story by JULIE CAMPBELL
Indiana is filled with some peculiar and awe-inspiring places and treasures just waiting to be explored. This winter, plan an out-of-the-ordinary staycation and make memories on a road trip to some unforgettable destinations in the Hoosier state!
Down an ordinary road in the middle of Small Town USA, an unassuming barn holds an extraordinary treasure within its walls.
Walking into the barn, two visitors are instantly overwhelmed by the sheer
size of this fascinating object, especially when they learn that it started out as an ordinary baseball. What began as a fun project between Mike Carmichael and his then 3-year- old son has grown to a massive 8,200 pounds, with a 16-foot, 9-inch circumference bearing just under 28,000 layers of paint.
It has taken 45 years to get to this point.
The World’s Largest Ball of Paint has held the Guinness World’s Record since 2005, and the sphere has drawn visitors from all 50 states and 50 countries, including Japan, Kenya, and Switzerland. But the most amazing part of this remarkable object is that its owner, Mike Carmichael, lets his visitors participate in the fun. “They get to paint part of the ball, write their names in a book, and I give them a certificate that says ‘I painted the World’s Largest Ball of Paint,’” said Mike, a long-time Alexandria resident.
Famous people like Bill Gaither and the Oak Ridge Boys have painted the ball. The Oak Ridge Boys even sang “Elvira” in front of it. It’s also been featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live and CBS Good Morning.
If you’re planning to visit, please call 765-724-4088 to make an appointment during normal business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There’s no admission fee, but donations are welcome.
A few counties over in Richmond, you’ll find another unique sight: the only two Egyptian mummies on permanent display in the state of Indiana: one male and one female. Ta’an (the female mummy) dates back 300 years before Christ, about the time of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, and is located on the Earlham College campus at Joseph Moore Museum of Natural History.
“In 1889, Ta’an was legally purchased from the Egyptian government by Joseph Moore and taken to Earlham College,” said Nancy Sartain, leisure marketing director at the Richmond-Wayne County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“She was a young woman in her early 20s.” The male mummy, Menkaef, was purchased in 1929 in an Egyptian shop by Wayne County Historical Museum founder, Julia Meek Gaar. “She reportedly paid $3,000 for the mummy,” explained Sartain. “He was one of the last mummies to leave Egypt. Today, Menkaef is located in the museum’s Egyptian room. The room also has twelve cases of artifacts, an X-ray of him, and a 3D recreation of Menkaef’s face constructed by a forensic artist.”
While you’re in Wayne County, head over for a photo opp in front of the giant candle at Warm Glow Candle Outlet, right off the Centerville exit on I-70. Step inside and take in the delicious scents of hundreds of Warm Glow’s signature “lumpy” candles, hand-dipped right here in the Hoosier State.
West of Richmond in nearby Muncie, hunt down the 25-foot- tall Paul Bunyan statue on Kilgore Ave. The towering statue was once a fixture at a local lumber store and is now the mascot of Timbers Lounge.
Open only during the summer months, the National Model Aviation Museum in Muncie features a collection of approximately 11,000 items related to model airplanes.
During the off season, check out the museum’s digital collection, virtual tour, activities, games, and tutorials online.
If traveling by RV is your style, a trip to the RV Hall of Fame Museum in Elkhart is a must for your itinerary. Check out the trailers, photos, and memorabilia dating back to the 1920s.
If traveling by air is more to your liking, the Grissom Air Museum in Peru is the perfect road trip destination. Explore historic aircraft from the Cold War era and take off in a simulator for the ultimate flying experience.
While you’re exploring modes of transportation, head north to the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum. Since it first opened in 1974, the museum has drawn millions of tourists to see its pristine collection of 120 vintage automobiles dating back to the late 1800s. The museum building itself is the largest artifact in the collection; it was the company’s administration building from 1929 to 1937.
Also in Auburn is the National Auto and Truck Museum, recognized as one of America’s finest vehicle museums. Visitors will see a huge selection of historic cars from the early 1900s, muscle cars, trucks, and the GM Futurliner— one of twelve built by GM for the Parade of Progress tour in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The Service and New Parts Building and the L-29 Cord Building, which were declared a National Historic Landmark in 2005, are original factory buildings representing more than 130 years of transportation manufacturing.
Celebrating the “unsung heroes” of sports and communities is the Mascot Hall of Fame, an interactive children’s museum in Whiting that features exhibits, special events, and even a “Build Your Own Mascot” Build-A- Bear workshop. Exhibits include “Phuzzical Education” with interactive play areas, “Fureshman Orientation,” where you’ll learn about mascots, and more. The “Department of Furry Arts” is home to some of the Hall’s most colorful and unique, exhibits and experiences. Here is where guests can let their imaginations run wild as they create their own mascots, and even perform as them.
While in northern Indiana, in warmer months, book a dive/boat trip through the Hammond Marina to see shipwrecks off the coast of Lake Michigan.
Indiana’s capital city, Indianapolis, boasts its share of odd and fascinating destinations as well. Take the Indiana Medical History Museum, for example, which is housed in the old pathology building of the Central State Hospital for the Insane. There, you’ll find a virtual time capsule of medical history from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Not for the faint of heart, the museum’s collections feature human skeletons and preserved organs in glass jars.
If you love tiny things, head over to the Museum of Miniature Houses in Carmel. One of only a few museums in the country dedicated to the art of fine scale miniature, the museum contains thousands of miniatures, including room boxes, miniature houses, and exquisite individual items.
Just west of Indy in the town of Crawfordsville, the Rotary Jail Museum fascinates visitors with its rotating cell block that sits on a turntable and spins when a hand crank is turned. The jail opened in 1882 and was one of 18 rotary jails in the country. It’s the only one that still spins!
Constructed over ten years on the site of a former handball court on the grounds of the Providence Home (now called the Cathedral Health Care Center) in Jasper is the Geode Grotto. The Grotto was the idea of Father Phillip Ottavi, an Italian immigrant who was inspired by religious grottoes in Europe. The result covers four city blocks in fountains, planters, cave-like openings and gardens.
Built by Theodore Gray and Max Whitby, the Periodic Table Display in Greencastle displays each element in its own six-inch cube. There are a few elements that can’t be included either due to danger to viewers or because they are too unstable for display; in these cases, the element is represented by a picture of the creators of the display.
Not only can you enjoy a great dip of ice cream, but at Grannie’s Cookie Jars & Ice Cream Parlor in Metamora you can browse the more than 3,200 cookie jars and at least 1,000 salt and pepper shakers.
The New Harmony Labyrinth was originally designed as a place for meditation and reflection by the Rappites, an ultra-religious German society, in the early 19th century. In 2008 the labyrinth went through a reconstruction based on archival information and was restored to its original form. It stands proudly on the main street of New Harmony, Indiana, and is open admission-free year round.
If you need an out-of-the- ordinary place to stay in southern Indiana, check out French Lick Farms, offering three distinctly different vacation options ranging from a rustic lodge to RV camping, and even an “off the grid” riverfront cabin if you are looking for a secluded escape.
More Out of the Ordinary attractions around the Hoosier state include:
- Old Ben in Kokomo: The preserved figure of the world’s largest steer is in the Highland Park pavilion.
- Tower Tree in Greensburg: Look up at the roof of the courthouse and you’ll get a surprise – a tree is growing out of the roof!
- Myers Dinner Theater: Located in the charming town of Hillsboro, this 145-seat theatre offers six Broadway musicals and three plays per season, plus homemade meals with every ticket.
- The World’s Largest Rocking Chair at Long’s Furniture World in Franklin: This 32-foot-tall wooden rocking chair has been recognized by the Guinness World’s Book of Records as the largest chair of its kind.
- The Cass County Dentzel Carousel in Logansport is over 100 years old. This hand-carved masterpiece still delights children of all ages in Riverside Park.
- The Pink Elephant statue at Elite Beverages in Fortville: This spectacle-wearing elephant drinking a martini creates quite a spectacle on the main drag through town.
- Pierogi Fest in Whiting celebrates a polish dumpling and brings in around 250,000 visitors each year.
- La Porte County Historical Museum in La Porte tells tales of Indiana’s own Black Widow, Belle Gunness (you have to see it to believe it). The Kelsing Auto Collection and a display of over 850 ancient weapons can also be found here.
For More Information
Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum
Grannie’s Cookie Jar and Ice Cream Parlor
Indiana Medical History Museum
Mascot Hall of Fame
Museum of Miniature Houses
National Automotive and Truck Museum
New Harmony Labyrinth
Old Ben—World’s Largest Steer
RV Hall of Fame and Museum
Warm Glow Candle Outlet
World’s Largest Ball of Paint