Home to popular TV show Parks and Recreation, the Indy 500, former presidents Harrison and Lincoln, and some incredible natural landmarks, Indiana is a must-visit state on anyone’s USA bucket list. Indiana means ‘Land of the Indians’ as it was originally part of the Northwest Territories. Residents of Indiana are called Hoosiers, although it is unclear as to why that is. Many believe it was once a term used for people who lived in the forests as woodsmen.
Indiana has a long history and has had people living on its lands since the end of the last ice age in 8000BC. During the times of slavery, Indiana residents played an important role. Residents sheltered fleeing slaves and helped them find their way into free states and Canada. Slaves were limited to travelling at night, and as such, the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad, the home of a Catherine and Levi Coffin, came into existence. The Coffins helped shelter and feed more than 2000 fleeing slaves for 20 years.
As well as significant historical landmarks, Indiana is home to some breathtaking natural landmarks. The South Shore of Lake Michigan is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike to spend some time in a diverse natural landscape of tranquil waters, dessert-like dunes and marshy swampland. There are numerous national parks in the state which make for pleasant hikes and camping stays. Here are 20 incredible natural, historical and famous landmarks in Indiana that are not to be missed.
- 20 Indiana Landmarks For Your Bucket List
- Natural Landmarks in Indiana
- Historical Landmarks in Indiana
- 11- West Baden Springs Hotel
- 13- Whitewater Canal State Historic Site
- 14- Broad Ripple Park Carousel
- 15- Indianapolis Motor Speedway
- 16- Soldiers and Sailors Monument
- 17- Indiana War Memorial
- 18- Bridgeton Mill
- 19- Basilica of the Sacred Heart
- 20- Indiana Statehouse
- 21- The Eos Sculpture
- 22- Tippecanoe Battlefield Park
- 23- Grouseland
- 24- Lincoln Boyhood Home
- 25- Barker Mansion
20 Indiana Landmarks For Your Bucket List
Natural Landmarks in Indiana
1- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore stretches for 15 miles (24km) along the southern edge of Lake Michigan.
The park itself covers 15000 acres (6070 ha) and features more than 50 miles (80km) of hiking trails.
The park’s famous dunes are formed from ancient glacial sand that the waters and wind had manoeuvred into tall dunes, some of which are 250ft (60m) high.
The dunes are particularly popular with bird watchers as migrating birds frequent the parkland.
More than 350 species of birds live or migrate to the dunes, including Sandhill Cranes and hawks.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is at Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 1050 N Mineral Springs Rd, Chesterton, IN.
2- The Quilt Gardens
The Quilt Gardens in Elkhart County are a seasonal wonder and must-visit landmark when in Indiana.
The Quilt Gardens traditionally run from May to September and feature a combination of artwork, quilting and gardening to create a spectacular series of vibrant and gigantic floral murals.
Each garden is designed around a unique pattern and story significant to its location and community.
The 16 gardens are filled yearly with more than 1 million flowering plants.
It takes more than 200 volunteers, approximately 2000 hours, to plant the blooms in intricate patterns.
The Quilt Gardens is at various locations across Elkhart County between May and September annually.
3- Jug Rock
An unusual natural landmark in Indiana is Jug Rock.
The rock is a freestanding table rock formation surrounded by woodland and was given its name because it resembles a jug.
It is the largest freestanding rock formation east of the Mississippi River which flows close by.
The rock is famous within the local community and is even the school mascot of a local high school.
Jug Rock is at Highway 50, Albright Lane, Shoals, Indiana, 47581.
4- Lavender Lane
A hidden yet magical location in Indiana is the Lavender Lane lavender farm.
The farm grows 21 different species of lavender, totalling more than 700 plants.
The farm offers visitors the opportunity to walk through the purple lanes surrounded by the comforting scent of lavender floating on the wind.
Lavender Lane sells its lavender as fresh cut or dried and in several products such as teas, honey, and soothing natural sleep aids.
Lavender Lane is at 2258 E Northport Road, Rome City.
5- Patoka Lake
Patoka Lake is Indiana’s second-largest reservoir.
The reservoir was created as a flood control method and to ensure a secure water supply for the surrounding areas.
Following its creation, the state transformed lake Patoka’s shores into parks and nature preserves across 16,920 acres (6850 ha).
The lake is a drawcard for fishermen as its waters are teeming with catfish, bluegill and redear.
The lake has many facilities, including 500 campsites, archery facilities and boat ramps.
Dakota Lake is at Birdseye, Indiana.
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6- Indiana Caverns
Indiana Caverns is a family-friendly adventure park in southern Indiana. While the park features rides and escape rooms, the caverns themselves draw visitors from across the state.
The caverns are Indiana’s longest cave system.
During guided tours of the cave, tales of Indiana’s Ice Age history are told through fossils and interactive displays.
There are waterfalls and underground rivers to explore inside the caves.
Sign up for the Deep Darkness tour of the cave for a spectacular experience kayaking 200ft (60m) underground.
Indiana Caverns is at 1267 Green Acres Dr SW, Corydon, IN 47112.
7- Clifty Falls
Clifty Falls is a must-visit natural landmark when in Indiana.
The falls have moods that depend on the season and the weather.
These changes cause the torrents of water to flow ferociously fast, freeze over completely, or cause a gentle veil of mist to fall over the area.
The falls are in Clifty Canyon, making for a pleasant hike through the crags and forests before reaching the majestic falls.
The falls cascade into Clifty Creek, where the creek’s bed is covered in fossils, including ancient corals and brachiopods.
However, it is prohibited to take a fossil from within the park, but there are fossil collecting locations a short drive away.
Clifty Falls is at 2221 Clifty Drive, Madison, IN 47250.
8- Empire Quarry
Empire Quarry is an abandoned limestone quarry filled with turquoise waters.
The quarry was once part of the booming masonry industry within Indiana and is now a great source of pride for residents.
Limestone from the Empire Quarry was used to build the Empire State Building.
18,630 tons of limestone was dug out of the quarry for the construction of the world-famous skyscraper.
The waters of the quarry today are popular with swimmers and cliff divers who brave the steep sides of the quarry.
Empire Quarry is at Bloomington, Indiana, 47451.
9- South Shore of Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan is one of America’s five Great Lakes and straddles the states of Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.
Lake Michigan’s name comes from the Ojibwe word ‘Michi-gami’, which means ‘great water’.
The lakes south shore falls in Indiana and forms part of the Indiana Dunes National Park.
The south shore is covered with pristine beaches making it a popular location in the summer months.
The lake is also a popular swimming and sailing location. However, the waters of the lake can be dangerous due to large waves and rip currents.
South Shore of Lake Michigan is at Wabash Avenue, Porter, IN 46304.
10- Seven Pillars
A hidden gem of Indiana’s natural landmarks is Seven Pillars, known locally as ‘The Cliffs’.
The pillars sit alongside the Mississinewa River.
Their unusual formation is down to wind and water eroding the limestone cliffs’ surface, gradually carving alcoves.
The top of the pillars is 50ft (15m) high and offer spectacular views of the river and surrounding area, but the best view is from the river’s south bank.
The Seven Pillars are sacred to the Miami People, who used it to mark the spot to meet with early European settlers.
The land immediately opposite the pillars belongs to the Tribe, who conduct sacred Long House ceremonies on the river banks.
Seven Pillars is at 3555 Mississinewa Road, Peru, IN 46970.
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Historical Landmarks in Indiana
11- West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs Hotel is a must-visit historical landmark in Indiana, famous for its 200ft (61m) dome adorning the atrium.
The area was once a prosperous salt mine with many mineral springs.
William A. Bowles bought the land in 1832 and constructed a health resort on site.
The current hotel was opened in 1902 and often referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ by journalists nationwide.
The hotel and surrounding resort featured opera houses, golf courses and numerous restaurants.
After being sold several times following the Great Depression and remaining abandoned for 13 years, the current hotel was refurbished and opened in 2006.
West Baden Springs Hotel is at 8670 West State Road 56 – French Lick, Indiana 47432.
13- Whitewater Canal State Historic Site
14- Broad Ripple Park Carousel
The Broad Ripple Park Carousel, which is over 100 years old, is on the top floor of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
Originally in Broad Ripple Village, the carousel was a favourite for the area’s children, but it was severely damaged during a building collapse in 1956.
In the years that followed, the surviving carousel animals were used in Christmas displays before being acquired by the museum in the 1960s.
It has been restored and is now in perfect working order within the museum.
There are 42 animals on the carousel in total, including lions, tigers and giraffes.
Broad Ripple Park Carousel is at The children’s Museum of Indianapolis, 3000 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208.
15- Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Home of the Indy 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an important historical landmark for racing fans.
Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, F. H. Wheeler and Arthur C. Newby designed the speedway in 1909.
The track features two courses, an oval track and a Grand Prix course. The oval racing circuit is 2.5 miles long (4km).
Famous races held here include the Indy 500, NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 and since 2014, the Formula One United States Grand Prix.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is at 4790 West 16th Street, Indianapolis.
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16- Soldiers and Sailors Monument
17- Indiana War Memorial
Indiana War Memorial and the surrounding historic district and plaza are important landmarks of America’s military history.
The parkland covers 25 acres (10 ha) of fountains, parks, monuments and sculptures, and a 30000 square foot (2787 square metres) museum dedicated to military artefacts.
The memorial and plaza were constructed to remember those who lost their lives in World War I.
The War Memorial is the most famous memorial within the parkland. Walker and Weeks designed the monument in the style of the ‘Mausoleum of Halicarnassus’, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The memorial is lit up nightly with blue lights.
Indiana War Memorial is at 55 E Michigan St, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
18- Bridgeton Mill
19- Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Basilica of the Sacred Heart is within the grounds of the University of Notre Dame.
The church was designed in the neo-gothic style and features 44 stained glass windows.
Luigi Gregori, the Vatican painter, designed and made the windows over a 17-year period.
The bell tower is 230ft (70m) tall, which makes it the tallest bell tower on a University chapel in the US and an important historical landmark.
Basilica of the Sacred Heart is at 101 Basilica Drive, Notre Dame, IN, 46556.
20- Indiana Statehouse
The Indiana Statehouse is the state capital building of Indiana.
Within the building are the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Supreme Court, and the governor of Indiana’s offices.
Edwin May designed the statehouse.
Construction began in 1880 overseen by Thomas A. Morris, a civil war general and civil engineer.
The interior of the statehouse is designed in the Italian Renaissance style.
Much of the building was constructed using materials native to Indiana, including Indiana limestone for the brickwork and Indiana oak for the doors.
Inside the cornerstone of the building is a time capsule that includes a bible, samples of crops, going, and a book on the history of Indianapolis.
Indiana Statehouse is at 200 W. Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204.
21- The Eos Sculpture
22- Tippecanoe Battlefield Park
Tippecanoe Battlefield Park is an important historical landmark in America’s history.
Today the battleground is a lush parkland spanning 96 acres of historic hiking trails, monuments, picnic areas and nature centres.
In 1811 however, the US forces and the Tecumseh Native American confederation fought on the land.
A museum on the grounds of the park tells the story of the battle, its context, and what it meant for the United States’ future.
Tippecanoe Battlefield Park is at 200 Battleground Ave, Battle Ground, IN 47920.
Grouseland was the first brick home built in Indiana and was the residence of William Henry Harrison during his time as governor of Indiana from 1800 to 1812.
The home contains artefacts from the ninth President of the United States life and his time as President.
Harrison’s term as President was short, as he died from pneumonia only a month after taking office.
Grouseland is at Grouseland – William H. Harrison Mansion and Museum, 3 West Scott Street, Vincennes, IN 47591.
24- Lincoln Boyhood Home
Lincoln Boyhood Home in what was frontier Indiana is a must-visit historical landmark.
The site preserves the farm where President Abraham Lincoln resided from ages 7 to 21.
While living in Indiana, Lincoln developed his understanding of honesty, right and wrong, and ever-present respect for hard-work, all of which were key principles that he would take forward to his presidency.
Within the parkland is a recreation of a pioneer farm, a Cabin Site Memorial, and the grave of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy.
Lincoln Boyhood Home is at 3027 E S St, Lincoln City, IN 47552.
25- Barker Mansion
John Barker Sr. built Barker Mansion in 1857 as a symbol of luxury during the Gilded Age.
Barker was a philanthropist and a railroad industrialist.
The house was designed to represent a traditional English manor home and has 38 bedrooms across two floors.
Barker Mansion today is a museum and civic centre.
Within the museum are original furnishings from the mansions heydays, as well as numerous works of art. Look out for the 11 grand fireplaces made from marble and carved mahogany.
Barker Mansion is at 631 Washington St, Michigan City, IN 46360.
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