The Ultimate Indiana Travel Guide

Welcome to Indiana!

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Indiana is a wonderful state, and one that isn’t often seen as much of a vacation hot spot. However, there are so many underrated destinations here. Despite growing up here, it took me a very long time to start exploring the state outside of my hometown. Since I’ve been in college I have been checking places off my bucket list. Here is a more extensive guide of where to go around the state.

The Basics

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Language: English

Currency: USD

Population: 6.63 million

Climate: Indiana experiences all four seasons to the extreme, although its weather is still often unpredictable. Warm summers, cold and snowy winters (especially up north where lake effect snow is falling), as well as cool springs and falls. Expect some humidity, typically between 50-80% in the summer.

Founded: December 11, 1816, making it the 19th state.

Flag:

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Explore the State by Region


Northern Indiana

IMG_7174.jpgNorthwest Indiana in the winter, aerial view

Northern Indiana is my home, and a place that I love! There is so much about this area that makes it stand out, from the National Lakeshore to Fort Wayne. Here are the places you can’t miss!

City Life

“The Region”

The Northwest corner of the state is known as “The Region.” Gary is the most prominent city here. Marquette Park is the highlight of the city for outdoor enthusiasts. You can enjoy the Lake Michigan Shoreline, but there are other unique features as well. Oak Savanna is an area comprised of 2,000-year-old oak trees and paths for walking and biking. From there head to Patterson Island, a gorgeous pavilion in the east lagoon. View the full map of the park here.

SONY DSC(Source) Marquette Park, Gary 

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No summer is complete without a baseball game! Gary has a minor league baseball team, the Railcats. I’ve been to quite a few and they are always fun. The atmosphere is lively and there are tons of games on the field for kids.

If you want to move into smaller towns, the lakefront towns are great destinations. Chesterton is known for its European Market every Saturday morning, where vendors come to sell fresh fruit and vegetables as well as other handmade goods like soaps art. You can’t leave this town without a stop at Northside Diner, a local favorite. Expect a wait if you go on the weekend. It’s well worth it!

Top attractions: Albanese Candy Factory, Deep River Water Park, Popcorn Festival, 49er Drive-In

South Bend

This fun city is full of life! The most iconic feature of this region is Notre Dame, the most elite university in the state. Hit up the local restaurants and breweries, or plan a fun family weekend.

Top Attractions: Notre Dame, Canoe the St. Joseph’s River, South Bend Cubs minor league baseball, Studebaker Plaza.

Shipshewana

A trip to Indiana should definitely include a stop in Shipshewana. This Amish town draws in over 1 million visitors each year. There are activities happening all year long Shop the flea market, eat a traditional Amish meal, and learn more about a unique culture in this state.

Fort Wayne

fort wayneFort Wayne, Indiana (source)

This is the second largest city in Indiana, so there is a lot to do and explore here. Shopping at Jefferson Pointe and grabbing drinks at The Deck is always a day well spent.

Top Attractions: Children’s Zoo, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Science Central interactive museum, Headwaters Park, Parkview Field minor league baseball, Lakeside Park & Rose Garden, Fort Wayne Trails.

State Parks

IMG_4084Indiana Dunes State Park in the winter

Indiana Dunes

The Northwest is home to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore & State Park. The towns of Michigan City, Beverly Shores, Chesterton and Burns Harbor have the best beachfront access. You can lay out on the beach, hike along trails in the state park and camp out under the stars. On a clear day you can even see the Chicago Skyline!

IMG_8462Indiana Dunes State Park in the summer

Read more: The Top 10 Reasons You Should Visit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Other State Parks To Visit:

Chain O’ Lakes State Park
Tippecanoe River State Park
Pokagon State Park


Central Indiana

This is the heart of Indiana, for many reasons. It’s the center of the state, but it’s also home to Indiana’s capital, Indianapolis, as well as three major college towns. Between these prominent cities and the immense number of state parks, this is the busiest itinerary-filling part of the state.

City Life

Indianapolis
Indianapolis (source)

Indianapolis

This bustling city of over 800,000 is the life of Indiana. The city appears out of nowhere when you’re driving through farmland and suddenly sky scrapers appear before you. You can’t leave without a stop at the Children’s Museum. Check their website for free days at the museum! You can explore the rest of downtown and even catch a Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium or see a concert at Klipsch Music Center.

Top Attractions: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the State Museum, White River Gardens, and Funky Bones which was made popular by John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars.”

Read More: 5 Great Weekend Trips for Indiana College Students

Read More: Tasting Ethiopian Cuisine

West Lafayette

This college town is home to Purdue University. Boiler Up and get ready for a great weekend in a big college town.

Top Attractions: Purdue University, Tippecanoe Battlefield Park, Celery Bog Nature Area, Purdue sporting event

Bloomington

B-Town is one of the most prominent places in Indiana because it is home to Indiana University. This is the most iconic and stereotypical college town in Indiana. Bloomington and IU are interchangeable, and there are events going on every weekend.

Top Attractions: IU Campus, IU sports, Little 500, IU Art Museum, Griffy Lake, Leonard Springs Nature Park, Oliver Winery.

Muncie

DSCF8205Rinard Orchid Greenhouse, Ball State University

This wonderful college town is my home, so I have a lot of pride for it! There are some great things to do here, but my favorite thing about Muncie is all of the wonderful local restaurants. You can’t beat the cuisine here! The TV show “Parks & Recreation” is based off of Muncie, so make sure a stop to Sunshine Cafe (JJ’s Diner in the show) is on your list of things to do.

Top Attractions: Ball State University, the Minnetrista, David Owsley Museum of Art, Cardinal Greenway, Muncie Civic Theater, Muncie Gras.

Read More: The Ultimate Muncie Food Guide

State Parks

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White River State Park (source)

White River State Park

Located in downtown Indianapolis, this park was established in 1979. It is relatively new and also a very urban park. It is known for it’s street art and concert venue.

Other State Parks to Visit:

Turkey Run State Park
Mounds State Park
Summit Lake State Park
Fort Harrison State Park


Southern Indiana

The southern part of the state is gorgeous because of its hills, forests and the Ohio River. I love coming here and seeing all the diverse landscapes it has to offer. From Evansville to historic Madison, soak in the beauty that is southern Indiana.

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White Pigeon Creek, Evansville

City Life

Evansville

This is one of the biggest cities in Indiana, and located just on the Ohio River. There is so much to explore here! Walk or bike along the river, and then grab a coffee at River Kitty Cat Cafe, Indiana’s first cat cafe!

Top Attractions: Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Gardens, Reitz Home Museum, Angel Mounds, Old Greyhound Bus Depot, Wesselman Nature Society & the USS LST-325 WWII ship.

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White Pigeon Creek, Evansville

Read More: Making a Splash with Canoe Evansville

Madison

Madison, Indiana is known for its historic downtown. It’s one of the top historic downtowns in the country! It’s beautiful location on the Ohio River helps add to the city’s charm. Many of its attractions are historical, don’t miss them.

Top Attractions: Lanier Mansion, Schofield House, Clifty Falls State Park, Thomas Family Winery, Hanging Rock, The Attic & Coffee Mill Cafe.

Columbus

This town is known for its architecture. You can actually take walking tours of the city to view it all and learn more about it!

Top Attractions: Mill Race Park, Miller House, Zaharakos Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, Exhibit Columbus, Scottish Festival, Anderson Falls.

 

State Parks & National Forest

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Hoosier National Forest (source)

Hoosier National Forest

The Hoosier National Forest is over 200,000 acres of protected land that spans across southern Indiana. Along with excellent hiking trails and camping, there are horse and biking trails. Some of the main attractions are the Potts Creek Rockshelter and Jacob Rickenbaugh House. This is a beautiful area in the state, and something worth exploring if you’re into outdoor adventures.

Brown County State Park

This is the most-visited state park in Indiana! It has countless activities as well as stunning views of the rolling, wooded hills. Camp, hike, or event rent horses and take a guided tour through the park!

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Brown County State Park

Read More: Hiking at Brown County State Park

Falls of the Ohio State Park

This is a small but unique state park. It’s located right on the Ohio River, but the creation of a dam caused the water to recede and in its wake is a dry river bed you can explore. From logs to rocks and sea glass, there are all sorts of unique treasures. I also recommend renting bike’s and riding along the greenway!

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Falls of the Ohio River Greenway

Read More: Biking Through Southern Indiana

Other State Parks to Visit:

Clifty Falls State Park
Charlestown State Park
Spring Mills State park


There is so much more to Indiana than farmland, it just takes some time and exploration! Indiana actually has 25 state parks, and I only highlighted a few from each region. They’re worth checking out. Indiana small towns can offer great charm and unique local businesses, and their local calendar of events almost always have a fun festival or event happening. Don’t pass up the opportunity to explore the state.

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Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
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