The landscapes get hilly in southern Indiana and the pace slows down a bit. Here are five ideas for your next trip to the lower half of Indiana.
Brown County State Park
Set in rolling hills covered with hardwood forests, Indiana’s largest state park is one of the premier fall color meccas in the Midwest. Friends of the Park provides step-on guide service with stops at the Nature Center, Ramp Creek Covered Bridge, Abe Martin Lodge and scenic overviews. The lodge offers 84 guest rooms, an indoor waterpark and full-service restaurant, plus cabin accommodations.
The state park lies just south of Nashville, an art colony with more than 300 art galleries, studios and specialty shops, many of them in converted houses. Groups can spend hours shopping for crafts, antiques and fine art in downtown Nashville. Candy, ice cream and gourmet food shops also entice. The Brown County Playhouse presents music and comedy productions. Tours and tastings are available at Brown County Winery’s two locations and Bear Wallow Distillery. Nearby, the charming Story Inn, a hidden gem comprising what’s left of the tucked-away 19th century village of Story, offers fine dining in the old general store and 18 lodging rooms in several buildings.
At the center of this southern Indiana town stands the Old Capitol, which served as the first seat of government in Indiana from 1816-25. Not far away is the 1817 Governor Hendricks Headquarters, the two-story brick home of Indiana’s second governor. Also see the trunk of the Constitution Elm, under which the state’s constitution was drafted. Downtown Corydon shops offer crafts, collectibles and antiques.
Other group-friendly attractions include the Zimmerman Art Glass factory and Leora Brown School, where lessons in African-American history and the Underground Railroad come alive at one of the oldest former “colored” schools in the state. Several wineries offer tastings and tours, while Scout Mountain Winery has cooking classes for groups.
Southern Indiana is famous for its caves. Four of them, all within an easy drive from Corydon, offer tours. Guided walking tours of Marengo Cave, for example, include the 40-minute Crystal Palace tour and hour-long Dripstone Trail tour. Bluespring Caverns and Indiana Caverns can be visited by boat. At Squire Boone Caverns & Village in Mauckport, groups can combine a cave walk with demonstrations of pioneer skills like lye soap and candle making.
In Lincoln’s Footsteps
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, 40 miles east of Evansville, is a 200-acre site that preserves the farm where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1816-30. The farm includes restored fields, a garden area and log buildings. The visitor center has exhibits and a 15-minute film on Lincoln’s 14 years in the state. Also on-site is the grave of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who died when young Abe was 9 years old.
Nearby, in the town of Santa Claus, is Holiday World Theme Park and Splashin’ Safari Water Park. Holiday World, one of the country’s top-rated amusement parks, features wooden roller coasters, a whitewater raft ride, games, shows, and visits with Santa. Areas of the park are themed around Christmas, the Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving. In town, the huge Santa Claus Christmas Store, on Kringle Place, offers thousands of ornaments and other holiday items.
Ohio River Towns
Scenic vistas and historic towns draw visitors to southeastern Indiana. Madison, with Indiana’s largest historic district, is a well-preserved 19th century treasure and a favorite with antique hounds and shoppers of all stripes. Clifty Falls State Park, not far away, is known for its four waterfalls. Quaint downtown Aurora is brought to life by the “windows of Aurora”—64 murals that peek into what life was like in the 1800s.
From Hillforest Mansion, a Victorian house-museum, take in panoramic views of the Ohio River and the steeple-dotted “City of Spires.” Sister city Lawrenceburg, just a half hour west of Cincinnati, is home to the Hollywood Casino and Hotel.
by Randy Mink