Friday, April 13, 2012


As I stated last week, I visited Illinois and Indiana on a road trip around Lake Michigan a few years go with three of my friends.

While in Indiana, we visited the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, specifically Mount Baldy.  At 126 feet high, it was a real workout to get up to the top of this mountain of sand, but, my friends had a good time running up and down this mountain (I did not). 
On the way up! (I took the pic)
From the top of Mt. Baldy (I took the pic)
Me at the top (A friend took the pic)
Also, the view of Lake Michigan from the top of the mountain was beautiful long as you didn’t look down the beach to see the power plant with the plume of smoke. 
Down the beach (I took the pic)
They don’t show that on the website!  After getting back to our car, we headed to the next state on our road trip, Michigan.

When in Indiana, you have to know what counties you’ll be traveling in and what time it is there.  It’s not as simple as you might think.  Some Indianan counties use to not recognize Daylight Savings Time, some recognized it and followed Central Time, and the rest recognized it and followed Eastern Time.  As of 2012, all counties recognize Daylight Savings Time now, however, 12 counties in the northwest and southwest parts of the state have decided to follow the Central Time and the rest of the state has decided to follow the Eastern Time.  You’ll want to check out what county you want to visit and what time zone they have decided on before making any appointments.  You wouldn’t want to be an hour early or late.

In researching for this post, I found a lot of rare, quirky, interesting and possibly weird areas/towns in Indiana I’d like to go back and see.

Within Indiana there is a rare group of people called the Amish people.  If you’re unfamiliar with them, they have Amish people in a few northeast / midwest states.  They’re Christians that do not use power, have horse drawn buggies instead of automobiles, and they dress very plainly.  They also speak English and either Pennsylvania Dutch and/or Swiss German.  They call those that are not Amish - English people.  They settled on land just east of the towns of Goshen and Middlebury, Indiana.  You can visit the Menno-Hof in Shipshewana for the history of the Amish/Mennonite/Anabaptists or you can check out this website for more about the Amish culture.  While in this area of Indiana, if you’ve never taken an Amish buggy ride before, you definitely need to.  There are many companies in this area that offer buggy rides at reasonable prices such as Buggy Lane Tours in Shipshewana.  I’ve taken two buggy rides near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where there are Amish communities, and really enjoyed learning more about their culture.
Indiana Amish Buggy
A town that is all their own is the town of Peru, which claims they are the Circus Capital of the World.  The circus has been a part of the town of Peru for over 100 years!  Every July for nine days (July 14-21, 2012), the downtown converts to an amusement park filed with rides, games, food, and entertainment including a circus parade for the Circus City Festival!  Don’t fear if you’re not in Indiana in July.  They have a Circus City Museum and Gift Shop open year round downtown.  It’s filled with photos, miniatures, displays, and costumes from circus past.
Peru, Indiana's Circus City Festival Parade
Yet another interesting town is called Santa Claus and yes, you can celebrate Christmas every day of the year there.  The town’s website states that the town was named on Christmas Eve of 1852.  The sound of bells made a jubilant child ring out “Its Santa Claus,” to which a town elder asked “Why not call it (the town) Santa Claus?”  The residents all agreed and the town of Santa Claus was born.  Within town there are many Christmas-ish named stores and attractions.  Also, there is a 22-foot tall Santa in the Santa Claus Park.  It’s looking toward both the original settlement of Santa Claus, Indiana and the town of Bethlehem (Bethlehem, Indiana that is).
The Welcome sign in Santa Clau, IN
The biggest resort that I know of has got to be the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Indiana, which is a 3,000-acre resort with two hotels, two spas, three golf courses, one casino, two conference centers, indoor/outdoor pools, indoor tennis courts, indoor basketball courts, stables, bowling alley, arcade, concerts, and they host a slew of special events.  This resort’s history goes back to 1832, when the first hotel was constructed.  One of the hotels in the resort, the West Baden Springs Hotel, had the largest free-spanning dome in the United States at the time and kept that record for 10 years. 
West Baden Springs Hotel's lobby
Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his intention to run for president at a National Governors' Convention held at the French Lick Springs Hotel which is now the second hotel in the resort.  But, the town has been best known for being the hometown of the National Basketball Association (NBA) great Larry Bird ever since his professional basketball career took off.  He was given the nickname "the Hick from French Lick.”  That’s an awful nickname.

For those Nascar fans, you’ll want to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The first Indianapolis 500-mile race was held in May 1911.  The Speedway boasts that it is now the world’s largest spectator sporting facility, with more than 250,000 permanent seats.  They also note on their website that the Churchill Downs Horse Racing Track, the Yankee Baseball Stadium, the Rose Bowl Football Stadium, the Roman Coliseum, and Vatican City ALL can fit inside the Speedway’s oval, which covers 253 acres.  WOW!
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis is also Indiana’s state capital, so stop by and visit the capital building.  No matter how long you have or what day you’re in town during the week, the statehouse tour office offers various tours that are 15, 30, 45, or 90-minutes long – you choose.
Indiana State Capital Building
While in Indianapolis, check out the Indiana Historical Society.  They have a really exciting looking building full of interesting exhibits.  They use a lot of innovative technology with touch screens, 3-D pictures, digital grand piano playing Cole Porter music (Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana) and within the building is something about all 92 counties in Indiana.
The Cole Porter Room at the Indiana Historical Society
Another awesome looking museum in Indianapolis is their Children’s Museum.  You can even have your birthday party there!  Right now they have dinosaur exhibit, a Lego Travel Adventure exhibit, a Mr. Potato Head exhibit, a hall of mirrors, and a carousel.  I had fun just exploring their website!
The Carousel at the Children's Museum
Towns and counties across the United States have various fairs and festivals paying homage to various fruits, vegetables, plants, and trees.  Parke County is no different.  In February and March, when maple syrup producers begin tapping the maple trees that provide sugar water for making maple syrup, it’s time for the Parke County Maple Syrup Fair!  You can tour maple syrup camps, see how maple syrup is made, and sample its wonderful flavor. 
Maple Syrup
In October, Parke County also hosts Indiana’s largest festival, the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival.  Parke County, with 31 historic covered bridges, claims to be the Covered Bridge Capital of the World.  I think they’re so quaint and beautiful.  I’d love to go to this festival.
Red Covered Bridge in Rockville, IN
As always, these are just the places I’d like to go to in Indiana.  If you know of anywhere else in Indiana we should check out, please leave a comment below.  See you next week when we’ll explore what’s just round the corner in Iowa and their covered bridge festival.

**Photos were found online if not noted**

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