Statues, Sand and Studebakers: Eight of the Coolest Places in Indiana

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Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Jackson, and the Amish don’t have much in common, except perhaps for one thing: They’re a part of some of the coolest things to see and do in Indiana.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of hotspots in the Hoosier State, but rather a guide to some interesting places that you may not have considered visiting before. Read along to see what I think is cool in the state of Indiana.

Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Indianapolis

The celebrated writer from Indy is honored with a library in his hometown featuring his writing and paintings, a documentary video about his legacy, and artifacts from his life. My favorite part? The gift shop offers the opportunity to purchase a cute little stuffed Vonnegut!

kurt vonnegut library

Indiana Sand Dunes, Chesterton

There’s an Indiana Dunes State Park and an Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Both offer access to Lake Michigan, with opportunities to camp, play on the beach, and hike in the woods and along tall sand dunes that formed along the shore. On clear days, you can see the Chicago skyline 50 miles away.

indiana dunes state park

Michael Jackson’s birth home, Gary

The King of Pop grew up with his parents and siblings in a very small house at (coincidentally) 2300 Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana. After MJ’s death in 2009, hundreds of fans flocked to his birth home and left behind photos, flowers, and personal messages. Four years later, the rather ordinary-looking house has been fixed up quite a bit, with expert landscaping and a stone monument on the front lawn honoring Michael’s achievements.

michael jacksons birth home

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, South Bend

The Basilica is a prominent house of worship on the campus of Notre Dame, but even the non-spiritual will be awestruck at the sights, which include marble statues, stained glass windows, and magnificent altars. Respectful visits to admire the architecture are encouraged – look for self-guided tour pamphlets at the entrance.

basilica of sacred heart

Studebaker National Museum, South Bend

Check it out – an entire museum dedicated to the classic American automobile! Dozens of vehicles spanning 150 years are on display across three floors, including the Studebaker used in The Muppet Movie from 1979. Before cars, the company manufactured horse carriages, and one of the carriages on display here is the very one taken by President Lincoln to Ford’s Theatre the night he was killed.

studebaker national museum

Lifelike human statues, Carmel

I mentioned this one last week in my 24 hours in Hamilton County roundup. The city of Carmel has 14 life-size and very lifelike human statues scattered around its Arts & Design District. J. Seward Johnson Jr. created the “Man on the Street” series, which includes the likenesses of small children, a police officer, a businesswoman walking her dog, an elderly woman carrying groceries, and a violinist playing for tips. They’re fun to see up close… and to take pictures with.

sidewalk concert statues carmel violinist

Amish culture, Shipshewana

Shipshewana may not have as large of an Amish community as Holmes County in Ohio, where I met some long-lost Amish relatives earlier this year, but it’s not that far behind. Elkhart and LaGrange Counties in Indiana have the third-largest Amish population in the country. Among the attractions in Shipshewana are the Menno-Hof Amish and Mennonite Information Center, a twice-weekly flea market with a large Amish presence, and companies that offer private buggy tours to tourists.

amish buggy

Indy 500 Museum, Indianapolis

Racing fan or not, you’ll probably enjoy the Indianapolis 500 Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum because it provides a comprehensive history of the sport’s biggest event – and there are a ton of fast cars on display. See more than 30 Indy-winning cars, including some of the very early ones from 1911 and 1912. Here’s the car used by Lee Wallard when he won the 1951 event with an average speed of 126 MPH to earn $63,612 in prize money:

indy 500 winning 1951 car

Which of these cool Indiana places would you most like to visit?

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

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