25+ Unique Things to Do in Indiana

A list of more than 25 of the best things to do in Indiana

On an old country road, just outside of Gas City, Indiana. Yes, you read that right. Gas City.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Year Visited: most recently 2023

Time of Year: All seasons

Indiana: A Vacation Destination

Indiana is not a place I ever dreamed of planning a vacation to.

It’s not even a place I particularly liked when I first visited.

Unfortunately (or not) for me, I had to reside in the state for three(ish) years, since the college I attended was in central Indiana. And I kept coming back, year after year, to visit my friends who still live there!

I have grown to appreciate the unassuming state, but to be honest, despite spending so much time in Indiana, I really hadn’t done much there. Most of our time was spent studying and/or not spending money. Because we were college kids.

So when I decided to peruse Pinterest for any interesting stops I could make on my next visit, I realized that there is not a lot of love for Indiana on Pinterest. I also realized (after extensive research) that there are a lot of fun and unique things to do in Indiana!

Let me give you an idea as to what awaits in Indiana:

  • Elite universities

  • Vintage soda fountains

  • Historic theaters

  • A National Park

  • The Indy 500

  • A post office that can mail letters to Santa

  • Sugar cream pie

  • A “Roman baths-esque” spa town

  • An elephant spa experience. Where you can give an elephant a bath. And paint its toe nails.

I suddenly could not wait to get back to Indiana (to visit my friends, obviously…)! And I had to create a blog post that gave Indiana its due respect.

So here you go. Here is my extensively researched and impeccably curated list of the best things to do in Indiana!

About Indiana

One of the “artsy” photos I took as a photo major in Indiana…

Indiana is… flat.

BUT, surprisingly, not all of Indiana is flat. Southern Indiana actually has a similar landscape to the rolling hills of Kentucky, and is incredibly beautiful.

But to be fair to northern Indiana, the flat landscape and cornfields grow on you after a while. The way the sun reflects off the cornfields is magical, and you can get some of the best sunsets out here.

Besides… you’re not coming to Indiana to see landscapes. You’re coming to see Notre Dame, the Indy 500, and Santa Claus. After reading this list of fun things to do in Indiana, you’ll be too busy planning your Indiana road trip route to remember how flat it is.

Why is Indiana called the Hoosier State?

There is no definitive answer as to why the people of Indiana are called “Hoosiers.” Someone just started referring to them as such, and the name stuck.

There are multiple theories of how the name actually came about, but in general it seems it was originally used as a derogatory word for the poor, uneducated men of southern Indiana who worked on the canal on the Ohio River.

However, the people of Indiana good-naturedly accepted the term, and it soon became a common reference for anyone from Indiana. It has been a common term for Indiana-ans since the 1830’s (good thing, too, because Indiana-an is hard to say…).

What time zone is Indiana in?

This is a really good question, because most of Indiana is in the eastern time zone. Except for the top western corner. And the bottom western corner.

These counties are on central time, to match the nearby big cities like Chicago. So even though you might be visiting two Indiana attractions just 15 minutes apart, they might be in different time zones!

So yes, checking what time zone you’re in (or going to be in) on an Indiana road trip is essential!

Check out the map on the Visit Indiana website to see what time zones you’re going to be crossing if you’re planning an Indiana road trip.

What is Indiana known for?

I think the main thing Indiana is known for is corn. But with a little research, you'll find there are quite a few things Indiana is known for:

  • Corn-Yes, Indiana is known for corn. Its flat landscape is ideal for growing the popular grain. Indiana produces the fifth most corn of any state in the US.

  • Sugar Cream Pie-The official pie of Indiana is sugar cream pie (AKA Hoosier Pie), and getting a slice of this is definitely one of the top things to do in Indiana. It is similar to a custard pie, made simply with sugar, cream, flour and butter.

  • Ball Jars-I’m sure you’ve used a Ball Jar plenty of times before in your life, and never even thought anything of it. Those iconic glass jars your grandmother used to can peaches and store strawberry jam? Those were made at the Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Factory in Muncie, IN from 1887 to 1996 (the city known for Ball State University).

  • Basketball-It’s hard to mention Indiana and not immediately think “Hoosiers.” At least for me... because I don’t didn’t know that much about Indiana, OR basketball… But it’s a fair assessment, since the state actually claims to be the “home” of basketball. They even have entire basketball themed Indiana road trip itineraries on their state’s tourism site.

  • The World’s First Theme Park-Before Disneyland, Santa Claus, Indiana became the home of the world’s first theme park, Holiday World. The theme park was built to entertain the thousands of families who had started flocking to the small town in search of Santa Claus.

  • The Indy 500-The most popular car race in the world takes places in Indianapolis in May each year.

  • Notre Dame University-The home of the Fighting Irish is one of the most famous places in Indiana, and one of the top universities in the US.

Famous people from Indiana:

  • James Dean-The famous actor was born in Marion, Indiana, and spent most of his short life living with his aunt in Fairmount, Indiana.

  • Jim Davis-Just like James Dean, Jim Davis was also born in Marion, Indiana and grew up in Fairmount. He is famous for being the creator of the beloved comic strip Garfield.

  • Bob Ross-While not from Indiana initially, Bob Ross came to Muncie, Indiana trying to make a living as a painter. It was here that his TV show The Joy of Painting was filmed, and where Ross stayed when he wasn’t living the original #vanlife.

  • Orville Redenbacher-I guess it makes sense that the man who created the most popular microwave popcorn brand is from a corn farm in Indiana! Orville Redenbacher was born in Brazil, Indiana, where he began growing his own popping corn by the age of 12!

  • Michael Jackson-Michael Jackson was born and grew up in a tiny home in Gary, Indiana with all of his brothers and sisters! There is a plaque outside of the house commemorating the King of Pop.

  • Larry Bird-Known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Larry Bird was born near and grew up in French Lick, Indiana. In fact, he was nicknamed “the hick from French Lick.” He played 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning three championships, and was inducted, not once, twice into the Hall of Fame (as an individual player, and a member of the 1992 dream team).

  • Abraham Lincoln-Abraham Lincoln needs no introduction, but did you know he grew up in southern Indiana? You can visit the place where he lived from the ages of 7 through 21, and wander the 12 stones trail, featuring significant pieces of the 16th president’s history.

Best Time of Year to Visit Indiana

Weather in Indiana

Indiana experiences all four seasons, however, southern Indiana is much warmer than northern Indiana. Indianapolis pretty much divides the state between north and south, and the part of the state that consistently gets snow, and the part that does not get much snow.

April & May

I think April or May are some of the best months to visit Indiana. I loved my college campus in April, when all the flowering trees came into bloom. The weather is usually very pleasant in these months, nothing will be too crowded yet, and all the flowering trees are beautiful.


October is one of the best times to visit Indiana. The leaves will start to turn in northern Indiana in early October, and southern Indiana in the latter half of October. The weather should be comfortable, and there will be seasonal events starting to take place. Holiday World in Santa Claus will still be open limited hours, or you could come for the covered bridge festival in Parke County.


If you want to meet Santa Claus or pretend you are in a real life Hallmark movie, then December is the time to come. If you’re doing an Indiana road trip across the state, then I would suggest spring or fall to come. But if you want to get in the holiday spirit in Santa Claus, Indiana, then December is the time to visit. Remember the weather in southern Indiana should still be relatively decent at that time of year.

The Best Things to Do in Indiana

There are a lot more fun things to do in Indiana than people realize. In fact, I had a hard time narrowing down this list to be the best of the best. So feel free to explore Indiana and find even more things to do there!

This list of things to do in Indiana is listed from north to south across the state.

Map of the best things to do in Indiana:

This map was made with Wanderlog, for making itineraries on iOS and Android

Explore Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes is both a state park AND (recently) a national park! It is by far one of the best things to do in Indiana.

There are lots of beaches on the shores of the beautiful Lake Michigan, hiking trails across the dunes, and even some very cool futuristic houses from the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

For more information on visiting the Indiana Dunes, this article has a lot of great information and things to do in Indiana Dunes National & State Parks.

Tour Notre Dame University

When I think of Notre Dame, I think of Rudy. Or The Hunchback of Notre Dame… One or the other.

Regardless, the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana (not Paris!), is one of the most visited sites in the entire state of Indiana. The elite school is one of the top schools in the country, and has some beautiful sites to see on its campus.

You can take a free public tour of campus, or a tour of the stadium (or both!). Or attend a football game and cheer on the Fighting Irish.

Vera Bradley Outlet Sale

Vera Bradley was big when I was in college. Everyone had a Vera purse (or wallet) (or both). My college bookstore even had a Vera Bradley section, tucked in between the college pennants and the text books.

Vera was so popular in Indiana, because the Vera Bradley brand actually started in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the company’s headquarters are based. If you’re visiting Indiana in May, look out for the popular Vera Bradley Annual Outlet Sale, where you can find great deals on some Vera swag.

What better souvenir to bring back from your Indiana road trip than a 70% off designer handbag, amiright?

Follow the Garfield Trail

Some fun stops for your Indiana road trip might be to try to see all 14 Garfield statues along the Garfield Trail!

The mischievous cat can be found all over Grant County, Indiana, eating ice cream, reading books, putting out fires, and just being cool. The trail runs from Fairmount, Indiana, where Garfield creator Jim Davis is from, all around Grant County, north to Marion (his birthplace) and east to Upland.

Be sure to stop at Ivanhoe’s for one of their 100 ice cream sundae flavors, or (and) get a famous grilled cheese sandwich at Payne’s while you’re out.

Remember James Dean in Fairmount

While you’re in Fairmount you can learn more about another one of the Indiana city’s famous residents, James Dean. You can visit the James Dean Gallery, see classic cars at the James Dean Festival, attend the annual James Dean Memorial Service on Sep. 30th, or follow the James Dean Landmark Trail (which includes stops at the gallery and the cemetery).

Get Donuts at 1 am!

As college students, we drove almost an hour to get donuts in the wee hours of the morning A LOT. Because, I mean, what else was there to do when you were up at 2 am “studying” and Steak ‘N Shake kicked you out?

But also, donuts!

And these are really good donuts too! You don’t have to go at 1 am; they’re open 1 am-noon. But it’s just so much more fun to go at 1 am!

Locals call the shop Dirty Dan’s, but technically it is Dan’s Variety Bakery. It’s in a residential area of Kokomo, and you will usually find a line out the door at the 1 am opening hour. These donuts are seriously in the top of my list of the best donuts in the US.

Learn to Paint from Bob Ross

I’ll be honest; the only thing I knew about Bob Ross before I went to the Bob Ross Experience in Muncie, Indiana is that he had an affro. And that he painted.

But after touring the house where they actually shot The Joy of Painting show, seeing all his incredible paintings, and hearing all the encouraging things Bob said (he really was a swell guy!), I’ve realized that Bob Ross was cool (I am currently wearing my Bob Ross socks I picked up in the gift shop)!

And I wish I could take a painting class from the man himself, but you can sign up for one of the monthly workshops led by a certified Bob Ross instructor (I wish I had done that, too, but I didn’t know about it. Thankfully, you do!).

The Bob Ross Experience is located on the grounds of Minnetrista Museum & Gardens. Your ticket to the experience also gets you into the other museums on the grounds, including the Center Building, the Oakhurst Experience (home of the Ball family), and the Mary Lincoln Cottage. Be sure to set aside quite a bit of time to explore everything there is to do here. This is one of the most special and unique things to do in Indiana.

Visit Hoosier Gym

No Indiana road trip is complete without a quick stop to view the gym where they shot much of the movie Hoosiers. The Hoosier Gym, home court of the Hickory Huskers in the movie, is open to the public to visit or take a tour. You can even shoot some hoops in the gym.

Be sure to check their schedule as to when the gym is open (I missed the opening hours, so sadly, no picture for me) and when games are being played.

  • Bonus: visit the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University in Indianapolis, where the championship game was played.

  • Fun Fact: The arena at the Hinkle Fieldhouse was so huge, the producers of Hoosiers were having trouble filling all the seats. So they convinced two local high schools to move their basketball game to the arena, dressed the fans in period costumes, and filmed the final scenes of Hoosiers at half time!

See a Show in the Anderson Paramount Theater

The Paramount Theater in Anderson, Indiana is an “atmospheric theater” designed by John Eberson in 1928. It is one of only 12 such theaters left in the United States today.

The interior of the theater is absolutely stunning, designed to transport you to an evening in a Spanish courtyard. Seeing a show at the Anderson Paramount is absolutely one of the best things to do in Indiana, so be sure to plan your trip around the theater’s schedule.

If you’re unable to see a show in the theater, they do offer guided tours; however, when I called and asked for a tour, they seemed confused, and then directed me to a staff member who was out of town and never returned my call. So if you manage to get a tour, let me know how it goes!

Explore Indianapolis

Exploring the capital city of Indianapolis is, of course, one of the best things to do in Indiana! There are so many great things to do in Indianapolis. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Watch the Indy 500 (listed next!) or explore the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and tour the track.

  • Visit the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, the world’s largest children’s museum!

  • See the fun sculptures or paddle boat along the canal walk.

  • Visit the Soldier’s & Sailor’s Monument in the heart of the city, or other memorials around Indianapolis, which has the 2nd most memorials of any city in the US, behind Washington D.C.

  • Take a tour of the underground catacombs beneath the city.

    • Note that tours are unavailable until 2026 due to construction in the city.

  • Visit Newfields, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, or just explore the fun sculptures around their grounds for free.

  • Stay in a historic hotel converted from one of the country’s first train stations.

  • Get donuts from Long’s Bakery, a cash-only Indianapolis staple.

  • Grab a themed drink (mine was the Princess Peach!) and play your heart out at Tappers Arcade Bar.

  • Stop in all the local shops and restaurants on Mass. Ave.

  • Grab a drink at Guggman Haus Brewing Co., named Indy’s best brewery and one of the top breweries in the midwest, and workplace of one of my best friends!

  • Get a Biscoff latte at Parlor Public House, which is probably the coolest coffee shop I’ve ever been in. It’s a great place to bring a laptop and blog for a while with a tasty latte. They even have private glass cubbies if you can’t handle the noise or need to do a zoom call!

Watch the Indy 500

Visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and attending the Indy 500 is of course one of the best things to do in Indianapolis, but it also merits its own spot on the list of best things to do in Indiana.

The speedway was built in 1909, and hosted the first “500” race in 1911. Today the Indy 500 is arguably the most popular and well-known car race in the world. Even if you’re not into car racing, you can still visit the museum and tour the famous track.

Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor

I was so giddy when I walked into Zaharako’s Ice Cream Parlor in Columbus, Indiana. With the whimsical carousel music playing Christmas carols, the festive Christmas decorations adorning the adorable interior of the shop, and the menu of ice cream sundaes and fountain drinks to try, it is the perfect place for a date, or a viral Instagram reel (orrr to just sit by yourself with an ice cream sundae, like I did).

There are very few authentic soda fountains like this one left in the US, and you can explore the wall of vintage soda fountains and organs after you’ve enjoyed your ice cream.

Follow this up with a walk through the charming downtown Columbus and find what other hidden gems this Indiana city has to offer. It definitely deserves a stop on an Indiana road trip.

Go Shopping in Nashville, IN

Nashville, Indiana (not to be confused with the other Nashville), is a small town in the charming Brown County of Indiana. Downtown Nashville is a popular place for tourists, with their art galleries, Pioneer Village, Brown County Playhouse, TONS of unique local shops and restaurants, and proximity to Brown County State Park.

Exploring picturesque Nashville is definitely one of the best things to do in Indiana. It can easily be visited as a day trip from Indianapolis, or as a getaway with an overnight stay in one of the many historic downtown inns.

  • Note: Free parking does not exist in downtown Nashville. The cheapest parking lot I found was for $5 by the Pioneer Village. I parked in the main public parking lot by the public bathrooms for $10.

Explore Bloomington

Home to one of Indiana’s many prestigious universities, Bloomington is a fun college town and one of the best things to do in Indiana.

The Indiana University campus in Bloomington is recognized as one of the prettiest campuses in the world, with their iconic Sample Gates, the limestone student union building (gorgeous inside and out!), Beck Chapel, the woods on campus and so much more! And don’t forget all the museums to visit, including the Eskenazi Museum of Art, and the Lilly Library for rare books.

After exploring the campus, be sure to take a stroll down Kirkwood Ave. to see all the cute shops and restaurants, check out the street art, or visit the Buskirk Chumley Theater.

Spring Mill State Park

There are a lot of great state parks in Indiana, but Spring Mill State Park is one of the best, and most unique. In addition to the normal hiking trails that most state parks offer, Spring Mill State Park also has underground cave tours, a Pioneer Village to explore, and a museum honoring a local NASA astronaut!

Visit the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy

Another famous Hoosier is the comedian Red Skelton. You can visit his birthplace, just on the border of Illinois, in Vincennes, Indiana. Here you will find Vincennes University, which houses the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy on their campus.

Add a road trip stop here for a couple of good laughs and interactive fun while you learn about one of America’s most iconic comics.

Stay at a Resort in French Lick

Atrium lobby of West Baden Springs Resort. Unfortunately, the dome was under repair from hail damage. Usually, it’s not covered in tarps…

Indiana is not the place that comes to mind when I think of high society, or therapeutic hot springs. Usually, I just think of Bath, England.

But actually, there are two famous, historic resorts that people used to flock to for the healing mineral waters: French Lick and West Baden Springs. These two hotels were built in the 1800’s, with the awe-inspiring dome of West Baden Springs Resort being dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.”

You can take guided tours of both resorts (even a tour that includes afternoon tea—fancy!), or take a self guided tour on a mobile app. You can also take a ride on the scenic French Lick Railroad while you’re in town.

  • Why is it called French Lick? A mineral lick is a place where animals can “lick” nutrients from a salt or mineral deposit, like the ones found in the mineral springs in French Lick. It was also established as a French trading post, thus French… Lick.

  • Fun Fact: Tomato juice was invented at the French Lick Resort in 1917, when the chef ran out of orange juice.

Give an Elephant a Bath

Not far from French Lick is the Wilstem Wildlife Park, where you can find one of the most unique things to do in Indiana. In addition to the drive-thru safari, the zip lines, the horseback riding, and everything else they have, you can choose from a variety of close up animal encounters, including their famous elephant spa experience!”

Assist in bath time for the elephant, even helping to paint its toenails! This is truly a unique experience to have in Indiana.

Marengo Cave

Indiana’s most popular natural attraction is Marengo Cave, a 5-mile underground cave system in southern Indiana. This US National Landmark has tons of family activities in addition to the cave tours.

Or, for a truly unique experience, you can spend the night in the cave! Unfortunately, the overnight packages are only available for groups of 12 or more, so it’s not something you can just do as a couple on an Indiana road trip. But if you get your whole family to go with you… well there you go!

Watch a Baseball Game at the “League of their Own” Stadium

There are actually two different stadiums in Indiana you can visit where they filmed scenes for A League of their Own.

  • League Stadium, in Huntingburg, Indiana was the site of the Rockford Peaches home games.

  • Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana was the site of the championship game between the Peaches and the Racine Belles.

You can tour the stadiums, or watch a baseball game there. You can even still see signs from the movie that was filmed here more than 30 years ago!

Stay in a Monastery

One of the most unique things to do in Indiana is to stay overnight in a monastery!

There are actually two places you can stay overnight, both near Santa Claus, Indiana:

If you don’t want to stay overnight, you can visit (for free) the abbeys, and either take a guided tour, or explore on your own. If you get hungry, be sure to stop at St. Benedict’s Brew Works, a brewery on the grounds of the Monastery Immaculate Conception! Don’t forget to pick up an “Ale Mary” t-shirt while you’re there!

See Where Abraham Lincoln Grew Up

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln grew up in Indiana? I always associate him with Illinois, or his birthplace of Kentucky, but in between, he actually lived in a little cabin in southern Indiana.

Today, you can visit a recreation of the log cabin in the spot where the Lincoln family lived, at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.

Just across the street from the National Memorial is the Lincoln State Park, with 10 miles of walking trails, the home of Colonel Jones (an early employer of Lincoln), and the Lincoln Amphitheater, a great place to see a show in the warmer months!

Meet Santa Claus

Yes, Virginia (err… Indiana), there is a Santa Claus! Home to the world’s first theme park (Holiday World), the world’s first themed attraction (Santa’s Candy Castle), and the Santa Claus Museum (plus, obviously, Santa), Santa Claus, Indiana is a small town with a lot of great things to do!

You can even mail them your Christmas cards and get a special postmark each December. Or send letters to Santa. He might even answer back…!

Explore New Harmony

Visiting New Harmony is an incredibly unique thing to do in Indiana. It is a charming small town with a strange history.

“Harmony” was founded as a Utopian society in the early 1800’s. But the group of German immigrants from Pennsylvania who started it decided to return to PA, so they sold the community to another Utopian leader, who dubbed it “New Harmony.” His Utopian society only lasted a couple of years, but the town remained, and even established the first public library!

Take a free tour of the town, get lost in the labyrinths, rent a golf cart to explore town in, or visit the roofless church. Try to visit on a weekend, as many things to do in New Harmony are not open during the week.

Things to Do Across the State

Here are a couple more things to do in Indiana that have multiple locations across the state.

Go Searching for Covered Bridges

Indiana has a lot of covered bridges. So many, in fact, that they have a whole festival devoted to them. Visit in the fall for Parke County’s Covered Bridge Festival, the largest festival in Indiana, in the Covered Bridge Capital of the World! So many distinctions!

You can find other covered bridges around the state, like the Bean Blossom Bridge, south of Indianapolis. Finding all the best covered bridges would be a great way to plan an Indiana road trip route.

Eat Sugar Cream Pie

And finally, you cannot have a list of things to do in Indiana without mentioning sugar cream pie. It is the state’s most popular dish, and is also known as Hoosier pie.

It’s similar to a custard pie, but the best way I have to describe the flavor is just… sweet. I’ll have to be honest, sugar cream pie is not my favorite type of pie. But, if you’re in Indiana, you have to try it! You can find it anywhere in the state, but one of the most popular places to get it is Mrs. Wick’s Bakery & Cafe.

Indiana Road Trip Itineraries

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the things to do in Indiana, here are two made-for-you Indiana road trip itineraries; one for northern Indiana and one for southern Indiana.

Of course, you can feel free to alter these itineraries to your personal preferences. Both road trips will start and end in Indianapolis.

Northern Indiana Road Trip Itinerary

The best time of year to go on a northern Indiana road trip is May or September.

This map was created with Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

Day 1: Fly into Indianapolis and pick up a rental car. Spend two nights in Indianapolis. Head to Mass Ave. to find a local restaurant for dinner.

Day 2: Explore Indianapolis. Tour the catacombs, visit the Indy 500 Museum, the children’s museum or art museum, or any of the other fun things to do in Indianapolis listed above.

Day 3: Breakfast in Indy. Drive just over an hour to the Bob Ross Experience in Muncie. Spend the morning exploring the Minnetrista complex. In the afternoon, drive around to see all the Garfield statues and get ice cream from Ivanhoe’s. Spend the night in Fairmount.

Day 4: If you want to visit the James Dean Gallery, do that this morning (or you could fit it in on Day 3). Drive 2 hrs. to South Bend, Indiana and tour the University of Notre Dame. Spend the rest of the day exploring campus and the South Bend area. Spend two nights in South Bend.

Day 5: Day trip to Indiana Dunes State/National Parks, about an hour drive from South Bend (pay attention to time zone differences).

Day 6: Drive back to Indianapolis. Stop in Fort Wayne to visit the Vera Bradley outlet and see other things to do there, if you want. You can also make a stop in Anderson to see the Paramount Theater. If you want to spend the night in Anderson (an hour from the Indy airport), to see a show at the theater, you can. Otherwise, stay in Indy tonight (Also, if Dan’s Variety Bakery is open on your way back from South Bend, be sure to stop there and get donuts!).

Day 7: Return rental car and fly home from Indy.

Southern Indiana Road Trip Itinerary

The best time of year to visit southern Indiana is October, or December, for the Christmas season.

Trip map created using Wanderlog, for making itineraries on iOS and Android

Day 1: Same as northern Indiana road trip itinerary—fly into Indianapolis and pick up a rental car.

Day 2: Explore Indianapolis.

Day 3: Drive an hour south of Indy to Columbus, Indiana. Explore the city in the morning, and have lunch at Zaharako’s Ice Cream Parlor. Then drive straight across Route 46 to Nashville, Indiana. You can stop and explore Brown County State Park if you want, or just head straight to Nashville for some shopping. Have dinner in Nashville, or Bloomington, another half hour west of Nashville. Spend two nights in Bloomington.

Day 4: Explore the beautiful grounds of Indiana University campus and the charming college town of Bloomington. Pop into one of the many museums around town, and don’t forget to walk along Kirkwood Ave.

Day 5: Drive just over an hour from Bloomington to French Lick. Stay one night in French Lick, either at one of the luxury resorts, or just a regular hotel nearby. Take a tour of the resorts, and ride the French Lick Scenic Railway.

Day 6: Drive an hour to Santa Claus, Indiana. If it’s open, you can visit Holiday World theme park. If not (or theme parks aren’t your thing), explore the Lincoln State/National Parks, the nearby monasteries, and the Santa Claus Museum (watch out for time zone changes).

Day 7: Drive just over 2 1/2 hours back to the Indianapolis airport to return the rental car and fly home (be sure to remember the time change). If you would rather stay in Indy the night before your flight, you can add another day (maybe stop at Marengo Cave or Spring Mill State Park), or cut your day in Santa Claus short and head back to Indy that night.

Movies to Watch

(before visiting Indiana)


The original feel-good sports movie. I have to be honest… Hoosiers is not my favorite… But, if you are planning a trip to Indiana, it’s a good movie to watch before you come! It is a classic after all.


Rudy is also noooot my favorite movie (what’s with these Indiana sports films?), but it’s another classic, it stars my favorite actor (Sean Astin!), and I met the real Rudy at Chautauqua Institution (I also saw Sean Astin at Chautauqua!). So definitely watch it before you visit Indiana.

A League of Their Own

Finally, a sports movie I can really get behind! I actually had never seen A League of Their Own until after my latest road trip to Indiana. I had meant to watch it before I went, but I forgot. Until my friends in Santa Claus told me I could go visit the stadium where it was filmed. And I was like, “Oh, yeah! I’d better watch that!”

The Joy of Painting

You might as well learn to paint while also preparing for your Indiana road trip… Because seeing the house where they filmed The Joy of Painting and learning about Bob Ross is one of the best things to do in Indiana. You can also sit in the 1980’s styled living room and watch entire episodes of The Joy of Painting while at the Bob Ross Experience in Muncie.

Rebel Without a Cause

This classic 1955 movie stars Hollywood bad boy and Indiana native James Dean. Rebel Without a Cause is his most famous movie, and one of only three main roles he played before he died in a car crash at the age of 24. You can learn all about him and even attend his annual memorial service in his hometown of Fairmount.


You don’t necessarily have to watch a movie starring Garfield the Cat (although apparently they are making a new one with Chris Pratt!), but at least read some of the famous comic strips before visiting Indiana and finding all the Garfield statues, in honor of Garfield creator and Indiana native Jim Davis.

Red Skelton

Red Skelton was an American comedian in the mid 1900’s. He was born in Vincennes, Indiana, where you can visit the Red Skelton Comedy Museum today. Be sure to watch some of his old shows and comedy routines before you visit Indiana. He is hilarious.

Miracle on 34th St.

You can watch any version of Miracle on 34th Street (I won’t judge you), but the small town of Santa Claus, Indiana particularly makes me think of the 1947 film, and all the letters the post office sent to Santa Claus. In Santa Claus, Indiana, you can mail a letter to Santa. And you may just get a response!

There are a lot more things to do in Indiana besides just what’s listed here, but this should get you started planning an Indiana road trip. If you have any ideas you think need to be added to this list, be sure to write your own suggestions of things to do in Indiana in the comments below!

Any more questions?

If you have any questions about planning an Indiana road trip, feel free to email me or comment below.

Planning a trip to Indiana?

Be sure to save one of the pins below for future trip planning: