I wrap up my three-part series on Indiana this week with the southern region. Southern Indiana is somewhat distinguishable from the rest: you start hearing y’all a bit more, there are rolling hills, and basketball becomes an even bigger deal. Southern Indiana is wrapped in bucolic landscapes, history, and small-town Indiana culture. So that’s what I’ll focus on in the last part of this series.
Coming from Bloomington on the most recent leg of your north to south journey through the Hoosier State, you’ll need to take Interstate 69 south towards Evansville. Evansville is Indiana’s third largest city, a historical place, and college town (where I spent my university years), but we’ll get there eventually. On I-69 south, you’ll drive along the Hoosier National Forest – encompassing more than 200,000 acres in South Central Indiana, the Hoosier is an Indiana gem that holds almost 300 miles of hiking trails, places to camp or rent a cabin, unique small towns to stay like Jasper or Ferdinand (both quite German), and even Holiday World, a holiday-themed amusement park with some of the best rollercoasters and one of the largest waterparks in the U.S.
At the north end of Hoosier National Forest, Brown Country State Park and Nashville, Indiana are worthwhile stops. Nashville hosts a brewery (Quaff On) and a winery (Brown County Winery) that are quite popular in Indiana and able to be visited seasonally. Brown County is another great spot for hiking, scenic drives, and views. It’s the most beautiful in the fall, but is also worth a visit in the spring or summer.
So, between Bloomington and Evansville, make sure you stop and explore Brown County State Park or areas of the Hoosier National Forest – I encourage you to check out what each spot has to offer a bit more in depth.
Meanwhile, though, I’ll dive into the Evansville area – about a 2-hour drive south of Bloomington. Evansville is a great spot for nightlife because of hosting two mid-sized universities, the University of Evansville and the University of Southern Indiana. It’s also home to a huge variety of fantastic restaurants, including Smitty’s (Italian), Gerst Haus (German), Walton’s (International Comfort Food, with a cigar lounge and 20’s bar upstairs), and Gangnam (Korean). Smitty’s and Gerst Haus are located on Franklin Street, the biggest bar street in the city. Go on a Friday and you’ll see the entire street packed with people, especially when school is in session – you can find live music at Lamasco’s, plus free pool and a local favorite in Sportsman’s.
On Saturday morning, waking up and getting breakfast at the Franklin Street Farmer’s Market is always a good idea. Then, head down to the Haynie’s Corner Arts District for coffee at Penny Lane and walk through the historic district (lined with towering old Victorian mansions), and down to the Evansville riverfront, on the banks of the Ohio River.
A short historical trip you can make while in Evansville is to New Harmony, just a 20-minute drive west. New Harmony is the site of an attempted utopian settlement, founded by Welsh industrialist Robert Owen, and a former artists and intellectuals community. There is a local history museum in New Harmony that informs visitors on the former utopia, and a multitude of historic sites you can visit. A simple walk around the town is enjoyable, as it is home to green spaces, beautiful homes, and a scenic spot on the Wabash River.
With that, I wrap up this series on my home state of Indiana. I hope this captured the imagination of those who have never considered visiting the state, and that you decide to soon visit. If you do, please get in contact with me – I’d love to help out further and show a bit of Hoosier hospitality.
Guest Author: Keegan Roembke
I am a student and writer from Indiana currently living in Ghent, Belgium, working on a Master’s in Global Studies. My passion for writing and poetry stems from travels and constant curiosity about the world. I write poetry, social commentary, and travel pieces on Medium and Vocal, and recently graduated from the University of Southern Indiana, where I studied German and International Studies. I have travelled to 22 countries throughout Europe and Africa by train, bus, and foot. Read poetry and commentary at https://vocal.media/authors/keegan-roembk