Ready to Ramble: 92 Trips on Indiana Backroads
At a certain point near the completion of this, our compendium of fun fall drives around Indiana, we arrived at a crossroads, if you will. After months of combing the far reaches of the state—the small towns and remote stretches of countryside—and polling locals to reveal the undiscovered gems located thereabouts, we succumbed to a momentary spell of self-doubt. As we looked over all 142 travel destinations we had lined up for the package, we faced some tough questions.
“Did we maybe include too many quaint courthouse squares and painted autumn vistas?” we asked ourselves. “An overabundance of family recipes and home-cooked meals? An excessive number of cozy B&Bs in elegant historic homes? A preponderance of country markets and shops in rustic barns? More roadside curiosities and friendly, helpful folks than are necessary? Is there just—well, too darn much Hoosierama?”
The answer, of course, was obvious: No way!
So we kept in every stitch of that Hoosierama, with off-the-beaten-path finds in all 92 counties—meaning there’s something to do, see, eat, or buy no matter where in the state you might find yourself. So here’s to a safe and pleasant journey. And when you get there, you can tell ’em Indianapolis Monthly sent you.
Hoosier author Gene Stratton-Porter found peace and inspiration in the natural world. A visit to her old haunts in northeastern Indiana reveals why.
Limberlost Swamp Wetland Preserve, U.S. 27 and County R. 1200 S, Geneva
Homestyle breakfast and brunch done right (blueberry-peach French toast casserole, tomato-basil mac ’n’ bleu cheese, plum tea) in a rustic 1880s general store with a fishing-tackle shop and antiques for sale. Vegetarian- and vegan-friendly.
5310 S. 800 E-92, 260-625-5477
Video-gamers travel from far and wide to this cinderblock building in the cornfields outside of town for a world-class selection of new releases and vintage titles.
6103 S. Jonesville Rd., 812-669-1075
You’ve seen them from the road; now check out the towering turbines at Indiana’s first wind farm (once the largest in the United States) up close—and even touch a blade. By appointment.
Tour check-in at 706 E. 5th St., 765-884-2080, ext. 4
Montpelier Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Please. This rural racetrack is even older. Okay, so Indy had cars earlier: Montpelier didn’t switch from horses to autos until 1915. But Montpelier’s half-mile oval is still dirt, which flies fast and furious come Saturdays. Oct. 10 and 24.
700 S. Jefferson St., 765-728-8210
Dull’s Tree Farm
A charming country retreat just a short jaunt from Indy, with October pumpkin harvests and quaint 1800s cabins housing a B&B and a crafts-y gift shop.
1765 W. Blubaugh Ave., 765-325-2418
Back Roads of Brown County Fall Tour
With a self-guided map, you can lose yourself in the county’s celebrated boondocks without actually getting lost, while hitting the studios and workshops of painters, potters, weavers, and others.
Map online or at Brown County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 10 N. Van Buren St., Nashville, 800-753-3255
Delphi Opera House
Renowned 19th-century singer Marie Litta and poet James Whitcomb Riley performed at this elegant gem, recently restored to full glory and opened this past August. Check website for schedule.
109 S. Washington St., 765-564-4300
Cass County Dentzel Carousel
Hand-carved by famous craftsman Gustav Dentzel more than 100 years ago, the elaborate, colorful ride is one of only three of its kind in the United States still in operation.
1208 Riverside Dr., 574-753-8725
Rose Island Amusement Park ruins
Once a destination for ferry-riding leisure-seekers from Louisville, the attraction got swept away in the Ohio River flood of 1937. Trails traverse its ghostly, overgrown remains—a swimming pool here, a fountain there—in Charlestown State Park.
12500 State Rd. 62, 812-256-5600
Clay City Pottery
The small family-owned factory’s heavy, monochrome stoneware has Pottery Barn written all over it, except that you can buy it here at the onsite store (and watch how the artisans make it, much as they have since 1885). Tours by appointment.
510 E. 14th St., 812-939-2596
Dan the Man’s Taco Stand
Don’t be fooled by the name: This hole-in-the-wall serves more than Mexican. Townies swear by the burgers and sammies. Complete Dan the Man’s Challenge—a cheese-fries-and-taco–topped 16-ounce tenderloin (or one-pound steak) in 30 minutes or less—and get your name on the wall.
22 W. Main St., 765-379-3600
The most renowned of Southern Indiana’s various cave attractions, mainly because of its walkable terrain and curious and stunning formations.
400 E. State Rd. 64, 812-365-2705
Gasthof Amish Village
All the home cooking, craftsmanship, and horse-drawn buggies you want (or need), conveniently located in one visitor-friendly complex.
6659 E. Gasthof Village Rd., 812-486-2600
Great Crescent Brewery
On the banks of the Ohio, Great Crescent recently moved into an 1843 warehouse formerly used by the JW Gaff Distillery. The restaurant sources local products, including the pork for the linguica, a spicy housemade Portuguese sausage.
315 Importing St., 812-655-9079
The Last Supper Museum
Close to 2,200 items emblazoned with depictions of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, from jewelry to puzzles to wallpaper, collected in a home owned by a kindly couple. By appointment.
311 W. Walnut St., 812-662-9756
They were making pickles long before it became cool again—since 1921, to be exact. Visitors can tour the plant and sample the goods at an onsite pickle bar and then take home favorites, from Polish dills to hot cauliflower to sweet Hungarian pepper relish.
5686 State Rd. 1, 800-332-5461
On the edge of Muncie, the 1931 filling station is now a nostalgia stop, hangout, and restaurant with old-fashioned burgers and build-your-own sundaes.
9200 W. Jackson St., 765-759-3871
Spirit of Jasper
The Spirit of Jasper takes one of Indiana’s most scenic autumn cruises off-road.
Bonneyville Mill County Park
Indiana’s oldest continuously operating gristmill (1837) grinds flour and cornmeal for purchase onsite, in a pretty setting on the Little Elkhart River.
53373 County Rd. 131, 574-535-6458
Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary
Birders flock to the Indiana Audubon Society’s 700-acre forest and headquarters to peep colorful species like the yellow-breasted chat and indigo bunting.
3499 S. Bird Sanctuary Rd., 765-827-5109
Adrienne & Co. Donuts and Desserts
Glaze, icing, powder, sprinkles, drizzle, cream, and just about any other topping you might crave.
5801 U.S. 150, 812-923-0011
Coal Creek Country Store
A gourmet bulk-foods market with a deli and a down-home sensibility, carrying a deep stock of fine Wisconsin cheeses, lunchmeat, jellies and jams, salty snacks, and seasonal candies like maple nut clusters.
242 W. Bonebrake Rd., 765-294-4413
Metamora Museum of Oddities
Proprietor “Indiana Joe” shows off (and tells tales about) curiosities and artifacts gathered on adventures around the world, including a locally iconic 500-year-old wooden cross purported to have healing powers. By appointment.
1960 Main St., 812-583-6361
Rock Star Chili Cookoff at the Red Hot Car Show
What is it? If you have to ask, you might as well stay home. Oct. 10.
Lyles Station Historic School & Museum
In one of Indiana’s last remaining historic African-American pioneer settlements (1840s), this National Register of Historic Places site will be included in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, set to open in Washington, D.C., next year.
953 N. 500 W, 812-385-2534
Hi-Fi Stereo Shop
A vinyl-hunter’s haunt and throwback to 1960, the year the current (and original) owner opened for business, making this the oldest record store in the state.
111 S. Main St., 765-948-4533
The third-longest active wooden railroad span in the nation soars 2,307 feet across picturesque Richland Creek Valley in the hill country between Bloomfield and Solsberry.
County Road 480 E just south of County Road 390 N
White River Greenway and Forest Park/Morse Beach Trail
The county has more than 300 miles of trails, and these recent additions link Noblesville’s courthouse square with scenic Potter’s Bridge, Forest, and Morse parks. A nifty pocket map is available free at the Noblesville Visitors Center or in a mobile app.
839 Conner St., 848-3181
Jane Ross Reeves Octagon House
Built in 1879, the structure is one of a handful of historic octagonal houses still standing in the state—and also the most architecturally significant, having undergone no alterations save the inviting wraparound porch.
400 S. Railroad St., 765-445-0062
Ellen DeGeneres got a kick out of the name, airing the shop’s cheeky local TV commercial on her show, and the third-generation owners are in on the joke with a line of T-shirts. But there’s nothing funny about the flawless ’50s soda fountain, gourmet confectionary, and intoxicating retail wine selection.
115 E. Chestnut St., 812-738-3272
Golden calzones, gooey garlic rolls, and Sicilian-style pizza in a charming brick building that housed a doctor’s office in the 1890s.
5 S. Broadway St., 765-676-4171
New Castle Motorsports Park
Indy 500 winners Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon have raced on the one-mile track at this state-of-the-art karting facility.
5816 S. 125 W, 765-987-8090
Greentown Glass Museum
More than 2,000 colorful and kitschy pieces from the turn-of-the-century Indiana Tumbler and Goblet Company—popular with collectors—housed in the fetching red-tile-and-stucco city hall.
112 N. Meridian St., 765-507-0063
Purviance House B&B
In this 19th-century Italianate mansion, elegantly appointed period decor, the Beck Suite offers a luxurious king-size bed, fireplace, and whirlpool tub.
401 N. Jefferson St., Huntington
Conner Museum of Antique Printing
Stop the presses? Nope. These machines turned out the local paper in the 1850s and, remarkably, still spill ink for visitor demos.
2001 N. Ewing St., 812-522-2278
Making their way from as far north as Canada and south to Florida, noisy flocks of the majestic birds stop over each fall at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area for one of the state’s most anticipated ornithological phenomena. Peak viewing mid-October to mid-December.
5822 N. Fish and Wildlife Ln., 219-843-4841
PortlandListed in the National Register and known locally as “The Round House.”
806 E. Votaw St., Portland, 260-726-9616
The stately Greek Revival national historic landmark is billed as the “crown jewel” of Madison’s renowned historic district—and that’s saying something.
601 W. 1st St., 812-265-3526
Stream Cliff Herb Farm
You might while away the day at this old homestead, now a winery, tearoom, garden, crafters’ enclave, and retreat. This month: An Adventure in Wine hayride, Oct. 3; Quiet Meditation & Relaxation workshops, Oct. 3 and 10; candlelit dinner, Oct. 10; and Twigs & Sprigs cooking class, Oct. 17.
8225 S. 90 W, 812-346-5859
The Apple Works
If you plan one orchard visit this fall, make it this picturesque spread, if for no other reason than the ridiculous slices of homemade apple pie, as tall as they are wide.
8187 S. 250 W, 317-878-9317
Prairie Acres Farm Market and Restaurant
Called the “cutest little market in Indiana” by Midwest Living, this roadside stop offsets the health benefits of local produce with full-guilt treats like ice cream, jams, and jellies.
14387 N. Old Hwy. 41, 812-745-3207
Old Leesburg Mill
The 1905 granary got new life in 2013 with a renovation, coffee bar, deli, ice-cream counter, Amish bakery, and antiques shop.
100 S. Old State Rd. 15, 574-453-2253
Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Area
The largest nature preserve in Indiana with 11,794 acres of land, 529 acres of lakes, and 17 miles of flowing water, it’s an outdoorsman’s wet dream.
8310 E. 300 N, 260-367-2164
Albanese Candy Factory
Largest chocolate fountain. In the world.
5441 E. Lincoln Hwy., 855-272-3227
Heston Supper Club
Before food went frou-frou, what grownups used to eat on big nights out: succulent slow-roasted prime rib in two-pound cuts.
2003 E. 1000 N, 219-778-2938
Hoping to cash in on the county’s reputation as the Limestone Capital of the World in the 1970s, locals undertook a tourism project but got no further than building the base (still standing) of a scale replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Less than 1 mile south of town at dead end of Old Highway 37
The World’s Largest Ball of Paint
A Guinness Book record-holder, the very definition of “roadside attraction,” and inspirational proof of what 38 years of dedication can do to a baseball. By appointment.
10696 N. 200 W, 765-724-4088
Past the point where Mass Ave ceases to be fashionable, on the post-industrial east side, Chuck’s is a kind of living-history museum of grocery shopping before supermarkets. Behind the deli counter, attendants slice off old-timey luncheon meats like pimento loaf, hot head cheese, and liver cheese.
5209 Massachusetts Ave., 545-8896
Chief Menominee Monument
A striking century-old homage to the leader of the Potawatomi Indians of Indiana—ancestors of all-time-great athlete Jim Thorpe—marks the start of a historic route tracing the Trail of Death, by which the people were forcibly displaced to Kansas in 1838.
Peach Road 6 miles north of town, 574-936-2306
Located at a pull-off northwest of town (look for the sign), and just a little ways back in the woods, the mysterious 60-foot column is the largest freestanding table-rock formation east of the Mississippi.
U.S. 50 and Albright Ln., 812-789-5048
Grissom Air Museum
Like a scaled-down, open-air version of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, northern Indiana’s tribute to military aviation fields a brawny lineup of historic warbirds, including a freshly painted (and totally wicked) F-4 Phantom fighter. And if you need to cool your jets, the staff might let you wash one of these babies.
1000 W. Hoosier Blvd., 765-689-8011
Fourwinds Resort & Marina
It’s a popular summertime spot, but one can hardly imagine a better vantage for fall leaf-peeping than afloat on Lake Monroe, surrounded by its rugged environs (boat rentals available at the marina). If you must swim, use the hotel’s heated indoor/outdoor pool.
9301 S. Fairfax Rd., 812-824-2628
Rotary Jail Museum
A miracle of oldfangled mechanics, the entire two-story cell block in this 1882 lockup turns, the only one of its kind in the country that still does.
225 N. Washington St., 765-362-5222
Built in 1939 by amateur astronomer and Indy surgeon Dr. Goethe Link, the domed structure and its 36-inch-diameter aperture/mirror telescope are a throwback to midcentury stargazing—which the public may try each month. Public astronomy lecture Oct. 17, 8 p.m.; telescope observation 9:30–11 p.m.
8403 Observatory Rd., 317-709-1710
Old Colonial Inn
White-tablecloth fine dining in the clubby, wood-paneled confines of a historic hotel on the courthouse square, with lobster, filet mignon, pork shank, walleyed pike, and other classics. Reservations preferred.
216 N. Third St., 219-474-6774
Kimmell House Inn Bed and Breakfast
The elegant Victorian mansion turned refined B&B serves high tea with buttermilk scones and finger sandwiches.
1397 N. U.S. 33, 260-635-2193
Mac’s Seaplane Service
Take a half-hour or hour-long tour of Ohio River country in a vintage 1949 Cessna.
308 S. Front St., 515-509-7027
French Lick Springs Hotel and Casino
Experience an autumn jaunt on the Spirit of Jasper in a ride-and-dine from neighboring Dubois County.
Cataract General Store
CataractFeatured on the cover of our October Issue, the Cataract General Store is the quintessential cute country store in Indiana.
2799 S. Cataract Rd., 765-795-4782
A remote roadside attraction cluttered with rusted farm implements, folk art, and bric-a-brac, and a favorite stop-and-click spot for roaming shutterbugs.
South of town on English Road, just north of County Road 800 N, 765-498-3052 W
Christ of the Ohio
The 19-foot statue, a local boaters’ beacon and icon, enjoys a breathtaking river view from a high bluff—which you can take in for yourself with a visit to the local park where it stands.
Two blocks east of State Road 545 on Market, at the dead end.
Take a load off in a rocking chair at this classic country store, chosen as one of Indiana’s “cutest.”
8400 W. State Rd. 65, 812-354-2919
Chesterton’s European Market
A deluxe farmers market in the heart of Dunes country hawking fresh-baked bread, boutique-creamery cheeses, ethnic delicacies, spices, and goods ranging from rare books to artisan jewelry.
Corner of Broadway and 3rd streets, 219-926-5513
Jim Buchanan, a British artist-in-residence, worked with five University of Southern Indiana students to build this intriguing piece of contemporary art—described as a “labyrinth of light”—in Weber Cabin, a nondescript pioneer home in the historic village. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Corner of North and West streets, 812-682-3156
Leisurely, meandering trips through Tippecanoe River State Park. But when you’re in the boat, just be careful not to—well, you know.
2111 E. 250 N, 574-946-4137
Edna Collins Bridge
According to local legend, a girl drowned in Little Walnut Creek below the covered bridge, and if you park at night and honk three times, her ghost might make an appearance.
Intersection of W. 450 N and N. 690 W.
The Chocolate Moose
A beloved little malt shop and diner with a checkered floor, big gooey sundaes (served in real glasses), and third-pound burgers.
101 N. Main St., 765-468-7731
Stone arch bridges
Handcrafted with river rock and blue limestone in the late 1800s, the county’s handsome stone bridges are some of the finest (and few still in use) in the state.
Maps at Ripley County Welcome Center, 220 E. U.S. 50, Versailles, 888-747-5394
Moscow Covered Bridge
Known for their luxurious scrollwork and white paint, bridges designed by the locally notable Kennedy family of builders dot the county. This, one of the finer examples, was painstakingly reconstructed after being destroyed by a tornado.
A few miles west of town at W. 900 S and the Flatrock River, 765-932-2492
Ross Country Jamboree
Local and nationally touring country-music acts perform in a restored 1947 movie house that feels like a smaller Grand Ole Opry. Schedule: Ronnie McDowell, Oct. 3; Rocking Terry Lee, Oct. 9; Natalie Berry, Oct. 10; Gospel with Maisy, Oct. 16; Kinmans, Oct. 17. 31
E. Wardell St., 812-752-8877
The Cow Palace
The town’s best-known attraction, for obvious reasons (crispy-fried burgers, creamy ice cream, thick milkshakes, etc.).
318 N. Harrison St., 392-4889
Trained guides lead visitors on horseback and pony rides along wooded trails.
6709 E. 1450 N, 812-340-2288
The Inn at the Old Republic
Fans of the 1989 Christmas movie Prancer will recognize this storybook mansion and B&B.
304 E. Michigan St., 574-654-3897
Starke County Courthouse
The castle-like 1897 landmark is one of only a few in Indiana that still allows visitors to climb the tower, 157 steps high, for a fantastic view of the town and countryside.
53 E. Washington St., 574-772-9146
Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve
Guided tours give close encounters with the magnificent animals, and visitors can overnight in the log bed-and-breakfast, a 16-foot teepee, or a safari tent in the middle of the pasture.
6975 N. Ray St., 260-495-0137
Mimi’s Bakery and Cafe
This sweet little family-run shop makes big, sticky cinnamon rolls, quadruple-decker chocolate-chip cookie cakes, and rib-sticking lunches. And the kids’ cooking classes—where every pupil gets a chef’s hat—are a real hoot.
21 S. Main St., 812-268-3100 W
Town of Vevay
Tucked between the Ohio River and some of Indiana’s best hills, historic Vevay blends artsy, country, and quirky in a culture all its own.
World-renowned Wolf Park sets the stage for thrillingly wild—and pleasantly domesticated—encounters around the burg of Battle Ground.
The Dunham House
Obama’s roots in Kenya and Kansas are well-known—but Indiana? His mother’s family were Hoosiers before heading west, and in 2008 he visited the historic ancestral farmstead, as can you. By appointment.
709 S. West St., 317-491-3757
College Corner Union School Gym
Liberty (and College Corner, Ohio)
The state line runs right through at half-court, meaning a deadeye shooter could launch one from Ohio and hit a Hoosier basket (BYO ball).
230 Ramsey St., 765-732-3183
Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve
Smack-dab in the heart of Indiana’s third-largest city, this serene wilderness is the oldest old-growth forest within a city in the U.S., with towering tulip trees and southern red oaks.
551 N. Boeke Rd., 812-479-0771
Ernie Pyle World War II Museum
From these modest beginnings—a small farmhouse meticulously restored and furnished to the period of Pyle’s boyhood in the early 1900s—the journalist went on to become the nation’s greatest-ever war correspondent, and artifacts from his career and life are collected onsite.
120 W. Briarwood Ave., 765-665-3084
Like the boats you’d see on the bayou, but on the Wabash, giving scenic (and fast!) tours of the river that inspired Indiana’s state song. By appointment.
Departs from Fairbanks Park, 1st and Oak streets, 812-208-1901
A dramatic overhang left behind as the Wabash River slowly washed away an ancient coral reef over millions of years, the National Natural Landmark still reveals fossils—and a great view.
E. Hanging Rock Rd., 1.5 miles southeast of town, 260-637-2273
Fall Creek Gorge
Don’t trip on the unusual sandstone potholes created from the waterway’s current in this scenic nature preserve.
U.S. 41 to Potholes Road, about 5 miles northwest of town, 317-951-8818
Victoria National Golf Club
It consistently ranks among Golf Digest’s top 25 U.S. clubs, and Stay & Play packages let nonmembers enjoy the meticulously manicured greens and plush cottages. (Only serious prospects are admitted, so, you know, get your resume ready.)
2000 Victoria National Blvd., 812-858-8230
Garden Table Market
A part-time Caribbean chef set up this rustic outpost featuring island cuisine near his hometown, with a rotating menu, grilled tuna, and cornmeal freshly ground at a historic gristmill across the road.
4522 S. Becks Mill Rd., 812-883-4545
Cambridge City Historic District
The postcard Main Street is an Old National Road antiques mecca with cozy eateries and an Overbeck Pottery museum.
Museum: 600 W. Main St. Town: U.S. 40 west of State Rd. 1, 765-478-4689
The Gospel Barn
Let’s face it: A little old-time religion might do you good, and concertgoers get it here while enjoying some of the nation’s top touring gospel groups in a revival-meeting setting. Schedule: Southern Sound Quartet, Oct. 3; The LeFevre Quartet, Oct. 17; The Isaacs, Oct. 31.
3550 Hwy. 1 S, 651-269-2120
Monon Connection Museum
Lots of bells and whistles—literally—among the locomotive artifacts dating back to before the Civil War. The Whistle Stop Restaurant has local pie and hand-dipped ice cream.
10012 N. U.S. 421, 219-253-4100
We named it one of the “Five Dynamite Drive-Ins” in Indiana.
602 S. Main St., Churubusco, (260) 693-3518