Saturday, April 09, 2011

My Top 5 Places to Visit In Indiana

As you drive along the highways in Indiana, it can, at times, be difficult to remember that the Hoosier State is comprised of far more than just cornfields, chain restaurants and factories. Indeed, when I first arrived 28 months ago, my initial belief was that I had given up London for a life in what is commonly known here as "the sticks." But as time passed on and the corn got plucked away for the winter, I slowly came to realise that Indiana possessed some of the most fascinating - and, at times, surprising - places in the Midwest. I now bring you my top 5 in descending numerical order:


5. Fowler Ridge Wind Farm
Being relatively new to the Indiana landscape, Fowler Ridge Wind Farm only entered my own photo album earlier this year during a north-westerly drive toward Chicago. At first, as I unknowingly approached the town of Fowler (early settlers seemed to enjoy naming places after peoples' last names), all I could see was a couple of ordinary wind turbines, which seemingly added no more to the horizon than the derelict barn-houses scattered on either side of the highway. But as the wheels continued to turn and the barn-houses faded from view, it became clear that this was not just another wind farm; it was an army of turbines. A grand army.

Boasting some 600 turbines in total, the wind farm was like an over-elaborate origami spectacle, whose primary purpose was to completely distract motorists and cause a 15-car pile-up on Interstate 52. In truth, however, the farm was created - as you might imagine - to provide an alternative, renewable energy source for the state. The turbines, as far as I know, are not constructed of paper. Meanwhile, experiencing the wind farm in the day time is entirely different to experiencing it in the dark. If ever you're taking a night-time drive home from a weekend in the "Windy City," get ready for the majesty of 600 air-traffic alert lights all flashing at the exact same time.  

4. White River State Park
Located west of downtown Indianapolis, White River State Park is home to a multitude of "must see" locations - some of which came close themselves to making it onto this list. For wildlife enthusiasts, Indianapolis Zoo offers a comprehensive look at some of the most fascinating creatures from the animal kingdom (some may find the $15 admission (adults) and $6 parking fees a little steep), while the Eiteljorg Museum is widely considered to be one of the best sources of contemporary Native American art in America and very much worth checking out.

For the thespians among us (you are starting to comprise my entire readership), the park is also noted for having staged various professional outdoor Shakespeare shows, including last year's Two Gentlemen of Verona and 2009's Much Ado About Nothing (presented by Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre). Being free, these performances are well worth the money (please don't email me with corrections to this sentence).  


3. Indianapolis Museum of Art
Listed among the ten largest general art museums in the United States, the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) offers art lovers everywhere a taste of virtually everything, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to American impressionism. With four floors-worth of material to gawk at, one might find, like I did, that the entire museum is better suited to an excursion of several visits, though with its many temporary exhibitions - such as last winter's Andy Warhol collection - the really devoted may opt to return even more than this. As the warm weather approaches, you may want to discover some of the IMA's outdoor exhibits and sculptures, as well as Oldfields - Lilly House and Gardens.


2. Crowne Plaza Hotel at Historic Union Station
Possibly the biggest hidden treasure in the whole of Indianapolis, Crowne Plaza is so much more than just a hotel. This is evident as you come within 100 feet of the building – a 220-year-old structure that, on first impression, more resembles an old  steel foundry than a 4-star hotel. Indeed, its worn-in 19th Century facade is flanked either side by an underpass of equally charred beauty. But never judge a book before you’ve had a chance to skim the prologue.

The reception area, which introduces you to the first of many pale white statues strategically placed around the hotel, instantly removes any doubt that you have not just waltzed into the Victorian age. In fact, if anything, the reception itself is perhaps the most modernized part of Crowne Plaza. Only once you delve upward and beyond do you become aware of not only the hidden history that makes Crowne Plaza so intriguing, but also – and this is a big also – an unexpected line of derailed train carriages on the second floor.

1. West Baden Springs Hotel
Perhaps it says something about Indiana's past that the top 2 in my list happen to be historic hotels. West Baden Springs Hotel, which is located in Orange County, was originally built in 1901 (though was restored in 2006) and, to this day, bears both the facade and interior of a 1920s building complex. Indeed its famed atrium, which would not look out of place in Rome, is so captivating in its opulence that its glass ceiling appears to ooze the decadence often associated with the aforementioned decade. A walk around its outer corridors, with its endless stream of old photographs, leaves you feeling surrounded by the ghosts of times gone by.

If one hotel wasn't enough, just a short drive down the road you'll find French Lick Springs Hotel - another that gives off an air reminiscent of the roaring twenties and one which hosts the state's first land-based casino. How about that?

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Laurence Brown is a British man documenting his life in the truly bizarre and beautiful world of America. Before the end of the decade, he plans to achieve his goal of visiting all 50 United States - highlighting each one in Lost in the Pond's Finding America web series. To help fund this exciting project, consider becoming a patron. Your contribution would be in

1 comment:

Melissa S. said...

Indiana is just as exciting as I thought it would be.

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