Explore scenic getaways in Indiana

Insider’s tips

  • Early risers will appreciate the spectacular sunrises and plumes of fog at Brown County State Park.
  • The most popular time to visit is September through November, when the forest’s lush green foliage transforms into swaths of gold, orange and red.
  • Where to stay and eat

    Artists Colony Inn & Restaurant, 105 S. Van Buren St., Nashville. 812-988-0600, www.artistscolonyinn.com

    Abe Martin Lodge, located inside Brown County State Park. 812-988-4418, www.in.gov

    If you like the cool, creative vibe of Yellow Springs and Glen Helen Nature Preserve in Greene County, you’ll enjoy exploring the artist colony of Nashville, Ind., and its surrounding landscape.

    The famous American impressionist painter T.C. Steele moved to Nashville in 1907 and attracted many other artists. Today it’s bustling with more than a hundred boutiques and galleries, mostly concentrated downtown. The folks are friendly, and visitors can watch some of the artists work in their studios. I ended up spending time talking to Gary Link, the owner of The Crystal Source, where I admired a collection of natural stone jewelry, crystals and other rocks, and various collectibles. I couldn’t resist buying some large vintage marbles dating back to the early 20th century, and Link tossed in some marble stands for free.

    As for entertainment, there’s Little Nashville’s Brown County Playhouse and the Melchior Marionette Show. Also, don’t be surprised if street musicians show up and starting playing on the sidewalk.

    Besides music, Nashville also offers lots of good food. I can vouch for the Artists Colony Inn & Restaurant. The menu is full of home cooking — things like breaded tenderloin, meatloaf sandwich and fried catfish. I opted for a grilled chicken breast sandwich (the chicken breast spilling out the sides of the bun) with perfectly seasoned French fries and enjoyed it on the front patio, where my waiter made sure I didn’t run out of freshly brewed ice tea. Several locals also recommended the Hobnob Corner Restaurant, which whips up all sorts of American favorites, including pot roast and peanut butter pie.

    For those interested in shopping without being distracted by restless and whiny spouses, the Hickory Sports Bar provides a solution. The outside banner boasts: “HUSBAND DAY CARE. Want to go shopping? Need time for yourself? Need time to relax? Leave your husband with us! We will look after him for you! You only pay for his drinks!” Actually, any gender is welcome.

    The quaint town is also a popular destination to tie the knot, with a variety of venues to choose from, including wedding chapels and outdoor gazebos. If you need a florist, baker, photographer or even a horse-drawn carriage, you can find it in Nashville. You’ll find plenty of lodging choices, including log cabins, cottages and suites.

    For outdoor adventurers, a few miles from town is Brown County State Park, Indiana’s largest state park. It’s nicknamed “The Little Smokies” because like in the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, natural fog blankets the rolling hills. You find several beautiful vistas, such as Hesitation Point and the West Lookout Tower.

    It’s a large park — the largest in the state — with three entrances. At the North Entrance, visitors must drive through the only double tunnel bridge in Indiana (there’s only four in the entire United States). Inside the park, explore a dozen hiking trails, nine mountain bike trails and several horse trails. Kids will love swimming at the Aquatic Center. If it’s not too windy and you’re not afraid of heights, climb the Fire Tower for a panoramic view. Overnighters can choose from several campgrounds and a general store that sells basic necessities, including ingredients for making campfire s’mores.

    You’re likely to encounter some wildlife in this 15,000-acre park. I saw several cottontail rabbits and chipmunks in the evening, then the next morning, a buck. At Ogle Lake, fish for bluegill and bass with a valid Indiana fishing license, which is available at the park office. Many species of birds live here, and birders can look for woodpeckers, grouse and goldfinches. This is also the home of two venomous snakes — copperheads and timber rattlers — so do watch where you step on the trails.