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Indiana: History meets Midwestern charm in a quartet of Hoosier towns

From rural small towns to sports Meccas and everything in between, Indiana offers a diverse take on Midwestern life. Bloomington’s culturally vibrant college town atmosphere, Indianapolis’s racetrack glory and Richmond’s Amish lifestyle are well worth the trip.

Drive 155.5 miles, 3 hours, 26 minutes

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Bloomington

Starting Point

Routinely ranked among the most beautiful college campuses in America, Indiana University is the centerpiece of the city. Home to landmarked buildings constructed with famed Indiana limestone, the campus and downtown courthouse square are quintessential examples of traditional American architecture. A refurbished railroad line, the B-line walking trail bisects downtown and is a great introduction to what the city has to offer.


2. Columbus

37.2 miles, 1 hour, 8 minutes

National Geographic’s profile of Columbus’s architecture cemented the town’s status as the “Athens of the Prairie.” Thanks to nearly 60 buildings designed by famed architects like I. M. Pei and Eero Saarinen, Columbus boasts a striking skyline and storied history. The Columbus Visitors Center offers guided bus tours (and the occasional peek inside some of the homes) of the landmarks—it’s not to be missed. Afterward, cool off at Zaharakos on Washington Street, a flawlessly restored 1900-style ice cream parlor serving sundaes, old-school fountain sodas and more.


3. Indianapolis

45.6 miles, 53 minutes

The cultural offerings are plentiful in Indiana, but if it’s the roar of an engine you’re after, the capital city is the only place to be. Some of motorsports’ greatest moments have happened at the “Brickyard,” the nickname of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which hosts both Indy and NASCAR competition. For something different, follow the Cultural Trail, a pedestrian and bike path that winds between the city’s five cultural centers.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

4. Richmond

72.7 minutes, 1 hour, 25 minutes

The ideal counterpoint to Indy’s speedways, Richmond offers a glimpse of a slower kind of life. Amish buggies can be seen on rural roads, and the nearby communities of Fountain City and Hagerstown are home to Amish settlements and handicraft shops. To bring a bit of country life home with you, follow the “Antique Alley Trail” along U.S. Route 40 as it winds north out of Richmond and loops through the surrounding hamlets. You’ll be treated to more than 30 antique shops and cafes, as well as serene country roads. For a sweet end to your trip, try the Richmond Chocolate Trail on the Old National Road.