A word of warning before we begin. I'm calling this "one tank" with the thought that the average vehicle will travel somewhere between 300 and 400 miles on a single fill-up. If yours doesn't, I'm sorry that some of these will be more than one tank. You shouldn't be driving a Hummer anyway — think about the environment you asshole, it's the only one we have.
So, we'll start with the near to home and move further and further away. This is all of the stops South of the city and all mileage will be measured from the beacon of our city, Monument Circle. First up, clocking in at a mere 44 mile one-way trip...
There are a few popular routes to this quaint town, nestled near Brown County State Park, but the fastest and shortest is straight down IN-135. Depending on traffic, you should be parking your car and meandering over to Common Grounds coffee shop within an hour of hitting the road.
Nashville is a town made for walking around and stopping in each of the chintzy little shops. Munch on some peanut butter fudge from the Nashville Fudge Kitchen. Then head to Cathy's Corner to hunt through the antique and vintage treasures. If you've got kiddos, or you're thinking about joining the cast of Gold Rush grab a pan and head to Copperhead Creek Gem Mine, "thar be gold in them thar streets!"
If spending a day shopping doesn't tickle your fancy, Brown County State Park is just a short drive and is full of adventures for every outdoor enthusiast. Spend the day hiking the endless maze of trails, mountain biking the Hesitation Point Trail or Nebo Ridge, or simply taking a scenic drive through the park and stop for a quick picnic. There are plenty places to camp out in the park as well.
A slightly inconvenient, but worthwhile stop for history buffs, foodies, and ghost hunters is the Story Inn. Located not too far from Nashville, in the tiny town of Story, this historic 1851 inn boasts a four-star restaurant. I prefer the downstairs bar for a quick pint and some good conversation. If you love the charming little town, stay in one of the 14 guest rooms, and look out for the resident ghost named the Blue Lady.
If you don't feel like making the windy drive to Story for dinner, stick around Nashville for a Quaff On! and pizza at Big Woods Pizza & Brewing Co. It's the most exciting nightlife place in Nashville, especially when they have a live band jamming.
A few miles to the east of Nashville and totaling 46 miles from Monument Circle (just two miles further)
Take 65-South straight down until you see the red bridge, you know the one, it looks like a miniature and less picturesque Golden Gate Bridge. Exit the highway and head east. What's Columbus known for? Well, The New York Times, NPR, and National Geographic Traveler all have written about the architecture of Columbus. NPR called it an "architectural Mecca" and Nat Geo named #11 in a list of the top worldwide historic destinations. Crazy, right?
Don't give a shit about buildin's and all that? Don't worry Columbus is also home to one of Indiana's best kept secrets, ZwanzigZ Pizza. Yes, their pizza is good, I like the Say Cheese. But the crowning achievement here lies in their house-brewed beers. Try the spicy Ghost Pepper Imperial Stout. Just do it. Okay, I guess if you don't like spicy you can go for the delicious, chocolatey Golden Ticket. It's a chocolate golden ale and let me tell you, Grandpa Joe would have hopped out of bed and danced the night away with one taste of this beer.
If you're looking for a daytime treat, stop in The Savory Swine for a quick lunch. This part butcher, part sandwich shop serves up fresh cuts of local beef, pork, lamb, and more, as well as personalized and affordable sandwiches. Looking for something lighter? Get one of their cheese plates — God, I love cheese — and pair it with a glass of wine.
You could eat in-house, or get the sandwiches to go and have a picnic at the picturesque Mill Race Park. Mill Race is the perfect place to spend a day outdoors on a leisurely walk checking out the modern architectural sites, the covered bridge, or in my case, splitting a bottle of wine you bought from The Savory Swine and just enjoying a beautiful sunny day.
After a few hours in the sun, the perfect way to cool off is to head to the most stunning ice cream parlor you've ever stepped into, Zaharakos. A historical landmark, this ice cream shoppe has been in operation since 1900 and not much has changed. The place is also a museum, so some pieces aren't original (like the authentic Tiffany's lamp and the Welte Orchestrion), but you can still get old-fashioned sodas, including the famous Green River Float (which is an eerily-green lemon-lime concoction originating in 1919 Chicago). Order one and sit down and play some jacks, or whatever they did in 1900.
If you feel like one day isn't enough time in Columbus (I'd agree), you can always get a room at the Clarion Hotel (formerly the Holidome). The place is a little worn and has seen its better days, but its fun to buy into the chintzy-ness of the place. It looks like it was modeled after the Atlantic City Boardwalk and it offers up a few bars to grab a nightcap, a game room, large pool, and indoor mini-golf for the kids. Plus, last time I was there we got a room for $45 for the night, which isn't too shabby.
The next stop is a popular destination and home to one of Indiana's most well-known universities, at 50 miles south, straight down IN-37 you can be to this cultural center in just over an hour.
It's a college town, but it has so much more to offer than college bars and drunk frat guys, not that college bars are a bad thing (drunk frat guys on the other hand ... ). For anyone new to Bloomington the best thing to do is find a parking spot near Kirkwood Avenue (good luck) and just venture down the street, whether you're sinking the biz at Nick's English Hut, having a farm-to-table meal at FARMBloomington, or picking up some vinyl at Tracks, you will get a small idea of the town. If you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary take a quick walk two blocks south to 4th street where you can find Turkish, Burmese, and even Tibetan food at Anyetsang Little Tibet (order the Shogo Balay). Fun little fact, at one point the Dalai Lama's nephew owned a Tibetan restaurant in Bloomington.
My personal favorite place in the city is a Bloomington institution, the Irish Lion. Stepping through the doors is like stepping in a time portal, from the potstill on the bar, to the mahogany woodwork, the Lion is full of history. The place opened originally as a restaurant and inn in the 1880's (back then you could order a beer and some more risqué options) the building hasn't changed much since then, but now it's just a place for good food, good beer, and good conversation. Even if you've never been to Bloomington, there is a good chance you've seen the interior of the Irish Lion in the opening credits for Cheers. Sidle up to the bar, order a beer and a shot of whiskey (preferably both Irish) and a cup of coddle and soon you'll be where everybody knows your name.
If you consider yourself more of a wine snob, or simply want to take a tour of one of Indiana's most picturesque wineries, stop by the ever-popular Oliver Winery for an afternoon of tastings and delving into the ins and outs of the winemaking process .
If you're planning a weekend getaway to Btown the perfect time to do it is when one of your favorite musical acts is making their way to the famed Bluebird. The quaint music venue is the perfect spot to have an intimate concert going experience and despite its size. Before heading to the Bluebird stop by Plan Nine Film Emporium. Plan Nine is maybe the last of its kind in the state, it's a video rental store (remember those) and it offers a wide selection of films that are nearly impossible to find. Anyone want to watch Return From the Ashes?
Bloomington is nestled into a highly forested area of Indiana and this means there are plenty of options for heading into the great outdoors. Griffy Lake is the perfect place for spending a day hiking and kayaking. If you are more into boats with horsepower, Lake Monroe is a large lake with plenty of room to take speedboats, pontoon boats, or for a day of fishing. If you don't have a personal boat, you can always rent one from Fourwinds Lakeside Inn and Marina. Head over to Party Cove and party the day away, making new friends over a beer or two and some Mellencamp tunes, then dock your boat as the sun goes down and end the evening on the resorts beach, or their bar and restaurant the Windjammer.
Pull back onto IN-37 and head further south to get to the next destination. 105 miles from Monument Circle is a destination that was world-renowned in its heyday.
French Lick, IN
Home of Larry Bird and Pluto Water, French Lick is a well-known destination for gamblers and history buffs. The crowning glory of this little town is the recently restored West Baden Springs Hotel, at one-point in time it was known as the Eighth Wonder of the World. The moment you walk into the atrium of the hotel you will quickly understand why. The grandeur of the room is breathtaking from the sprawling mosaic, marble floors to the balconied rooms and the centerpiece of the building the suspended dome ceiling. Spend the day making your way around the grounds, and trying not to think of those twins in The Shining. I suggest taking a guided tour, it's more informative and will keep you feeling less creeped out by those long halls.
If you're in the sporting mood, three of the nicest golf courses in the state are all located in French Lick. The legendary golf-course architects Pete Dye and Donald Ross both created courses used by the PGA over the years and there is also a 9-hole golf course modeled after the famous Tom Bendelow Valley Links. Gunga Galunga. If you happen to be in the area in the winter and golfing is unavailable, make the quick drive to Paoli for a day of skiing at Paoli Peaks.
While you're in Paoli, stop in the inviting German Cafe for an inexpensive and hearty meal of Jaegerschnitzel, spaetzle, and a cold Wiehenstephan. If German food isn't up your alley, head back to West Baden for a steak dinner at Sinclair's or, if you have the dough, you and your friends can have a one-of-a-kind meal at the chef's private table, Table One. One place that is kind of out of the way, but well worth the drive for one of the best steaks in the state is the Crazyhorse Ranch, it is a quaint farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, but I highly recommend it to anyone. Make sure and make a reservation, as the place is small, and get there a little early to walk the grounds, meet the horses and who knows, maybe you'll want a room there for the night.
Once you're done with dinner it's time to take a shuttle to the other hotel, the French Lick Springs Resort. The first thing everyone should do is to just walk around the place, it's massive and has tons of history on the walls. Then stop in the Power Plant Bar for some local live music and to grab a drink. Once you're feeling nice and lucky, hit up the casino to end the trip by hitting it big, "I'm in the money."
Though it's slightly closer than French Lick, it also lays to the East, which puts it in a different category. Just 90 miles Southeast of the Soldiers & Sailors Monument lies the quaint, quiet town of Madison.
The majority of visitors to this town are staying in the lusciously wooded and hilly Clifty Falls State Park. The park offers camping options for most anyone and even a great lodge with scenic views of the Ohio River. It is easy to spend an entire weekend hiking and biking through this beautiful state park during the day and sitting by a fire cooking marshmallows and sipping on whiskey at night. But, it is well worth it to take a quick day trip out of the park and into the city.
Though there are a few other attractions, the easiest to spend the day at is the Historic District. It is nice take a jaunt down the old main street and to take in the unchanged architecture and to stop in the array of stores lining the streets. Though there are plenty of places to eat and drink, no trip to Madison is complete without a stop in
Hinkle's Sandwich Shop. The place is a quintessential greasy spoon, serving up burgers and home fries at a decent price. It's open until midnight, but I suggest grabbing a stool at the diner's bar for lunch. Order a couple sliders, home fries and a Coke and head back out into the town for some antiquing.
There are plenty of shops to stop in while you're in Madison, you'll see them as you make your way through the town, but the store for bibliophiles, like myself, is the Village Lights Bookstore. You can spend an hour searching through the array of novels, biographies, poetry collections, and more. You'll find me in the corner making my way through the a short story or two by Fitzgerald, drinking a latté from the Attic Coffee Mill Cafe before walking out with the newest Kazuo Ishiguro.
After a day of shopping or hiking, finish your trip with a final meal at Crystal & Jules for one of the nicest and tastiest meals you'll get in Madison. If you ain't high-falutin, or you just aren't in the mood to get dressed up, stop in the hole-in-the-wall Honey Jug for a cold beer and some of the best bar food in the state.
Small town life can be nice, but sometimes you need a trip to the big city. Our next stop is the first one out of the state and it just so happens to be the first stop across the Ohio from Clarksville. A mere 114 miles from Monument Circle you'll find Louisville.
How do you say the name of the capital of Kentucky, is it Loo-iss or Loo-ee-ville? It's Frankfort, ya goof. Oh, and just so you know, it's Loo-a-vul. In the past few years this city has quickly become one of my favorite cities in the Midwest. I'll tell ya, if hipsters know how to do one thing, it's creating a worthwhile food and drink culture. Oh and mustaches, they've got those on lock. They've grown both in Louisville. Once you make your way across the bridge into the city, you've got a few choices on your first stop, but it should be to start the day with breakfast.
There are a hundred places that serve a perfectly fine breakfast, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't make it to either Wild Eggs for brunch or for farm-to-table goodness at Harvest.
Once you're stuffed to the brim, your next best move is to take a walk around and do some shopping on Bardstown Road. Niche shops, antique markets, and one-of-a-kind clothing stores line the street. While the popular ear X-tacy has moved on (R.I.P.), there are still plenty of places to get your music kicks, my personal favorite, mainly because I purchased my first turn-table there, is the Book and Music Exchange. You can spend hours looking through their vintage records, books, films, and even videogames. I happily purchased a used copy of Goldeneye there when I was in college (House rules, I'm always Oddjob).
If sports are more enticing than shopping, one of the most important parts of America's passtime is located Downtown Louisville. Drive until you see the gigantic baseball bat and then park, you've found the Louisville Slugger Museum. It's a definite stop for anyone that loves baseball, its history, and one of the sports most notable bat-makers.
Kentucky is known for a few things, two of those are bourbon and the derby, and one place in the city blends these better than the others. Nestled in the Galt House, the hotel you should be staying in (unless you're rich and stay in The Seelbach, which served as the setting for a scene in The Great Gatsby), is Jockey Silks. Yes, it's a hotel bar, which has a stigma, but it is a place for any bourbon lover to stop in. If you're staying in the hotel, the comfortable mahogany room is the perfect spot for a nightcap.
Before you take that nightcap, you're going to have to have dinner and there are unlimited numbers of restaurants, but the places to go are either the Silver Dollar for chicken & waffles (and one of the best bourbon and beer selections in the city) or for a little higher-end meal Rye may be the best restaurant in the city. Once you're done eating, unless you're going to a concert at the Palace Theatre or at Waterfront Park, I sure hope you didn't drive because you're bouts'ta get drunk.
Haymarket Whiskey Bar is a hipster paradise, but it also has an insane amount of bourbons — and other alcohol choices. Plus, if you did see a concert, there is a good chance you'll get to meet the band after the show at Haymarket. Just like the time a friend and I spent the night getting shit-faced with Portugal. the Man, climbing up on the building's roof, and then getting White Castle before making our way back to the Galt House. Louisville's a fun city.For more one tank trips, check out Nuvo.net/food, next up is East & West, then we'll be heading up North.