Along with its reputation as home of the Hoosiers and prime American farmland, Indiana is the go-to spot for car enthusiasts. With more highway per square mile than any other state, it’s the destination of choice for travelers looking to rent a car, hop a bike, or book a tour bus to traverse some of the U.S.’s most verdant backdrops.
Stop off in Indianapolis, home of the Indianapolis 500, a motor race held annually during the last weekend in May. The legendary race features some of the world’s most-skilled drivers, who maneuver the course of the world’s largest sports venue. Specially built IndyCars cover 500 miles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, making 200 laps of the 2.5-mile track. The winner’s purse was over $2.5 million in 2011.
Near the speedway, visitors to the Dallara IndyCar Factory can watch how the cars are built, feel their speed in a racetrack simulator, or even test-drive a street version of the IndyCar.
In South Bend, 140 miles north of Indianapolis, auto enthusiasts relish a stop at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend. A full 55,000 square feet of exhibits honor the history of the Studebaker Corporation, founded in 1852. The museum displays trace the evolution of vehicles in modern history, beginning with buggies and progressing through the amphibious “Weasel” used in World War II, and on through classics like the 1950 Bullet Nose Land Cruiser. Among the museum’s holdings are several historic presidential carriages. Before leaving South Bend, tour the rare chocolate artifacts within the South Bend Chocolate Company, located on the promising Sample Street.
Motor southeast from South Bend to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, a National Historic Landmark in Auburn. Displaying over 120 vehicles circa 1894 to 1999, the museum has been named one of the “Top Ten Gearhead Destinations in the United States.” In this city affectionately known as “Home of the Classics,” travelers lucky enough to visit around Labor Day can attend what’s reputed to be the world’s biggest car auction.
South of Indianapolis, Indiana visitors explore history that predates that of the automobile. In Vincennes, 130 miles southwest of Indianapolis, lies the Henry Harrison Mansion Museum. It was the property of the successful U.S. presidential candidate of 1840 who campaigned under the slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.” The Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum, also in Vincennes, documents Harrison’s role in clashes with the Shawnee Indians.
The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, 75 miles southeast of Vincennes, pays tribute to the nation’s 16th president. Here, where Lincoln spent part of his youth, visitors can explore a still-functioning farm that’s open to visitors. His mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried there, and visitors can tour the grounds, meander the museum, and view a cabin memorial.