By Lindsay Owens
It’s quite easy to glaze over some of the local destinations right in our own backyard. We drive by them every day but don’t give them much notice. Understood but with the price of gas on the rise, many of us may be looking for trips a little closer to home. Fear not. The Hoosier State boasts destinations that will appeal to almost everyone.
For the day-tripper…
When was the last time you paid a visit to one of the historic sites in Vincennes? Many locals don’t view Indiana’s first city as those out-of-towners do. There’s a lot to explore and a lot of history to learn. Here are just a few must-see spots.
George Rogers Clark National Historic Park
Thanks to the work of Colonel George Rogers Clark and his army, the British were unable to claim victory in Vincennes during the American Revolution. Capturing Fort Sackville also meant staking a claim on the frontier — a space nearly as large as the original 13 states.
Make a stop in the visitor’s center to learn about the battle and life in the frontier before heading to the rotunda to see the bronze statue of Clark and seven murals telling more of the story.
The visitor’s center and rotunda are open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. daily. Closed on major holidays. The grounds are also a good place to catch the annual July 4 fireworks.
Grouseland, the home of Governor William Henry Harrison
Tucked away just off the Vincennes University campus, Grouseland just underwent a major renovation to restore the stately brick home back to its original splendor.
Harrison, who later became the ninth president of the United States, was serving as governor of the Indiana Territory when he built the brick house in 1804. He lived there until he left to take command of American forces in the old Northwest during the War of 1812.
The home, which had fallen into disrepair by the 1900s, was purchased and saved by the Francis Vigo Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.
One of the largest DAR chapters in the Hoosier State, the Francis Vigo Daughters maintains a chapter house located near the mansion as well.
Grouseland is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Indiana Military Museum
Located just off Willow Street, the Indiana Military Museum features one of the largest collections of military memorabilia around. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, the museum features pieces from the American Revolution through the present day.
From the famous caramel corn and chocolates of Charlie’s to Pop-Around-the-Clock’s Oh So Cheesy popcorn, stopping at one of these Vincennes favorites is a must. If it’s something cooler you are looking for, drop by I Hart Ice Cream (try the triple peanut butter cup).
Other day trip destinations
West Boggs Park and Lake, Loogootee
Maybe you just want to relax for the day. No camper? No problem. Head to West Boggs and kick back at the beach, let the kids play or do a little fishing. On the way there, stop by Zax’s Creamery in Montgomery for some atomic blonde ice cream or Dairy Master for tenderloin sandwiches.
Just a couple of hours up the road, Brown County may be best known for its colorful fall leaves but even in summer, the quaint village of Nashville offers many shopping and dining options. Check out the Brown County Music Center schedule and catch a concert after exploring all the area has to offer.
Scenic views, quaint shops and tons of unique eats fill this area. Check out one Schimpff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville and be sure to try freshly made cinnamon red hots, a customer favorite since 1891 or Modjeskas, caramel-covered marshmallows, named for actress Helena Modjeska.
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Ice cream lovers should try the fancy milkshakes offered at New Albany’s Boomtown Creamery.
South Bend may be best known as the home of Notre Dame but the city offers much more than just a chance to catch a game or tour campus.
The Studebaker Museum
More than 150 years of Studebaker history can be found in South Bend. From presidential carriages to race cars, the multi-level museum is sure to delight not only lovers of classic cars but also history. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The South Bend Chocolate Factory
This may be the closest thing you’ll get to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. A tour of the chocolate factory may require a hairnet but getting the behind-the-scenes look at how chocolate confections are made on-site is well worth the nets. Also included with the tour is a discount on chocolates purchased that day and the chance to dip your own chocolate spoon. Slightly imperfect but still delicious chocolates are also up for grabs. Try the sea salt turtles or malted milk balls.
Tours are available Monday through Friday at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
From tropical foliage and a water feature to the Arizona Desert Dome filled with cacti and succulents, the conservatories are a plant lovers delight. Open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Located near the conservatory, Indiana’s first zoo is home to more than 400 animals including okapi, Amur tigers, snow leopards, red pandas, spider monkeys and more. Take a look around the grounds on foot or take a ride on the zoo’s train. The zoo is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Other fun stops in the area
Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum, Elkhart
Visit the only comic book and superhero museum in the world in Elkhart. Featuring more than 10,000 toys, 60,000 comic books and 100 pages of original comic book pages and animation, the museum is sure to delight comic book and superhero enthusiasts of all ages.
Joshua Tree Earth and Space Museum, Lakeville
A great place to explore the wonders of the planet, the museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.