WHY VISIT INDIANA
Indiana accelerates to the max during its annual motor-racing extravaganza, but beyond the speedway, this is a gentle state of sprawling fields, pretty countryside, and all-American small towns.
Adjoining Lake Michigan to the north, Indiana features deep valleys, cornfields that extend from horizon to horizon, foothills, and vast farmlands. The state is home to peaceful Amish communities, covered bridges, Indian mounds, and the famous Indy 500 motor-racing legend.
The Indianapolis 500 is more than a car race, however. It’s a gigantic festival, with camping, glamping, and two weeks of qualifying races before the main event. Pick-up trucks pull up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, pop opens their boots, and unload beer and barbecues for pre-race tailgating. Scantily clad fans party hard with live DJs and performers in the Snake Pit. And a massive parade of kaleidoscopic floats, giant balloons, and marching bands takes place downtown on the eve of the final race.
At the opposite end of the speed spectrum, Amish horse-drawn buggies rattle along rural lanes in Northern Indiana, where life takes a distinctly slower pace. A Heritage Trail weaves through thriving historic towns crammed with antique stores, flea markets, and turn-of-the-century buildings.
For two weeks in August, half the state seems to land in Indianapolis once again for the Indiana State Fair, a massive agricultural spectacle blending animal shows with live concerts and fairground rides (no, that doesn’t mean cows on the teacups).
Thrill-seekers are also well catered for in Indiana’s great outdoors. Hikers, bikers, and mountain climbers make a beeline for the forested hills of Brown County State Park, which lay claim to some of the most exquisite autumn scenery in North America.
WHAT TO SEE IN INDIANA
- Indianapolis: located dead center of Indiana is its main city, a cool mix of historic neighborhoods, artistry, and culture. Lockerbie Square is awash in lovely Victorians, while Massachusetts Avenue is lined with art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques in the heart of downtown. The theater in Indianapolis is surprisingly vibrant, but sports are what really consumes the attention of most residents. The NBA Pacers, NFL Colts, and of course the Indy 500 motor race are just the tip of the iceberg for a one-stop destination of a fun.
- Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum: the Native American tribes who called Indiana home put up a valiant fight against the European settlers in the early 1800s. Led by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, his fighters held onto their ancestral land as long as possible but ultimately lost out to American army forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe. In an interesting national battlefield park, explore a great museum that sheds some light on the heritage and plight of Indiana’s Native American tribes.
- Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial: the farm where US President Abraham Lincoln was born and lived until he was 21 is now protected and managed by the National Park Service. Located outside of Lincoln City, it’s still a working farm, allowing visitors to experience both how Lincoln grew up as a boy and how an early 19th-century farm looked and operated. It’s a fantastic place, with much more to absorb than just the man himself.
- Eagle Creek Park: one of America’s biggest municipal parks is located right in the middle of Indianapolis. It encompasses more than 4,000 acres of meadows and forest laced with trails and paths for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing in winter. There is a massive reservoir with a beach for boating, and the Garfield Park Conservatory is also within Eagle Creek. This tropical greenhouse is a fascinating mini-world of waterfall-fed pools, tropical plants from around the world, and even flocks of macaws and parrots.
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway: any fan of motorized racing or sports cars in general, will appreciate a visit to the legendary Indy Speedway. Built in 1909, it’s one of the world’s premier racing tracks. Each May nearly a half million spectators pack into the speedway to watch the Indy 500, the world’s biggest purse race. Within the oval track is the Hall of Fame Museum, which allows visitors to experience the heritage of the sport any time of year. There’s even a famous 18-hole championship golf course on-site, Brickyard Crossing, with four holes actually inside the speedway’s oval.
- Conner Prairie Interactive History Park: visitors can get the rare chance to experience pioneer life in the American Midwest between 1820 and 1840 at this incredibly lifelike 19th-century farming village. Prairietown, as it’s known, has streets lined with authentic shops and houses that still make crafts and bake food. Visitors can watch, learn and even taste the food made during this era. The workers are as real as they come, and during summer the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra plays at the amphitheater under the stars as part of their Symphony on the Prairie series.
- Indiana Dunes State Park: arguably the most impressive piece of Indiana nature is found along its little stretch of Lake Michigan. Seventy miles of nice sandy beach and towering sand dunes provide endless amusement along this ocean-like lake. Wooded trail systems run for 15 miles through the forests and along the shore, where wildlife is commonly spotted including 350 species of birds.
- Amish Country: there’s a significant Amish community living in Indiana, and they welcome visitors who want to experience their unique traditional life. Elkhart County in the north part of the state is the hub of Amish town, and a road trip along the 90-mile Heritage Trail will ferry travelers through charming timeless villages and past beautiful farms and countryside. Stop at any settlement to shop for handmade quilts and other crafts, as well as incredibly delicious homemade food products.
WHEN TO GO TO INDIANA
The best period to visit Indiana is from June to October.
Indiana has a classic humid continental climate, which means hot muggy summers and cold snowy winters. The state is not particularly known for its impressive weather, though it does have a couple of brief windows when all the factors converge to create very pleasant conditions. Due to the state’s elongated shape, the northern portion of Indiana has slightly different weather than the southern half of the state. The south gets more precipitation than the north but enjoys slightly warmer and milder winter temperatures.
Summers in Indiana is generally unpleasant. The daytime highs average 90°F and above in July and August with plenty of rain falling to boost humidity levels into the 90 percent range making for a nasty combination. Winters aren’t much better, with daytime highs of 30°F in the north and 40°F in the south between December and February. Winter snowfall varies widely across the state, with heavy amounts around Lake Michigan in the north and only a few inches per winter in the far south.
Spring and summer are the rainiest time, though precipitation falls fairly evenly in every month. Spring is also when the most erratic weather occurs. Powerful storms occasionally create tornadoes during this season, especially in April, and Indiana is regarded as one of the country’s top hot spots for twisters.
WHAT TO DO IN INDIANA
Trek through desert sand dunes
Indiana — is not a state is known for its stunning scenery. That is, except for one of America’s newest National Parks set along 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in the Hoosier State. Indiana Dunes boasts some of the best beaches in the Midwest, but the remote sands are only the beginning of what makes this place so special. Venture off the water and you’re in the middle of the Sahara-like landscape, traversing 4,700-year-old sand dunes. The lake breeze makes them far more comfortable to hike than an actual desert, and you can even camp inside for a full park immersion.
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations in Indiana.
- Indianapolis 500: every year since 1909 the day before Memorial Day in May has been the big race at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Indy 500 has the world’s biggest purse and is one of the most popular motor races on the planet. The stands at the speedway hold 450,000 spectators, and it’s estimated that 1.5 million more watch on television. Loads of other events are held around race day leading up to the big competition.
- Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival: dedicated to legendary bluegrass musician Bill Monroe, this music festival is the oldest annual event of its kind in the world. Held at the Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park and Campground, Bean Blossom always has an awesome line-up of bands from around the country. This massive event runs for eight days each June and showcases 50 bands. It’s a pilgrimage for true bluegrass fans!
- IndyFringe Festival: a major event in Indiana, for 10 days around the end of August downtown Indianapolis gets all theatrical. Performances range from dance and music to interpretations and more. Of course, the theater is at the heart of this festival, and the Massachusetts Avenue Theater District revs up with around 36 theater groups. The line-up includes both local troupes and bands of serious thespians from around the world.
- Indy Jazz Fest: jazz fans from around the Midwest make the trek to Indianapolis every September to savor a full plate of amazing jazz performances. For seven days, the city’s theaters and bars become host to a great range of musicians, including funk, soul, and blues. OptiPark is the venue for the last three days of outdoor concerts, while the first four days hold the shows indoors at places like the Jazz Kitchen downtown.
- Covered Bridge Festival: named after Parke County which is famous for its 32 historic covered bridges, the most found anywhere in the country, the festival appreciates small town living. This all-American festival represents the rural side of Indiana in style. Each October, the small town of Rockville hosts thousands of folks interested in the arts and crafts of rural Indiana. Flea markets and antique stalls create a fun buying scene to go with the live music and great local food.
- Indy International Festival: this beloved annual event at the Indiana Fair Grounds is a classic all-American state fair. Each November a fantastic menu of live music, tasty food, carnival rides, and other entertainment are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. It’s not all small town though, as the event has an international edge so visitors can sample crafts, food, music, and entertainment from around the globe, as well as from right from their own backyard.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH INDIANA
Indiana deserves its nickname The Crossroads of America, as it indeed lies at the junction of several major interstate highways. Getting to Indiana is a breeze from any direction, which makes having a car the preferable way to go if you plan to do any kind of traveling within the state. Car rental can be found at all major airports and in the downtown areas of most large cities like Indianapolis, Bloomington, South Bend, and Fort Wayne. With little help from public transportation, a rental car is essential to getting to the rural attractions that make Indiana so special.
Taxis are available only in the larger cities such as Indianapolis, Bloomington, South, Gary, and South Bend.
The Amtrak train network passes through Indiana on three different lines. The Hoosier State Line runs between Indianapolis and Chicago, while the Cardinal Line goes from Chicago to New York passing through Indiana on its way. Both of these routes make stops in Indianapolis, Crawfordsville, Connersville, Rensselaer, Dyer, and Lafayette. The Midwest Corridor Line goes from Chicago to Cincinnati with stops in Connersville, Lafayette, and Indianapolis. The Amtrak train is a fun and scenic ways to travel from other parts of America. Fares are reasonable and often comparable to domestic flights, but the views of Middle America are unbeatable and the seats comfortable.
The Greyhound bus is the most popular means of travel to Indiana and between its towns and cities. The buses reach every town in the state and have very cheap fares. Seats are nothing special, but comfortable enough for a journey of a few hours. Most Greyhound bus stations are located right in the downtown area of any major city.
No city in Indiana has a metro subway or light rail network. Indianapolis has a decent public bus system known as IndyGo that is cheap and useful for moving between districts and areas. There are also free Red Line Circulator buses that run in a loop around the downtown core, useful for both a free sightseeing jaunt and limited transportation. For anywhere outside of Indy, you will need a taxi or rental car to get around the state and between cities.
Main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON INDIANA
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: US Dollar
local time zone: GMT-6,-5 (-5,-4)
electricity: type A and type B (120V – 60 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN INDIANA
Typical food in Indiana
Souvenirs from Indiana