The odds are in your favor for a great time in the Hoosier State. Explore a Great Lake, discover Midwest wineries and try your luck at fun-filled games. Climb towering dunes and sample fine wine at your own pace.
Tucked away in the state’s southeast corner, this riverside region might just be Indiana’s best-kept secret. Boasting top-notch golf courses, unique outdoor adventures and small towns brimming with old-fashioned American charm, it’s easy to see why visitors keep coming back year after year. Of course, it might also have something to do with the one-of-a-kind riverboat resorts that dot the Ohio River.
Rocking the Boat
In 2011, the legendary steamboat Grand Victoria II was renamed the Rising Sun Casino Resort after the small town where it was moored. These days, visitors from across the Midwest flock to the sprawling ship to enjoy over 40,000 square feet of gaming, from slots to table games and more. With a busy calendar of concerts, sporting events and musical revues, there’s a little something for everyone.
Spas and Spades
About 20 miles south, the Belterra Casino Resort and Spa is a popular spot for riverboat gamblers, with special treats like thoroughbred racing and a full-service spa. Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg is another destination with easy access to big cities. Just twenty minutes west of Cincinnati, the resort prides itself on luxury attractions and easy-going attitude.
Betting on Fishing
Well-known for its catfish tournaments, the Ohio River is the perfect getaway for anglers looking to take a break from the blackjack table. The area around Rising Sun offers up some of the region’s best fishing holes, while the Markland Dam near Florence is a hotspot for sauger, gar and freshwater drum. Both Kentucky and Indiana recognize each other’s fishing licenses, so anglers in the know will try both banks, especially at popular stretches where Kentucky is known to stock the river with striped bass.
Canoes and Cardinals
Head to the quiet town of Patriot to canoe serene stretches of the river or head into one of the small streams that meander away from the main waterway. Bird-watchers especially will delight in the large variety of species that call the region home.
Golfing and Gaming
The rolling hills of the Ohio River Valley make the perfect backdrop for world-class golf courses and it seems like each one brings something new to the table. The Links at the Rising Sun Casino have a Scottish-style design that feature panoramic views of the riverside landscape. Not to be outdone, Belterra’s links were once ranked among the top 30 courses in the country.
Take advantage of the fresh flavors found in this vegetable, which grows in abundance in Indiana. Recipe by Lori DeKoninck, Indiana Good Sam State Director.
- 6 cups chopped zucchini with peeling on
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1 can water chestnuts (optional)
- 1–8 oz sour cream
- 1 stick butter
- 1 can chicken in water (like for chicken salad), drained
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 box Stove Top stuffing for chicken
- Garlic if you’d like
Cook onion and zucchini until soft and then drain. Add next 5 ingredients and mix. Melt butter and add stuffing. Mix until butter is absorbed. Add ½ the stuffing mixture to the zucchini mixture and mix well. Put in 2 qt casserole dish. Top with the rest of the stuffing mixture. Bake for 20 min at 350 degrees. Browns quickly. To add extra flavor: Mix up Hidden Valley ranch dip mix with sour cream and use it in place of just sour cream.
Where the Wolves Are
For a distinctly different outdoors experience, try a visit to the Red Wolf Sanctuary, a non-profit organization rehabilitating and preserving American wildlife. Tours of the grounds need to be scheduled in advance, but lucky visitors can see wolves, coyotes, bears, foxes and more in their natural habitats.
NW Hoosier Country
Welcome to the Lake Michigan coast of Northwest Hoosier Country, a land composed of rugged shores, pristine beaches, sandy dunes, forests, farmland and prairies. With 15 miles of shoreline and more than 70 miles of trails, the Indiana Dunes offers up adventures for families seeking fun under the sun.
The Indiana Dunes is a wind-swept land comprising bogs, marshes, rivers and forests. Indiana Dunes National Park has 15,000 acres of primitive lands with 50 miles of trails providing the chance to ramble through an ever-changing landscape. Take a ranger-guided tour to the top of Mount Baldy, a sand dune that rises 126 feet.
Birding opportunities are excellent, with more than 350 species establishing habitats in the area. Visit Heron Rookery for a close look at the great blue heron, a wading bird known for its azure feathers. Explore Bailly Homestead, a National Historic Landmark that housed one of the earliest settlers of northern Indiana, and Chellberg Farm, a preserved homestead occupied by a Swedish family that is managed by the National Park Service.
State Park Supreme
Three miles of spectacular beaches, undulating dunes and lush forests are accessible by more than 16 miles of trails in Indiana Dunes State Park. Camp at Indiana Dunes and listen to tales about the local legend of Diana of the Dunes — a free spirit whose ghost purportedly haunts the beach — told ’round a flickering campfire.
Water, Water Everywhere
No matter the season, Lake Michigan offers the ultimate in water adventures. Angle for trout, perch and salmon onboard a charter fishing excursion. Looking to get physical? Paddlers can get down in the water at a no-wake lake or explore a South Shore waterway like Deep River Water Trail, with 1.6 miles of estuaries along rugged shores with picturesque scenery. Kayak or canoe the longest continuous looping water route in the world on the Lake Michigan Water Trail.
Fair Oaks Farm
Some 45 miles south of Gary, Fair Oaks Farms offers a rich, back-to-country experience. In the heart of Indiana’s bucolic farm country, acres of flourishing pastures and undulating hills provide the backdrop for outdoor play married with a fascinating insight into the workings of a modern farm. With a strong environmental ethos (the facility generates power from cow and pig manure alone) and a commitment to educational programs and resources, the farm’s attractions incorporate child-friendly lessons in sustainability, nutrition and animal safety.
The two-hour Dairy Experience includes a tour of the barns to observe cows being milked, free play in “Mooville” (think rides, inflatables, ropes and swings with a farmyard theme), a visit to the birthing center and a series of engaging exhibits on modern farm practices. In the Pig Experience, you can play with piglets, explore a towering treehouse, try out a virtual sonogram and even pick up some excellent pork recipes. Another great garden spot is the Chellberg Farm, which hosts several festivals throughout the year.
Washington Park Zoo
With its 100-year anniversary approaching, Michigan City’s Washington Park Zoo is a classic summer’s day trip that continues to pull in families with young children. On the southern shore of Lake Michigan, the zoo is home to around 90 species housed in exhibits spread across 15 acres of rolling dunes (it’s quite a workout) and botanical gardens. Crowd-pleasing creatures include Bengal tigers, American alligators, a grizzly bear, wolves, ring-tailed lemurs, otters and eagles.
The Discovery Center features reptiles and amphibians, while the Australian Adventure aviary is a technicolor ensemble of over 250 parakeets. The red barn is picture-book perfect, with little kids petting and cooing over miniature horses, donkeys, pigs and goats, and there’s also a safari train. Just east of the zoo, atop a sand dune overlooking Lake Michigan. It’s worth taking in the views from the 70-foot-tall Art Deco observation tower.
Breweries and Wineries
Over recent years, craft beer culture has grown exponentially in northwest Indiana. In Munster, the irreverent but top-notch 3 Floyds, which first opened its doors in 1996, has become an internationally recognized brew pub famed for its award-winning regional, seasonal and collaborative brews. Take one of the brewery’s Saturday tours to learn the process of creating distinctive flavors. In Michigan City, Shoreline Brewery is distinguished for its terrific, barrel-aged craft beers, including the World Beer Cup-winning Beltane Scottish Ale, served with some of the state’s more accomplished gastro pub fare.
As the name suggests, Switzerland County is a community with roots stretching back to immigrants from the central European nation. Situated on the Ohio River, Switzerland County is a destination that presents ample opportunities for relaxation, adventure and cultural endeavors.
The area is known for its wine grape production and is considered the birthplace of the nation’s first successful commercial winery. Visitors can sample a taste of this legacy by visiting a winery along the Ohio River and a wine cellar in downtown Vevay, where Hoosier wines are featured. Late summer means another run of the historic Swiss Wine Festival in Vevay, which draws thousands to the streets for tastings, treats and more.
Weekends are all about the food of Florence. The Farmers and Artisans Market, a Saturday staple, is a tasty trip for foodies who want locally sourced culinary creations, as well as fresh-from-the-farm produce, all from the region.
The Sun Also Rises
Satisfy the need for an adrenaline rush with a trip down a zipline at Dagasz Acres, north of Vevay. One- and two-hour tours are available for adventurers of all skill levels. Wind down from a day in the canopy with an easy boat ride down the river. Several boat ramps and marinas are located along the river in the towns of Florence, Patriot and Vevay.
To add big city fun to your travels, check out Indianapolis, a city of contrasts. You’ll find all the perks of big-city living — major league sports, cultural attractions and a dynamic downtown area — along with a slew of outdoorsy pursuits.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, also known as the Brickyard, annually hosts the Indy 500, the world’s largest single-day spectator sporting event. Held every Labor Day Weekend, this open-wheeled racing event attracts top drivers from around the world and is considered by many to be the greatest spectacle of racing. Visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, housing priceless memorabilia, including more than 75 racing cars. Want to play a round of golf with a racing twist? Try booking a tee time at Brickyard Crossing, an 18-hole course with four of its holes located in the infield of the speedway.
The sprawling White River State Park is a significant link to the culture and history of Indianapolis. Visitors can walk along the gentle waters on paved walkways for a pleasurable blend of city and nature. Or sit back and relax while a Gondolier transports travelers into the romance of old Italy. Within its 250 acres, the park boasts several museums, the Indianapolis Zoo, an IMAX Theater, Indiana State Museum, a concert venue and the White River Gardens.
For More Information
Indiana Office of Tourism Development
Casino Country — Indiana Gaming Commission
NW Hoosier Country/ South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority
Switzerland County Tourism