Little Indiana: Small Town Destinations

Little Indiana: Small Town Destinations

by Jessica Nunemaker


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Where was James Dean’s hometown? What do A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Al Unser have in common besides winning the Indianapolis 500? Where was the world’s first theme park? Find these answers and more in Little Indiana: Small Town Destinations. Featuring towns of 15,000 or fewer inhabitants, Little Indiana explores where to eat, stay, play, and shop in over 90 small towns. After six years of traveling the state in search of amazing local experiences, blogger and TV host Jessica Nunemaker shares a treasure trove of what to expect in Hoosier small towns. Perfect for any length of excursion—day or weekend—the book is organized by region and town and provides travelers easy access to information found nowhere else. From wineries to antique shops, alpaca farms to chocolate stores, unique attractions are awaiting discovery. Full-color images showcase specialty stores, mouth-watering meals, and exciting attractions tucked off the beaten path. Proof that there’s always something to do in a small town, this book is the perfect way to kick-start your next Indiana adventure!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253020611
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 04/29/2016
Pages: 324
Sales rank: 520,581
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Jessica Nunemaker began in 2009. Since then, she has become host of a Little Indiana segment on the statewide PBS show The Weekly Special. She speaks on town and community to groups large and small, writes bi-weekly articles for her local newspaper, and continues her search for the next great spot to stay, play, shop, or eat.

Read an Excerpt

Little Indiana

Small Town Destinations

By Jessica Nunemaker

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2016 Jessica Nunemaker
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-02070-3



Bremen, otherwise known as the Mint City, was once the leading international supplier of mint oil. Used in gum, toothpaste, and even perfume (among other products), Bremen mint traveled the world. Although mint producer Sprig 'O Mint is no longer, and the property is now the site of a golf course, one other mint manufacturer remains. Operating since 1908 under the name of M. Brown & Sons, it has since merged with Lebermuth, Inc. The family is still involved.

With such impressive historical credentials, and an 1882 water tower, it may be surprising to note that Bremen isn't exactly a huge town, holding just under five thousand residents now — but it sure is bustling. The downtown strip carries a variety of shops and a few restaurants. But to really see Bremen jumping, schedule a visit during the week of July 4 during the annual Firemen's Festival. Join twenty thousand others for festival fun like carnival rides, crafts, food, parade, and even fireworks. It's a huge deal in the area.

Remember that this is Amish country, so drive with care. Respect the Amish decision to abstain from photographs. Though the area is not as populated with Old Order Amish as other parts of the state, horse and buggy still make frequent appearances. It's always a bit jarring to hear the sound of a horse clip-clopping along as an Amish buggy rolls right through the town.


Bremen Historical Museum is loving its decked-out space with room to expand — and visitors do too. Vintage images from its mint farming days, the old recognizable landmarks, and town heroes are remembered here.

Relive the glory days of the railroad at the Bremen Train Depot. Set to mimic the old-fashioned depot, there's all manner of railroading items collected together, including tickets, forwarding cars, and a train-order hoop. The symbols used by hobos are an interesting exhibit.

Anyone with kids will want to look for the castles. Jane's Park, named for a mother who died of cancer shortly after childbirth, is a fantastic park. Multiple levels provide loads of places to play for kids of all ages. Surrounded by flowers, grilling areas, and even picnic seating, it's a popular family destination.


Netter's Restaurant, named in honor of a daughter who passed away, serves fantastic homemade food. Pick the fried mushrooms appetizer. If they aren't famous yet, they soon will be. The handmade pork tenderloin is always a great dinner choice. Everything is freshly made to order. The oldest of the six kids may be out and about helping out, too, as it's a true family business.


No hobby is too big or too small to be found at Bremen Hobbies and Art. From RC cars and planes to kites of all kinds, rockets, trains, cake-decorating supplies, and even puzzles, there's absolutely something for any hobbyist. If they don't have it, it doesn't exist.

It's not every day that a loft over a garage could be considered inspiring, but the Loft Art Studio certainly is. This knitter's destination is absolutely charming. Huge windows let the light shine, so knitters can easily find what they need. Such beautifully arranged yarns and textiles are a pleasure to browse. Workshops and meet-ups are frequent, making it not only a retail establishment but a community gathering place.



Named for James Brooks, the president of the Monon Railroad, it is only fitting that Brookston was also located on the line of the old Monon rail, originally known as the New Albany and Salem Railroad. With a small downtown and a handful of shops, there's enough here for a little detour, especially when September rolls around. That's when this town of fewer than two thousand people swells to more than twenty thousand.

Mark the calendar for the third Saturday in September, when the Brookston Apple Popcorn Festival begins. Four local business women brainstormed this unique way to celebrate Brookston's agricultural heritage back in 1978. Kicking off with a town-wide yard sale and firehouse pancake breakfast, the lively downtown festival blocks off streets for the more than two hundred craft booths, an art exhibit, a cake walk, live music, and unique contests like the Men's Leg Contest. This older event is also one of the funniest. Contenders for best legs cover their faces and most of their bodies with a blanket, the same one used almost every year, to hide their identity. Then they lift up their pant legs to show off their gams for prizes and the coveted Dottie Smith Memorial Golden Leg trophy. There's also a bubble gum–blowing contest, a Big Wheel race, a hula-hoop contest, a pizza-eating contest, nail driving, and Frisbee dogs. That's just the short list.


Klein Brot Haus or Klein Brothers Bakery is the local gathering place. With cases and shelves of homemade products, it's an obvious choice. The not-so-obvious choice is what to order. At this café and bakery, the options seem almost endless. On the sweeter side, the chocolate croissant, iced sugar cookie, pineapple bar, and turnovers are good picks. Locals dig the savory soups and sandwiches, especially when they are prepared with the homemade challah or rye breads.


Since 1972 Twinrocker Handmade Paper has supplied innovative handmade paper to fine-book printers and binders. Differing shapes and sizes offer a unique paper for any need. A remarkable shop, it carries items from invitations and stationery to decorative and watercolor papers.

Big Sister Salsa was unveiled at the Brookston Apple Popcorn Festival back in 2001. After such high praise, Two Cookin' Sisters opened up shop. Combining their skills, these two sisters were able to cover most of the bases. Even Mom helps out with the canning of jellies, jams, relishes, pickles, mustard, chutney, and fruit butters that's done on site. Carrying an unbeatable selection of Indiana-made food items and even products like glassware, toss pillows, and linens, this is one fun shopping trip.



Situated between lake and wood, with a bustling downtown to keep things interesting, Chesterton is a popular place for city dwellers' summer homes and a convenient weekend getaway for everyone else.

The area was first settled in 1822 by French Canadian fur trader Joseph Bailey and his family, who quickly set up shop with a trading post. A decade later one family began farming, followed by the Thomas family, the founders of Chesterton, and other pioneers trundled in. Originally called Coffee Creek, named for the flowing stream nearby, it was settled in 1834 by the Thomas family. It's said that the creek got its name due to a man losing a bag of coffee in the high waters. The nickname stuck.

Back when the town was young, when the population numbered in the three hundreds, there were nineteen saloons. Locals were ready for a change of identity. After the Civil War it was renamed Calumet. The years passed and the railroad rolled through, successfully evolving Calumet from an agricultural community to a bustling rail center. Unfortunately, the name Calumet was discovered to be an exact match for another town on the railroad line, so the name was swapped yet again, this time for the last time.

The town grew, and word spread of the splendid new community. The annual Wizard of Oz Fest helped make Chesterton known throughout the region. Though the festival only recently ended after a thirty-five-year run, there are plenty of other reasons to make the trip to Chesterton. Downtown roads are closed off for European Market, an enormous farmers market that is like no other. It's open Saturdays from the beginning of May to the end of October. Browse booth after booth of artisan-quality foods, handcrafted items, woodworking, and so much more. Combine that with the ongoing Bandstand Concert and Family Film summer series at Thomas Centennial Park, the fire department's annual street dance each August, and the Hooked on Art Festival in September, and see why the family fun never ends. Of course, that's not including the vast Indiana Dunes ecosystem of which Chesterton happens to be a part. Beach access, festivals, events, shopping, and dining — this small town certainly has it all.


Riley's Railhouse Bed and Breakfast was made for the train enthusiast. After years of collecting antique train–related items, the Riley family threw themselves into the large-scale renovations required after their purchase of the 1914 New York Central Freight Station — and finally had a place to highlight their collection. From replacing the slate roof to cleaning the brick, it was all restored. In fact, the seventy-five slate tiles in salvageable condition were used to create the fantastic counter downstairs. Trains do go chug, chug, chugging past the bed-and-breakfast fifty times a day, so choose the interior room for a quieter experience. Light sleepers should take note of the jar of earplugs conveniently situated by the bedside. The room upstairs contains a sweet little balcony and neat interior view of the elegant main living area below where the two contented resident dogs are most likely sleeping.


First a family home, then a vacation home, then the office for the local school, the Brown Mansion is now the Westchester Township History Museum. It holds the history of Chesterton, Porter, Burns Harbor, and Dune Acres. Beginning with glacial times, it covers the range of area history through photos, artifacts, and interesting exhibits. Wander the rooms of the spacious 1885 Victorian home before heading to the lower-level museum. Genealogy researchers will appreciate the Leslie and Mary Pratt Local History Research Center also located inside.


Cool off with a visit to Dog Days Ice Cream Parlor. Made locally from fresh ingredients, this isn't a typical ice cream parlor. In fact, traditional ice cream isn't even on the menu. Here at Dog Days, find Italian favorites such as homemade gelato and sorbet. The flavors change weekly to keep things interesting, but some previous offerings include campfire combo, chocolate razzmatazz, and caramel pistachio gelato. It's all good. Pop by on a chilly day and warm up with homemade hot chocolate or apple cider made from Northwest Indiana apples.

Enjoy the seasonal shady patio at Lucrezia Café or dine indoors. Share the fresh and nontraditional ingredients on the antipasto platter. Personal picks include the mouthwatering chicken vesuvio, a disjointed chicken panfried with garlic, rosemary, and roasted potatoes, or the lamb shank paired with roasted potatoes, onions, and lovely braised red cabbage.

Expect unique sides, imaginative burgers, as well as changing specials at Octave Grill, in business since 2010. Six ounces of Tallgrass beef are worked into cleverly crafted hamburgers. Browse the tall chalkboard wall menu for memorable options like Chanute (grilled cremini mushrooms and bacon topped with habanero havarti and blue cheese) or Hot Pants (habanero havarti, homemade giardiniera, bacon, beer-battered onion rings, tabasco aioli, greens, and a tomato). There aren't typical appetizers, either. Fries get an update with a generous coating of buffalo sauce and blue cheese. Tater tots become adult friendly when made with sweet potatoes and paired with whole-grain honey mustard. Microbrews and cocktails are available.

Peggy Sue's Diner is a family-friendly, bustling breakfast option. Grab a seat at the counter and step back in time to the 1950s. Regulars lean toward the chicken-fried steak or the biscuits and gravy. Sneak in before prime breakfast hours to avoid the rush.

Can the exterior of Popolano's Italian Restaurant be any more inviting? Dine al fresco and gaze at the loveliness of this home turned restaurant. Some evenings boast live music. Known for a refreshing sangria, fresh bread, and scratch-made soups, it's a neighborhood gathering place inside and out. A signature dish, the tequila lime pizza gets rave reviews. The pizza's homemade garlic ranch sauce boasts a hint of jalapeño and lime. Topped with avocados, cilantro, mozzarella, shrimp, and tomatoes, it's definitely different.

Local foods, farm-fresh eggs, and gluten-free sandwich offerings make Red Cup Café a community-conscious sandwich shop. Add in the hip decor, vinyl music, and the variety of coffees, and the cool factor just bumped up another notch. Hint: go for one of the grilled sandwiches. Check the big board before leaving for local events.

With several big-city executive chef positions behind her, soft-spoken owner Tonya Deiotte returned to small-town life to open Tonya's Patisserie, a breakfast and lunch hot spot. People rave about the fresh menu with gluten-free and vegetarian alternatives, but desserts are the real star to snack lovers. Pastries, cakes, cupcakes, cheesecake — there's so much here. Look for the lemon curd and blueberry pastry or the hazelnut-filled pastries for a place to begin.


Take the scenic route. Buy or rent a bicycle at Chesterton Bicycle Station. It's come a long way since its start out of a garage in 1983. Expanding to a physical location in 1991, the shop was built by the owner's own two hands with a slew of help. Now this local bike shop is packed with bikes and other wheeled items like skateboards and even unicycles.

Stylish clothing, sharp accessories, and shoes? That's all in a day's shopping at Ella's Bella, a sweet downtown boutique. Specializing in women's clothing (and everything that goes with it), there's even a smidgen of home decor tucked in. It's classy yet comfortable.

Holly Jackson Art Studio and Gallery will revive any hohum wall. Taking inspiration from the everyday, and the nearby Indiana Dunes, her contemporary work is vivid. Paintings of landscapes as well as abstracts, still life, florals, and message art cover the walls or rest on surfaces in this funky gallery. Check out the studio and view this artist at work.

Flowing lovely blouses and stylish jewelry are just a small part of Indian Summer Boutique. Specializing in women's clothing, they don't carry just any brand. Picking and choosing the best of the best characterizes the quality found inside this attractive shop. Clothes shopping just became fun again.

The lovely green Victorian home has been the site of Katie's Antiques for what must be decades, considering the amount of antiques that are crammed into the first floor. It's a tight squeeze to get into sections of this shop, so for those shoppers who really love the thrill of the hunt, Katie's is an excellent fit. An appraiser is on site. Don't forget to browse the two outbuildings for more finds and possibly even sale items.


Excerpted from Little Indiana by Jessica Nunemaker. Copyright © 2016 Jessica Nunemaker. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Northern Indiana
1. Bremen
2. Brookston
3. Chesterton
4. Converse
5. DeMotte
6. Denver
7. Francesville
8. Furnessville
9. Kouts
10. Kniman
11. La Fontaine
12. Lowell
13. Monticello
14. Monon
15. Morocco
16. Nappanee
17. North Judson
18. North Liberty
19. Peru
20. Porter
21. Remington
22. Rensselaer
23. Roann
24. Roselawn
25. Star City
26. Wabash
27. Wakarusa
28. Walkerton
29. Wheatfield
30. Williamsport
31. Wolcott

Central Indiana
32. Arcadia
33. Battle Ground
34. Cambridge City
35. Centerville
36. Cicero
37. Covington
38. Cutler
39. Danville
40. Dayton
41. Delphi
42. Fairmount
43. Farmland
44. Fortville
45. Fountain
46. Fountain City
47. Gas City
48. Greencastle
49. Greens Fork
50. Hagerstown
51. Kirklin
52. Knightstown
53. Maplewood
54. Martinsville
55. Matthews
56. Morgantown
57. Mulberry
58. North Salem
59 Perkinsville
60. Romney
61. Rossville
62. Swayzee
63. Upland
64. Winchester

Southern Indiana
65. Batesville
66. Bean Blossom
67. Cannelton
68. Corydon
69. French Lick
70. Friendship
71. Greensburg
72. Hatfield
73. Holton
74. Huntingburg
75. Leavenworth
76. Lincoln City
77. Madison
78. Marengo
79. Mauckport
80. Milan
81. Moorefield
82. Nashville
83. Osgood
84. Paoli
85. Rockport
86. Santa Claus
87. Salem
88. Scottsburg
89. St. Meinrad
90. Tell City
91. Versailles
List of Addresses

What People are Saying About This

Indiana Tourism Professional - Carrie Lambert

As someone who has traveled the state for years, I always enjoy new destinations to visit. Little Indiana is a great resource of the unusual (blueberry cheddar cheese in Cambridge City?) and the hidden spots (shrimp farm, really?) across the state. I can't wait to use it as my guide for future travels.

Indiana Dunes Tourism Promotions Director - Ken Kosky

Jessica Nunemaker has a gift for uncovering hidden gems in small towns across Indiana and bringing each community to life. The amazing stories and photographs in Little Indiana: Small Town Destinations will entice you to explore the Hoosier state and ensure you know the best places to stay, play, eat and shop in each town.

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