These immersive DIY experiences allow groups to channel their inner artist and chef with help from Indiana creatives
Shopping and dining are crucial elements to a successful group tour – they help break up activities in an itinerary and showcase local chefs and artists. While Indiana boasts an immense variety for every taste and budget, some groups may find the typical restaurant or browsing experience too passive. Fortunately, the state is brimming with opportunities for visitors to become active participants and choose a “make-and-take” experience. These businesses allow group members to cook their own food and create beautiful art in an encouraging setting, and you can often bring your handiwork back home to friends and family.
Get behind the grill and cook your own steak at Chef JJ’s in downtown Indianapolis. A comprehensive, chef-led group experience includes four courses, local craft beer tastings and grilling tips that feature the restaurant’s signature Green Egg—an innovative cooker that combines the technology of a grill, oven and smoker. Also in the Indianapolis area is Katsumi’s Teaching Kitchen, a Japanese-inspired interactive kitchen where visitors become the chef. Classes for small groups offered include “Intro to Sushi,” “Japanese Street Food” and “Tempura,” while larger groups can participate in a chefled sushi or Korean barbecue party.
Groups in the Northwest Indiana region should make a reservation at U Cook Entertaining Cooking School in Merrillville. Parties up to 30 can reserve an afternoon or evening in the showroom, which is transformed with music and mood lighting for a chef-led cooking experience. Group members help chop, mix and serve from a variety of themed menus, with U Cook’s staff offering cooking advice for your return home. An open-air show kitchen greets visitors to Thyme In The Kitchen in Evansville, which hosts a variety of themed cooking classes for small groups. Consult the kitchen’s diverse slate of resident chefled options for a reservation; recent classes have included sushi, Mexican cuisine and country Italian. Groups with a sweet tooth visiting Fort Wayne should indulge themselves at Country Kitchen SweetArt. This baked goods supplier also offers classes and private events that teach participants the secrets of cake decorating. Participants will learn how to create frosting piping, buttercream roses or homemade candy, and seasonal sessions let visitors construct a gingerbread house.
Do you have craft beer enthusiasts itching to create a signature brew? GnomeTown Brewing Company in Fort Wayne is the only brewery in the state where you can become the brewmaster. With the assistance of a brewer, visitors select a customized ratio of yeast, malt, hops and water, see the mixture fermented in a kettle and design their own label. Groups craving a more intimate evening of food and friends will want to make a reservation at MESA: A Collaborative Kitchen. Located in historic downtown New Albany, this state-of-the-art kitchen invites chefs from Southern Indiana and the Louisville area to break free from their regular menu and create a customized menu for your group. Chefs share stories, provide cooking tips and entertain your group over three to five courses and cocktails.
Spend an evening with a French Lick Resort mixologist to learn some of the resort’s signature cocktails, learn cake decorating tips from a pastry chef and let your creativity flow with “Wine and Canvas.” Local artists will give painting tips while group members enjoy delicious wines.
If your group is still hankering for a traditional meal, there are plenty of DIY art experiences throughout Indiana. Visitors flock to Brown County to admire stunning autumn leaves and tour the studio of American master T.C. Steele, but the charming streets of Nashville are lined with interactive art galleries. Lawrence Family Glass Blowers continues a 40-year tradition of glassblowing excellence and allows visitors to witness the process up close in two village studios. The nearby Homestead Weaving Studio, which repurposes over one ton of excess industry fiber annually to create rugs and scarves, offers “day weaving” classes for groups to learn loom basics and the environmental impacts of fiber recycling.
Behind Little Golden Fox’s antique sales floor is a vast studio space that groups can rent for an evening of wine and crafting in Madison. Visitors can create acrylic paintings, hanging signs or ceramics with the guidance of a local artist and assistance from local Jefferson County wines. Also great for budding artists in Southern Indiana is New Albany’s Uptown Art—a paint-and-sip art studio that accommodates up to 60 visitors. Check Uptown’s calendar to select your painting of choice, and then treat your group to an interactive evening that can include catered meals and cocktails.
Further upstream on the Ohio River in Dearborn County, which boasts several galleries and DIY opportunities, is the Southeastern Indiana Art Guild (SIAG) Gallery & Studios in Aurora. Popular group class options led by community artists include gourd birdhouses, mixed media notecards and finger paint gardens that encourage you to cover your canvas with color. Proceeds from these classes go to Dearborn County’s Tour for the Cure Program, which raises money for breast cancer research.
The Framery is worth browsing for its immense frame collection alone, but this Lawrenceburg business also hosts popular Arty Parties. Sessions begin with a small reception of appetizers before group members cut fused jewelry, paint wine glasses or create an Eric Carleinspired butterfly canvas. Seasonal crafts like pumpkin paintings and Christmas signs are offered as well. Lawrenceburg is also home to McCabe’s Greenhouse & Floral, where groups can plant a mobile herb garden, create a wreath or design a sunflower arrangement with the assistance of a florist.
Broad Ripple in Indianapolis is one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods, with waterside galleries that welcome visitors. Groups touring this area will want to savor the Indianapolis Art Center, which offers numerous Pop-Up Art Adventures throughout the year. Sessions last approximately two hours and guarantee a finished piece for every guest. Popular creations include glass paperweights, tailgate cupholders and printed table runners. Interested in the art of candlemaking? Penn & Beech Candle Co. in Indianapolis’ hip Massachusetts Avenue neighborhood lets groups create a candle, body spray or diffuser from nearly 100 scent options. The 90-minute candle curing session allows you to choose a container shape before consulting with the fragrance bar to select scents that range from lavender citrus to bacon and bubblegum.
Groups touring Hendricks, Morgan and Putnam counties west of Indianapolis can experience the Main Street Cultural Trail, which showcases over 30 galleries, confectioners and restaurants. Aspiring weavers can sign up for a workshop or group lesson at Nomad Yarns to learn knitting, crocheting and spinning, or they can design their own pottery at uPaint, a glassfusing studio where groups can create keepsake dinnerware. Bisque Barn Pottery Paint Studio in Avon lets amateur crafters paint a sign with vinyl stencils and develop staining techniques. Also in Avon is The Tie Dye Lab, a colorful group experience where you can select a shirt size, color scheme and design before wringing out your creation for a colorful piece of clothing.
Tour America’s oldest glass company (established in 1888) and learn techniques from masters at Kokomo Opalescent Glass. Tour visitors will watch ladlers scoop molten glass from the furnace and mix it with vibrant dyes to create colorful keepsakes. Currently in its fifth generation of ownership, Zimmerman Art Glass in Corydon welcomes guests to sit and watch a master at work and describe how glass is fired, warped and colored to create stunning pieces of art.