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Indiana’s Best Hidden Gems

Indiana puts its best foot forward in summer with fun and delicious attractions

By Maggie Heath-Bourne

There’s no better time for a road trip than summer. With the windows rolled down and the highway stretching in front of you the road offers endless possibilities for fun in the summertime. The following destinations can be taken as a short road trip or individually for the perfect summer experience in southern Indiana.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail

Indiana is full of hidden gems, but the capital city itself has some of the state’s best public art. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an 8-mile path for pedestrians and bicyclers, along which visitors can see seven public art installations.

One of the trail’s unique stops is Chatham Passage, which is more for the nose than the eyes. Created by artist Sean Derry, Chatham Passage is a sunken vault covered by a steel grate, located in an alleyway. Beneath the surface, a scent machine releases a fresh floral smell in honor of the Real Silk Hosiery Mill, which was located off the alley in the 1920s. Nate Swick, communications coordinator for Visit Indy, says the smells honors the women who once worked there, adding, “The factory always smelled like roses.” Chatham Passage is located in an alley off of the 700 block of Massachusetts Avenue.

Nearby is the Glick Peace Walk, so named for Gene and Marilyn Glick whose legacy made the Cultural Trail possible. The Glick Peace Walk features 12 sculptural gardens celebrating the lives of people who made an impact on humanity through peaceful pursuits. Among the trailblazers honored are Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jonas Salk. “The main reason to walk down Walnut Street is because it’s decked out with luminaries,” Swick says.

Beiersdorfer Orchard

Located less than 45 minutes from Cincinnati and less than 90 minutes from Indianapolis is Guilford, Ind., home to Beiersdorfer Orchard.

Hilda and Bill Beiersdorfer have been a staple of Guilford for 50 years. That’s 50 years of apples, plums, peaches and pears, all grown on their 121 acres. Even Hilda Beiersdorfer had to check her math. “Can that be right?” she muses. “We don’t know where the time went!”

The Beiersdorfer name has been in farming for about 100 years, according to Hilda. Bill’s father owned a peach farm in the aptly named Peach Grove, Ohio, which he worked on growing up. When Bill and Hilda got married they operated the property, but soon the land began to get bought up. So they moved to Guilford where they will soon celebrate their golden anniversary at the orchard.

The business has been kept in the family and is now five generations strong thanks to help from the Beiersdorfer’s children and grandchildren. “It’s family oriented, but the kids have to do everything,” Hilda jokes.

And this help translates to variety in activities and available treats at the orchard. Tours are available for people who want to see the fruits go from tree to treatment. “It’s educational because we show them how we package the apples and we stress the importance of local produce,” says Hilda.

It is because of this packaging process that visitors can get apples and apple cider year-round at Beiersdorfer Orchard. Visitors can also buy apple butter with or without sugar, as well as pumpkin, peach and pear butter, popcorn and fruit baskets.

Beiersdorfer Orchard also has cider available at multiple Kroger locations around the Tristate. Beiersdorfer Orchard, 21874 Kuebel Road, Guilford, Ind. 812-487-2695, M-Sa 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Su 1-6 p.m.

The Busching Bridge in Versailles State Park was built in 1885.

Versailles State Park

Now that stomachs and—let’s be honest—trunk space have been stuffed with fruit, Versailles State Park offers plenty of recreation just a 40-minute drive away.

As the second largest state park in Indiana, visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities from fishing to hiking to horseback riding. “A lot of people come to reconnect and restore,” says Versailles State Park office manager Natalie Brinson. “Sometimes you need to get outside.”

The 230-acre lake offers anglers an opportunity to take in a morning on the calm lake, while rowboats, canoes and kayaks are available to rent for anyone hoping to get moving on the water.

For those interested in exploring nature on solid ground, Versailles offers 60 miles of hiking and walking trails for all levels of explorer, plus mountain biking trails and 20 miles of horse trails for those looking to bring their four-legged friends along. A dam in the park provides a scenic overlook and a prime wildlife lookout spot, where guests can often spy blue herons nearby. A large, red covered bridge offers a great photo opportunity, as does the park’s wildlife, including bald eagles, red foxes, river otters and beavers.

Campers are also welcome, with several campsites to choose from as well as a pool and waterslide. Brinson says it’s a popular choice for families looking to get away for a couple of days. “It’s a good place to get back to nature with family and friends,” she says.

These highlights bring in around 265,000 visitors every summer, according to Brinson. And who could blame them with all that Versailles has to offer?

If you’re looking for a great place to unwind outdoors, Brinson says you’ve found it. “It’s a place to find some peace,” she says. Versailles State Park, 1387 U.S. 50 East, Versailles, Ind. 812-689-6424,

Lanthier Winery

Take another quick 35-minute car trip down to Lanthier Winery in Madison, Ind., to experience one of the region’s unique wineries.

The Lanthier Winery in Madison, Ind., conducts an annual Tutti Frutti promotion each June for its large selection of sweet and semisweet fruit wines.

Lanthier Winery has a simple philosophy: “the best wine is a wine you like.” So says co-owner Tami Hagemeier, whose husband, Chris Lanthier, is the cellarmaster.

“We’re not snooty,” says Hagemeier. “We’re pretty laid back.”

This philosophy certainly carries over into the wine list, which includes 15 wines handcrafted by Lanthier. These wines include Festival Cherry, Strawberry Blush and a list of seasonal wines such as Snowflake White and Rudolph Red available after Thanksgiving.

Its berry wines are so popular, according to Hagemeier, that Lanthier Winery holds an annual Tutti Frutti promotion each June for its large selection of sweet and semisweet fruit wines. Dry wines are also available year-round and each wine at Lanthier comes with a lengthy and refreshingly low-key food pairing list.

The Rivertown Red, a dry wine, pairs with “Mexican, Creole, pizza or BBQ,” while sweet wine Mill Street White complements chocolate mousse, lamb and the invitingly vague suggestion, “cheddar cheese dishes.” Interpret as a wonderfully crafted soufflé or right off the block—the experience is up to you.

For visitors who just can’t stop thinking about these food pairings, lunch can be called down to the gardens from one of several local eateries for a picnic. The gardens’ outdoor gallery, hosting sculptures by local artists, provides a serene backdrop for picnickers and strollers alike.

These gardens, maintained by staff master gardeners, feature three seasons of bloom and include a rotation of peonies in May and lilies in June. Additionally, the garden features 100,000 daffodils and a wide selection of summer annuals. According to Hagemeier, these features are what make Lanthier truly special. “You’re not just coming for the wines. You’re coming for the experience,” she says.

Groups looking to learn more about winemaking can sign up for cellar tours and learn about Lanthier’s process. Garden enthusiasts can also take tours with a master gardener to learn how the gardens are designed and maintained in what Hagemeier describes as a “down and dirty experience.” Tours include a free wine tasting. Lanthier Winery, 123 Mill St., Madison, Ind. 812-273-2409, W-Su 10 a.m.-5 p.m.