Please hlep me make my mothers trip to Northern Indiana unforgettable for good reasons this time.
April 2, 2012 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Looking for places to see and things to do in Northern Indiana and surrounding areas up to a day drive away.

My mother is coming from Australia to visit me in the US, she has been a couple of times before and while she's liked visiting she would really like to get out and have a few adventures while she is here.

I am currently living in NW Indiana and none of my friends and family here can seem to come up with any suggestions as to what someone from another country might like to see.

Things to take into account

She is 72 years old so can't hike long distances but she likes bushwalking/hicking on gentle and well graded trails but can usually manage an hour or so of walking around before she needs a coffee break, then she's usually good to go again. We can travel a day and overnight for a night here or there, but too much traveling tires her out.

- She will be here for the month of July.
- She would really like to see things she couldn't see in Australia.
- She loved going to Wolf Park and howling with wolves last time she was here, and we had several great trips to Chicago and to see the covered bridges south of here and she's been to Indy.
- She lives 2 minutes walk from pristine and pretty well deserted beaches back home and I suspect she would find the whole Indiana Dunes area too busy and polluted (she's a beach snob).

Things she likes - Antiquing and cute little villages with shops to mooch around, trying new foods, art (but not too folksy or cute she has very modern tastes), historical buildings, guided tours. seeing Native Flora and Fauna, pretty views. She loves learning new things and so good guided tours where she could learn in depth history and details of early American life would interest her.

I would really like to make this trip memorable for her as last time she came she got really bad food poisoning and ended up in hospital and almost dying so got to see pretty much nothing but the inside of a hospital the whole time she was her. We both jokingly have a goal of wiping out the memory of that trip.

Ideas I've had include - Going to a Buffalo Farm, Blue Berry picking, Taking her to Conner Prairie though I worry that's more for kids. Driving up to Mackinaw, touring Notre Dame campus.

Any and all ideas appreciated. I suspect her main criteria is stuff she can boast about to her friends when she gets back home.
posted by wwax to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Potato Creek State Park has some lovely shortish trails and it's only about a 15 minute drive from Notre Dame. The Dunes National Lakeshore is pretty aewsome, too.
posted by readery at 1:23 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ack typo in the Heading .. . I am so embarrassed.
posted by wwax at 1:24 PM on April 2, 2012

The Indiana shoreline dunes are quite nice, but since you are contemplating going up to Macinaw anyway the Sleeping Bear Dunes are really spectacular and fairly well accessible by light-to-moderate walking.

Holland, Michigan is a cute little town, even though you'll miss the Tulip Festival.

You could head to Allen, Michigan, to the Antique Barn.

Visit Judy Schad's farm and talk to an amazing cheesemaker.
posted by gauche at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Starved Rock State Park in Illinois has some awesome scenery. Lots of hiking trails, and guided hikes.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:54 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: Grand Rapids has a beautiful sculpture and botanical garden. And G-Rap itself is pretty fun for a town that size.
posted by agentmitten at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2012

I now see that you've specified "within a Day's drive" which opens the possibilities up a bit.

These are not outdoorsy but could possibly be fun: You could go to Frankenmuth, which is Michigan's own terribly kitschy faux-bavaria. You could check out the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. She might, or she might not, be interested in spending a day at Cedar Point, the roller-coaster capital of the world.

Heading down south, you could visit Mammoth Cave National Park, which is an amazing and breathtaking experience. It's not all super strenuous, and the folks who work there were really helpful about finding a tour that was not going to overtax us.
posted by gauche at 2:04 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look at Amish Acres, though it may be a bit cheesy, and downtown Nappanee. Blueberry picking is a great idea.
posted by slidell at 2:50 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: Haha, this is my hometown and it's a little kitschy, (and this may have been where you went for the covered bridges last time), but Parke County, IN (which is about 50 miles west of indy, near terre haute) has lots of historic buildings, a historic village that may or may not be up and running this summer depending on how bankrupt they are, tons of covered bridges (30ish total in the county I believe), lots of antique places, lots of art and shops but tending toward the cutesy stuff, and Turkey Run and Shades State Parks which are both beautiful (If you go on a weekend in July, though, Turkey Run will be ridiculous busy; unless you're going on a weekday, go to Shades which is really as pretty but smaller and less-visited.) The Turkey Run nature center does tours of the Historic Lusk Home every week or so, where you can see lovely pioneer artifacts like wreaths made out of human hair. Canoeing down sugar creek is also a time-honored tradition (and something else best avoided on a summer weekend), but there are short trips if she'd be up to that.

It's maybe a little touristy for you, but it's got a lot of the things you're talking about, and Turkey Run and Shades state parks are worth a stop if you're into hiking, even if the rest looks like a total tourist trap. Agh, I can't believe I just sounded like a tour guide for my hometown. but feel free to memail me if you have questions, I'm an expert!
posted by geegollygosh at 3:01 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: She would probably love a trip to Brown County. You can couple that with a trip to Bloomington to tour the Indiana University campus. She may be particularly interested in the Lilly Library at IU.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:00 PM on April 2, 2012

Notre Dame has a nice museum too.
posted by brujita at 4:16 PM on April 2, 2012

The Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum (in NE Indiana) is cool. There's also neat stuff in Nashville, IN, which is down near Bloomington.
posted by naturalog at 4:40 PM on April 2, 2012

The Blue Top Drive In and Miner Dunn Restaurant in Highland are just across the street from each other and are old timey hamburger joints.

Shipshewana and Amish Acres are a couple of hours from NWI, but are chock full of antiques, crafts, food, etc. Shipshewana also has a massive flea market/farmers market market, but I'm not sure when it is held.

Fair Oaks Farm offers an aseptically bizarre tour of a commercial dairy farm. Interesting yet disturbing.

Shopping at Lighthouse Outlet Mall in Michigan City.
posted by defreckled at 5:36 PM on April 2, 2012

There are lots of waterfalls in Indiana, believe it or not. And the famous Mazon Creek, home of the Tully Monster, is right over in Illinois.
posted by ambulocetus at 6:16 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: She might not like the Indiana Dunes (I wouldn't blame her), but Saugatuck (Michigan) is a wonderful little (gay) beach town, with galleries, antiques, great food, B&Bs, etc. Fairly close by, too.
posted by kickingthecrap at 10:22 PM on April 2, 2012

Best answer: Hi, I live in NW Indiana. If she likes antiques and historical towns, Chesterton is a good place to go. The Dunes don't just have the beach - they also have the Bailly Homestead/Chellberg Farm (a real working old-fashioned farm that makes maple syrup) as well as the Chicago World Fair Century of Progress homes. If you do end up going to the beach, go to Kemil Beach, it's cleaner. Avoid Washington Park at Michigan City - there was a shooting there recently and anyways it's super-crowded. The aforementioned Lighthouse Place Outlets are great - just know it's an outdoor mall. Fair Oaks Farm is pretty cool too.

Valparaiso has an Industrial Revolution restaurant now (IR for short), themed appropriately. Portage has a great sushi place called Fuji.

Not terribly impressive but the county fairs are around in July, as well as the state fair. Also there are plenty of local festivals - Mint Fest, Popcorn Fest, Blueberry Fest (which I think she will leave too early for) are a few.

Regarding an earlier comment, if you're coming from northwest Indiana, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame might not be considered a day trip - I'd say it's about 9-10 hours one-way.

It might not be her thing but there's always the Indianapolis Motor Speedway & Hall of Fame.

I'm sure you have no shortage of places to go in Chicago, but famous chef of Mexican cuisine and PBS cooking show host Rick Bayless has 3 Mexican restaurants there - Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, and Xoco, and they are fabulous. I adore the Museum of Science and Industry (now with Mythbusters exhibit!) and the Shedd Aquarium.

If you're interested in going to Milwaukee, there's the Jelly Belly factory. Closer to home in Merrillville, IN, you can tour the Albanese candy factory which features the world's largest chocolate waterfall.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:22 AM on April 3, 2012

Best answer: I think Connor Prairie would be fine. You might go on one of the nights they have Symphony on the Prairie. I think they let you bring food and drinks in if you want. They also have a balloon ride with a big ring that hold around 20 people. I haven't been brave enough to do it but it looks neat.

My sister talked to someone who did tours for Europeans and the big hits were the Amish towns in the North and the caves in the south. Surprised me that Indiana had European tourists.

My sister likes Metamora which reminds me of Brown county but with a canal.

Brown County is cool. It started as an Artist's colony and still has many cool shops. I like the glass blowing shop best. The Nashville House is over priced a bit but has down home kind of food that seems very American and a gift shop I think your mom would like. If you go, drive through Brown County state Park to see the deer. I haven't been in a long time but you use to be able to see a small herd in field not too far from the entrance.
posted by stray thoughts at 9:17 PM on April 3, 2012

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