From the stunning Indiana Dunes National Park on Lake Michigan in the north and the rolling hills and deep caves to the south, Indiana is a state that keeps visitors coming back for more. In the Midwest, Indiana is best known for its miles and miles of cornfields and bustling capital city of Indianapolis, however, the smaller, more unique towns that dot its landscape, such as Fairmount, the resting place of iconic actor James Dean, are worth checking! Planning on taking a road trip through the country's heartland? The following few Indiana towns stand out from the mainstream towns for those looking for an authentic trip!
Located in east central Indiana, Fairmount is unique because it is the hometown of legendary film actor James Dean. Dean grew up in this small midwest town and residents have done an exceptional job at preserving his legacy and sharing it with visitors from all over the world. Start the visit with a trip to the James Dean Museum, which is located in downtown Fairmount and holds the world's largest collection of the actor's personal belongings. Here, guests can check out Dean's motorcycles, movie props, clothing, photographs, artwork, and other memorabilia. For the diehard James Dean buffs, make sure to visit in September as the museum hosts a festival complete with a fair, vendor booths, a car show, and live entertainment in the late actor's honor!
Small albeit diverse, Shipshewana is known as being the heart of Amish country in Indiana. Spend a day finding authentic buys as the town is home to Shipshewana Trading Place Flea Market, the Midwest's largest flea market. The shopping mecca, which features more than 700 vendors selling everything from fresh produce to handmade furniture, was named one of the best flea markets in the country by Travel and Leisure Magazine. Tourists also flock to Shipshewana for the "Amish experience," including buggy and carriage rides and guided tours through Amish country. Finish off the day by spending a few hours at the Shipshewana Area Historical Society, which is located in a historic one-room schoolhouse.
Situated on the Ohio River at the Kentucky border, the small, charming town of Aurora is like a convergence of the North and the South. This river town celebrates the friendly, Midwestern culture and the traditions of the south, blending the two uniquely. Aurora was settled in the early 1800s and has a quaint downtown that beckons to visitors with its historic buildings, boutiques, and eateries. Take a stroll along the river, or a walk through town to view the different types of architecture. Snap some photos of the beautiful buildings featuring Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Romanesque Revival, Queen Anne, and neoclassical designs, to name a few. Aurora also has several marinas for those who want to take their boat out on the river, in addition to a handful of city parks with walking trails to explore.
New Harmony may appear to be an average small Midwestern town today, but it was the site of two early American utopian communities in the 1800s. Two labyrinths remain from the town's utopian days which visitors can check out. Stop by the historic box-hedge labyrinth featuring a hut near the town center and then make a trip to the Atheneum Visitors Center and gift shop, which sells labyrinth design gifts and handmade local art. With its modern design, clean spaces stunning city and Wabash River views, the Atheneum has won several awards, including the American Institute of Architects Award in 1982.
Art, antiques, and acres of natural beauty combine to make Nashville a one-of-a-kind Indiana town worth experiencing, no matter what season it is. Situated in Brown County, which was dubbed "The Artist Colony of the Midwest," Nashville is home to a diverse collection of art galleries, boutiques, specialty craft, and antique shops. Spend a day or two at the Brown County Antique Mall, or stop in one of the several artist studios, where guests can witness local artisans at work. History lovers will not want to miss a drive to Nashville's historic Bean Blossom Covered Bridge, which was built in 1880 and is another feature that sets this charming town apart. The scenic bridge spans the Bean Blossom Creek, and is open to pedestrians!
Originally a French trading post that was constructed near a salt lick, the interesting town of French Lick is now known for its casino and entertainment options. Train enthusiasts can catch a ride on the historic French Lick Scenic Railway, which traverses through the eye-catching Hoosier National Forest and under the Burton Tunnel. Throughout the year, the railway offers guests a variety of fun special events, such as the Chocolate and Bourbon Tasting Trains and the Wild West Hold-Ups. Round out the visit with a trip to the French Lick West Baden Museum, which has memorabilia from basketball legend Larry Bird, who once called the area home, as well as infamous gangsters from the illegal gambling era.
Even though Indiana is in the middle of the landlocked Midwest region of the United States, there are still opportunities to set up a beach chair and relax on the sand in Michigan City, which is situated on Lake Michigan. Visit the Indiana Dunes National Park, which stretches 15,000 acres across the Lake Michigan shoreline, woodlands, wetlands, and bogs. Stay and play at the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel and Spa, or for history enthusiasts, check out the Barker Mansion. Modeled after an English manor house, the mansion dates back to 1857 and is filled with original art and opulent Gilded Age decor.
No matter where folks may be traveling in Indiana, they will be within easy driving distance of one of the state's unique towns. Spending time in one of these treasures, whether right off a major highway or off the beaten path, these unique destinations will deliver a memorable trip! From legendary actor hometowns to historic covered bridges, visitors can find it all in Indiana.