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Suppose you want to get a thorough understanding of American history and explore sites and museums while also getting to enjoy big-city life. In that case, Indiana should be on your bucket list, and you can find all this in an Indiana travel guide.
Even if you plan to visit family, schools, or sporting events in Indiana, you want to maximize your trip and take advantage of what this beautiful state offers. Everything from festivals and state park options to visiting Indiana Children’s Museum and the Soaring Dunes are excellent options on your list.
The best Indiana visitors guide will tell you all the places you should visit, where you should be staying on your trip, and how to prepare for your trip before starting your journey. Keep reading the Indiana travel guide for places to see and things to do first.
- Best Things to Do in Indiana
- 1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
- 2. Fort Wayne
- 3. Eiteljorg Museum
- 4. Madison
- 5. Bloomington
- 6. Festivals
- 7. Elkhart
- 8. Evansville
- 9. South Bend Mishawaka
- 10. Benjamin Harris Presidential Site
- Where to stay in Indiana
- How to Get Around in Indiana
- Travel Tips for Visiting Indiana
- Prepare With Travel Insurance
- Secure an Anti-Theft Backpack
- Bring a Hat
- Clear Bags May Be Required at Museums and Events
Best Things to Do in Indiana
1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
If you happen to be visiting Indiana when NASCAR is in town, you should secure tickets to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a truly American experience. You can catch different NASCAR series on the track that weekend before the big race on Sunday.
Other races and events are happening at this Speedway throughout the year, so check out the calendar and see what races you can catch while in town. You can enjoy a nice picnic or stretch your legs nearby at Eagle Creek Park.
There is also a lot of history surrounding this Indiana track, especially since it was once the home of the US Grand Prix race. On-site is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum, where you can see and experience the history of the track on your own. Many experiences throughout the museum make this one- or two-hour trip worth a stop while you are in the state.
2. Fort Wayne
One of the largest and most visited cities in Indiana is Fort Wayne. There is lots of nightlife to enjoy in the city and one of the best historic downtowns in the state. Live music, art galleries, and festivals span the streets throughout the year, so there is always something to enjoy when you are in the area.
Fort Wayne’s history dates back to 1794 when General Anthony Wayne decided that the location where three rivers met would be ideal for a Fort and securing the area.
These three rivers include the Maumee, St. Joseph, and St. Mary rivers, with ample space for water activities when the weather is warm. Along these rivers are over 115 miles of hiking trails and lots of outdoor adventure in Fort Wayne.
Splash pads and over 80 different parks are found in this city, so there is always something for locals and visitors to do when the temperature is hot, and they need ways to keep themselves cool.
Almost all visitors in Fort Wayne stop at the Fort Wayne Zoo while in the area because of its national accreditation and popularity in the United States. In addition to the numerous well-kept animals in the Zoo, some events capture the nearby area’s culture, local art, and spirit and are great for kids.
3. Eiteljorg Museum
For those who want a historical museum that encapsulates the native history and western lifestyle of Indiana, Eiteljorg Museum has everything you are looking for in one location. It is an excellent experience for families and groups of all ages, with many visual art pieces, sculptures, and other artifacts representing the area’s indigenous culture.
This is located within one of Indiana’s State Park and is open to all visitors. Parking is free and a great stop if you have been traveling for several hours.
The museum has a small cafe, outdoor gardens open all year, and event space for those who want to host events on the grounds. The only downside to visiting this park is that you could be limited on where you can go or if you can even get in because of possible reservations.
Along the Ohio River in Indiana is Madison, one of the largest cities in that part of the state. This area is known for its historical relevance at the state and national levels.
Surprisingly, this area is truly one of the most historic downtowns in the state, as it has been marked on the National Registry, so visiting this area is like taking a step back in time. This is one of the things that bring visitors to Madison.
Powerboat racing along the Ohio River is another activity encouraging others to visit Indiana. The area has several parks and wildlife refuges for a quiet weekend retreat. Many visitors from the larger cities find Madison a nice getaway when they need to slow down from the big city.
The cons to visiting Madison are that there isn’t much nightlife and everything will close early. If you need that on vacation, you may want to see Madison during the day but head back in the evenings.
Art, higher education, and outdoor recreation are popular in Bloomington. Indiana University at Bloomington is home to the Eskenazi Museum of Art, which attracts visitors annually. These education buildings at Indiana University are historical as it is one of the oldest universities in the state.
Families with small children can pursue activities like the WonderLab that embraces education in this area and encourages academics. There are also several museums in the area to choose from that house history and art that are related to the Midwest.
If you want something more low-key than being in downtown Bloomington, several wineries welcome visitors and have lots of water recreation opportunities on Monroe Lake. You will find some of the best fishing in the state in Bloomington.
Downtown Bloomington offers guests several theater options and shows throughout the year. Breweries and a few modern bars are also open to bring in the younger crowd in the evenings. Many of the restaurants downtown are trending and offer newer cuisine options. As a college town, it is more driven towards these students and keeping them occupied throughout the year.
Throughout Indiana, many different festivals are happening throughout the year. There is always something to celebrate, and these festivals have various themes. In April, the Traditional PowWow festival celebration of Native Americans will kick off in Bloomington.
By the end of that week, the Horseshoe Foundation FamFest will begin in New Albany as an extension of the Kentucky Derby Festival happening in surrounding states. This is important to southern Indiana culture.
One of the year’s major festivals is the Sassafras Tea Festival & Civil War Reenactment in Vernon, Indiana, at the end of April. For those obsessed with Viking culture and cosplay, the Viking Fest in Whitestown will unite those wanting to step back in time with some early explorers.
The Annual Southern Indiana Renaissance Faire will begin in Charlestown in May, attracting thousands of state visitors. The largest Jazz Festival in Elkhart is nationally recognized and is also reoccurring.
Up in northern Indiana, close to Chicago, in Elkhart, Indiana. It is found outside of South Bend and is much quieter, with a small-town charm. It is a local best-kept secret and one of the best trip ideas.
There is something to do for everyone in the group, and it is also just outside of one of the largest Amish communities in the Midwest. The culture in this city is more urban, embracing art, music, and nature all in one space.
Some of the museums in the area include the RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum, showcasing the classic RVs that started a phenomenon so many decades ago. With the railroad being essential to the growth of Indiana, it is crucial to stop by the National New York Central Railroad Museum to get a glimpse at railroad history.
One of the most visited locations in Elkhart is the Midwest Museum of American Art, which survives from donations and showcases local art throughout the centuries within the area. Several botanical and natural gardens are also available for the public to enjoy, especially when the weather is nice.
There is a bit of nightlife happening in Elkhart, with breweries in the downtown area and a couple of dive bars. However, if you are visiting with your family, there aren’t many kid-friendly options at night, especially in the fall and winter seasons.
You have bowling and a movie theater, but they can become crowded with other families looking for the same wholesome entertainment.
Zoos, botanical gardens, museums, and exhibits are available throughout Evansville to entertain you. While some museums offer a quick look into arts, history, and science pertinent to the area, military museums are also available to enjoy.
For example, the USS LTS Ship Memorial offers a replica that pays homage to the ship that was essential in carrying soldiers and marines to many destinations. History buffs usually mark this location off on their bucket list to explore.
Classic sports arenas like Boss Field, built over a century ago, are still used today for minor league games that are great for the whole family. The stadium is small, so you shouldn’t have Major League hopes when you visit, but know that you are coming for an experience to enjoy an American classic with friends and family.
Mesker Park Zoo offers guests the chance to experience the animals of the Amazon without having to travel to South America, offering lots of family fun. There is a lot of walking at this Zoo, so plan accordingly if you have someone in your party with difficulties. While it is open year-round, it is best to visit when warm because the animals are most active.
Evansville is a great place to visit if you are coming with a family and want family experiences during the day and night. This area does not have a strong adult nightlife, although a few bars are downtown.
9. South Bend Mishawaka
Alumni and University of Notre Dame fans find South Bend the number one place to visit when visiting Northern Indiana. The University is open to the public, and visitors are welcome to come and walk through the campus. Depending on the time of year, there is always some sporting event at the stadium or the arena on campus.
South Bend Mishawaka is unique because there are several historical churches to visit in Northern Indiana, such as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This directly represents how the Church impacted this part of Indiana. Many other historical monuments and buildings are sprinkled throughout the town to enjoy.
Because this is a college town for the University of Notre Dame students, the nightlife downtown is geared towards a younger crowd that wants to be out late into the evening. Bars, breweries, and clubs are open until late at night, which is essential if you are looking for lodging downtown in this area.