Indiana Holiday Planning Guide
With an extensive history of motorsports, Indiana's main claim to fame remains the popular automobile race held each year in its capital city. A mostly rural state, Indiana is a land of till plains and lakes, its appearance a result of traces left behind by receding glaciers. The state's central section, mostly flat with some rolling hills, contains some of America's most fertile farmland. Nearly 39,000 km (24,000 mi) of waterways run through Indiana, including the Wabash River, the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi. For a genuine "Hoosier" experience, tour Indiana's slow-paced small towns, noted for their hospitality and outstanding local cuisine. You'll remember the warmth and charm long after your vacation is over.
Places to Visit in IndianaIndianapolis
: From top-notch sporting events to a bustling art and gastronomic scene, the state's capital and largest city offers a bit of everything, making it a must on your tour of Indiana.Bloomington
: It might not be a huge city, but Bloomington is definitely one of the liveliest places in Indiana. The seat of Indiana University, the city thrives with a colorful, multicultural atmosphere and a great selection of small shops and eateries. Fort Wayne
: The state's second-largest city, Fort Wayne offers a good combination of urban attractions and outdoor activities, earning it a reputation as one of the best places for a family vacation in Indiana.South Bend
: The main urban center of northern Indiana, South Bend is best known as the seat of the historical Notre Dame University. In addition to the picturesque campus, the city provides its visitors with a number of museums and restaurants, plus a rich cultural scene. Evansville
: The cultural and commercial hub of southern Indiana, Evansville is a mid-sized city that lets you explore plenty of historical sites and enjoy a welcoming and friendly atmosphere.Lafayette
: Located midway between Indianapolis and Chicago, this is a great spot to combine urban sightseeing with excursions into the scenic countryside along the Wabash River.
Things to Do in Indiana
Popular Indiana Tourist AttractionsThe Children's Museum of Indianapolis
: One of the biggest museums of its kind in the world, this famous Indiana attraction is a real treat for kids of all ages as well as adults.Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
: Celebrate the four biggest U.S. holidays in a single day and experience thrilling and exotic rides at one of America's highest-ranking amusement parks.Indianapolis Zoo
: From scorching deserts to ocean depths, go on a tour of the natural world through an impressive display of plants, animals, and recreated habitats.Indianapolis Motor Speedway
: A true temple of speed, this is the place to visit in Indiana for all motorsports enthusiasts.Indianapolis Museum of Art
: One of the largest and oldest in the country, this art museum will take you on a journey through thousands of years and many different aspects of human creativity.Children's Zoo Gift Shop
: Home to over 1,000 animals from all over the world, this zoo caters especially to its youngest visitors. Interactive and educational exhibits, together with petting areas, provide tons of fun for the kids.Holler Hoppin' Zip Lines
: Experience the thrill of ziplining through the scenic woods of Indiana's countryside. With a selection of lines and experienced guides, the course provides a great experience for visitors of all ages.Eiteljorg Museum
: Celebrating Native American history, art, and heritage, this museum is one of the highlights of the Indianapolis cultural scene.Indiana Beach Amusement Resort
: Have some adventurous fun with everything from roller coaster rides to arcades, right on the coast of Lake Shafer.
Planning an Indiana Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Indiana with Kids
The abundance of family-oriented places to visit in Indiana makes the state an excellent destination for a vacation with children. The two largest cities, Indianapolis
and Fort Wayne
, perfectly combine a high concentration of attractions and a peaceful atmosphere, offering plenty to fill your family's Indiana itinerary. If you choose to head to the state's smaller cities and rural areas, you'll also find plenty of things to keep the kids entertained. Smaller children should get a thrill in the town of Santa Claus
, where the holiday spirit prevails year-round, while cities like Evansville
and South Bend
provide a good selection of diversions for both little ones and teenagers.
Things to do in Indiana with Kids
The wealth of kid-friendly attractions in Indiana--especially zoos and children's museums--makes it really stand out among other American states. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis
and Children's Zoo Gift Shop
might be the most famous, but throughout the state you'll find plenty of similar institutions well worth visiting. A great experience for the entire family will be a visit to Amish Acres
, an attraction that celebrates traditional crafts and an authentic rural way of life. Add some excitement to your Indiana trip by planning a visit or two to its many amusement parks, suited for kids of all ages. If it's a sweltering Midwest summer, head to the water parks, where the adults can relax while kids enjoy slides and splashing pools.
Between visits to the state's cities, plan some day trips or camping excursions into the surrounding natural beauty: Marengo Cave
, Falls of the Ohio State Park
, and Indiana Dunes State Park
are excellent options. Sports fans of all ages will find a whole array of places to visit in Indiana, from Lucas Oil Stadium
where the Colts play their football games and Bankers Life Fieldhouse
--home of the Pacers--to Indianapolis Motor Speedway
, venue of the world-famous Indy 500 races.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Indiana
If your family's trip to Indiana includes touring the state, you'll find that it's fairly easy to get from one place to another. As in many other U.S. states, driving is the main means of transportation and numerous car rental agencies service tourists who need to rent some wheels for their holiday. That said, a car won't be necessary if you plan to stay in Indianapolis and tour the area north of the city, thanks to regular train connections between the state capital and Chicago that give easy access to towns along the way. A combination of walking or cycling and public transportation will easily get you around most of Indiana's cities.
All the amenities your family might need are easily accessible in Indiana's cities and towns, and family-oriented accommodations are plentiful, from campgrounds to all-inclusive resorts.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Indiana
Cuisine of Indiana
Indiana is definitely the place to go for all those looking to try hearty Midwestern cooking. The state's hardworking agricultural past gave birth to recipes that perfectly compensate with flavor what they might lack in complexity. Meat has pride of place in local specialties, such as Indiana's trademark pork tenderloin sandwich, or the state's favorite snack--the corndog. Another trademark "delicacy" especially popular in the Evansville
area is the fried brain sandwich. Alongside fresh vegetables, you'll probably see plenty of pickles and sauerkraut accompanying main dishes. Visitors with a sweet tooth can use their holiday in Indiana as an excuse to taste traditional desserts like sugar cream pie and persimmon pudding.
You may be slightly surprised to learn that Indiana was one of the first winemaking regions of the United States, and that the tradition is still strong today. Visit places like Huber's Orchard & Winery
or Oliver Winery
for tours and tastings in thoroughly pleasant surroundings. If beer is your drink of choice, you can go on a tasting tour of some of the state's many microbreweries, or join other beer enthusiasts on the Indy Brew Bus
Shopping in Indiana
Shopping opportunities in Indiana greatly depend on the part of the state you're visiting. While all towns and cities feature small boutique stores and galleries selling local designs and artwork, if you're looking for a large mall and world-famous brands, Indianapolis
is the number one destination. Here, places like The Fashion Mall at Keystone
will satisfy the tastes of even the pickiest fashionistas. Indiana's smaller towns are excellent locations for buying locally made handicrafts, sweets, spices, and souvenirs. Antiquing ranks high on many lists of things to do Indiana, and the town of Nashville
with its collection of shops draws treasure hunters from far and wide. Farmer's markets like Bloomington Community Farmers Market
give you a real taste of the friendly faces and local abundance in rural Indiana.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Indiana
History of Indiana
Pre-colonial Indiana was a hotbed of Native American civilizations, with numerous tribes taking advantage of the area's fertile soil and plentiful hunting grounds. Today, Indiana is home to one of the best-preserved Native American monuments in the country, Angel Mounds State Historic Site
, where the native civilization thrived long before the Europeans caught wind of the American continent. However, the tribes didn't always live in peace, and the Beaver Wars right before the arrival of the Europeans resulted in a severe depopulation of the area that was to become Indiana.
The first Europeans to venture into the region of Indiana were the French fur traders, who arrived in the mid-17th century. Following several clashes with the Iroquois, the French established a trade route along the Wabash River that connected their possessions in Canada with the Gulf of Mexico. To thwart the British attempts at interfering with their interests, the French established the first European outposts, several of which would later grow into cities like Fort Wayne
The British victory in the French and Indian War gave them command over Indiana, but the French influence remained strong just as the British did after the American victory in the Revolutionary War. In fact, it took several more decades for the United States to establish a firm grip over Indiana, which was only achieved after the British defeat in the War of 1812. In 1816, Indiana gained its statehood, and soon after the city of Indianapolis was founded. During the construction of the new capital, Corydon Capitol State Historic Site
served as the seat of Indiana's government.
During the Civil War, the state stayed firmly on the abolitionist Union side (visitors interested in this historical period should include Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
in their Indiana itinerary). Following the war, Indiana started a period of transformation that turned it from an almost exclusively agricultural state to one of America's industrial powerhouses. Numerous railroads earned it the nickname "Crossroads of America" and Indiana steel was a great contributor to the American efforts in both world wars. Among the historical places to see in Indiana is USS LST Ship Memorial
, a landing ship that once saw action in Sicily and Normandy and now stands as a permanently docked museum in Evansville.
Landscape of Indiana
To get an idea of just how flat Indiana is, consider that Hoosier Hill, the state's highest point, stands just slightly taller than the tallest skyscraper in Indianapolis. However, despite the lack of mountains, several areas of the state feature lovely rolling hills, forests, and bodies of water--more than enough to satisfy nature lovers on vacation in Indiana.
Although technically landlocked, Indiana meets the enormous Lake Michigan in the north; if you're hankering for a little coastline, head here to see Indiana Dunes State Park
, one of the prime natural attractions in Indiana. For craggy terrain, untouched nature, and scenic hiking trails, Turkey Run State Park
makes a great destination. Unlike its southern neighbor Kentucky, Indiana's geography doesn't include a huge number of subterranean cave systems, but the ones it does have, such as Marengo Cave
, are definitely impressive.
Holidays & Festivals in Indiana
Throughout the year, Indiana hosts a series of local holidays and festivals in addition to those celebrated all over the United States. The most famous annual event in Indiana is without a doubt the Indianapolis 500 race that takes place over Memorial Day weekend (the last weekend in May). The race actually represents the culmination of a month-long festival that transforms Indianapolis into a true carnival city with dozens of events, from parades to kids' fairs. One of the main highlights during this period is the mini marathon, the nation's largest half-marathon race. North of Nashville
, the small town of Beanblossom hosts the world's oldest bluegrass music festival every June. Also in June is Fort Wayne's Three Rivers Festival, a nine-day celebration of local history and cultural heritage. In August, it seems like the whole state gathers in the capital for the Indiana State Fair, one of the largest, oldest, and liveliest events of its kind in the whole country, and a perfect way to add some Americana to your Indiana holiday. Of course, it goes without saying that if you're visiting Indiana over the winter holidays, you simply can't pass up a visit to Santa Claus
Indiana Travel Tips
Climate of Indiana
Indiana's weather is marked by four distinct seasons and temperatures that vary from relatively cold in the winter to potentially very hot during the summer. While winter temperatures in general tend to stay around the freezing point, the northern part of the state, affected by the climate of Lake Michigan, experiences a colder and snowier season than the south. Summer highs are usually around 30 C (86 F) throughout Indiana, with occasional heat waves and thunderstorms. There is no bad time of the year for a trip to Indiana, but if you're looking to enjoy nature at its finest, spring or fall will provide the ideal conditions. Note that even though tornadoes are not as common in Indiana as in some other states, it's always a good idea to keep an eye on the weather forecast if you're visiting in the spring.
Transportation in Indiana
Indiana acquired the nickname "Crossroads of America" back in the age of the railway, but even today, when most transportation is conducted by roads, the state still lives up to the moniker. Touring Indiana by car is a breeze: the entire state is connected by an elaborate network of roads, and boasts more interstate highways than most other U.S. states. For visitors arriving by plane, Indianapolis International Airport is the main air hub, but you can also consider airports at nearby major cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, or Louisville. While the northern part of the state is well covered by intercity train lines, you're best off getting around by car in central and southern Indiana. Most urban sightseeing in Indiana can be done on foot or by using public transportation, such as a bus and or taxi, so there's no particular need for driving in the cities.