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Indulge in the Interesting at These 23 Indiana Hidden Gems

While it may be the Birthplace of Basketball, the Indiana Dunes, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana is also home to numerous hidden gems that remind travelers just how fun exploring the Midwest can be. Add these sites to your Indiana bucket list to experience an underrated side of the Hoosier State.

Turkey Run State Park-Marshall, IN
Turkey Run State Park | photo via kat_mayerovitch

Turkey Run State Park | Marshall

While it may not be the most hidden of Hoosier State gems, Turkey Run has been an Indiana favorite for more than 100 years — a place that has something for everyone where a day trip can easily turn into a vacation.

The park features over 14 miles of rugged trails, which lead hikers past stunning sandstone gorges. Visitors can also enjoy an Olympic-sized swimming pool, picnicking, an interactive nature center, historic sites, and more.

The Exotic Feline Rescue Center | Center Point

Since its founding in the 1990s, the EFRC has become a sanctuary for dozens of exotic cats who have been neglected, unwanted, or abused, including tigers, leopards, servals, lynx, and more. Visitors can take daily hour-long guided tours to learn the stories of these animals — which range from retired circus animals to privately owned pets.

The center also hosts fun theme nights, including Big Cat Yoga — which includes yoga, brunch, and a tour — and Paint Your Pet Night.

Cataract Falls | Owen County

There’s something quite magical about seeing and hearing a scenic waterfall and Cataract Falls — the biggest waterfall in Indiana — is one travelers don’t want to miss.

Situated on Mill Creek, Cataract Falls cascades at least 75 feet down and is split into upper and lower sections about a mile apart with plunges of 45 and 30 feet respectively. Visitors can soak in picturesque views and enjoy peaceful picnic areas with one of Indiana’s best backdrops.

Bluespring Caverns-Bedford, IN
Bluespring Caverns | photo via

Bluespring Caverns | Bedford

Travelers who light up upon discovering a Midwest hidden gem don’t want to miss this one — one of the longest navigable underwater rivers in the country. Descend 400 feet down to reach the river and take an hour-long boat trip to explore the majesty of this underground pathway. Visitors can traverse passages illuminated by pockets of light and keep their eyes peeled for cave creatures like cavefish and spotted salamanders.

Aboveground, visitors can enjoy hiking the Karst Natural Area Trail, sitting down to a picnic, and mining for gemstones.

Santa Claus Indiana

Nestled near the Kentucky border, Santa Claus celebrates Christmas all year long — and in case you’re wondering, yes Santa Claus really is the name of the town.

Every day is a holiday here and visitors of all ages can get into the Christmas spirit as they explore the town’s iconic landmarks. Santa Claus’ famous post office allows visitors to write letters to the Man in Red, Holiday World & Splashin Safari is a fun amusement park, and Santa’s Candy Castle is heaven for those with a sweet tooth.

T.C. Steele State Historic Site | Nashville

Situated in Brown County — dubbed the “Art Colony of the Midwest” — this beautifully preserved home and studio was once the home of Theodore C. Steele, a Hoosier Group impressionist painter.

The site offers regular tours, which offer a glimpse into Steele’s life and work, including a studio filled with paintings (the artwork on display usually rotates). The site also includes several hiking trails, the 92-acre Selma Steele State Nature Preserve, and the historic Dewar Log Can, giving visitors a view of Indiana in an older time.

Parke County, IN
Parke County | photo via mtmountainlily

Covered Bridges | Parke County

The so-called “Covered Bridge Capital of the World” more than lives up to the name with 31 picturesque covered bridges scattered throughout rural landscapes.

From the Sanatorium Covered Bridge to the Portland Mills Covered Bridge to the Melcher Covered Bridge, and many more, each bridge has its own unique story. Some of the bridges date back to the 1800s and offer visitors a chance to see unique hallmarks of Indiana history up close.

Parke County pays homage to these famous bridges each year during the Parke County Bridge Festival. It has been a mainstay each October since 1957 and draws more than 2 million visitors each year.

Hayswood Nature Reserve | Corydon

Totaling 311 acres, the Hayswood Nature Preserve gives visitors a chance to experience two parks in one.

One park is a 130-acre nature conservancy bounded by Big Indian Creek. Visitors won’t find any electricity within the conservancy, but they will find birdhouses, wildlife projects, and scenic nature trails. The recreational part of Hayswood consists of 181 acres and features several multi-use areas, playgrounds, picnic areas, and more.

The Indiana Medical History Museum | Indianapolis

Situated on the grounds of the former Central State Hospital, the IMHM is the oldest surviving pathology laboratory in the nation. Visitors can explore the museum’s anatomical room full of preserved specimens, participate in special events and programs, and visit the teaching amphitheater dedicated to different fields of scientific study.

The Antique Fan Museum-Zionsville
The Antique Fan Museum | photo via geokenuae

The Antique Fan Museum | Zionsville

One of the most unique museums in Indiana is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of antique electric fans and chances are good that many visitors will become fans of this shrine to fans.

Visitors can stroll through the museum and marvel at more than 2,000 antique desk and ceiling fans and see the oldest electric desk in the world, which dates back to 1890. That’s to say nothing of the wall fans, water-powered fans, battery-powered fans, and other artifacts on display.

For travelers who like quirky tourist attractions, this is one Indiana hidden gem you’ll want to add to your bucket list.

Columbus Architecture Tours | Columbus

This small city in the shadow of Indianapolis is an architectural mecca that draws thousands of visitors who come to study its unique buildings. The city has just 47,000 residents, but it has been ranked among the likes of Chicago and New York for architectural design and innovation.

Dating back to the 1940s, the 70+ buildings here were designed by some of the most renowned architects in the world. It’s a spectacle for the eyes and arguably one of the most unique visual museums in the nation.

Wolf Park | Battle Ground

In northern Indiana, visitors can embrace the call of the wild as they explore this educational research facility dedicated to the conservation of wolves.

Visitors of all ages can take guided tours to learn about wolves and their behavior or capture close-up photos of these majestic animals from experts. Travelers can also interact with wolves in a safe environment and participate in Howl Nights, where they can hear wolves howling and howl at the moon themselves.

Swope Art Museum-Terre Haute
Swope Art Museum | photo via staceypearl89

The Kinsey Institute | Bloomington

Located on the Indiana University campus, the Kinsey Institute offers a unique and insightful experience for tourists interested in human sexuality, relationships, and gender.

Visitors can delve into exhibits that chronicle the history and progress of sex research, inspired by the work of Alfred Kinsey. If nothing else, it provides a thought-provoking and educational journey, for those curious about the scientific and cultural aspects of sexuality.

Swope Art Museum | Terre Haute

One of the most impressive Hoosier State museums houses an extensive collection of almost 2,500 works of American art from the 19th and 20th centuries, including works on paper, paintings, and sculptures. 

The museum opened in 1942 and admission is free. Swope’s extensive collection includes works from Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, and Edward Hopper, in addition to many local arts. The museum also sponsors an annual student art exhibition and hosts artist lectures.

The Angel Mounds State Historic Site | Evansville

Nestled on the banks of the Ohio River, this is one of the best-preserved prehistoric Native American sites in the United States and blends a unique combination of history, archeology, and nature.

Angel Mounds tells the story of ancient Mississippian tribes who lived in the area. That history is displayed in a dozen ceremonial earthen mounds, an interpretive center that gives a glimpse into Mississippian Culture, and a four-mile Angel Mounds Loop Trail where visitors can walk in the footsteps of legends.

The Seiberling Mansion-Kokomo
The Seiberling Mansion | photo via tbudenz

The Seiberling Mansion | Kokomo

Built in 1891 by industrialist Monroe Seiberling, the Seiberling Mansion stands as a stunning example of Victorian-era architecture and history in the Hoosier State.

Group tours are available by appointment and visitors can admire the mansion’s Victorian architecture, beautiful hand-carved woodwork, and multiple exhibits that share the history of Howard County. Wintertime visitors can enjoy “Christmas at the Seiberling,” which starts the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving and runs through December.

Falls of the Ohio State Park | Clarksville

This natural wonder on the Ohio River is known for its scenic views and extensive fossil beds — among the largest naturally exposed Devonian fossil beds in the world. Permits are available for collecting fossils in designated areas.

Visitors can also spend time exploring scenic trails, bird-watching hotspots, fishing, and visiting the on-site interpretive center to learn about the park’s rich history.

French Lick Scenic Railway | French Lick

The hometown of NBA legend Larry Bird is also famous for its scenic railway, which takes visitors through southern Indiana aboard a vintage train on a variety of seasonal rides.

The railway is part of the Indiana Railway Museum, which operates more than 25 miles of track from French Lick to Jasper and gives visitors a way to experience history that’s different from looking at mounted displays.

Visitors can get caught up in an old-fashioned train robbery during a ride on the Wild West Express, take a ride through the Burton Tunnel and the Hoosier State National Forest on the Scenic Train, or take the Dinosaur Adventure Train to the Paleo Adventure Camp.

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum | photo via

Clifty Falls State Park | Madison

Madison is well known for its historic district, but Clifty Falls State Park is an outdoor wonderland that’s always worth a visit with beautiful lookouts, waterfalls, and trails. 

The park’s scenic waterfalls change moods with the weather and seasons, treating visitors to delicate bridal veil mists, cascading plunges, and even frozen splendors in the winter. Elsewhere, trekkers can explore the rugged terrain that includes stony beds of marine fossil remnants.

NOTE: Fossil collecting within the park is prohibited, but there are nearby locations where collecting is allowed.

Lanier Mansion | Madison

This beautifully restored 1844 mansion has been a National Historic Landmark since 1994 and the “Crown Jewel” of Madison’s Historic District. Visitors can tour this stunning example of Greek Revival architecture for a step back in time to a younger Indiana and a hub on the Ohio River.

The Mansion also hosts periodic events, particularly during the summer months, including Music at the Mansion, a youth history camp, and Lanier Day, which celebrates the history of the mansion and Madison.

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum | Auburn

Indiana may be the famous home of the Indianapolis 500, but this Fort Wayne-area museum has plenty to satisfy every car enthusiast.

The museum features multiple galleries that showcase an extensive collection of classic cars from the early 20th century, including exhibits highlighting the Duesenberg, notorious outlaw John Dillinger, auto excellence and innovation, and the history of car mascots and hood ornaments.

More than 120 cars are on display here allowing visitors of all ages to celebrate the cars of yesterday, today.

The Historic Artcraft Theatre-Franklin
The Historic Artcraft Theatre | photo via jndavis11

The Historic Artcraft Theatre | Franklin

Originally opened in 1922, this historic theatre has been restored to its 1920s grandeur and is a local favorite for fans of classic movies.

Residents and visitors can sit down with fresh buckets of popcorn to enjoy classic performances or visit the theatre for other fun events, including Artcraft Cooking School, magic performances, summer children’s theatre, and more.

Zip Timber Lake | Huntington

Thrill seekers will be on Cloud 9 — or at least flying toward it — as they explore multiple zip lines, aerial bridges, climbing elements, and more. Zip Timber Lake offers multiple tours that allow first-time zipliners and experienced zip-liners to enjoy themselves.

With its location on Timber Lake, the location is also a popular fishing spot, and eager anglers can bring their own boats or rent them for a chance to catch catfish, bass, and other species.

Explore Invigorating Indiana Hidden Gems

Whether you’re eager for a bit of Christmas spirit in August, you can’t enough of scenic views, or you love exploring unique museums, Indiana’s hidden gems have something to offer every traveler. Make your way to the Hoosier State and lose yourself in its incredible beauty, opportunities for adventure, and historic sites as you explore more of the Midwest.