July 2009 Issue
We found getaways for families, couples and friends in lesser-known locales throughout the Hoosier State.
A young family paddles their inflatable raft furiously as the river whisks it downstream. Once the raft approaches whitewater, the passengers lay down their paddles, grab their safety line and brace themselves for the wash of water. But just as their boat leaves the churning rapids, the next torrents come into view. It’s a whitewater adventure that might play out anywhere in the country, but the East Race Waterway is a man-made thrill in South Bend, Indiana.
The East Race is just one of many hidden gems along Indiana’s back roads and in downtown areas. For travelers itching to hit the road with family, friends, grandchildren or a sweetheart, one thing is for sure: The Hoosier State is full of surprises.
South Bend: Family Fun
South Bend’s claim to fame is the University of Notre Dame, but the city offers plenty for families willing to look beyond the obvious. In addition to the East Race Waterway, South Bend lures people with the Silver Hawks. The minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks battles Class A rivals at Coveleski Stadium, called “The Cove.”
Potawatomi Zoo (Indiana’s oldest, founded in 1902) attracts visitors with African, Australian and North American mammals. But the zoo’s year-old walk-through butterfly display — stocked with vivid species from Asia, Central and South America — is among its most popular.
Families can finish their vacation at the South Bend Chocolate Company. Factory tours showcase chocolate production, while a museum recounts the history of the world’s favorite confection. Hungry visitors can taste their way through the company’s Chocolate Cafe downtown.
Fair Oaks: A Day with the Grandkids
Grandpa and Grandma may have grown up on a farm, but chances are they’ve never seen anything like Fair Oaks.
About an hour from Chicago, Fair Oaks Farms maintains 30,000 cattle in northwestern Indiana. Each day Fair Oaks — one of the nation’s largest family-owned dairy farms — opens its doors, showcasing milk production from grass to glass.
Tour buses transport visitors through the barns, explaining modern farming. Tours include a rotating milking station, a sort of slow-moving cow carousel that loads milk-swollen cows on one end and deposits them after milking. A visit to the birthing barn is as the name suggests, and with 30,000 cattle, Fair Oaks can guarantee daily deliveries.
Finish your trip at the Cheese Factory & Café to see cheese making, buy dairy products and indulge in breakfast, lunch or dessert.
Zionsville: Girlfriend Getaway
Set on Indianapolis’ northern fringe, Zionsville’s small cafés lie within 19th-century brick storefronts, offering a variety of food options and a chance for friends to reacquaint themselves. Plate glass windows allow for browsing shops with boutique clothing, wine, flowers, home décor, antiques and art.
Grass-fed cheese, yogurt, milk and ice cream fill racks at Traders Point Creamery, one of the most popular stores in Zionsville. Inside The Village Parfumerie, lavender and herbs scent the air, telltale signs of the fragrances, lotions and soaps lining the shelves. Using only all-natural ingredients, The Village Parfumerie also allows visitors to create custom fragrances.
Nancy Noël sells her nationally recognized art at The Sanctuary. Paintings and prints of angels, children and animals adorn the walls of this former church, the art beautifully reflected in glistening hardwood floors.
Shades State Park: A Place for Reflection
Tucked into a seldom-traveled nook of western Indiana, Shades State Park is frequently overshadowed by its better-known neighbor, Turkey Run State Park. Shades’ jagged landscape, carved by Sugar Creek and numerous sandstone ravines, kept the park hidden from farmers and timber men for centuries.
Nature lovers still enjoy the privacy, along with beautiful scenery, soaring cliff faces and waterfalls that can be explored by footpaths, some easy enough for children, others so steep the trails feature ladders. A network of creeks and streams wind through dense oak canopies, appealing to both canoeists and anglers alike, while backpacking and canoe campsites make it easy for visitors to find complete solitude.
Richmond: Great Group Escapes
Friends gather in Richmond, along Indiana’s Ohio border. And more often than not, their time together involves jazz and blues.
Once home of Gennett recording studio, Richmond made its mark with music superstars Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton. Richmond’s Gennett Walk of Fame and the Starr-Gennett Gallery honor these and other legends, and visitors see murals of the city’s musical heritage throughout downtown. Evening concerts at the 4th Floor Blues Club continue Richmond’s live music tradition.
Two local wineries — J&J and Wilson — offer visitors the opportunity to taste Indiana’s newest agricultural crop, while races at Winchester Speedway provide fast-paced action for those who prefer it.
Several Richmond B&Bs are the perfect size for small groups. Some have as few as four rooms, which means friends can have the entire house to themselves.
Vevay: Romantic Retreat
Residents of southern Indiana have long known Vevay as a great couple’s getaway. Now the rest of the nation has discovered the town’s charms. Ranked No. 4 on Budget Travel’s “Coolest Small Town in America” list, Vevay embodies the best of rural getaways, with a preserved historic downtown, cozy B&Bs and quaint restaurants.
The Ohio River punctuates the rolling terrain around Vevay and provides added romance for a weekend away. Travelers take in Indiana and Kentucky landscapes with a relaxing riverside walk or riverboat cruise. A scenic drive along routes 56 and 156 leads on to Belterra Resort, 10 minutes away, with golf, a casino and a spa.
Vevay, the county seat of Switzerland County, also lies in the heart of southern Indiana wine country, with six wineries in a circle extending to Madison and Versailles. The Swiss Wine Festival celebrates local vintages each August. The event also honors America’s first successful commercial winery, established in Vevay in 1806.