer festival is celebrated in June each year. See this link for more information.
Places in Indiana: The Kokomo Automotive Museum
There are a number of notable automobile museums in the region; the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum for example. However, the Kokomo Automotive Museum in Indiana meets my criteria for being lesser known.
The museum opened in 1998 and celebrates the automotive heritage of the area, including the achievements of Elwood Haynes, maker of the first commercially built automobile. It houses automobiles from as long ago as 1884 and includes over 100 cars to admire without the hassle of crowds.
The home of Elwood Haynes is also nearby and open for guided and self-guided tours for those who wish to visit. It provides an opportunity to learn much more about the early automotive industry in the area.
Places in Indiana: Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area
In the northern part of the state near Medaryville, Indiana lies Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area. What is notable here is a once a year visit by as many as 30,000 sandhill cranes as they begin their migration south.
From as early as August to as late as December the cranes make their temporary home here. (November generally sees peak numbers) Smaller numbers are also known to stop over in February and March giving visitors another chance to view and photograph these creatures.
See and Hear Some of the First Cranes Arriving
Places in Indiana: Adams Mill
There are a number of old mills in Indiana for history buffs to visit and even more covered bridges; particularly in the southern part of the state. However, if you want to find one that is hidden away and less traveled you can try Adams Mill in the more northwestern region of the state.
There are no touristy shops here, no rustic restaurants or renovated small towns to charm you. There is just Cutler, Indiana with a glimpse of what tiny towns in this midwest area are really like. Aside from a small summer festival and community yard sale you won't find crowds gathering in this area.
What you will find is Adams Mill, a water powered grist mill erected in 1845 on the Wildcat Creek. It now houses an impressive exhibit of related farm and mill equipment from the period. Just a short walk away is a covered bridge that is still used today.
French Lick and the West Baden Springs Hotel
For anyone sightseeing Indiana, a tiny town in southern Indiana is another worthy stop. Although French Lick has a population of less than 2,000 throughout the past century, it has hosted some national events and welcomed celebrities. The sulphur springs in the area were touted as having medical benefit and in 1902 the West Baden Springs Hotel was built. It's domed atrium spanning 200 feet was the largest freestanding dome in the world until the 1960s when the Huston AstroDome was built. It offered bowling, golf, swimming, spas, high end dining, and much more for it's wealthy guest. The Great Depression closed this grand hotel but in 2007 the refurbished version reopened to the public.
There are also more modern resorts and casinos in French Lick as well as shopping, antiques, flea markets, ranches, waterparks, and dining. Nearby visitors can find Patoka Lake Reservoir with cruises, Paoli Peaks for skiing in the winter, ranches, state forests, hiking, golf courses and much more. There are other historic sites including the Indiana Railway Museum which offers a number of train rides through the Hoosier National Forest.
A Brief Look Around the West Baden Springs Hotel
© 2008 Ruth Coffee