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Editor's Note: With the advent of summer and our June 2012 issue's "Nonstop Fun" travel stories, we present this archived piece on 10 delightful Midwest towns that are drivable from Indianapolis. The dates, times, and people appearing here were current in July 2009. Call ahead for updates.
With flip-flop season upon us, our thoughts turn to simple pleasures: double-scoop ice cream cones, lake cabins with screened porches, the deep recline of an Adirondack chair. The 10 destinations featured here have all those perks and more—from a former college town with bohemian allure to a Lake Michigan resort that’s equal parts driftwood beaches and antiques shops. All within a three-hour drive, they are easy to get to—so gas up, pop the sunroof, and let summer vacation begin.
(Miles away: 160; Population: 4,225)
Conceived as a Victorian-era amusement park in 1885, the tranquil summer hamlet of Winona Lake boasts galleries, a day spa, symphony concerts, and one of the only shorelines in northern Indiana’s lake country that isn’t gobbled up by private homes.
Book the spacious White Oak Suite, complete with a spa tub and a reading porch, at the Chestnut House Bed & Breakfast (806 Chestnut St., 574-268-6388), or stay across the lake at the Blue Heron Guest House (2001 Westwood Rd., 574-551-3205), where you can swim right off the dock and pay the owners to take you to the village by boat. It’s a short walk to Lakeside Chapel, where Adirondack chairs beckon those with a good book. At the Winona Lake Park and Public Beach (1590 Park Ave., 574-267-2310), kayak and canoe rentals start at $7 per hour, and a two-mile paved bike trail wends through the woods. Rent a two-wheeler at Trailhouse Village Outdoor Store (1001 E. Canal St., 574-267-2223).
When it’s time to refuel, 1000 Park Bakery & Cafe (1000 Park Ave., 574-269-1000) serves up a mouthwatering pain au chocolat and wood-fired pizzas. At city-chic Cerulean (1101 E. Canal St., 574-269-1226), diners order from the sushi bar or assemble bento boxes of Japanese favorites for about $11. Shopping comes in the form of a handful of boutiques specializing in artisan treasures, including hand-painted silk scarves at Canal Street Gallery (805 E. Canal St., 574-371-2777). And though nightlife is limited in this quiet enclave, crowds gather for classical-music concerts throughout the summer, and MasterWorks, a performing-arts festival put on by students of the arts and their instructors, runs June 21–July 16 this year. —Megan Fernandez
>> SIDE TRIP: The exotic residents of Black Pine Animal Park, about 45 minutes from Winona Lake, are mostly retired circus performers or rescues from private homes. Both varieties are accustomed to human interaction, affording visitors an up-close look at chimpanzees, a giant snake, lions, Bengal tigers, and a black bear. Oh, my! 1246 W. 300 North, Albion, 260-636-7383.
(Miles away: 132; Population: 2,751)
The best way to peruse Indiana’s first capital city is to stop by the Blaine H. Wiseman Visitor Center (310 N. Elm St., 888-738-2137) and pick up a map of the self-guided historical tour. Of the 40 landmarks on the map, you should start at the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site (126 E. Walnut St., 812-738-4890), a limestone building built between 1814 and 1816 that housed the fledgling Indiana legislature. Another highlight is the Battle of Corydon Memorial Park (100 Old Hwy. 135 SW, 812-738-8236), site of the only Civil War battle fought on Indiana soil. In keeping with the historical theme, The Kintner House Inn (101 S. Capitol Ave., 812-738-2020), built in 1873, provides lodging in a fully restored bed and breakfast on the National Register of Historic Places.
For a taste of more-recent history and something to salve a sweet tooth, stroll over to Butt Drugs (115 E. Chestnut St., 812-738-3272), a vintage 1952 drugstore with an authentic soda fountain (and, yes, an unfortunate name). And Emery’s Premium Ice Cream (118 W. Walnut St., 812-738-6047) is a reason to visit Corydon on its own. The re-created 1950s candy shop is stocked with bushels of nostalgic candies, Amish chocolates, glass-bottle sodas, and coolers full of incredible ice cream flavors (try the banana pudding ice cream with chunks of vanilla wafer or the decadent “chocolate covered cherries” flavor). Just don’t let it spoil your dinner at The Overlook Restaurant (1153 W. State Rd. 62, 812-739-4264) in nearby Leavenworth, where meals are served with a breathtaking hilltop view of a wide bend in the Ohio River. —Tony Rehagen
>> SIDE TRIP: If you prefer a little “indoor” adventure, head a bit north of Corydon to the town of Marengo, where you can peruse nature’s beauty at Marengo Cave Park, which remains a brisk 52 degrees year-round. Tours range from daring cave-crawls to leisurely, dry walks through more than a mile of underground splendor. 812-365-2705.
(Miles away: 195; Population: 870)
New Harmony’s early history was the unlikely amalgamation of two separate groups. It was established in 1814 by the Harmonists, breakaways from the Lutheran church, who built the settlement as part of their mission to perfect themselves for the return of Christ. (Here, “perfection” meant giving up sex but not alcohol; they were accomplished makers of wine, beer, and whiskey.) In 1824, led by Scripture, they sold their town to a Welsh-born textile manufacturer named Robert Owen, who brought to New Harmony learned scientists and philosophers who shared his vision for an egalitarian society. Today, the casual stillness of New Harmony makes visitors want to turn off their cell phones, whisper without being shushed, and get around town as the locals do—in golf carts. Luckily, carts are available for rent at the New Harmony Golf Car Company (newharmonygolfcars.com).
Begin your tour at The Atheneum (401 N. Arthur St., 812-682-4488), an award-winning 1979 modernist building designed by Richard Meier and a striking departure from the style of early New Harmony architecture. Original Harmonist houses still dot the town, but it is the arts that bridge the town’s unique past to its spirituality. Modern New Harmony has three labyrinths, and its famous Roofless Church on West Street—a sculpture dedicated in 1960—casts a shadow reminiscent of a full-blown rose, the symbol of the Harmonists. Also among the must-sees: The Working Men’s Institute (407 W. Tavern St., 812-682-4806), an Owenite community library and now the public library for the town of New Harmony, and Fragrant Farms (413 Woods Lane, 812-682-4406), the 24-acre peony farm and vineyard of Jane Owen, Robert Owen’s great-great-great daughter-in-law and the benefactor of many of the town’s treasures. (Known reverently around town as “Mrs. Owen,” you couldn't miss her in her baby-blue golf cart.) [Editor's Note: Jane Owen passed away in June 2010, leaving behind an amazing legacy.]
At the Church Street Gallery & Coffee House (500 Church St., 812-682-3274), offerings from local, national, and international artists line the walls. New Harmony’s destination restaurant is The Red Geranium (504 North St., 812-682-4431), where steaks and seafood appear on the menu alongside such local favorites as Mrs. Owen’s Black Bean Soup.
The New Harmony Inn (504 North St., 812-682-4491), a 125-acre hotel property featuring two chapels and miles of walking trails, offers 90 modern hotel rooms as well as guest houses dating to Harmonist times. Many of the rooms overlook the Wabash River, but on a moonless night in New Harmony, you can look out from a hotel balcony and see a most uplifting sight: nothing at all. —Amy Wimmer Schwarb
>> SIDE TRIP: Twenty-two miles from New Harmony, Posey County’s Twin Swamps features the same bald cypress trees found in the Florida Everglades. A hiking trail and boardwalk make meager attempts to keep you out of the mud (though you should bring along your waterproof boots), and the birds who frequent these areas aren’t your standard robins and cardinals. At State Road 69 South and County Road 300 West.
(Miles away: 221; Population: 32,771)
Known for its antiques shops, this northeastern Illinois town also has a blossoming reputation for crowd-pleasing stage shows. At the classic vaudeville house Arcada (105 E. Main St., 630-587-8400), you’ll catch the likes of Jerry Lewis and Wayne Newton, while Steel Beam (111 W. Main St., 630-587-8521) puts on children’s shows such as Thumbelina as well as adult plays such as Doubt.
For less-cerebral entertainment, take in the Fox River, which threads through the heart of downtown. From Pottawatomie Park, you can hop on one of two paddlewheel riverboats and take in a lazy four-mile loop of the showpiece waterway.
From the park, it’s a short walk east to Town House Books (105 N. 2nd Ave., 630-584-8600), a rare bookstore where clerks’ recommendations trump whatever the big publishing houses are pushing. Across the street sits the historic Hotel Baker (100 W. Main St., 630-584-2100), once considered among the finest examples of Spanish/Moroccan architecture in the United States. Room rates start at $109 per night at Pheasant Run Resort (4051 E. Main St., 630-584-6300). Here, comedy troupe Noble Fool puts on Off-Broadway musicals and comedy revues to packed houses. Take in a show and then indulge in one of the area restaurants, such as the warm, contemporary Sage Bistro (1 W. Illinois St., 630-444-3555). Try the grilled oysters and a flight of three Bell’s beers. Or drive the winding four miles to Al Capone’s Hideaway (35W337 Riverside Dr., 847-741-1244). Locals swear by its large portions and stiff drinks. Time the drive just right, and you’ll get a picturesque view of a river-reflected sunset on the way. —Cassie Walker
>> SIDE TRIP: Three major bike trails intersect the Fox Valley. Rent a bike at Mill Race Cyclery in nearby Geneva. The shop sits on the Fox River Trail, which weaves its way up to Wisconsin. Another option is the Great Western Trail, an 18-mile rail-trail that runs through rural parts of the Chicago suburbs. 11 E. State St., Geneva, 630-232-2833.
(Miles away: 133; Population: 13,936)
Visitors to Jasper will immediately sense its German heritage. There’s a maypole next to the nearly 100-year-old Renaissance Revival–style courthouse, and many of the street names are German. And then there is the St. Joseph Catholic Church (1029 Kundek St., 812-482-1805)—a Romanesque, Old World–style church completed in 1880 and featuring German stained-glass windows and Austrian mosaics. Visitors can tour both the church and the tower. The Providence Home Geode Grotto (520 W. 9th St., 812-482-6603), built in the 1960s and 1970s as the spiritual vision of Father Philip Ottavi, is as captivating as it is quirky—a sprawling religious shrine made of sparkle-encrusted creek rocks.
A pair of bed and breakfasts—The Powers Inn (325 W. 6th St., 812-482-3018), built in the 1880s, and The Verkamp Inn (209 E. 6th St., 812-630-4455)—are both within walking distance of Jasper’s downtown square. Another local highlight, The Patoka River, is home to a replica of Eckert Mill (currently under construction) and the Jasper Riverwalk. This lighted asphalt trail stretches 2.1 miles and features a gazebo—the site of concerts throughout the warmer months. For lederhosen-preferred entertainment, the four-day Strassenfest usually takes place the first weekend in August. When you’re good and hungry, try The Chicken Place (4970 W. State Rd. 56, 812-482-7600) in nearby Ireland, or the Schnitzelbank Restaurant (393 Third Ave., 812-482-2640); local allegiance is split. The former is on the rustic side and has (as the name suggests) a limited menu, while the Schnitz specializes in German goodies—like wursts and schnitzels—in addition to chicken. —Michael Rubino
>> SIDE TRIP: The Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari theme park in nearby Santa Claus features a trio of bone-jamming wooden coasters that have drawn generations of visitors, but you will have a smoother time in the newer adjacent 25-acre water park, which has slides galore, a pair of “action rivers,” and two wave pools. 425 E. Christmas Rd., Santa Claus, 812-937-4401.
(Miles away: 164; Population: 250)
As it curves around Michigan’s southwestern shoreline, the Red Arrow Highway strings together a puka-shell necklace of rugged little beach towns. There are trendy New Buffalo and scenic St. Joseph, for instance—but Lakeside, Michigan, with its laid-back vibe and driftwood beaches, gets the vote for effortless charm. The summertime haven fills up with summer guests bicycling along Lakeshore Road and the dirt-paved side streets and hiking down the cliffs to beaches that have deer tracks right up to the water’s edge in the morning and bonfire parties in the evening.
Antiques dealers have set up shop along the main drag. You can find crystal chandeliers and French flea-market treasures neatly stacked and arranged in the cluster of red barns that make up Lakeside Antique Center (14876 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-7717). Just down the road, Charm Cottage (14906 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-4100) offers handpicked keepers from estate sales and farm auctions. Vine-covered Lovell & Whyte (14590 Lakeside Rd., 269-469-5900) has turned the old 1920s general store/post office into a fine boutique for high-end collectibles, while It’s a Breeze (15300 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-6671) could outfit a chic beach house in Taylor Scott sofas. (Contemplate your major purchase in the Wilkinson Heritage Museum, which occupies just one room adjacent to the shop but does a fine job of telling the town’s story.) Judi and Tom Burnison, owners of tony Burnison Galleries (15460 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-1141), can fill you in on the rest at their monthly openings during the summer.
Even if you’re not in the market for a coffee table made from reclaimed barn wood or a new floor of planks salvaged from the old Sears & Roebuck warehouse in Chicago, Hearthwoods Cottage Design (15310 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-5551) merits a stop. Equally impressive are the rough-cut beauties (like a belt buckle encrusted in Burmese rubies and a chunky necklace of amethyst, smoky quartz, aquamarine, and lemon citrine on a delicate silver wire) at Abigail Heche, Ltd. (14866 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-0447).
If you miss breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe (15288 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-2370), where the summer crowd lines up out the door for French toast and Chi-Town Skillets, fuel up at the Whistle Stop (15700 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-6700), a gourmet market where full-time chef Stephanie Schifrin-Salas stocks the deli case with restaurant-quality picnic items that she makes from scratch (try the summer asparagus salad) and sandwiches stacked with meats roasted on-site. Dinner at the Red Arrow Roadhouse (15710 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-3939) is a must, especially on weeknights after Labor Day and before Memorial Day, when chef/owner Tim Trout offers almost every entree on the menu at a discounted $9.
You won’t find a single motel chain in the town limits, but rather a series of cabins with screened porches (a must during Michigan’s mosquito season) and access to private deeded beaches. That includes Sally and Tom Hughe’s Cottages (14725 Lakeshore Rd., 269-469-9813), a pair of tiny homes furnished with nubby boucle bedspreads and farm sinks. For more stately digs, The Lakeside Inn (15251 Lakeshore Rd., 269-469-0600) feels like a piece of local history, having lived many lives—as a roadside stop for weary travelers, an artists’ retreat, and now a 31-room inn—since Vermont transplant Alfred Ames built the first cabin on the property in 1844. Stay there to slumber with the ghosts of Lakeside’s past (quite literally, some spook-hunters say), or check into one of the dog-friendly cabins at White Rabbit Inn (14634 Red Arrow Hwy., 269-469-4620), where owner A.J. Boggio, a former news cameraman, chats up guests over a complimentary breakfast of local pastries and organic coffee. He will even provide some tips for enjoying your stay in Lakeside, like putting your name on “the list” at the Whistle Stop for a coveted copy of the Sunday New York Times, while telling you, with a wink, “People come here to get away from it all.” —Julia Spalding
>> SIDE TRIP: Worth the two-hour drive northeast across I-96, the new and stunningly attractive Grand Rapids Art Museum, designed by architect Kulapat Yantrasast, is a work of art in itself, filled with smooth concrete planes. It also happens to be the world’s first LEED Gold–certified art museum. Check out this summer’s Calder exhibit. 101 Monroe Center, Grand Rapids, 616-831-1000.
(Miles away: 134; Population: 3,609)
Incense wafts out the screen door of almost every shop in Yellow Springs, Ohio, along with the carefree melodies of the Grateful Dead. You won’t find many chain businesses here—activists at Antioch College have been running them out of town for 150 years. And while the storied college closed last year, Yellow Springs retains a bohemian charm found in few places between Berkeley and Ithaca. After you drop off your bags at Arthur Morgan House (120 W. Limestone St., 937-767-1761), a friendly B&B in the heart of town, or Grinnell Mill (3536 Bryan Park Rd., 937-767-9108), a 198-year-old restored mill with just two bedrooms, hit Xenia Avenue and get lost in the heady selection of metaphysics, world religion, and graphic novels at Dark Star Books (237 Xenia Ave., 937-767-9400). Choose a bottle from the generous stock at Emporium Wines (233 Xenia Ave., 937-767-7077), and then sit outside and watch the graybeards go by.
Peach’s Grill (104 Xenia Ave., 937-767-4850) serves a gooey patty melt on marbled rye, which you can burn off on the adjacent Little Miami Scenic Trail; if you’re feeling adventurous, you can bike it almost 60 miles south. The less athletic will ride north to the nearby Glen Helen Nature Preserve (937-769-1902), where you’ll find the natural spring that gave the town its name. Hippie-chic eatery The Winds Cafe (215 Xenia Ave., 937-767-1144) offers a rotating menu of hyper-local dishes. For an after-dinner drink, amble over to Ye Olde Trail Tavern (228 Xenia Ave., 937-767-7448). Sign a dollar bill, add it to the wall of them in this 162-year-old watering hole, and live in infamy. —Daniel S. Comiskey
>> SIDE TRIP: One of the most spectacular nature preserves in the Midwest, John Bryan State Park on State Route 370—less than three miles from downtown Yellow Springs— boasts a 130-foot limestone gorge cut by the Little Miami River. Not only is the setting picture perfect, but the hiking, rock-climbing, and stream fishing rival anything else in the region. 3790 State Route 370, 937-767-1274.
(Miles away: 103; Population: 1,735)
Visitors to Switzerland County’s Vevay (that’s pronounced VEE-vee, outsider) can choose between a stay at the Schenck Mansion Bed & Breakfast (206 W. Turnpike St., 812-427-2787), the 12,000-square-foot country estate that overlooks downtown, and the historic Rosemont Inn (806 W. Market St., 812-427-3050), with its Ohio River views.
On Main Street, local and regional artists display their work at Signatures gallery (120 W. Main St., 812-427-2024), and Amish Goods (114 W. Main St., 812-427-2143) offers handmade items produced by the Amish community that lives just outside Vevay. The Julia Knox House Gift Shop (206 E. Main St., 812-427-3338), named after a beloved former schoolteacher in the town, stocks candles, pottery, scrapbooking materials, wine, and homemade jams and jellies.
Rural roads wind through rolling hills and past unexpected finds—such as the Moorefield Market (805 Hwy. 129, 812-427-3970), an old-fashioned general store. At Red Barn Farms (114 Caledonia Rd., 812-427-9820), owner Lou Cougill invites visi- tors to interact with his standard and miniature donkeys, including some that have won Best of Show at the Indiana State Fair. Enjoy the taste of Vevay vineyards while lounging by the Ohio at The Ridge Winery Tasting Room (298 State Rd. 156, 812-427-3380)—but don’t miss the sweet-potato fries dusted with powdered sugar at GG’s Grill (309 Ferry St., 812-427-9121). For the true small-town experience, hit AJ’s Diner (122 W. Main St., 812-427-3540) for a cup of coffee and a slice of pie in the afternoon. —Amy Wimmer Schwarb
>> SIDE TRIP: After a day or two of languishing on the river, add a little zip to your life at nearby Dagaz Acres. Attach yourself to a safety harness and soar more than 100 feet from the forest floor as a zipline races you across the 23-acre facility. 42 Antioch Rd., Rising Sun, 812-594-2727.
(Miles away: 154; Population: 11,150)
Settled in the late 1700s, Bardstown, Kentucky, is a remnant of early westward expansion, when fortune-seekers—many of whom grew corn and distilled it into whiskey—began putting down stakes across the Alleghenies. Their legacy is the Bourbon Trail. And Bardstown, self-proclaimed “Bourbon Capital of the World,” is in the heart of it.
With an impressive cache of Federal-style architecture, this tidy hamlet brims with historic buildings scattered around a town center of tasteful boutiques and cafes. The Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral (310 W. Stephen Foster Ave., 502-348-3126), consecrated in 1819, stands as the oldest Catholic cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History (114 N. Fifth St., 502-348-2999) has a letter signed by James Monroe and a Prohibition-era prescription for “medical” whiskey that recommends three tablespoons per day, plus “tipping as needed.” And the Civil War Museum of the Western Theatre (310 E. Broadway, 502-349-0291) is the fourth-largest in the country, even housing a cannon used by Indianapolis drugmaker Eli Lilly.
Cool off with a hand-dipped malt at the soda fountain in Hurst Discount Drugs (102 N. Third St., 502-348-9261). Or fill up at Mammy’s Kitchen (114 N. Third St., 502-350-1097), a funky country cafe that serves tasty sandwiches—pimento-cheese spread is a local specialty—and housemade pie. In the elegantly restored Chapeze House (107 E. Stephen Foster Ave., 800-704-4917), Colonel Michael Masters—a Southern-hospitality expert who has appeared on the Food Network—hostseservation-only bourbon tastings and pours mint juleps that put the Derby’s to shame. Two whiskey operators are located in town, including the Tom Moore Distillery (300 Barton Rd., 502-348-3774). Its tour, a two-hour foray through an industrial operation, should appeal to true disciples. The more tourist-friendly Heaven Hill Distilleries Bourbon Heritage Center (1311 Gilkey Run Rd., 502-337-1000) begins in a sleek interpretive museum named “Visitors Attraction of the Year” by Whiskey Magazine. On the way, dutiful tourists stop at My Old Kentucky Home (501 E. Stephen Foster Ave., 800-323-7803). As legend has it, the Federal-style mansion inspired songwriter Stephen Foster to pen his famous song.
Bed and breakfasts Rosemark Haven (714 N. Third St., 502-348-8218) and Shadowlawn (216 W. Flaget Ave., 502-331-9588) are both in the National Register of Historic Places. Popular among ghost-seekers is the Old Talbott Tavern (107 W. Stephen Foster Ave., 502-348-3494), a rustic stone inn that has operated continuously since 1779 and is said to have hosted Washington Irving and Abraham Lincoln. —Evan West
>> SIDE TRIP: Approximately 15 miles northwest of Bardstown, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest is a 14,000-acre tract of gardens and wildlife preserve first set aside in 1929. The park has 35 miles of trails and is home to the largest collection of American holly plants in North America, as well as a stunning assortment of wildflowers and more than 250 species of birds. Off I-65 at exit 112, Clermont, 502-955-8512.
(Miles away: 207; Population: 117,090)
Abraham Lincoln invented Springfield, Illinois, a city that thrives on politics and tourism. Lincoln introduced the first in 1839, when he helped move the state capital to Springfield—and the second came naturally afterward. For the most presidential experience, settle in at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel & Conference Center (701 E. Adams St., 217-544-8800). Ask about the $200 Lincoln Bicentennial Package, and request a map of the city’s historic sites, such as the Old State Capitol (6th and Adams streets, 217-785-7960) and Lincoln’s law office (southwest corner of 6th and Adams, 217-785-7289).
Fuel up at the popular restaurant Augie’s Front Burner (109 S. 5th St., 217-544-6979) before exploring the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum (212 N. Sixth St., 800-610-2094). Folks who insist on “authentic” history need only stroll over to the meticulously maintained Lincoln Home National Historic Site (426 S. 7th St., 217-391-3226), where Lincoln and his wife, Mary, raised their family.
Springfield has several other worthy stops, such as the home of the vagabond poet Vachel Lindsay (603 S. 5th St., 217-524-0901) and Frank Lloyd Wright’s stunning Dana-Thomas House (301 E. Lawrence Ave., 217-782-6776). But a fitting way to conclude your visit is to stop at the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery (1500 Monument Ave., 217-782-2717). Rubbed to a gloss by generations of visitors, the shiny nose on the bust of Lincoln outside the tomb (by the sculptor who created Mount Rushmore) attests to the fondness people feel for the man buried here 144 years ago.—Geoffrey Johnson
>> SIDE TRIP: Twenty miles northwest of Springfield, the New Salem State Historic Site is a faithful and engaging 1830s re-creation of the frontier village where Lincoln managed two general stores (into the ground), first ran for political office, and embarked on his legal career. 15588 History Lane, Petersburg, 217-632-4000.
Lead photo of Emery's in Corydon, Indiana, by Tony Valainis. Other photo credits noted where they appear here.
This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue.
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved.