Often times I arrive home reluctantly, to my small town in Indiana, after traveling for any length of time. But underneath the reluctance lies an anxiety to familiarize myself once again with my home state. Before I made trips all over Europe, to Africa, or lived in Austria and Belgium for a time, I criticized my home state. Now I relish returning home and re-discovering all it has to offer. And I feel, since most Americans may think of Indiana as a flyover state, or one full of corn, basketball, and racing, a duty to share the treasures of my state. So, without further ado, here’s a young Hoosier’s guide to Hoosier country.
We’ll start with Northern Indiana – perhaps you are coming from Chicago and making your way out East with the car. A trip to the Hoosier state wouldn’t be complete without visiting its only national park, the Indiana Dunes. The Dunes lay along the southeastern shores of Lake Michigan, stretching miles from the shore with tall green grass and spots of towering trees coloring the sand. The Dunes provide tons of opportunities for hiking, laying on the beach and swimming in the summer, and taking in views of the Chicago skyline from the shores of Lake Michigan. One of the most diverse landscapes and unexpected national parks, the Indiana Dunes definitely deserve a visit from more Midwesterners.
Drive an hour east and you’ll escape the cities and coast of Lake Michigan into the flat northern plains. What awaits is an alluring setting and a unique piece of Indiana’s cultural – the Amish community. In Patricia Schultz’s bestselling book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, there is one place located in Indiana – the community of 26,000 mostly Amish inhabitants, Shipshewana. Shipshewana is a beautifully bucolic place to enjoy a Saturday morning flea market, perhaps take a buggy ride or hopping on a hiking trail in the afternoon, and finish the night with dinner at the Blue Gate restaurant. The Blue Gate also holds a theatre, which houses traditional Amish plays, concerts, comedians, and musicals. The charm and culture of Shipshewana is truly worth discovering.
On your way south, drive through West Lafayette, where Purdue University is located. West Lafayette is a small town with a youthful energy and a lot to do – college bars, great restaurants such as the famous Triple XXX, which brews its own root beer – and historical spots in places like Prophetstown State Park and the Wabash Heritage Trail. Of course, you’ll need to take a walk around Purdue’s campus if you want your Indiana tour to be complete – as well as their rival, but we’ll get to that. The Wabash River that divides Lafayette and West Lafayette is the theme of the state song and an abundance of Hoosier poetry. In the winter, naturally you can catch a Purdue basketball game. And if you’re lucky, maybe the best rivalry in all of collegiate athletics (Indiana-Purdue, of course).
After visiting these three spots, you will have visited a good portion of the northern part of the state, and quite diverse offerings – from wild national parks and coast, to rural Amish country, to a lively, eccentric university city that houses one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. But that’s no where near all of what Indiana has to offer. In the next few weeks we’ll move to the heartland, the crossroads: Central Indiana, with thriving Indianapolis and Hoosiers’ favorite state parks.
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-roembke