Businesses along Main Street in Nashville, Indiana. Editorial credit: Roberto Galan /

Indiana's Best Small Towns for a Weekend Escape

Sitting at the crossroads of America, Indiana is a famous state for both highways and racers, with the Indy 500 being a favorite for racing fans. Known as the Hoosier state, it sits directly in the Midwest between Illinois and Ohio. Founded in 1816, the state has a long history as many immigrants settled in the area over time. As a result of this history, there are many quaint and quirky small towns in Indiana, ranging from German Catholic towns to old utopian communities. Add on the array of scenic landscapes for some fantastic destinations ideal for a weekend getaway.


The Professional Building in downtown Nashville.
Rustic brick building along Main and Van Buren streets in downtown Nashville, Indiana. By Serge Melki from Indianapolis, USA - Nashville Indiana - Corner of Main street, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Nashville is a charming town with many boutiques and parks to explore. The town of just over 1,200 people is most famous for Brown County State Park, known as the “Little Smokies” for its resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains. This park offers almost 16,000 acres of trails for biking and hiking, as well as many spots to go for a swim. If walking isn't your style, take a horse-drawn carriage through town. For places to shop, visit Grasshopper Flats Jewelers, Men’s Toy Shop, Wishful Thinking, or try local wine at Chateau Thomas Wine. For places to stay, rent a cabin from Hills O'Brown Rentals or try out the world's most convenient inn, Story Inn, located within Brown County State Park.

Santa Claus

The Zinga Ride in Santa Claus, Indiana.
People enjoying the Zinga ride in Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana. By Holiday World & Splashin' Safari - Holiday World & Splashin' Safari FlickrTransferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by User:Themeparkgc using CommonsHelper., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Named after St. Nicholas himself, Santa Claus is one of Indiana's best-kept secrets, containing both relaxing and thrilling experiences. The biggest draw in town is Holiday World, a family-owned amusement park featuring multiple wooden roller coasters, the Splashin' Safari Water Park, and free unlimited soft drinks and sunscreen. Another great spot in town is the Santa Claus Museum & Village, which has multiple buildings dating back to the 1800s, including the town post office and the Santa Claus Church. Moreover, the Santa Claus Christmas Store is open year-round and features ornaments, lights, cookies, and fudge. For places to stay, consider Santa's Lodge, which is close to Holiday World.

Lincoln City

Lincoln Boyhood Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana.
Lincoln Boyhood Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana, Editorial credit: EWY Media /

After visiting Santa Claus, don't forget to visit the nearby community of Lincoln City for a truly unique experience. The town formed around the place where Abraham Lincoln spent 14 formative years, offering an insight into the former president’s youth. At the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, visitors can see the site of one of his cabins and Nancy Hank Lincoln's gravesite. For other places to see, go for a hike at Lincoln State Park, which includes a beach at Lake Lincoln and Lincoln Amphitheatre, which has regular entertainment from May to October. Walking the Trail of Twelve Stones Trailhead, you will see several bronze markers mentioning key events in the President's life. To take advantage of the local scenery, travelers should consider a scenic place to rest at night, such as the Lincoln Pines Lakefront Resort.

French Lick

A church in the town of French Lick, Indiana.
A small church in the town of French Lick, Indiana. Editorial credit: GypsyPictureShow /

French Lick is the perfect destination for travelers who love staying in a good hotel. The town has some fantastic hotels nearby, like the West Baden Springs Hotel, famous for its dome, towers, and atrium, earning the title "Eighth Wonder of the World." The French Lick Springs Hotel is another historic hotel, first established in 1845, featuring golfing, spas, bowling, and more. While staying at a luxurious hotel, visitors shouldn't forget to go out and explore at the French Lick West Baden Museum, the French Lick Scenic Railway, or go hiking on some of the trails in the nearby Hoosier National Forest. The forest spans a whopping 200,000 acres, with trails like the 24-mile German Ridge Trail offering beautiful landscape views. Moreover, various camping opportunities are available, from primitive roadside spaces to cabins for the perfect outdoor weekend.


Aerial view of Shipshewana, Indiana.
Aerial view of Shipshewana in Indiana.

Located in the heart of one of the largest Amish communities in America, Shipshewana makes a great weekend getaway to explore, shop, and taste the local cuisine. Visitors can learn about the way of life of the Amish and Mennonites at the Menno-Hof Amish & Mennonite Museum or explore many Amish Cottage Shops such as “B” Honey & Candles, Silver Star Leather, and Owl Toy Craft. If visiting multiple shops seems like a hassle, opt for the Shipshewana Auction & Flea Market, the largest in the Midwest. Everything is available here, from delicious Amish food to unique arts & crafts. Meanwhile, outdoor lovers can head out on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, which runs along many farms and wood, wooded areas, and Amish restaurants. Consider staying at the Farmstead Inn & Conference Center or the Brethren Retreat Cabins at Shipshewana Lake for a relaxing experience.


The Ohio River in Madison, Indiana
View of the Ohio River coast along the town of Madison, Indiana.

Madison is a classic town in Indiana, home to beautiful architecture and natural wonders on the shores of the Ohio River. The Broadway Fountain, a bronze copy of the 19th-century fountain, is a must-see for history enthusiasts, along with the picturesque Lanier Mansion and Old Railroad Depot. The Eleutherian College in Madison is another intriguing spot to visit, founded in 1848 by Neil's Creek Anti-Slavery Society. For a slightly morbid take on the past, Springdale Cemetery in town has many marble statues honoring the dearly departed. After indulging in local tales, hikers and nature lovers opt for Clifty Falls State Park, which has 1,400 acres of trails and waterfalls. Madison also has many great wineries, including Lanthier Winery and Thomas Family Winery, perfect for a drink before getting a good night’s rest at The Butterfly House Bed and Breakfast.

New Harmony

Aerial view of the New Harmony Labyrinth in Indiana.
Aerial view of the New Harmony Labyrinth in New Harmony, Indiana.

New Harmony is a destination often overlooked in the Hoosier state but bustling with a unique history. The town was once the home of multiple utopian communities, with the first being the Harmonists. Their appreciation for beauty and structure is still on display in New Harmony. For example, the Harmonist Labyrinth, made up of manicured privet hedges, creates an idyllic spot to relax and meditate. There are also many gardens and historical places to explore, including the Cathedral Labyrinth and Sacred Garden, David Lenz House and Garden, and the Old Harmonist Cemetery. From visiting the intricate past of New Harmony to performing self-healing yoga, the possibilities are endless.

Outside the town’s streets, the Harmonie State Park, located on the banks of the Wabash River, hosts many trails and cabins for rental. It is also an excellent place for a weekend walk, accompanied by the sound of cascading water. Those not looking for an outdoor stay can consider one of the area's many bed and breakfast establishments, such as A.C. Thomas House Bed & Breakfast Inn.


The Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana.
The Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana. By Chris Flook - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Ferdinand was settled by German-speaking settlers in the 19th century, leaving the town with a rich heritage. Along with the people, Ferdinand’s heritage is palpable through its stunning architecture, including beautiful 19th-century churches and homes. Visitors can walk around the town to appreciate the 1848 St. Ferdinand Catholic Church, the 1865 Ferdinand National Bank, and much more. Ferdinand is also great for shopping for antiques at Ferdinand Antique Emporium, which offers fantastic souvenir items. For a more open place to walk, visitors can opt for the Old Town Lake & Walking Path, which also features a fishing pier and kayak launch. There is a Comfort Inn in the area, and nearby Jasper has many hotels and bed and breakfast locations for a comfortable stay.


Historic building during winter in Corydon, Indiana.
Historic brick building during the winter in Corydon, Indiana. Editorial credit: Erica Walter /

Before Indianapolis became the capital of Indiana, Corydon served as the state capital for Indiana, and as such, it has a rich and varied history. This town is ideal for a historic weekend retreat as tourists can visit several sites, including the Corydon Capitol State Historic Site, Governor Hendrick's Headquarters, the Battle of Corydon Historic Site, and the Constitutional Elm, where Indiana's first state constitution was signed. Corydon is also famous for its many caverns nearby, such as the Marengo Cave and Indiana Caverns. The latter is a fan-favorite, offering boat rides through the dark embrace of the Binkley Cave system. For a less spooky experience, there are many great local places to eat in town, like Flipdaddy's, which offers 27 unique burgers. The Kinter House Inn offers one of the best spots to stay in downtown Corydon.


Small towns make for great weekend getaways, and Indiana's small towns are no exception. Whether you are looking for a national forest to explore, a river to kayak or fish in, or great local shopping, these nine towns offer all that and more. These small towns are no slackers when it comes to fine accommodations, as the French Lick hotels and the many historic inns throughout the state demonstrate. The next time you find yourself in the Midwest for a weekend retreat, consider visiting these nine towns in Indiana.

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