My grand South Indiana vacation
April 24, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is getting married the last weekend of July. I have some vacation coming up in July/August. This is good. My friend is getting married in Jasper, IN, down in the toe of Indiana. This is... a little daunting, from a vacation standpoint.

I like the idea of taking a few days to explore a new area, but what's out there in southern IN? College towns, road food? Is there Indiana regional cuisine? Anything neat to do in Louisville? I've even toyed with making the 3-hour+ drive down I-64 to St. Louis or up I-65 to Chicago - but is there anything to see, do, or eat on the way?
posted by ormondsacker to Travel & Transportation around Indiana (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You could try New Harmony, Indiana.

I can also recommend catching a game at the minor-league baseball stadium in Louisville.
posted by stopgap at 1:53 PM on April 24, 2010

Best answer: My friend, you are in for a treat. You are going to go to two towns in Southern Indiana, each within a couple hours of Jasper (but on opposite sides, so maybe put the wedding in the middle). You are going to go to:

New Harmony: Site of not one but two utopian communities in the 19th Century, New Harmony has all sorts of fabulous history. Visit the Atheneum, see theater at the local playhouse, eat dinner at the Red Geranium, peruse the art galleries, stay at one of the lovely B&Bs. The mode here is tranquility.

Columbus: Like architecture? You'll love Columbus. As its website says: "Columbus, Indiana (population 39,000) is ranked 6th in the nation for architectural innovation and design by the American Institute of Architects on a list that includes the much larger cities of Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C." It's basically a giant open air museum of modern architecture.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:54 PM on April 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Whenever I'm around there I love to stop in Madison, IN. It's a very sweet, very walkable, very old-fashioned town with a beautiful riverfront. The whole downtown is on the National Register, a pretty large area, so it's got some great historic buildings. It's not exactly a happening place; everyone who lives there seems to be about 80 years old. But it's lovely, there are coffee shops and little stores, an inordinate number of which sell ice cream and candy.

From there, East along the river on Rt 56 is a really scenic drive, through some other interesting towns. Vevay always seems to have a lot going on, though I've only stopped to look at how cute it is. Rising Sun has a great riverfront also, and it's very artsy, lots of galleries and things.

If you have a few days, you could then take Route 50 all the way across Ohio, which has a real city (Cincinnati), ancient Indian mounds, Athens for your college town, plenty of random Americana.

I could keep going, but hopefully there are some ideas in there!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:57 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you considered driving to Cincinnati, Ohio? Cincinnati has a lot of great cultural activities and attractions. It's about a 3 hour drive from Jasper.

Some of my favorite things in Cincinnati:

The Cincinnati Art Museum
The Taft Museum of Art
Contemporary Arts Center
The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
The Lloyd Library
Mercantile Library
American Sign Museum

Historic Sites
Harriet Beecher Stowe House
St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption (just across the river!)
St. Peter in Chains Cathedral
Old St. Mary's Church
Over-the-Rhine Neighborhood

General Attractions/Entertainment
The Cincinnati Zoo
The Cincinnati Observatory
The Krohn Conservatory
Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum
Newport Aquarium (just across the river!)

Shopping Districts
Mainstrasse Village (just across the river!)
Findlay Market

Final Friday
Cincinnati Walks (I'd highly recommend the Over-the-Rhine tour; it's an amazing place.)
posted by LittleKnitting at 2:05 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Plenty to do without trekking to Chicago or elsewhere. There's West Baden Springs Hotel, which had the largest freestanding dome in the world in the early 1900s. There might be some entertainment at the French Lick casino, but I liked hanging out at West Baden better.

If you go north a couple of hours, you could hit Bloomington (very nice college town), Nashville (a neat artists' colony), and my personal favorite, Story. Story is tiny, but the restaurant is good, and it's worth checking out (although some say it might be haunted).

Farther north is the Montgomery County Rotary Jail in Crawfordsville (cool, but not worth a trip there just for that). North of that is Lafayette, and if you're headed to Chicago, it would be on your way. You might want to eat at Triple XXX burger joint, and if you do, get the Duane Purvis, which is a hamburger with peanut butter on it--surprisingly good.

If you go south instead, New Albany has a good Underground Railroad exhibit at the Carnegie Center.

So if you don't mind poking around in small towns and seeing whatever you see there, I think you'll find plenty of low-key things to your liking.
posted by BlooPen at 2:20 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You'll be about a half hour from Holiday World, many of whose roller coasters hold or held titles as best/tallest/fastest/longest in the world (if you're into that kind of thing). It also has a pretty great water park.
posted by The Potate at 2:51 PM on April 24, 2010

I'm from Evansville, there's not a ton to do around there, but there is Holiday World, if you are into that sort of thing, and then Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois, if your into that sort of thing. Indianapolis is 2-3 hours away. Depending on when you are there in the summer there is Thunder on the Ohio in Evansville, which is something. As far as "regional" cuisine, the best we've got as a Southern IN specialty (which might actually be just and Evansville specialty) is Brain Sandwiches.
posted by katers890 at 4:45 PM on April 24, 2010

Oh and I forgot: Angel Mounds a kinda neat Native American Historical Site.
posted by katers890 at 4:46 PM on April 24, 2010

Louisville is a surprisingly cool city. Been there a couple times on weekend vacations. I can reccommend Thurnder on the Ohio, but that just happened. Also, there's Bardstown Road and C21, a hotel that was recently voted Best on the US by Conde Nast.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 4:54 PM on April 24, 2010

Best answer: You'll be an hour from Hemlock Cliffs, one of my favorite hikes in Indiana. It is a two or three mile loop, but very secluded and way different than you would think you'd find in southern Indiana -- namely, there are cliffs. If you like camping at all, Hemlock is a great place but there are great places all over in Hoosier National Forest (which is pretty much the whole area you are talking about).

Bloomington, IN is a little over an hour away and the home of Indiana University (my alma mater). Again, there is great hiking in the surrounding area, but Bloomington itself is very much a college town: the highest concentration of bars, locally owned ethnic restaurants, and fun, small shops in probably any part of Indiana outside of Broad Ripple in Indianapolis. And better than Broad Ripple too, anyway.

If you do go to Bloomington, dig through the used books at Caveat Emptor, get breadsticks at Rockit's, a pitcher of PBR at the Vid (or good beer from Upland Brewery), see if there are any shows at The Bluebird or The Bishop, and walk down 4th St. between Indiana Ave and Walnut to find some good food. Monroe Reservoir south of town has canoe rentals (and is massive).

Ever seen Breaking Away? The quarries that they go swimming in are just south of town. You would be trespassing on private property and they are kind of tricky to find (although not really), but I can give you directions if you are interested.

Feel free to message me if you have any particular questions about Bloomington or its surrounding area. My favorite ways to kill time while there were walking around town and driving around in the surrounding area.
posted by ztdavis at 5:27 PM on April 24, 2010

Best answer: You asked for regional cuisine......or for fewer brains, try The Black Buggy for all you can eat Amish food, in Washington, IN. It tastes exactly the way the food at the childhood family potlucks tasted.

Spring Mill State Park is also great for hiking, and has a pioneer village which is surprisingly detailed and in a beautiful setting. Near there is Grissom Memorial, if you're into space stuff.

Marengo Cave is gorgeous. It's not as big as Mammoth Cave, which is also close, but Mammoth Cave is sterile limestone and gravel where Marengo Cave is just full of formations.

Do you like fossil hunting? If you want to see information about what you're finding, go to Falls of the Ohio just north of New Albany. If you prefer to pick up and keep your fossils, any rock cut or creek'll do you. You can find trilobites on the huge rock cut where SR 37 intersects I64, just north of Sulphur. Entire crinoids several feet long(too big to pick up, they're embedded in the rock) can be found on the rock cuts along 37 and 50 south of Bedford on your way into Bloomington. In Bloomington, you can eat at the Snow Lion which at one point was one of only two Tibetan restaurants in the whole country. It's owned by the Dalai Lama's brother and it used to have real yak butter tea but I haven't been there in a couple of years because there are too many good places to go.

On Friday night, go to Dinky's. Auctions are kind of *the* thing to do if you live in the country, and Dinky's is the regional for at least a couple hours. It's a huge draw for the Amish and Mennonites, too, so watch out for buggies over blind hills on your way up there. If you really want to experience Southern Indiana, you can't miss it.
posted by arabelladragon at 6:00 PM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Kentucky's Red River Gorge is three hours away, if what you want to do is go backpacking.
posted by salvia at 6:23 PM on April 24, 2010

Response by poster: It would have to be brains, wouldn't it? Thanks everybody for the seriously detailed answers. Several bests pending.
posted by ormondsacker at 8:06 PM on April 24, 2010

Best answer: I spent some time in IN last year. Sugar cream pie and pork tenderloin sandwiches are the main local dishes.

You won't be far from Owensboro, KY. Go to the Moonlite for barbecued mutton (the buffet has dishes not included on the a la carte menu).

The Lincoln boyhood home is also nearby.
posted by brujita at 8:47 PM on April 24, 2010

My husband, a native Hoosier, is recommending the Benedictine Abbey at St. Meinrad and the Benedictine Convent at Ferdinand, both within a few minutes of Jasper, and stunning in their presence in the southern Indiana hills.

Just east of Evansville is Angel Mounds, site of Mississippian culture.

Hanover College, by Madison, is a delightful campus with red-brick buildings high on the bluffs, overlooking the Ohio River.

He also seconds previous recommendations for New Harmony and West Baden, French Lick.

He wants to be sure you know there is a riverboat casino at Evansville, on the Ohio River, as well as at Rising Sun near Cincy.
posted by dorle2you at 8:21 AM on April 25, 2010

Seconding St. Meinrad's and Ferdinand, if you like churches and/or religious places.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:45 AM on April 25, 2010

Forget making a trip to Cinci/Louisville/St Louis/etc... it's easy to get back to those bigger cities. Instead, stick with some of the smaller, local highlights that others have mentioned. I grew up in the area, and as others have mentioned, New Harmony is a must-see. Make a day of it: see the old shops, the labyrinth, the library, and the roofless church. Bring a book and read by the river. Get dinner and stay the night at the Red Geranium.

I also nth the suggestion of a visit to St Meinrad's--it's beautiful and quiet and stunning, regardless of your religious orientation.

You could also make the one hour drive to Evansville for two key meals: One at The Log Inn, which is the oldest restaurant in Indiana, and another meal at Turoni's, whose pizza is loved by locals and will always be close to my heart.
posted by rockstar at 11:49 AM on April 25, 2010

Another specialty of Southern Indiana is fried biscuits with apple butter. If you make it to Nashville, as BlooPen recommended above, have them at the Nashville House restaurant.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:57 AM on April 26, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all! The trip was cut a little short, but highlights:

- 24 hours in Bloomington, including bookshopping at Caveat Emptor, local beer at Nick's English Hut, and a steak at Janko's Little Zagreb (important note: Janko's Little Zagreb does not actually serve Croatian/Slavic food, except for one appetizer. Those are some extremely misleading proper names, Janko's Little Zagreb.)
- Leisurely meander through Hoosier National Forest
- Apple butter, fried biscuits, and mock turtle soup in Jasper
- The Moonlite Cafe in Owensboro, KY. Barbecued mutton pretty good; sugar cream pie, buttermilk donuts, and the burgoo are to die for. Man!
- Nancy Hanks's grave and some pleasantly cool July hiking at Lincoln's boyhood home

I did not get to explore Louisville or visit New Harmony, both of which were on the agenda, but thanks to Askme for a great trip! (Especially brujita for the Moonlite suggestion. Man!)
posted by ormondsacker at 7:55 PM on August 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just noticed this thread and have to admit that I'm a little disappointed that no one recommended the Schnitzelbank.

I'm glad you got to check out Bloomington though. :)
posted by meindee at 5:38 PM on December 29, 2010

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