Things don’t stand still for long in Indiana.
Whether it’s the suburban areas in the southeastern end of the state, the booming and blooming city of Indianapolis or the home of Purdue in Lafayette, destinations throughout the Hoosier state continue to innovate, ideate and create new attractions and experiences for groups to enjoy. Even in the Amish country in northern Indiana, a region known for its time-tested traditions, travel planners will find new and exciting ways to connect their customers to the heart of the destination.
If your group hasn’t toured Indiana before, you’re missing out on a state full of underappreciated natural beauty and surprising diversity. And even if you have been to Indiana, the changes and new products in the state’s top tourism communities offer plenty of reasons to take your group back.
Here’s a south-to-north itinerary through Indiana that highlights both new tourism opportunities and tried-and-true group favorites.
About 20 minutes west of Cincinnati on the eastern edge of the state, the towns of Lawrenceburg and Aurora sit in Dearborn County, a largely rural area where the local tourism community has tapped its creativity to come up with some inventive and attractive experiences for tour groups.
Popular itinerary options include teas and dinners at Hill Forest Victorian House Museum, a local historic home, as well as hands-on gardening and decor classes at McCabe’s Greenhouse and Floral, a local family business. Based on the success of these programs, the Dearborn County Convention and Visitors Bureau has collaborated with the area’s artists to create additional activities.
“I asked one of our artists to come up with something that isn’t painting with a brush, that is kind of messy but doable and fun,” said Sally McWilliams, the bureau’s group sales director. “She came back with an idea to finger paint a garden. It’s messy, but since your hands are doing it, you’re not intimidated by it. It’s just fun.”
After trying the finger painting or other hands-on art projects, travelers can celebrate with a meal at Knigga Haypress Barn, an 1853 barn in Dillsboro where groups can see a demonstration of the working hay press and learn about farming practices of the period.
Indianapolis in Bloom
Though it still may be most famous for its eponymous auto race, Indianapolis is surging on multiple fronts and has received a lot of attention of late for its wide variety of visitor offerings. Travel + Leisure named the city one of the best places to visit for 2017, and Zagat picked Indy as one of the best food cities in the United States in 2016.
Groups that have toured Indianapolis know that there are numerous first-rate museums and attractions to explore, and some of the biggest developments this year are coming from organizations you might already know.
“The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a couple of new things coming,” said Lisa Wallace, senior communications manager at Visit Indy. “March 31 to May 31, they’re going to have ‘Spring Blooms.’ They planted 250,000 tulip bulbs on their grounds, and those are going to be full of color. They’re also opening a new beer garden. There will be opportunities to sample local beers and have trivia games, so groups can make a night out of that.”
Though the “Spring Blooms” exhibition is temporary, the beer garden will be a permanent fixture of the museum and will feature food in addition to craft beer. It is set to open in April.
Fans of literature may know that author Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, and the city has a museum in his honor. Work is now underway on an expansion to the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, which will debut in September.
“The new library is about four times what it was before,” Wallace said. “There’s some private space to do things like docent talks, or groups can even have the museum owner come and talk to them. Vonnegut is popular all over the world, and the museum has amassed a great collection.”
If you travel with intergenerational groups or even if you just have sports lovers in your tribe, you might want to plan a visit to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, which will open the immersive Sports Legends experience next year. This outdoor installation is being created in partnership with the area’s professional sports teams and famed golf-course designer Pete Dye. It will feature high-end mini golf, a racetrack, basketball, tennis and lots of inventive programming.