Joseph Decuis (say: dah-QUEEZE) is the name you’ll keep hearing over and over. Paying homage to a 1700s ancestor, the husband-and-wife team of Alice and Pete Eshelman—a former front-office guy for the New York Yankees—and Pete’s brother, Tim, established their multifaceted hospitality enterprise here after moving to Indiana from the East Coast in the 1980s. Converting an old downtown bank into a sleek private dining room for business entertaining in 1996, they made the restaurant public in 2000. Supplied with wagyu beef, Mangalitsa pork, free-range chicken, and fresh produce from the family farm mere miles away (available for tours, weddings, and events), the fine dining destination fully embodies the farm-to-fork concept. We recommend requesting a table in the conservatory or in the courtyard if the weather’s nice.
At lunchtime, the Joseph Decuis Emporium next door carries all the foodstuffs needed to assemble a perfect picnic and whips up sandwiches and other items to order. And at the end of the day, a branded pair of bed-and-breakfasts allow for a choice of accommodations in town or on the farm.
Roanoke’s collection of local retailers has boomed in recent years thanks to savvy investors and shopkeepers who realized a good opportunity when they saw it. A few country-cute vendors still exist against the backdrop of colorful murals and hometown events, like a juried art fair and a fall festival. But these days, visitors are often pleasantly surprised to discover fine art galleries, stylish clothing boutiques like Ritual by michelle marie and Peony & Rose, jewelry and quirky gift items at Paper Moon, Saving Grace’s restyled vintage furniture, and fragrant Lavender Valley Farms toiletries. Not every store is open daily. Double-checking hours online before you go is a smart move.
Break from the shopping action to refuel with dainty sandwiches and scones served beneath a sparkling chandelier at The Parker Grace Tea Room, sitting pretty inside a nicely reimagined consignment store. Those who prefer bourbon to tea can kick back with cocktails at The Copper Still on Cow Creek.
You’ve certainly stretched your legs by now. Exercise your arms by signing up for a canoe or kayak excursion hosted by Rustic River Outfitters at the Ole Sawmill on Salamonie Lake in nearby Mount Etna. Then cap off the entire trip with a toast and tasting at Two-EE’s Winery, founded by husband-and-wife team Eric and Emily Harris in 2013.
On the drive back to Indy, detour through Huntington and order up a true Indiana classic. Nick’s Kitchen claims to be the home of the OG Hoosier pork tenderloin, still made using founder Nick Freienstein’s early 1900s recipe.
DISTANCE FROM INDY: 110 miles
APPROXIMATE DRIVE TIME: 2 hours
VIBE: Small-town Main Street Americana
Roanoke Fall Festival, September 7–9
A Renaissance in Roanoke, October 14
French Lick Springs
Visitors who book accommodations at either resort enjoy access to both (with free trolleys running nonstop in between), including pools, restaurants, and spas that highlight signature mineral baths drawn from the underground natural springs, at one time reputed to heal all manner of physical and mental conditions. A screening of So Cold the River, a supernatural thriller based on Hoosier author Michael Koryta’s novel and filmed on-site here in 2020, serves as helpful background prior to a trip.
If you’re traveling with young kids, put Big Splash Adventure on the itinerary. Sitting on a hilltop across from the French Lick Resort, the 40,000-square-foot indoor water park with slides, a lazy river, and playground features (all under a retractable roof) ensures a good night’s sleep. For more subdued water adventures, make reservations for a nature cruise on Patoka Lake aboard the 60-passenger Patoka Voyager or the double-decker Patoka Pride. Excursions depart Wednesday mornings from the marina, rain or shine.
Back on dry land, day trips on the French Lick Scenic Railway through the Hoosier National Forest allow visitors to contemplate the stunning scenery. It’s also fun to feed the hungry resident deer, cows, and emus through the windows of your vehicle on a drive-thru safari at the Wilstem Wildlife Park in Paoli. Another outdoorsy highlight is golf. Duffers are drawn to this neck of the woods to swing their clubs on legendary regional courses designed by Pete Dye, Donald Ross, and Tom Bendelow.
Among French Lick’s quaint mom-and-pop shops, Bear Hollow Wood Carvers, Hinshaw Rock’n Gems, and Hen Pecked Primitives stand out, and a surprisingly diverse lineup of hometown eateries covers Mexican, Japanese, German, Hawaiian, and Caribbean cuisines. 1875: The Steakhouse at French Lick claims to have invented tomato juice, but we prefer to wash down our premium Angus beef, lobster mac and cheese, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes with the house Manhattan rimmed with crushed candied almonds instead. Pay tribute to hometown hero hoopster Larry Bird by ordering a Legendary Burger and admiring the memorabilia on the walls at 33 Brick Street. And before you roll out, belly up to the tasting bar at French Lick Winery/Spirits of French Lick to sample some of the local offerings. Cheers!
DISTANCE FROM INDY: 105 miles
APPROXIMATE DRIVE TIME: 2 hours
POPULATION: 1,739 French Lick, 485 West Baden
VIBE: A decadent resort getaway for couples or families
Although Shipshewana reverently honors and preserves its Amish customs, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s backwards or sleepy. Visitors are often surprised to glimpse members of the faith-based community using cellphones and iPads, riding e-bikes, and installing solar panels at their humble homesteads. Still, many eschew modern technology to varying degrees in favor of plainclothes fashions, horse-and-buggy transportation, and the pursuit of pastimes like quilting, singing, and analog games.
A stop at the immersive Menno-Hof Amish and Mennonite information center is the best way to get the lay of the land before setting out to explore. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays from May through the end of September, the sprawling outdoor Shipshewana Flea Market presents a picker’s paradise with more than 700 booths stocking all manner of merchandise. Themed maps make the whole event less overwhelming by helping shoppers beeline directly to antiques, furniture, clothing, baked goods, or farmhouse-chic decor.
Friendly local businesses line the streets of downtown Shipshewana, including the expansive Yoder’s Red Barn Shoppes. The four-story Davis Mercantile is home to more than 20 vendors and a 1906 Dentzel Carousel, but you’ll also want to take a leisurely country drive. The new self-guided Off the Beaten Path trail winds through some of the prettiest rural landscape in the region, passing dairy farms and murals.
Decidedly anti-keto, Shipshewana offers irresistible soft pretzels, cinnamon rolls, noodles, cheeses, jams, and other goodies. The Blue Gate Restaurant’s dizzyingly deep comfort food buffet includes 31 different varieties of pie. Das Dutchman Essenhaus hosts family-style dining and a similar smorgasbord in nearby Middlebury. Keep in mind, Shipshewana is a dry community. You’ll have to cruise over to LaGrange to find a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine.
Make a night of it by catching a show at the 1,500-seat Blue Gate Theatre Performing Arts Center before retiring to the Blue Gate Garden Inn to sleep off the carb coma. Cabins, Airbnbs, and cottage rentals expand the list of lodging options, including authentic Amish accommodations.
The 13-mile Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, which runs west from the Shipshewana trailhead to Middlebury and then down to Goshen, makes it possible to get a little fresh air and burn off a few calories. Feel free to bring your own bike or rent one. You can also snag a kayak or canoe and spend a few idyllic hours paddling away on Pigeon River.
DISTANCE FROM INDY: 170 miles
APPROXIMATE DRIVE TIME: 3 hours
VIBE: Relaxing opportunities to slow down and switch off
The Quilt Gardens throughout Bristol, Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, and Wakarusa
Throughout the community, eight house museums are open to the public and several more open by advance appointment, including a 19th-century saddle tree (the base of a horse saddle) factory and the office of a buggy horse doctor. The crown jewel of the historic district is Lanier Mansion with its Greek Revival architecture and formal gardens.
Downtown Madison is eminently walkable and lined with eateries and shops. Peruse the novels, novellas, and tomes at Village Lights Bookstore (and say hello to their cats, who all boast literary names), order up a delicious pizza and a microbrew at The Red Pepperoni, and top it all off with a cool treat from any of half a dozen ice cream shops. For more upscale dining, check out Red on Main or catch the mellow vibes at MAD LOVE eat + drink. Be sure to pop into the Historic Broadway Hotel & Tavern for a drink. Open since 1834, it claims to be the oldest tavern in the state. Lanthier Winery is located between West Main Street and the river. There you can enjoy a wine tasting in the cellar (note the “no wine snobs allowed” policy), peruse the art in The Loft Gallery, or stroll through the outdoor art gallery. Lanthier also make its own vodka and offers wine- and vodka-infused slushies.
For outdoor recreation, there are plenty of options for fishing the river, while nearby Clifty Falls State Park features seven waterfalls, gorges up to 70 feet deep, a nature center, and 10 hiking trails ranked in difficulty from easy to rugged. You can also hike the Heritage Trail from the town center to a hilltop for spectacular views of downtown Madison, the mighty Ohio River, and pastoral Kentucky on the opposite shore. Bike among the farmlands via the Ohio River Scenic Byway or blast up the river with Rockin’ Thunder River Tours, the only New Zealand–style jetboat tour in the Midwest.
To recover from your day and recharge for the next, check out The Chandler Hotel. Located in a former livery stable constructed around 1870, it has been reborn as a boutique hospitality space with a rooftop terrace, fitness room, spacious gathering areas, and a handful of elegant suites. Another historic property-turned-hotel is the Eagle Cotton Mill. The former mill was built in 1884 but is now a Fairfield Inn by Marriott hotel that’s located in the heart of downtown, just a short walk from the river. For a more classic experience, stay at the Riverboat Inn & Suites. Built in 1956, the hotel’s original charm is augmented by modern rooms, a bar, and sweeping views of the Ohio River from its ample patio and decks.
DISTANCE FROM INDY: 102 miles
APPROXIMATE DRIVE TIME: 1 hour, 45 minutes
VIBE: A charming river town brimming with history
Madison Ribberfest BBQ & Blues, August 18–19
Music at the Mansion, August 27
The town serves as a gateway to Brown County State Park. With almost 16,000 acres of steep-sloped hills, narrow ridges, and sheer ravines, the state park is Indiana’s largest. Some 20 miles of tree-lined roads make for brilliant drives through fall foliage, with numerous scenic vistas overlooking rolling forests below. Campgrounds, a dozen hiking trails, nationally recognized mountain bike terrain, guided horse rides, a nature center, and two lakes round out Nashville’s offerings for nature lovers.
Before gearing up for hikes and physical activities, head to Brozinni Pizzeria to carb-load on pizzas, pastas, calzones, and garlic knuckles. For a more deliberate dining experience, hit the restaurant at Artists Colony Inn. Hearty dishes of pot pies, country fried steak, and meatloaf are served within an early colonial setting that includes beamed ceilings and a large stone fireplace.
If you seek more relaxing experiences, stroll among a truly impressive array of galleries and studios, as well as numerous shops selling antiques, bikes, model trains, magic tricks, caramel corn, jewelry, old-fashioned candies, spices and jerkies, blown glass, leather goods, and toys.
In the evening, head to the Brown County Music Center, which attracts national acts like Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, The Drifters, and Melissa Etheridge.
Accommodation selections include country-cozy lodges and inns with plenty of bed-and-breakfast and cabin options. The Brown County Inn, just three blocks from downtown, has 99 rooms and two suites, a restaurant and bar, a pool pavilion, a garden, a children’s play area, and a sun deck. Or check into a tiny house offered by Getaway Brown County. These well-appointed, dog-friendly cabins come with everything you need, including queen beds or bunk beds, firewood, full bathrooms, and kitchenettes, all situated along a forested ridge a short drive from town.
Looking for more spirited fun? Head to Hard Truth Distilling Co. and taste their toasted coconut rum, cinnamon vodka, or sweet mash rye whiskey. Stay awhile on their 325-acre campus and take walking or ATV tours, enjoy a calendar full of musical acts, and visit the restaurant to dine on pulled pork barbecue nachos, brewer’s wings, and burgers, washed down with craft cocktails or beers from Hard Truth’s sister brewery, Quaff ON! Brewing Co.
For a relaxing, meditative experience, Harmony Tree Resorts is a nature retreat offering accommodations in suites, glamping tents, treehouses, and container cabins. Its Sycamore Saloon offers pizzas, burgers, craft brews, and live music, while the grounds include yard games, botanical and vegetable gardens, and a yoga meadow.
DISTANCE FROM INDY: 44 miles
APPROXIMATE DRIVE TIME: 1 hour
VIBE: Your gateway to indoor and outdoor adventures
Start at the Atheneum Visitors Center, a brilliant white modernist building standing starkly resolute against a verdant natural backdrop. It houses historic exhibits, shows an introductory film, and serves as the starting point for guided walking tours of historic structures. The spacious rooftop viewing deck affords beautiful views of the town, the river, and the surrounding countryside. Walking tours take about two hours, or you can rent golf carts to explore the town, which is less than one square mile in size.
Be sure to visit the two labyrinths, including a hedge maze built by the Harmonists in 1815 and the Cathedral Labyrinth built in 1998. These single-path archetypes are used for walking meditation and as sites for rituals and ceremonies.
Lodging is available at the New Harmony Inn Resort & Conference Center, which offers 90 rooms—many of which have balconies, walk-out patios, and lake views. There are also four historical guesthouses with private gardens. The Red Geranium Restaurant was established in 1964 and offers three distinctive dining rooms where steaks, bacon-wrapped filets, lamb chops, and seafood pasta are served. There’s also a full bar with a large fireplace, an extensive wine selection, and panoramic lake views.
The historic Yellow Tavern has an upscale saloon vibe and a menu filled with sandwiches, steaks, pizzas, and wraps. Save room for the homemade pies, bread pudding, and cheesecakes. Meanwhile, the delightfully quirky Sara’s Wine and Bier Bar is often described as New Harmony’s living room. There you can sip wine-based margaritas, sake bloody marys, mimosas, or local craft beers.
Nearby Harmonie State Park was once the home of Thomas Say, who is often considered the father of North American entomology. It was here that he first described the Say’s firefly, which became Indiana’s state insect in 2018. The site boasts several trails for hiking or mountain biking, a nature center, campgrounds, and two fishing ponds.
DISTANCE FROM INDY: 180 miles
APPROXIMATE DRIVE TIME: 3 hours
VIBE: The town that was almost utopia—twice
Kunstfest: Celebrating German Heritage and Art, September 16–17