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 are the most cool places in Indiana, and feel free to leave a comment with any that I missed!
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!
Indiana Dunes National Park, Chesterton
There’s an Indiana Dunes State Park and an Indiana Dunes National Park. 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.
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.
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.
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 at the Studebaker Museum, 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.
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.
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.
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:
Holiday World theme park in Santa Claus, Indiana
The small town of Santa Claus, Indiana becomes a tourist mecca during the summer months. Families flock to the area to check out the city’s crazy Christmas spirit, as well as its roller coaster and water park, Holiday World. The park draws tourists from all across the Midwest eager to ride the Thunderbird steel coaster or the old-time wooden coasters Voyage and Raven.
The RV Hall of Fame
In the northern Indiana town of Elkhart, you can find the RV and Motorhome Hall of Fame. This cool museum describes the history of camping and RV travel. The best part is the large warehouse full of both vintage and brand-new RVs. You can walk through them and fantasize about a life on the road!
Which of these cool Indiana places would you most like to visit?