We’re not known as the Crossroads of America for nothing! Indianapolis’ central location within Indiana makes it the perfect place to take easy and convenient day trips, because (as much as I love Indy), sometimes you just need to get out of the city. To that end, I’ve come up with 6 easy day trips from Indianapolis – all under two hours and all full of amazing potential.
NB: All of these places I’ve been to personally; I’d never recommend somewhere I haven’t been to myself, even if the place sounds amazing. So some truly wonderful Hoosier spots are missing, but don’t worry: I plan to fill them in soon enough!
Noblesville – 40 minutesGo for? A tinier, much posher version of Indianapolis filled with magnificent architecture, specialty food shops, and plenty of antiquing opportunities. I’d suggest starting out at the Visitor’s Center where the friendly folks can help you decide on what to do based on your interests.
My picks? Brunch at Rosie’s Place, visit the Hamilton County Museum of History, and do some shopping at Logan Village Mall. If the weather’s good, take a walk in Forest Park and visit the Indiana Transport Museum to see some vintage train action. If you feel the need for a drink, visit downtown’s Barley Island or head slightly out of town for Deer Creek Brewery. See the full Noblesville guide here.
Columbus – 50 minutesGo for? A vibrant, artsy city filled with modern architecture that may seem surprising in a small Midwestern town. If you’re into architecture (and you should be!), you can take a self-guided architecture tour offered by the Visitors Center. The tour includes some of the fascinatingly constructed churches dotted around the city. Also be sure to visit the Miller House and Garden, a Modernist marvel that could be straight out of Mad Men.
Don’t worry – Columbus isn’t all about architecture! Enjoy a meal at Zwanzig, a pizzaria with a brewery inside. A must-do dessert can be found right downtown at Zaharakos, an ice cream parlor in operation since 1900! The Columbus Bar is the perfect place for a craft beer nightcap.
Nashville – 1 hourGo for? A slicked-up version of old-fashioned, artsy fun. Nashville is more of a Disney-style destination than some of the other cities with their dilapidated charm, but the tiny town south of Indianapolis is an interesting look into Indiana’s artistic history. Be sure to visit TC Steele State Historic Site, the Brown County Art Gallery, and Brown County Art Guild to experience some of that history.
I visited Nashville for the drinks, so be sure to hit up Salt Creek Winery’s in-town tasting room, Big Busted Bar, and the slightly out of town but totally worth it Bear Wallow Distillery. If you’re feeling hungry afterwards, I suggest pizza at Brozinni and Miller’s Ice Cream House for a treat.
Oldenburg – 1 hour 15 minutesGo for? A trip abroad without the flight! Known as “the Village of Spires”, Oldenburg seems to have more churches than residents and marks the perfect quiet afternoon trip. No trip to Oldenburg is complete without a visit to the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg grounds which dominate the tiny town. Also be sure to marvel at the Holy Family Church and the Old Stone Church.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of churches, head to the Golden Turtle Trading Center and Carriage House Antiques for a bit of shopping. Cool off and relax inside the charmingly dim Wagner’s Village Inn, or grab a bite at the Pearl Street Pub or the Brau Haus.
See the full Oldenburg guide here.
Madison – 1 hour 45 minutesGo for? A town that’s been described as both “the prettiest small town in the Midwest” and “Best Preserved Town in the Midwest”. This may not be one of the super easy day trips from Indianapolis, but Madison is definitely worth the drive! Spend most of your day wandering downtown to get a look at the wide variety of shops such as Main Street Antique Mall, All Good Things Soaps & Such, the Galena Garlic Company and much more. Grab a coffee at the Red Roaster and a quick lunch at the Red Pepper Deli Cafe.
If shopping isn’t your deal, visit the historical Lanier Mansion and the nearby History Center, wander along the Ohio River on the Heritage Trail, or visit one of the city’s several wineries (I suggest the slightly out-of-town Madison Vineyards). See the full Madison guide here.
Fort Wayne – 2 hoursGo for? While Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana, it gives off some major small-town vibes in the best way possible. The downtown is compact but holds plenty of promise for every traveler. Start with the arresting Beaux Arts-style Allen County Court House. After you’ve marveled for a bit, head back in time to the Lincoln Tower Soda Fountain for a reasonably priced throw-back meal. For culture, try the Children’s Zoo, the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, or the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.
After you’ve wandered downtown grab a bite at the iconic Famous Coney Island for a classic take on hot dogs. If you’d prefer a snack and some caffeine, Fortezza provides a cozy atmosphere for a relaxing afternoon. See my non-essential, offbeat Fort Wayne guide here.
Have you ever visited any of these towns for easy day trips from Indianapolis? What would you add as a must-visit? If you haven’t been (yet!), are there any that seem particularly interesting?