Aerial view of Madison, Indiana.

7 Most Beautiful Historic Towns in Indiana

The midwestern state of Indiana extends from the Ohio River in the south to Lake Michigan in the north. Nicknamed the “Hoosier State,” Indiana is home to hundreds of small towns built upon agriculture, industry, commerce, and tourism, many of which have managed to preserve elements of their distinctive history and culture. We have picked out seven Indiana towns that continue to do a great job holding onto their rich cultural heritage.


Amish horse and buggy in Shipshewana, Indiana.
Amish horse and buggy in Shipshewana, Indiana. Editorial credit: haveseen /

Northern Indiana’s LaGrange County has an Amish community numbering about 15,000, and the small town of Shipshewana serves as the hub of community activity. Easily accessible from the Indiana Toll Road and the nearby cities of South Bend and Fort Wayne, Shipshewana is a popular destination for Amish heritage tourism. The Blue Gate Restaurant and Bakery is the most famous spot for Amish-style cuisine and crafts in the quaint downtown area. Shipshewana also hosts a giant flea market, counting over 700 vendors, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from May through September.

French Lick

A beautiful church in French Lick, Indiana.
A beautiful church in French Lick, Indiana. Editorial credit: GypsyPictureShow /

Basketball fans often recognize French Lick as the home of Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, but this southeastern Indiana community has a long history of health resorts focused on the surrounding mineral springs. Since 1897, the enormous and ornate French Lick Resort and Casino has loomed over the charming downtown. Meanwhile, the West Baden Springs Hotel, which is now part of French Lick Resort but is located about 1 mile away, boasts an amazing 1902 atrium with a 200-foot-wide dome. French Lick is great for an architectural walking tour followed by a soothing spa treatment!


Old Indiana Capitol building in Corydon, Indiana
Old Indiana Capitol building in Corydon, Indiana. Image credit: Brent Moore via

The little southern Indiana town of Corydon is packed with historical significance. Corydon was Indiana’s first state capital, and the historic downtown area still hosts the Old Capitol Building, Governor’s Mansion, and other 1820s vintage structures from that era. Corydon was also the site of the only Civil War battle in Indiana, which is remembered at the Battle of Corydon Memorial Park. Additionally, Indiana Caverns, the largest cave system in the state, is located just outside of town. Indiana Caverns also has an adventure park to enjoy after exploring the caves. 


Aerial view of Madison, Indiana.
Aerial view of Madison, Indiana.

Madison emerged in the early-to-mid 1800s as Indiana’s rival to the nearby Ohio River ports of Louisville, Kentucky (50 miles away) and Cincinnati, Ohio (70 miles away). Madison eventually faded as those cities kept growing, but a walk through the Madison Historic District (a National Historic Landmark) reveals the wealth and prestige of the town’s riverport era. Madison’s architectural highlights include the 1817 Schofield House and the 1844 Lanier Mansion. The decline of river shipping in Madison has also restored the natural beauty of the riverfront area, offering spectacular views and ample water recreation options.


The charming town of Angola, Indiana.
The charming town of Angola, Indiana.

Angola, named by early settlers for their former town in upstate New York, looks more like a traditional New England town than most Indiana communities. Important local buildings like the county courthouse form the perimeter of the town square, while the 67-foot-high Steuben County Soldiers Monument (1917) impressively occupies the middle of the square. The neighboring Angola Historic District maintains the same 1800s charm as the town square and is a hotspot for antique shopping, which draws visitors to the town. Angola is also just a short drive away from Pokagon State Park, highlighted by Lake James.

New Harmony

Drone Aerial Shot of New Harmony Labyrinth, Indiana
Aerial view of the New Harmony Labyrinth, Indiana.

New Harmony represents a unique part of Indiana’s early state history when it was a magnet for utopian visionaries. The Harmonists, utopians from Pennsylvania, established the town along the Wabash River in 1814. A decade later, in 1825, George Owen’s utopian group (the Owenists) tried out its social experiment in town. While these groups did not succeed, they left behind a wealth of historic buildings and artifacts that make New Harmony a unique place to explore. Tourists should start their visit at the New Harmony Visitors Center, located in the impressive Atheneum building. 


Historic mill in Metamora, Indiana.
A historic mill in Metamora, Indiana.

Before the railroads took over in the 1840s, Indiana got caught up in a canal-building frenzy, with results like the Whitewater Canal between the Ohio and White Rivers. Metamora sits along the remnants of the canal and has been virtually unchanged since the mid-1800s. Historic details like the still-operating gristmill bring heritage tourists to Metamora, and nature sightseers and railroad enthusiasts should not miss a ride on the scenic railway that parallels a section of the canal route. Parts of the canal are even still navigable for boat excursions, further adding to Metamora’s distinctive historic charm.

For some travelers, Indiana is just a place to drive through (on its many interstate highways) or fly over on the way to somewhere else. But the Hoosier State is definitely worth exploring on its own. Indiana’s indigenous inhabitants and waves of settlers and immigrants have left behind a unique cultural heritage that is best experienced in the state’s many small towns. So, next time you visit Indiana, exit the interstate and hit the country roads to make some small-town memories!

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