From Lakeside Leisure to Collegiate Charm: Indiana’s Best Weekend Getaways

By Lia Garcia,

There’s a hot dog dripping ketchup onto my left hand and a giant foam finger on my right. I’m screaming “Go Hoosiers!” at the top of my lungs along with a stadium full of fans, all of us dressed in cream and crimson. We are at my Alma Matter, Indiana University in Bloomington, and the energy is as electric as ever.

After another victory, we stream out in excited waves, heading to Kilroy’s on Kirkwood for pitchers of blue raspberry-flavored Long Island Iced Tea or the Video Saloon for foamy pints of locally brewed Upland Beer. We celebrate on Kirkwood until 4 a.m, all of us, students and alumni, because Bloomington is the kind of place where you can return to your college years no matter how many years (or decades) have passed by.

Indiana is a state full of surprises. Contrary to the popular image of endless fields of corn, there are sugar sand beaches, lakeside resorts, giant sand dunes, ancient burial grounds, ski resorts German villages, and even vineyards. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of weekend getaways in Indiana to cater toward every kind of traveler.


Weekend Getaways in Indiana

Syracuse

A Lakeside Getaway

Syracuse Indiana

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Syracuse Weekend Getaways in IndianaA lakeside resort in Indiana? Yes, it’s true. Escape into the retreat of Syracuse, Indiana, on the shores of stunning Lake Wawasee. Visit in the summer so you can cool off in the lake, pick fresh berries at the Blue Barn Berry Farm, and spend a day at one of the many golf courses in the area.

What to Do in Syracuse

Take advantage of Lake Wawasee. Cool off from the summer heat by swimming, fishing, boating, water-skiing, tubing, jet-skiing, or just enjoying the 25 miles of gorgeous shoreline. If golf is your sport, take your pick — there are a ton of golf courses nearby, such as the Scottish ballad inspired Maxwelton Golf Club.

Where to Eat in Syracuse

Start the night off in downtown Syracuse at the Huntington Street Bar & Grill where you can enjoy a delicious craft beer (an Indiana local favorite is Three Floyds Brewing Company) and live music along with dinner. Or head to Down Under Bar & Restaurant. It’s literally down under, as in underground. Look for the gazebo to find the hidden entrance. Fancy something, well, fancier? The Westmain Tavern is a foodie’s dream come true.

Where to Stay in Syracuse

Oakwood Resort: On the shores of beautiful Lake Wawasee

Oakwood Resort

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French Lick

A Luxurious Resort Getaway

French Lick Indiana Train

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French Lick Weekend Getaways in IndianaFrench Lick is a fantastic, family-friendly destination and the perfect spot for a weekend getaway in Indiana. The town is centered around the historic French Lick Resort, a luxury hotel built in the early 1900’s.

What to Do in French Lick

Go wine tasting at the French Lick Winery on the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail (yes, Indiana has a wine trail.) Drop the kids off at the giant indoor water-park, Big Splash Adventure, and head to the Vegas-style casino or soak in the natural mineral springs at French Lick Resort.

While you’re there, don’t miss the historic French Lick Scenic Railway for a beautiful train ride through the resort. If you plan a Christmas-season getaway, you can experience the kid-friendly Polar Express train and hit the slopes at nearby Paoli Peaks to ski, snowboard, or tube.

Where to Eat in French Lick

If the thought of a sizzling steak makes your mouth water, head to 1875, the Steakhouse for a delicious dinner overlooking the gardens. The restaurant is named for the first running of the Kentucky Derby, which gives it major bonus points for me as a Kentucky native. The German Cafe serves up authentic, stick-to-your-ribs German cuisine, which is exactly what you’ll want in the middle of winter after a long day of skiing at Paoli Peaks.

Where to Stay in French Lick

West Baden Springs Hotel

West Baden Springs Hotel Indiana

The West Baden Springs Hotel was once referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World, and the nickname fits. This early 1900’s vintage circus-style castle (that’s the unofficial design term for it, I think) is fabulous with a capital F. With the kind of luxury usually reserved for queens and circus ringleaders, you may never actually need to leave the hotel grounds. But when you do, you’re a short walk away from an Indoor Karting Track, the French Lick Winery, and Big Splash Adventure.

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Valparaiso

A Foodie Getaway

Four Fathers Brewing Valparaiso Indiana

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Valparaiso Weekend Getaways in IndianaNot to be confused with its namesake in Chile, Valparaiso is located in Indiana’s South Shore region just south of Lake Michigan. Visitors to Valparaiso will be treated to a smorgasbord of deliciousness from locally-brewed craft beer and locally-grown wine to a plethora of delicious restaurants.

Time your visit around one of Valparaiso’s many food-themed festivals, such as Popcornfest, Eat Up Wine Down, the Chocolate Walk, Valpo Brewfest, or the Valparaiso Wine Festival. Or come in March to tap trees for fresh, sweet maple syrup at Deep River.

What to Do in Valparaiso

Valpo is a booze traveler’s dream. Hit the South Shore Brewery trail and get a flight at Four Fathers Brewing or Ironwood Brewing, or try a wine tasting at Anderson Vineyard & Winery. Catch a double feature with your sweetheart at the old-timey 49er Drive-In Theatre. Wander around downtown Valparaiso and explore the countless adorable shops and delicious restaurants.

If you need a break from eating and drinking your way through Valpo, take a day trip to the Indiana Dunes State Park to experience Indiana’s unique giant sand dunes and gorgeous beaches. Yes, Indiana has beaches — and dunes.

Where to Eat (and Drink) in Valparaiso

Downtown Valparaiso is chock full of delicious eateries to discover. Head to the library/book-themed Stacks Bar & Grill for some craft cocktails and a delicious, always-surprising menu, and be sure to try the Stack Sticks. Or grab a burger at Radius, along with a(nother) delicious craft cocktail, of course. The Rolling Stonebaker is a cozy little gourmet wood-fired pizza spot serving up some of the most unique pies you’ve never heard of. Be sure to try the local favorite, Stoner Bites. For dessert, hit up Designer Desserts for an Instagram-friendly rainbow cake.

Where to Stay in Valparaiso

Inn at Aberdeen

Inn at Aberdeen Valparaiso

Stay at the super-cute Inn at Aberdeen, a bed & breakfast where you’ll feel right at home. That is, if your home has a giant bathtub and a fireplace in your bedroom. And as if you need even more food, the hearty breakfast is free.

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South Bend

A Family Friendly Getaway

Notre Dame Campus South Bend Indiana

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South Bend Weekend Getaways in IndianaHome of the University of Notre Dame, South Bend is located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan in northern Indiana. South Bend is a fantastic place to take the whole family for a weekend getaway.

What to Do in South Bend

Visit Shiojiri Niwa, a stunning Japanese strolling garden designed by Shoji Kanaoka who also served as the Landscape Architect at Epcot in Disney World. Then tour the South Bend Chocolate Factory and Museum. (Your kids won’t notice that they’re learning things because they’ll be learning about CANDY.) And of course, bring home some discounted chocolate from the back room.

Take a day trip to the Deep River Water Park, about an hour away from South Bend, for summer fun. After a day in the water park, wind down with the free outdoor film series every second Saturday. In the fall, visit the Thistleberry Farm and enjoy a petting zoo, a cow train, corn mazes, and a pumpkin patch.
Leave the kids somewhere safe and sneak off to The Indiana Whiskey Company to take a Distillery Tour. Or take the whole family to Notre Dame to cheer on the Fighting Irish at a football or basketball game.

Where to Eat in South Bend

Head to Waffle Wagon food truck for, you guessed it, waffles. OneFourteen is a foodie gastropub with incredible burgers and upscale pub fare. Don’t forget to head to The Chocolate Cafe for a delicious dessert after dinner.

Where to Stay in South Bend

The Oliver Inn

The Oliver Inn South Bend Indiana

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Bloomington

A College Town Getaway

Indiana University Bloomington

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Bloomington Weekend Getaways in IndianaI might be a tad biased as an Indiana University grad (go Hoosiers!), but Bloomington is the best college town in the U.S. and IU is the most beautiful campus ever. (Ok, fine, I guess Notre Dame and Purdue are nice, too.)

Bloomington — a.k.a. ‘B-town,’ if you’re hip and with it — is filled with small-town charm, delicious food, and college-themed fun. Visit during the school year on a game weekend and you can party it up at a tailgate or out at the bars (trust me, it’s not just students partying at home game weekends.) According to my scientific research/Facebook feed, 99 percent of IU alumni still attend home games — regularly. Or, visit during the summer and be treated to a much quieter but just as gorgeous Bloomington.

What to Do in Bloomington

Spend a day wandering the Indiana University campus. It’s beautiful and it always inspires me to expand my educational pursuits. Wander through downtown Bloomington via Kirkwood Avenue and stop into the shops and restaurants or bike the adorable B-Line Trail through downtown. During the summer, escape to Monroe Lake to swim, boat, or fish.

Where to Eat (& Drink) in Bloomington

Bloomington is home to amazing restaurants. Wander down 4th street downtown to find cuisine from all over the globe. For that authentic college vibe, go to Nick’s English Hut, which is where Obama ate when he visited and is also home of the locally famous game Sink the Biz, which involves a giant bucket of fries and beer galore (you’ll see).

You’ll also find here a few rival pizzerias and locals are rabidly loyal to either Mother Bear’s Pizza or Aver’s Gourmet Pizza. (I’m an Aver’s girl myself; the Cream & Crimson is my favorite pizza in the world.) If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, FARMBloomington is a delicious farm-to-table restaurant.

If you’re feeling thirsty, head to Oliver Winery for wine tasting or Upland Brewing Co. for incredible craft beer. (They’re particularly famous for their sours.)

If you’re up for an authentic local experience, the nightlife in Bloomington is legendary. Bring two forms of ID to Kilroy’s on Kirkwood (KOK for short). Come early so you don’t have to pay a cover and order a Long Island Iced Tea. There are about 20 flavors to choose from, they’re all $5, and they come in a huge pitcher that I absolutely cannot finish on my own.

Once you finish your massive LIT, stumble down Kirkwood into any of the bars that strike your fancy. On a weekend night during the school year, all the bars will be poppin’. Get your next-day hangover brunch at Scholar’s Inn Bakehouse.

Where to Stay in Bloomington

The Showers Inn

Showers Inn Bloomington Indiana

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Oldenburg

A Historic European Getaway

Oldenburg Indiana

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Oldenburg Weekend Getaways in IndianaVisiting Oldenburg feels a bit like you’ve wandered through an enchanted wardrobe in Indiana and ended up in Oldenburg, Germany. There are street signs in both German and English, clapboard houses, and schnitzel is readily available at the restaurants in town.

Founded in 1837 by a group of German settlers, the “Village of Spires” remains one of Indiana’s most picturesque towns. Soak up old European charm in the most German town in Indiana.

What to Do in Oldenburg

Who says Oktoberfest is the best German festival? Plan your visit around Oldenburg Freudenfest in the summer to experience peak German-ness. During the rest of the year, you can explore historic Oldenburg and pretend you’re walking through a town in Germany. Pop into the Carriage House Antiques (Kutschenhaus in German) and browse for dusty treasures. To soak up even more history, explore the nearby historic canal town, Metamora. Or take a day trip to the Salt Creek Ranch to for hiking, horse-back riding, and hayrides.

Metamora Indiana

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Where to Eat in Oldenburg

Visit The Kessing Haus Café for coffee and fresh baked goods. Dine at The Brau Haus for authentic German cuisine (and beer, of course). Or stop by Wagner’s Village Inn for their famous, family-style crispy fried chicken.

Where to Stay in Oldenburg

Hampton Inn Batesville

Hampton Inn Batesville Indiana

The Hampton Inn Batesville is just a couple of miles south of tiny Oldenburg.

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Madison

A Riverside Antique Getaway

Madison Indiana

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Madison Weekend Getaways in IndianaLocated directly on the banks of the Ohio River in Southern Indiana, Madison is one of Indiana’s most charming river towns. Plan a road trip on the Ohio River Scenic Byway and you’ll drive straight through little Madison, with its charming historic downtown and cozy antique shops.

What to Do in Madison

Rent a bike at Fizz’z Bike Shop to explore the historic district. Spend a lazy afternoon browsing the many boutiques and antique shops. Get lost in the enormous Lumber Mill Antique Mall and transport yourself back in time — you’re sure to find a treasure (or three). Sample locally-made wine and hard cider at the Thomas Family Winery. Go hiking in Clifty Falls State Park to see its stunning namesake.

What to Eat in Madison

Stop for a delicious lunch at Bad Apple Mac’s. Get adventurous and order Bone Marrow or Beef Carpaccio at the foodie fave Crystal & Jules. Or relax with a beer and some down-home comfort food at Off Broadway Taproom.

Where to Stay in Madison

Hillside Inn

Hillside Inn Madison Indiana

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Evansville

A Cultural Getaway

Evansville Indiana Fall Festival

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Evansville Weekend Getaways in IndianaA bustling city on the banks of the Ohio River in western Indiana, Evansville has loads of cultural experiences to discover on a weekend getaway. Plan your visit during Fall Festival, which locals are quick to call a street festival on par with Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Except instead of masks and beads, you get deep fried Oreos, Twinkies, and butter.

What to Do in Evansville

Discover Evansville’s culture through its museums, such as the Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science, the Evansville African-American Museum, and The Reitz Home Museum (a Victorian house museum). You’ll also want to explore the city’s downtown Historic Preservation District. Visit Angel Mounds State Historic Site to see the 12 earthen mounds built long ago by Native Americans who originally inhabited the area. For a bit more culture, attend an Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra concert at the historic Victory Theatre. Then, watch a play at the Evansville Civic Theatre.

Where to Eat in Evansville

Visit The Dapper Pig for a dapper brunch and classy craft cocktails. Turoni’s Pizzery & Brewery is a local favorite, serving up delicious pizza and in-house brewed beer.

Where to Stay in Evansville

Le Merigot

Le Merigot Hotel Room Evansville Indiana

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Nashville

An Artist’s Retreat Getaway

Brown County State Park Nashville Indiana

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Nashville Weekend Getaways in IndianaQuaint Nashville, Indiana shares one thing in common with its Tennessee namesake: it’s an artist’s mecca. The Brown County Art Colony was founded in Nashville, Indiana over 100 years ago, and the arts abound in this tiny town. Wander the arts & crafts shops of Nashville and you’ll discover everything from paintings, sculptures, stained glass art and hand-made furniture to wood carvings, metal sculptures, hand-blown glass, custom jewelry and custom birdhouses. That’s an exceptional amount of talent in one place.

Nashville sits just outside of Brown County State Park, a gorgeous forest in the rolling hills of Indiana (yes, Indiana has rolling hills) that serves as a source of inspiration to the local artist community. On your scenic drive to Nashville, be sure to stop at The Bean Blossom Overlook on State Road 135 North to take in the foliage — especially in the fall.

What to Do in Nashville

Explore the home of the first Nashville artist-in-residence at the T.C. Steele Historic Site. Support local artists and take in a show at the Brown County Playhouse, the Palace Theatre, or Mike’s Music & Dance Barn. Or, treat yourself to a one-of-a-kind show at the Melchior Marionette Show featuring stunning, hand-crafted cabaret marionettes. Browse the locally-produced art at the Brown County Art Gallery and the Brown County Art Guild.

Once you’ve gotten in touch with your artistic side, spend a day hiking in Brown County State Park. Be sure to climb the famous Fire Tower for stunning forest views. You just might want to bring a canvas and some watercolors in case inspiration hits.

One last famous thing to do in Nashville, Indiana? Get married. The town is full of romantic cabins and wedding chapels.

Where to Eat in Nashville

Transport yourself back to yesteryear at the Nashville General Store and Bakery. Be sure to try a deep-fried biscuit rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with apple butter. Have a decadent tea party at cozy Sweetea’s Tea Shop. Head to Big Woods Brewing Company for some craft beer and brewpub fare. Right on Main Street, local favorite Hob Nob Corner serves up rustic, honest food in a down-home setting.

Where to Stay in Nashville

Brown County Inn

Brown County Inn Nashville Indiana

The Brown County Inn is a comfortable hotel tucked into an old-fashioned general store facade and gives that rustic Indiana, down-home feeling right in the heart of town.

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Indianapolis

An Urban Getaway

Indianapolis Museum of Art

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Indianapolis Weekend Getaways in IndianaOf all the places to visit in Indiana, Indianapolis is probably the most popular — and for good reason. Indiana’s largest city and state capital is both metropolitan and distinctly Midwestern. Like the rest of Indiana, it might surprise you.

Explore Naptown and you’ll stumble onto scenic canals and bridges straight out of a Venice summer evening. You can choose to tour the city’s more upscale side or you can choose to get down and dirty at the Speedway or the Speedrome where monster trucks and buses smash into one another in a way that can only be described as primally satisfying.

What to Do in Indianapolis

Wander through hipster hotspot Broad Ripple Village with its foodie-favorite and culturally diverse restaurants, local brewpubs, and funky indie shops. Take a class to learn how to brew your own beer, kombucha, or bake bread at Great Fermentations. Oogle at all things quirky and weird at the Sideshow Art and Odditorium or the Museum of Psychphonics.

Indianapolis Canal

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Take your kids (or pretend you’re a kid) to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Spend a day wine tasting at Indianapolis’ four local wineries. Rent a bike and tour the city via the scenic and historic Monon Trail or hike the three-mile Downtown Canal Trail on foot. Visit the stunning Indianapolis Museum of Art, aka Newfields, and take an Instagram picture in front of the iconic LOVE sculpture — the first one ever created.

Where to Eat in Indianapolis

Sip a craft cocktail at Ball & Biscuit or The Libertine Liquor Bar. Enjoy a fancy steak dinner at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse (the shrimp cocktail is legendary) and then sneak upstairs to the 1933 Lounge, a prohibition-style speakeasy. For something more casual, visit the historic Steer-In diner. Soothe your soul with some down-home soul food at The Eagle.

Where to Stay in Indianapolis

Conrad Indianapolis

Conrad Indianapolis Indiana

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