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. 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. 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. 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
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/
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.