20 Hidden Gems in Indiana: Unique and Quirky Places to Visit

20 Hidden Gems in Indiana: Unique and Quirky Places to Visit

From the world’s largest ball of paint in Alexandria to a trail of giant Garfield sculptures in Fairmount, these unique destinations and hidden gems in Indiana are sure to provide good photo ops and a fun road trip for the family. My family and I discovered twenty of the most unusual excursions within about an hour’s drive of Indy. These trips will spark conversation and provide Instagram-worthy photos.

Our Favorite Hidden Gems in Indiana

Use your family’s next day off of school and work to discover one of these intriguing spots for yourselves.

Garfield Trail

Grant County

Whether your kids know Garfield the Cat from cartoons or comic strips, they will enjoy this trail around Fairmount and surrounding cities. The trail boasts eleven fiberglass statues of the famous cat, each over five feet in height, in various outfits and poses. More information about the sculptures is available by calling (765) 997-7034.

If you are interested in learning more about Fairmont, stop by the Fairmount Historical Museum. Exhibits include authentic artifacts of hometown film star James Dean and Garfield cartoon creator Jim Davis, as well as community history. While in the area, you should also stop at the legendary Ivanhoe’s restaurant for one of 100 ice cream sundaes or shakes. You’ll find a Garfield enjoying a triple scoop outside!

Admission to the Garfield Trail is free. The Fairmount Historical Museum is $5 per adult and children 17 & under are free with paid adult admission.

Hidden Gems in Indiana: Garfield Statue Trail

Wolf Park

Greater Lafayette

Home to gray wolves, red foxes, gray foxes, and bison, Wolf Park is a non-profit educational wildlife facility in Lafayette. Each type of animal represented at Wolf Park is native to Indiana. Wolf Park requires a reservation to visit. Reservations for tours, as well as other programs such as Howl Night, can be made through their website.

Bob Ross Experience


We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents. – Bob Ross

Bob Ross has inspired generations with his gentle voice and iconic paintings. The Joy of Painting was filmed in Muncie, and his former studio is now open to the public as a museum. The Bob Ross Experience includes his refurbished studio, painting equipment, original paintings, and interactive experiences.

Hidden Gems in Indiana: Bob Ross Experience

The Bob Ross Experience is open Wednesday-Saturday, 9 am-5 pm, and Sunday, Noon-5 pm. Admission is $15 per adult or $12 per child aged 4-12 for all non-residents. For local residents, admission is $8 per person over 12 and $6 per kid aged 12 & under. Children 3 & under are free.

World’s Largest Ball of Paint


What happens when you cover a baseball in a layer of paint? Michael Carmichael has spent over 40 years doing just that, covering a ball with over 25,000 coats of paint. It started in 1977 when he let his son cover a baseball in a layer of paint. Since then, the layers have continued, and the ball now holds the title of the ‘Largest Ball of Paint in the World.’

Admission is free but visitors are asked to call (765) 724-4088 to schedule a visit. Visitors will find the giant ball of paint surrounded by paint buckets, hanging from a steel beam in a custom-built ‘Ball House’ next to the Carmichael house in Alexandria. All are welcome to paint the ball in a color of their choosing or select a sliced section of the original ball.

Old Ben, World’s Largest Steer


Within the Visitor’s Center at the Highland Park Pavilion is Old Ben, a preserved statue figure of the world’s largest steer. Born in 1902 on the farm of Mike and John Murphy, he weighed 125 pounds at birth. By age four, Ben was two tons and was a local celebrity, appearing at fairs and festivals. He measured over 6 feet tall and 16 feet long.

Highland Park is also home to a giant sycamore stump. It is 57 feet in diameter and was once used as a phone booth holding over two dozen people.

Grannie’s Cookie Jar and Ice Cream Parlor


In the tiny town of Metamora, you will find the world’s largest collection of cookie jars. Started by Eva “Grannie” and Paul Fuchs in 1998, the collection includes over 3,200 cookie jars and is open to visitors. Eva and her daughter Connie also make delicious homemade waffle cones to serve with hand-dipped ice cream and 24 flavors of soft-serve ice cream. Seating is available inside, or you can sit outside and watch the horse-drawn canal boat glide on the canal.

Big John, Rocking Chair


Long’s Furniture World is a well-known business in Indiana. However, one piece of its collection may catch your eye as you drive through Franklin.

Outside of the Long’s Furniture World in Franklin, sits a thirty-two-foot rocking chair. It is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest wooden rocking chair in the world. The custom-built structure received its name “Big John” as a nod to the former owner of the business, JD Long.

Historic Hoosier Gym


It would be difficult to have an Indiana Adventures list without mention of basketball. Part of the 1985 movie Hoosiers was filmed in the Hoosier Gym, the fictional home of the Hickory Huskers. The gym is over 80 years old and is open to the public.

Silo Mural Project


Driving through the Indiana landscape, you have probably seen your fair share of silos. However, have you ever seen silo art?

Greencastle is home to four silos featured in The Putnam County Mural Project, one of the largest murals in Indiana. The silos became the canvas for mural artist Key Detail (Andrei Krautsou). Key spray painted by hand to transform the 50-foot-tall, 8000-square-foot cylinders into works of art featuring farm animals, an eagle, a violin, and a covered bridge. You can download coloring pages of the artwork on The Putnam County Mural Project website.

Indy’s Teeny Statue of Liberty Museum

This small one-room museum on the east side of Indianapolis is home to more than 700 items featuring the image of the Statue of Liberty. From traditional statues to snow globes and sweaters, this museum has a vast collection to explore in a tiny space.

You can request a private tour of Indy’s Teeny Statue of Liberty Museum by entering Tim and Julie’s Another Fine Mess next door. The museum is a fun stop for elementary-aged kids or those who enjoy collecting. Admission is 50 cents or free with a donation of an item to the museum.

Hidden Gems in Indiana: Statue of Liberty Museum

Veal’s Ice Tree


Veal’s Ice Tree is a seasonal and weather-dependent Indiana attraction, started in the winter of 1961 by Vierl G. Veal. It is a massive icy and colorful sculpture, created with nearby pond water. The sculpture is breathtaking and worth the drive.

Hidden Gems in Indiana: Veal's Ice Tree

The tree is built after 7-10 consecutive days of consistent temperatures in the 20s, usually in January. Follow their Facebook page for updates. The ice tree is open from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week. The lights around the tree turn off around 10 pm.

Twisted House


The small, twisted house nestled in the woods of the Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple is sure to spark the imagination of little ones and adults alike. The house is also an amazing showcase of woodworking skills. It was created by American artist John McNaughton, who has taught woodworking, drawing, and sculpture at the University of Southern Indiana for 35 years. His work has been featured in collections at the White House and the Smithsonian Institution.

Hidden Gems in Indiana: Crooked House

The curvy house is made from cedar wood and looks as though it is supported by its roof and foundation. Visitors can walk into the artwork, explore the house, and peer through the glass windows into the surrounding forest. The piece can be viewed for free on the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple.

Rubber Horse Sculpture


Calling all Colts fans! Did you know there is a horse made from recycled tires in downtown Indy? Located at the corner of Prospect and New Jersey Streets, this horse provides quite the sight and looks ready for some riders should the urge strike.

Indiana Medical History Museum


Plan ahead and book your tour of the 1986 building that was once Indiana’s Central State Hospital. Explore the teaching amphitheater, various laboratories, a medical library, and the autopsy room. The anatomical museum features a large collection of brain specimens, which will intrigue many visitors. Outdoors, take a self-guided tour of the Medicinal Plant Garden, maintained by Purdue Master Gardeners. The Indiana Medical History Museum is open by appointment only and large groups (over 8) should schedule at least 3 weeks in advance.

Garden of Gas Station Signs


Whiteland resident Alan Ray Whitaker has created a stunning display with his collection of over 36 oval gas station signs, each placed on 18-foot poles, with a spinning roto-sphere in the center. The vintage signs date from 1934-1961. The outside portion of the Garden of Gas Station Signs, located in the side yard of the Whitaker shop, is free and open to the public.

Giant Toilet Slide


Kidscommons is a three-story children’s museum filled with fun exhibits such as a 17-foot climbing wall, a bubble room, and the Explorahouse. It is sure to delight children ages preschool through grade six. However, my kids will be quick to tell you that the highlight of the museum is the giant toilet slide, complete with a trip down the plumbing. After your visit to Kidscommons, stop next door and visit Zaharakos, an ice cream parlor built in 1900 with an old-fashioned soda fountain.

Hidden Gems in Indiana: Giant Toilet

The Sock Barn


I first noticed this barn last year while driving down to the T.C. Steele State Historic Site in Brown County. Located off State Road 46, is a barn with a stop sign and a pile of geodes. A few years ago, the couple who own the property put up small stickers that said “Take a Rock, Leave a Sock.”

Under the sign is a large pile of geodes collected from the nearby creek. Since then, hikers have made the trip… and left dirty socks… in exchange for geodes.

Hidden Gems in Indiana: Sock Barn

There is now a new sign that reads “Hikers! Please, help yourself to a free geode!” Leaving a sock is optional and a guestbook can be found inside a large plastic bag hanging from the sign.

Cataract Falls


While many of the spectacles on this list are man-made, those who prefer natural marvels should visit Cataract Falls. These beautiful formations are the largest waterfalls by volume in Indiana. Spilling into Cagles Mill Lake, Cataract Falls is located in Lieber State Recreation Area. A covered bridge is located nearby crossing Mill Creek.

Car-Sized Sneaker

New Castle

Located in the parking lot outside the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, the giant shoe makes for a fun photo. If you have a basketball fan in the family, stop by the Hall of Fame to see jerseys, trophies, pendants, and plaques from Indiana basketball greats.

To see a matching shoe, drive about a mile south from the Hall of Fame to the Steve Alford All-American Inn.

Pink Martini Drinking Elephant


If you are looking for a unique photo op, look no further than the large pink elephant, wearing glasses and drinking a martini in Fortville. According to the elephant’s owner, it has a wardrobe to match the holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and the Fourth of July.

Please note that the elephant is located on a lot adjacent to a liquor store. We stopped by during daytime hours and were the only elephant visitors. The elephant occasionally joins local parades and non-profit events.

Hidden Gems in Indiana: Pink Elephant

If you’re looking for more to do in the area, check out our 10+ Family Friendly Things to do in Fortville.

Periodic Table Display


Do you have a budding scientist at home? If so, you may want to add this destination to your travel list. The Julian Science and Mathematics Center of DePauw University is an extraordinary display of the periodic table. The periodic display is housed in a large custom cabinet, with six-inch cubes for each element, and features an interactive screen with information about the elements. A few elements are missing due to the risk of danger to visitors.

The creators, Theodore Gray and Max Whitby made sure to find a variety of shapes and textures for the pure elements. They also included examples of common and uncommon uses for the elements. For example, the cube for copper (Cu) includes copper nails, telephone wire, and a sample of native pure copper from Michigan.

Rotary Jail Museum


Did you know Indiana is home to the only rotating jail in the world that is still operational? The Rotary Jail of Montgomery County was the first jail of its kind in the U.S. Built in 1881, it was designed to rotate the cell block in a complete circle and intended to allow for one guard to watch more inmates.

The jail has eight wedge-shaped cells divided between two floors, with one door on each floor. The only way to enter or exit a cell as if the cell and door were aligned. The 32-ton mechanism is hand-cranked and rotated regularly for tours.

Admission is $8 for ages 12+, $5 for children ages 6-11, and free for children 5 and under. There is street parking in front of the museum and on Spring Street.

Blue Spring Caverns


If you haven’t toured the caves of southern Indiana, it’s time to plan your trip! You have several options, including Squire Boone Caverns, Wyandotte Cave, and Marengo Cave. However, the most unique experience is found at Bluespring Caverns. Here, you can hop aboard a small boat and float along the underground Myst’ry River. The hour-long boat tour may give you glimpses of elusive cave creatures like blind cavefish and crayfish, salamanders, and bats, along with the gorgeous rock formations of the caverns. The park is open daily from mid-March through the end of October.

Rose Island Abandoned Amusement Park


If obscure history, beautiful hikes, and mysterious ruins are your thing, you’ll want to visit Rose Island Amusement Park. Hidden within Charlestown State Park, the remains of the tourist destination can be accessed on Trail 7. Rose Island was open from 1923-1937 and guests could ride a wooden roller coaster, visit wolves and bears in the small zoo, swim at the pool, play a round of golf, or dance the night away at the dance hall. Today, only fragments of the many buildings and attractions remain. However, with a little imagination, this hike will take you back in time.

Indy With Kids is always on the lookout for memorable family outings. Comment below to let us know which one is your favorite, or if there are other Indiana hidden gems you would like added to the list.

For an amazing weekend of family fun without leaving the state, book a trip to Fort Wayne.

Get outside with your kids at our 30 favorite destinations near Indianapolis.

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