Wooded Hills, Grand Architecture

  • Start: Nashville, IN
  • End: Santa Claus, IN
  • Last Modified: 2012-01-05 15:40:51
  • Total Mileage: 229 Miles
  • Number of stops: 12


From architectural marvels and national forest land to soothing spa waters and utopian communities, southern Indiana offers a surprising bounty of roadside stops. Begin your drive in Columbus, a city loaded with stylish buildings designed by famed architects -- more than 65 in all, one for every 600 residents. Even the jail there has panache, with a domed exercise area at the top of the building. For just $10, visitors can take a two-hour tour of these gems, guided by local volunteers who add personal footnotes to their patter. You'll see works by Robert A.M. Stern, Eero Saarinen, I. M. Pei -- churches, schools, commercial buildings, and a hospital. From Columbus, head west on IN 46 towards Nashville. The flat cornfields quickly give way to the rolling hills that mark southern Indiana. If you have time, stop in Gnaw Bone at one of the little flea markets along the road. You can buy the usual flea market items, but the real buys are the local goods, such as homemade jams, sorghum, fresh-baked breads, or perhaps a bunch of bittersweet in the fall. Quaintness almost smothers the hoards that descend on the shops of Nashville on the weekends. Tucked among the kitschy craft stores and trinket shops are a few genuine art galleries. Look for potters, weavers, and leather craftsmen. One shop worth checking out: Acorn Cottage Gallery, 91 W. Franklin, which features local artisans' works at reasonable prices. Options for hungry shoppers include the always-busy Nashville House, at Main and Van Buren Sts., specializing in country fried steak, fried biscuits, and baked apple butter, or Hobnob Corner Restaurant (also at Main and Van Buren Sts.) for soups, salads, and sandwiches. If you have kids in tow, the 20-minute Melchior Marionette Theater show ($4) on Saturdays and Sundays in June, July, September, and October, is worth the stop. (It's located downtown between Old Hickory and Franklin on the west side of the main drag, S. Van Buren Street.) Peggy Melchior, the puppeteer, designs the intricate, humorous puppets herself. Drive north of Nashville on IN 135 towards Beanblossom. Just past Greasy Creek Road, you'll find a turnoff for the Bean Blossom Bridge, built in 1880. Indiana's loaded with covered bridges, but this one is special because of its remote location. It's a perfect photo opportunity. Covered bridge fans may also want to check out the bridge at the entrance to Brown County State Park, off IN 46.It's time to drive south, back towards Nashville and east on IN 46 to the turnoff for IN 135. This winding road skirts Brown County State Park and the Hoosier National Forest, lush with green trees in spring and summer and an explosion of color in the fall. If it's time for dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, stop at the Story Inn in Story. The walls and shelves are lined with antiques and bric-a-brac, and the upscale, fine dining menu emphasizes locally grown produce. A B&B occupies cabins out back and the second floor of the establishment. The rest of the drive south to Salem is pure Indiana -- hills, farms, and folks that will stop their truck and ask if you need help if you pull over to consult the Road Atlas. Turn west on IN 56 and south on IN 146. A magnificent domed wonder, the restored and reopened West Baden Springs Hotel looms ahead. Built in 1902 as a modern hotel with every convenience (bank, stock ticker, barber shop, beauty salon, spas, bicycle track, and more), it was a popular spot for the wealthy to enjoy drinking and soaking in the famed spring waters and to gamble nearby. In the '20s, the town was also a place to imbibe forbidden alcohol. After the stock market crash, the hotel became a Jesuit seminary, then a private college, and fell into disrepair in the '80s. An Indiana industrialist saved it from the wrecking ball, and in 2006 it re-opened as a resort hotel once more. You can tour this gorgeous structure and reminisce about the days when gangsters and high society mingled. Plus, you'll learn a little local lore.

Stop #1:

Acorn Cottage Gallery
Nashville, IN

Stop #2:

Melchior Marionette Theatre
Nashville, Indiana

Stop #3:

Beanblossom Bridge
Indiana, United States of America

Stop #4:

Brown County State Park
Nashville, Indiana

Stop #5:

Story Inn
Nashville, Indiana

Stop #6:

West Baden Springs Hotel
West Baden Springs, IN

Stop #7:

Indiana Railway Museum
French Lick, IN

Stop #8:

French Lick Resort Casino
French Lick, IN

Stop #9:

Monastery Immaculate Conception
Ferdinand, IN

Stop #10:

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
Santa Claus, Indiana

Stop #11:

Buffalo Run Grill
Indiana, United States of America

Stop #12:

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial
Santa Claus, IN

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