The state revs up around the Indy 500 race, but otherwise it's about slow-paced pleasures in corn-stubbled Indiana: pie-eating in Amish Country, meditating in Bloomington's Tibetan temples and admiring the big architecture in small Columbus. The northwest has moody sand dunes to climb, while the south has caves to explore and rivers to canoe. Spooky labyrinths, bluegrass music shrines and a famed, lipstick-kissed gravestone also make appearances in the state.
For the record, folks have called Indianans 'Hoosiers' since the 1830s, but the word's origin is unknown. One theory is that early settlers knocking on a door were met with 'Who's here?' which soon became 'Hoosier.' It's certainly something to discuss with locals, perhaps over a traditional pork tenderloin sandwich.
Fun fact: Indiana is called ‘the mother of vice presidents’ for the six veeps it has spawned.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Indiana.
It's the world's largest kids' museum, sprawled over five floors holding incredible exhibitions on dinosaurs, space stations and so much more. The museum is centered around a stunning 43ft sculpture by Dale Chihuly that teaches tykes to blow glass (virtually!); and the fantastic new 7.5-acre Sports Legends Experience is the outdoor playground of your dreams, with numerous fields and courts dedicated to all major sports. Within the context of children's museums, it's world-class.
The Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500 motor race, is Indy's super-sight. The Speedway Museum features some 75 racing cars (including former winners) and a 500lb Tiffany trophy. Limited availability golf-cart tours of the grounds and track ($50) are available from March to October (OK, you're not exactly burning rubber in a golf cart, but it's still fun to pretend while you take a lap!).
A dream team is responsible for the design of the former private home of hero industrialist, architectural visionary and former Cummins President/Chairman J Irwin Miller: architect Eero Saarinen, landscape architect Dan Kiley and interior designer Alexander Girard combined their keen eyes for modernism in 1953 and churned out one of the most important – and stunning – mid-century modern residences in the US.
Indiana University ( not University of Indiana!) routinely ranks with the cream of the crop of America's most beautiful college campuses. Founded in 1820 and forged from locally quarried Indiana Limestone, the lush grounds feature cycling and walking trails, alongside numerous sculptures and historic buildings, including Old Crescent, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, father of Eero Saarinen, was commissioned to build a different kind of church in Columbus in 1942, the brick-and-limestone result was about as unholy for the times as possible. Today, this National Historic Landmark is considered a Modernist masterpiece and this unorthodox house of worship ranks as one of the first contemporary churches in the United States.
This museum has a wonderful display of early roadsters – some outrageously colored – in a beautiful art-deco setting that was once part of the original Auburn Automotive Company.
The 152-acre Newfields campus houses the Indianapolis Museum of Art, home to a terrific collection of European art (especially Turner and post-Impressionists), African tribal art, South Pacific art, Chinese works, Robert Indiana's original pop-art Love sculpture and the largest gallery dedicated to contemporary and modern design in the US.
Founded in 1842, the University of Notre Dame is often touted as one of America's prettiest higher education campuses and its Fighting Irish football team is one of the most successful in the history of college football.
The Dunes, which became the USA's 61st national park in 2019, stretch along 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Swimming is allowed anywhere along the shore. A short walk away from the beaches, several hiking paths crisscross the dunes and woodlands. The best are the Bailly-Chellberg Trail (2.5 miles) that winds by a still-operating 1870s farm, and the Heron Rookery Trail (2 miles), where blue herons flock (though there's no actual rookery) and native wildflowers bloom.