Electric Consumer readers know what they like, and they were eager to tell us. Since we first asked for input in May, readers let us know their favorite things from all over Indiana. Your picks for “the best” showcase just what makes our state special!
This is the sixth time in 15 years that we’ve surveyed you about Indiana’s best. We introduced some new categories and resurrected some old favorites. We encourage you to check out the choices displayed on the next five pages as you travel around the state this fall. Let us know what you think at www.facebook.com/ElectricConsumer or www.twitter.com/Electriconsumer, #BestofIN.
1 • Best Weekend Getaway:
French Lick Resorts (includes both the historic French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs hotels)
2 • Best Burger:
Triple XXX Family Restaurant, West Lafayette
3 • Best Ice-Cream:
Birdseye Dairy Barn, Birdseye
4 • Best Cornmaze:
Exploration Acres, Lafayette
Close second: Lark Ranch, Loogootee and Greenfield
5 • Best Winery:
Oliver Winery, Bloomington
6 • Best Cup of Coffee:
KentJava Bar, Corydon
Close second: Corner Café, Loogootee; and Coffee Crossing, New Albany
7 • Best Campground:
Turkey Run State Park, Marshall
Close second: Patoka Lake, Wickliffe
8 • Best Kept Secret:
Covered Bridges (Parke County is Indiana’s covered bridge capital with 31, but many counties still have a covered bridge)
Also noted: Dubois County Museum, Jasper; John Dillinger Museum, Crown Point; Schimpff’s Confectionery (and Candy Museum), Jeffersonville; Spring Mill Park State Park, Mitchell
BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY
French Lick Resorts
French Lick/West Baden, Indiana
With spectacular historic ambience, four golf courses, a Vegas-style casino, two full-service spas, and various dining options, French Lick Resorts offers a weekend getaway that may tempt you to stay a week — or longer.
Hidden away in Orange County, the luxury hotel duo, featuring both the French Lick Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel, share the Historic Hotels of America’s Best Historic Hotel designation — and with good reason!
Once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the West Baden Springs Hotel features a magnificent domed atrium that spans 200 feet. Before the Houston Astrodome opened in the 1960s, it was the largest free-span dome in the world.
Just a trolley ride away is the French Lick Springs Hotel, established in 1845 and a favorite getaway for celebrities through the years. The “miracle waters” from the mineral springs in the area were said to cure any ailment and guests to this day are able to soak in mineral baths at either of the hotels’ spas.
Both hotels were completely refurbished in 2006-2007 and are pampering guests just as they did over a century and a half ago. The twin towns and surrounding hills also offer quaint shops, antique stores, historic train rides, wineries, a variety of restaurants and many other family activities and recreation opportunities.
Triple XXX Family Restaurant
2 N. Salisbury, West Lafayette, Indiana • 765-743-5373
Our next honoree was not only dubbed the best burger by our readers; it’s also been lauded by USA Today, Food Network personality Guy Fieri and countless Purdue University students of past and present.
Triple XXX Family Restaurant, located on the hill in Chauncy Village just steps from Purdue, calls itself “Indiana’s first and oldest drive in.”
“We were here before your mother was born,” Triple XXX’s tag line claims of the 88-year-old institution which started out as a root beer stand. Through the years, Triple XXX has served only burgers made of 100 percent sirloin ground in the kitchen. And that’s just the start of a great burger. They are cooked to order, placed on toasty sesame buns, and topped with traditional add-ons like lettuce, pickle, onion, cheese, tomato and Miracle Whip. Triple XXX’s signature burger — mentioned by several Electric Consumer readers — is the Duane Purvis All American, named after a Purdue University gridiron star from the 1930s. This quarter-pounder is dressed with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion — with a slather of creamy peanut butter for good measure.
Many menu items are named after famous Purdue athletes including Drew Brees and Olympic diver David Boudia. There’s a full breakfast menu, desserts, milkshakes and malts, among other goodies.
Birdseye Dairy Barn
8 S. State Road 145, Birdseye, Indiana • 812-389-2220
Times may change, but good ice cream doesn’t. Birdseye Dairy Barn got the nod for the state’s best ice cream shop in 2009, the last time we asked readers about their favorite spot for a frosty treat. And eight years later, the Dairy Barn’s loyal fan base continues to frequent this southern Indiana gem located on Dubois REC lines.
The Dairy Barn is housed in an actual mini-barn and offers 10 regular flavors of malts/shakes and 11 sundae flavors — along with eight Flavor Burst options for each. Slushies and soft serve ice cream in cones or cups are available, too.
Need a “brain freeze” antidote? Sandwiches, pizza, burgers, fish and shrimp are also served.
The Dairy Barn is now open Wed-Fri: 3-9 p.m., Sat-Sun: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Take cash or a check; it doesn’t accept credit or debit cards.
6042 Newcastle Road, Lafayette, Indiana • 765-296-3863
Exploration Acres, located five miles south of Lafayette between Interstate 65 and U.S. 52, is home to one “amaizing” maze.
Encompassing 18 acres, with over
8 miles of twists and turns, it is the largest corn maze in northwest Indiana.
Owner Tim Fitzgerald created the corn maze in 2008 as a way to ensure he could keep the 70-acre family farm which had fallen into disrepair after his dad retired from farming.
Some 13,000 people visited the corn maze during its first year. That number continues to grow as has various attractions at the farm — including a pumpkin patch, hay rides, a straw mound and tunnel, a sand pile, pedal car track, tube slide and more. There is also a country store.
This year’s maze is a farm scene featuring a barn, tractor, cow, squirrel and farmer. While venturing through the maze, find checkpoints and punch your maze card to be eligible for rewards from Exploration Acres’ advertising partners.
Exploration Acres is open from Sept. 14-Oct. 29, Thursday through Sunday.
Oliver Winery & Vineyards
200 E. Winery Road, Bloomington, Indiana • 812-876-5800
Electric Consumer readers named Indiana’s oldest and largest winery their top stop to sip and enjoy serene surroundings. Oliver Winery & Vineyards, which started in the basement of Indiana University law professor and wine hobbyist William Oliver in the 1960s, is now one of the largest wineries east of the Mississippi.
Under the helm of William’s son Bill since 1983, the winery’s scenic location just north of Bloomington on State Road 37 (and soon-to-be I-69 extension) attracts not only those interested in tastings and purchases, but folks wanting to browse the gift shop or enjoy summertime concerts, picnics or winery tours.
Oliver’s large selection of wines can satisfy many palates. There are sweet wines, sparkling wines, fruit wines, sangrias, semi-sweets, semi-drys, ciders and dry wines. Quantity discounts are available when purchasing direct from the winery. Oliver wines can also be purchased at groceries and liquor stores throughout the state.
227 E. Chestnut St., Corydon, indiana • 812-736-0032
KentJava Bar is more than a place to “fuel up” with various espresso favorites, other drinks or pastries and desserts. Regulars of this historic downtown Corydon coffee shop also love the atmosphere, the friendly staff and the entertainment (including open mic night).
Owner Sherry Watson opened KentJava Bar in December 2013 in memory of her husband, Kent. A longtime Little League coach known throughout the community, he passed away in 2007 from Angio Sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that afflicts the heart.
Watson crafts all her coffee drinks with Quills Coffee from nearby New Albany. The beans are roasted weekly, ensuring the flavors are fresh and enticing. All your coffee shop favorites are included on the menu — like espressos, macchiatos, cappuccinos, lattes and chai. Flavorings are available to perk up your cup. For those who prefer a little of this and a little of that in their coffee, Watson offers a specialty/seasonal flavor menu with choices like “fluffernutter” (peanut butter/marshmallow), “chocolate stout” (dark chocolate/caramel/hazelnut) and “pastor’s perk” (green mint/dark chocolate/cinnamon). Non-coffee drinkers can enjoy smoothies and “mockucinnos” — frozen or iced flavored drinks — and, of course, hot chocolate and steamers. Pastries are baked in-house and include brownies, cupcakes, muffins, pie, cookies and scones.
Turkey Run State Park
8121 E. Park Road, Marshall, Indiana • 765-597-2635
Indiana’s second state park is ranked number one by readers who like to camp. The park features 213 campsites with electrical hookups and modern restrooms/showers and two primitive group camps.
Cabins and an inn are conveniently located at the park for those who prefer being indoors at night.
Come day, though, all are encouraged to explore the park’s nature beauty: ravines, sandstone gorges, hemlock groves and Sugar Creek which flows through the heart of the park.
Visitors can traverse the park by foot or on horseback and can also enjoy canoeing, fishing, picnicking or swimming (in the park’s Olympic-size swimming pool).
BEST KEPT SECRET
Parke County Covered Bridges
This category cultivated a cartload of responses. Readers shared the names of their favorite restaurants and attractions, places to go, people to see. But amid this potpourri of Hoosier highlights, Parke County’s covered bridges rose to the top.
There are 31 covered bridges scattered throughout this west central Indiana county. “Best Kept Secret” might be a bit of a misnomer since each October Parke County hosts the Covered Bridge Festival, Indiana’s largest festival and one of the largest in the nation.
Shopping, food, entertainment and covered bridge tours are all part of the festivities. This year, the festival will be held Oct. 13-22.
Many counties still have and treasure one of the quaint old structures, and covered bridges are so popular one is featured on a new Indiana standard license plate option this year.
Other reader favorites in this catch-all category include the Dubois County Museum in Jasper, the John Dillinger Museum in Crown Point, Shimpff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville and Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell.