50 Things Every Hoosier Must Do!

Think you’re a real Hoosier? Size up your experiences against our list of the places you must go, food you must eat, and sights you must see before you can truly call yourself a child of Indiana.

Editor’s Note: Some dates, times, and features have changed.

No. 1 — Sit at the counter at Zaharakos

At this 110-year-old marble palace, the sundaes are hand-dipped and cherry-topped. But what makes this Columbus institution really sweet is the counter-side charm of Wilma Hare and her fellow soda jerks, who will pull you an ice cream soda the way it was in 1900 and serve it with a side of sass: “When that ice cream hits the carbonation, it will explode like a volcano. And I will laugh at the look of panic on your face.” All you need to do is poke the paper straw through the layers of fizz and cream and, quickly now, start slurping! 329 Washington St., Columbus, 812-378-1900, zaharakos.com



No. 2 — Enjoy sugar cream pie

This humble Quaker confection is said to have originated in Indiana in the early 1800s. Have a slice at Winchester’s Wick’s Pies, where they’ve been churning out the treat for more than 60 years—or have a case shipped to your door. 217 Greenville Ave., Winchester, 800-642-5880, wickspies.com

No. 3 — Sip XXX Root Beer

Triple XXX originated in Texas in the early 1900s. And though once a national chain, only two Triple XXX restaurants remain. One is in West Lafayette, where it is the sole owner of the trademark and uses the syrup as it was invented. Only here can you enjoy the original recipe in a frosty mug or bottle. State Rd. 26 W & Salisbury St., West Lafayette, 765-743-5373, triplexxxfamilyrestaurant.com

No. 4 — Order ice cream at Ivanhoe’s

Take a roadtrip to Ivanhoe’s Drive-In in Upland to sample one (or more) of 100 shake and sundae flavors. The list on the wall is numbered, but order your Chocolate Chip Smash Surprise sundae or Strawberry Cookie Banana shake by name; even the staff can’t memorize all the combos. 979 S. Main St., Upland, 765-998-7261, ivanhoes.info

No. 5 — Eat persimmon pudding

Southerners may claim it as their own, but this holiday staple is a Hoosier tradition thanks to wild persimmon trees in the southern part of the state. To taste this tricky classic done right, visit Spring Mill Inn in Mitchell for a sweet-and-tart bite. Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell, 812-849-4081

No. 6 — Tailgate at Bonge’s

Bonge’s Tavern draws crowds to Perkinsville from near and far with its party-like atmosphere outside—guests show up hours early, coolers in tow, to hang out before being called in for dinner. Once inside, the friendly service and bacon-wrapped Harger duck remind you exactly why you were waiting. 9830 W. 280 N, Perkinsville, 765-734-1625

No. 7 — Try the St. Elmo shrimp cocktail

So simple and yet so powerful. Sit in the bar, watch the city’s movers and shakers pass by, and keep a stiff drink handy to put out the fire. 127 S. Illinois St., 317-635-0636, stelmos.com

No. 8 — Savor Shapiro’s corned beef

Picture thick slices of corned beef piled taller than your fist between two soft pieces of rye bread. And although there may be some debate, Swiss and a smattering of yellow mustard are all the accompaniment you’ll need with this meaty, salty treat. 808 S. Meridian St., 631-4041; 918 S. Range Line Rd., Carmel, 317-573-3354


No. 9 — Brave the toboggan at Pokagon State Park

There are many sound reasons to visit Pokagon. Hurling yourself down a quarter-mile of concrete and ice at 35–40 mph is not one of them. Do it anyway. 450 Lane 100 Lake James, Angola, 260-833-2012, potawatomiinn.dnr.state.in.us

No. 10 — Don your Lederhosen in Jasper

Jasper’s annual four-day summer Strassenfest features a sprawling biergarten, oom-pa-pa-lapping polka bands, and the best wurst around. Hoist a stein at the home-brew contest. One sip and you’ll feel like you’re in Bavaria. Aug. 5-8. jasperstrassenfest.org

No. 11 — Catch the halftime band contest at the Classic

Halftime is actually game-time at the Circle City Classic. The nation’s best high-stepping marching bands go toe-to-toe with every bit of the intensity of the gridders. With names like the “Sonic Boom of the South” (Jackson State) and the “Marching Storm” (Prairie View A&M University), you know they mean business. Held annually in October, circlecityclassic.com

No. 12 — Drive under Avon’s “haunted Bridge”

Spooky screams and moans abound around this 100-year-old railroad bridge spanning County Road 625 East and White Lick Creek. Is it an engineer who died in the structure’s construction? A train-goer who jumped to his death? An unwed mother who met her fate on the tracks? Don’t stick around long enough to find out.

No. 13 — Take a turn in the Indiana Roof Ballroom

“The Roof” above the Indiana Repertory Theatre was designed to resemble a Spanish village at twilight. Its 8,700-square-foot circular dance floor has room enough for your two left feet and is open to the public several nights a year. 140 W. Washington St., 317-635-5252, irtlive.com

No. 14 — Stay the night at West Baden/French Lick

The rich once lounged in pools of medicinal mineral water, drank illicit booze, and gambled in the back rooms of rickety juke joints in this Southern Indiana resort area. Thanks to casino gaming, you can traipse around the two restored hotels like Al Capone, a frequent former guest. visitfrenchlickwestbaden.com

No. 15 — Pick your own Apples at Beasley’s in Danville

The Beasleys began selling crops grown in their garden from a little red wagon in the 1940s. They have since expanded to a Civil War–era barn, where produce and fresh baked goods are available for purchase. Apples, though, are the real draw here, with seven varieties at your fingertips. 2304 E. Main St., Danville, 317-745-4876, beasleys-orchard.com

No. 16 — Trace your Indiana roots

How Hoosier are you? It’s a good bet that the experts at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne can tell you. The genealogy center is brimming with printed volumes (350,000-plus), microfilm and microfiche (513,000 pieces), and access to powerful online databases. 900 Library Plaza, Fort Wayne, 260-421-1200, genealogycenter.org/Home.aspx 

No. 17 — Canoe down Sugar Creek

The most scenic stream in the state begins in Tipton County and winds 90 miles southwest into the Wabash River. Put your canoe in at Turkey Run State Park in Parke County, the “covered bridge capital of the world.” (You’ll glide beneath three of them on your trip.) 8121 E. Park Rd., Marshall, 765-597-2635

No. 18 — Shop local

To be a true Hoosier foodie, you have to do more than just dine at the state’s best eateries—you also better have a cupboard stocked with our finest packaged exports. Grocery list: Weaver Popcorn (Van Buren), Red Gold tomatoes and ketchup (Elwood), Three Floyds beer (Munster), and Clabber Girl baking powder (Terre Haute). And for the nightcap, try a bottle of wine from Bloomington’s Oliver Winery.

No. 19 — Dine in the Rathskeller’s Vonnegut Room

Soak up the writerly patina of this nook in the Athenaeum (designed by Kurt’s grandfather). The room is encased in dark paneling and stained glass, with a fireplace and a bust of the iconic novelist at the head of the communal table. 401 E. Michigan St., 317-636-0396

No. 20 — Do Brown County

Fiery fall foliage. Quaint Nashville streets. The Story Inn and the artist studios. Brown County has long been our place to take a breath, replenish the spirit, and snack on fried biscuits and apple butter. Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 10 N. Van Buren St., Nashville, 800-753-3255, browncounty.com


No. 21 — Take a lap around the track

There are a dizzying number of ways for regular folks to round the asphalt-iced bricks. Lean into Turn 1 on the Hall of Fame Museum Tour Bus, walk Fido through the short-chute in the annual Mutt Strut, leg the back straight in the Mini-Marathon, take the family van high into Turn 3 on Community Day, or, if you’ve got $499, cross the finish at 180 mph in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater.

No. 22 — Skip work to watch race practice

Dental appointment? Left the oven on? Errands to run in Speedway? Failing grandmother? Whatever you have to tell your boss to get out of that stuffy office and into a trackside lawn chair or bleacher, beer koozie in hand, to sit in the sun and watch the cars practice. And don’t guilt yourself into wasting a vacation day—in May, if the Speedway is open, it is every Hoosier’s right, nay, their civic duty, to be there.

No. 23 — Attend the Carb Day concert

The highlight of the Friday before the race, the Carb Day concert features decent bands (which have included ZZ Top, Kid Rock, and Stone Temple Pilots) and affordable admission (about $10). But the party is the real attraction: Tens of thousands of unwashed revelers (photos!) converging on the Speedway with beer-filled coolers to jump-start the weekend festivities. Gentlemen, start your (hiccup) engines!
>> See one IM intern’s hilarious first voyage to Carb Day here.

No. 24 — 
Watch the 500 Festival Parade

On the eve of race day, the Brickyard packs up its show and unleashes it on the streets of downtown Indy. The starting grid of drivers is joined by a cavalcade of celebrities, floats, balloons, and marching bands jamming in front of about 300,000 spectators. Street-side seats will cost you from $14.50 to $32, but you can set up your own camp in vacant spaces along the route to catch the second-greatest spectacle in racing.


No. 25 — Shoot the Breeze with Bobby Plump at his Broad Ripple bar

Fifty-six years after scoring one for the little guy, Plump is still frequently among the crowd at Plump’s Last Shot, where he always has a kind word for the rest of us little guys. 6416 Cornell Ave., 317-257-5867

No. 26 — Take a dip in a quarry hole

Many a Hoosier has memories of afternoons in stone-lined pools, remnants of our limestone-cutting heritage. And while many of them sit on private property, the abandoned quarry in Logansport’s France Park is open to swimmers throughout the summer. 4505 W. U.S. 24 West, Logansport, 574-753-2928

No. 27 — Hike the Knobstone Trail

Rugged terrain, sweeping landscapes, and outdoor adventure—in Indiana?! Believe it. The Knobstone Trail offers 58 continuous miles of hiking through the “knobs” of southeastern Indiana—prominent hills left from our ancient glacial past. knobstonetrail.net

No. 28 — Tour Columbus architecture

With six National Historic Landmarks and more than 60 distinguished buildings and monuments designed by the likes of Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, and Harry Weese, this small city is a modern design mecca. Columbus Area Visitors Center, 506 Fifth St., Columbus, 800-468-6564, columbus.in.us

No. 29 — Deal a game of Euchre

When everyone else picked up bridge in the early 1900s, Hoosiers stuck with euchre, and we have almost single-handedly kept the four-person card game alive in our kitchens, barns, dorm rooms, and neighborhood bars.

No. 30 — Visit Lincoln’s boyhood home

Our neighbors boast claims to the 16th president: Kentucky, his birthplace, and Illinois, his grave. But Abraham Lincoln spent his “formative years” (1816–1830), as we like to say, in Indiana. 2916 E. South St., Lincoln City, 812-937-4541

No. 31 — Sink the Biz at Nick’s

Many IU grads (and others who fell short) know the rules of this drinking game, played in Bloomington’s most iconic college bar. For the rest of you: A bucketful of beer sits on a table, floating a specially weighted glass. Players take turns pouring beer from their own glasses into the floating glass, trying not to overfill it. If one “sinks the Biz,” he retrieves it from the bottom of the bucket and downs it. 423 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, 812-332-4040

No. 32 — Go morel hunting

Long, agonizing periods of anticipation, punctuated by the brief bursts of ecstatic picking of this wild, rare delicacy. Morels usually appear next to elm trees and fencerows from mid-April to mid-June. But don’t expect any seasoned hunters to reveal their favorite spots.


No. 33 — Take in the view at Crown Hill

The grounds officially close at 8 p.m. during the summer, making it difficult to enjoy the monuments in the orange dusk. But as the season wanes, the obelisks and mausoleums cast long shadows earlier and earlier. Just before sunset, drive up to the top of Crown Hill to the grave of James Whitcomb Riley (No. XXII here around other Indiana notables), admire the 550-acre cemetery below, and take in the wide city skyline in the distance. Contemplate the gravesites until the light falls, as another author once said, on all the living and all the dead. 700 W. 38th St., 25-3800, crownhill.org

No. 34 — Gaze off the point at Hanover College

At the south end of the college, near Madison, lies a simple stone patio with a view of the Ohio River as wide as the campus itself. And as excellent as the instruction is at the school, we’re betting that when most graduates think back on their college years, it is of that humble terrace. Because the steep drop-off, snaking river, and foothills that spread and roll beyond compose a landscape as perfect as any trompe l’oeil taught in Art History 101. And you don’t need a degree to appreciate it. 359 E. LaGrange Rd., Hanover, hanover.edu

No. 35 — Ascend Mount Baldy at the Dunes

Trudge to the top of the 126-foot-high sand dune near Calumet known as Mount Baldy, and your reward is an endless view of Lake Michigan, nearly as blue as the Caribbean. With the exception of a coal-fired power plant in the distance to the east (think of it as a large sand castle), the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore below stretches out unspoiled for miles. Take in the sight of waves lapping against the beach until you’re no longer able to resist them. U.S. Highway 12, Michigan City, 219-926-7561, nps.gov/indu/planyourvisit/mt-baldy

No. 36 — Go up the Hickory Ridge fire tower

Spiking up through the canopy of the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area, the 110-foot-high tower hardly seems high enough to offer much perspective on the vast woods southeast of Bloomington. Make the ascent, however, and it will take your breath away in more ways than one. A 360-degree view of forested hills receding for miles in every direction is the perfect place to steal a kiss with your sweetheart. Just don’t count on alone time when the leaves turn in autumn. fs.fed.us/r9/hoosier/docs/history/lookout_twr.htm


No. 37 — Climb the Monument

Two bucks is a steal to ride the elevator to the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. But taking the stairs is priceless. The 331 steps wind around the elevator shaft, within the obelisk’s cool, ancient limestone walls. With all that way to go, it should be a slow, contemplative climb.

No. 38 — Catch “the Noodle” blues jam

Opened as the Tremont House in 1850, the Slippery Noodle Inn is older than the blues. But with live blues howling every night, it is the place to enjoy the trendy “new” music. Every Wednesday night, the stage is open to anyone with an instrument and a soul-sick sadness. BONUS, as of January 2012: It has now gone smoke free. 372 S. Meridian St., 317-631-6974, slipperynoodle.com

No. 39 — Sing along to John Mellencamp’s “Small Town”

Every one of the Seymour native’s songs seems rooted in the Indiana experience. But his 1985 classic about living and dying where people let you be just what you want to be hits home. For 25 years, it’s been our anthem:

No. 40 — Hunt for treasure at the Shipshewana Flea Market

More than 900 vendors peddling the wares you never knew you needed: dog clothes, lawn geese, flip-flops, and flip-up sunglasses. Or, for $1, you can enter Poor Ol’ George’s Fun Spot and meet Madam Louise, Bovine Fortune Teller. 345 S. Van Buren St., Shipshewana, 260-768-4129, tradingplaceamerica.com

No. 41 — Get your holiday cards postmarked in Santa Claus

Eleven months out of the year, the Santa Claus post office processes 13,000 pieces of mail. But between November 15 and December 20, this tiny outpost funnels about 500,000 pieces, each hand-stamped with the coveted Santa Claus postmark, designed by an area high-school student. You can package your cards and mail them to the postmaster, but true Hoosiers make the delivery in person. 45 N. Kringle Place, Santa Claus

No. 42 — Kiss James Dean’s tombstone

Step 1: Choose a lipstick shade. Step 2: Locate the gravesite in Fairmount’s Park Cemetery just north of town. Step 3: Pucker up. Step 4: Feel minimal guilt. You’re not really causing any damage. But please, please don’t chip off a piece of the stone for a souvenir.

No. 43 — Buy something Vera Bradley

Okay, so it’s not all actually made here anymore. Still, the collectible cotton baggage and accessories emblazoned in patterns like “Daisy Daisy” and “Frankly Scarlet” remain indelibly Indiana. verabradley.com


No. 44 — Party at the Little 500

Ladies and gentlemen, mount your bicycles. Or your SUVs, your horses, or whatever you require to get to Bloomington and join more than 25,000 who attend this annual bicycle relay. Mythologized in the movie Breaking Away, today even the Cutters carry IU student IDs—but you don’t have to have one to get into the biggest college kegger of the year. Events take place annually in April: Women’s and Men’s Little 500s. Bill Armstrong Stadium, 1601 N. Fee Lane, Bloomington, iusf.indiana.edu/little500/

No. 45 — Cover your eyes at the Speedrome

Ovals are for sissies. For race fans who want to see some real action (and a right-hand turn), there’s no better place than the World Figure 8 three-hour Enduro at the Indianapolis Speedrome. This world championship of figure-8 auto racing features 32 cars with the accelerators floored for 180 minutes, swerving in and around the 1/5-mile circuit, trying to avoid catastrophe as they crisscross traffic at center-track. Luckily, catastrophe is inevitable.
Held annually in September. Ticket costs vary. 802 S. Kitley Ave., 317-353-8206, speedrome.com

No. 46 — Tailgate with the clergy at a Notre Dame football game

Tailgating wasn’t invented at Notre Dame; it was canonized here. Light a candle at The Grotto near the Basilica of The Sacred Heart, catch a performance of the Notre Dame Glee Club on the Irish Green, and break bread with the locals, who are always quick with a brat and a beer. Toilet lines are long, and the odds are short that knocking back a shot of Jameson with Father So-and-So will earn you an indulgence for those horrible things you’re going to yell at the refs. Still, there’s no better way to spend a fall Saturday. Don’t believe? Touchdown Jesus says it’s good. 1600 Notre Dame Sq., Notre Dame. Game tickets: 574-631-7356, und.com

No. 47 — Watch the Monon Bell Classic

This is football in its purest form: stadium blankets, hot cocoa, chanting students, and non-scholarship athletes playing for glory and a 300-pound locomotive bell against a backdrop of ivy-covered buildings. Wabash College and DePauw University have been playing since 1890, and the numbers tell the story of how hotly contested the series is: Wabash has won 54 times to DePauw’s 53, with nine ties. Held annually in November. Hollett Little Giant Stadium, near the intersection of Grant Avenue and Jennison Street, Crawfordsville, 765-361-6100

No. 48 — See a boys sectional basketball game

Maybe the state’s passion for boys high-school basketball has waned since the bygone days of pre-class hoops. But the players’ zeal has not lessened one bit. If you doubt that sectional games still mean something to them, you obviously haven’t seen them diving on the floor for loose balls, hugging one another after a win, or crying when they lose. And at $5 a pop, at least the ticket price makes it feel like the good old days. ihsaa.org


No. 49 — Do the Indiana State Fair

This summer, for the 158th time, we will converge on the Fairgrounds for rides, games, music, livestock shows, and deep-fried treats. But the real attractions are the fairgoers themselves—an eclectic celebration of everything Hoosier. 2012 Indiana State Fair, August 3–19. Ticket prices vary, though children 5 and younger enter for free; see the State Fair website. Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E. 38th St., https://www.in.gov/statefair/fair/

No. 50 — Pick a favorite pork tenderloin sandwich



Written and reported by Beth A. Clayton, Daniel S. Comiskey, Megan Fernandez, Kelly Kendall, Alexa Koschier, Tony Rehagen, Michael Rubino, Julia Spalding, Evan West, and Amy Wimmer Schwarb

This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue. Get the digital edition here.