Last Updated on March 26, 2018 by Janet Frost
One of my favorite things about Midwest road trips is the juxtaposition between metropolitan complexes and quaint hometowns. It is really a shame that we have become “fly over country”. There are so many special people and places to experience across the Midwest. One such special place is Hendricks County in Central Indiana.
Let’s go learn about this Midwest destination.
Indiana is in the East North Central region of the Midwest. The capitol and urban region of Indianapolis sits smack in the center of Indiana. Indianapolis is laid out in a circle with thoroughfares fanning out like spokes to the surrounding counties. This city is a great destination in its own right with a vibrant foodie and craft beer scene, an impressive sports reputation and of course another circle, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But as I mentioned before, the Midwest offers both urban settings and rural heartland. Marion County is home to Indianapolis and its metropolitan area. The counties that ring the outskirts of Indianapolis offer unique character and charm.
Visit Hendricks County
Hendricks County is the first county directly west of Marion County and 30 minutes from the center of downtown Indy. While the Indianapolis International Airport is technically in Marion Co, Hendricks Co is where the supporting resources exist. Plainfield, IN on the eastern border of Hendricks Co is packed with convenient lodging, shopping and dining. Whether you are flying in or roadtripping, Plainfield is a perfect homebase.
What I loved about Plainfield was the convenience of the eastside and the hominess as you traveled west. If you are looking for local food, local artists and some outdoor exploring, head west young man. Highway 40 runs southwest out of Indianapolis straight through Plainfield. This byway is a portion of the historic National Road. Thomas Jefferson commissioned The National Road in 1806. It was the first federal highway and designed to carry westward bound settlers from the Cumberland River to the Ohio River. Eventually it would extend from Cumberland, MD to Vandalia, IL.
What would any historic road trip be without the iconic diner. The Oasis Diner has been on the National Road since 1954. It moved a few miles west along the route in 2014. Doug Huff and Don Rector acquired the diner, relocating it and lovingly restoring it to its original glory. The ambiance is spot on and Doug’s memorabilia collections cover all the decades of diner history.
Check out their site Oasis Diner for all the details of the history and restoration. But better yet, visit in person. It is fun to relive the history. However, the real show is the food. Most of the delicacies are made in house, including the hand crafted sodas.
Unfortunately it was chilly with flurries the day I visited but I could imagine the outdoor seating full of summer revelers. With a stroke of brilliant city planning, the trailhead for the multi-use, Vandalia Trail, extends out from the Oasis Diner’s parking.
Get Outdoors in Hendricks County
Vandalia Trail is one of the several rail trails that cross Hendricks Co. The Vandalia Trail starts in Plainfield and heads southwest. The segment in Plainfield winds through town and connects to the White Lick Creek Trail. Plainfield is justifiably proud of the outdoor activities this trail provides. Another segment picks up on the far southwest side of Hendricks Co and extends from Amo to Coatesville.
B & O Trail, another rail trail, is planned to run from downtown Indy to the Wabash River in Parke County. In Hendricks County it currently runs through the northern town of Brownsburg and close to the Lucas Oil Raceway. The bridge under Ronald Reagan Parkway has fun street art to enjoy.
McCloud Nature Park on the far west side of Hendricks Co, just outside of North Salem, is a gem for nature lovers like me. This is a premier nature park in central Indiana. Visitors can enjoy over six miles of hiking trails, access to Big Walnut Creek, year-round programs at the Nature Center and a wide variety of wildlife viewing opportunities.
Motorcycling might not be what everyone considers an “outdoor activity” but it truly can be. The sights and sounds and smells are so much sharper on a bike. While I was driving around Hendricks Co I knew the winding back roads would be perfect for motorcyclists. Cartersburg Rd that curls from Plainfield up to Danville was ideal. Beyond windy roads, Harley-Davidson shops are the next best stop. Plainfield, IN happens to host Indy West H-D. Perfect!
Artisans of Hendricks County
Hendricks County in conjunction with Morgan County, to the South, and Putnam County, to the West, have created the Rural Routes to Main Street Cultural Trail. I love this concept. They have put together a collection of 30 stops, encompassing art galleries and studios, handcrafted gift shops, local eateries and confectioneries. The 46-page Rural Routes to Main Street Guidebook, lets you take a self-guided driving tour into the heart of Central Indiana.
We frequently try to add a glass blowing visit to our trip itineraries. I chose the studio of glass artist, Lisa Pelo. She is the owner of Hot Blown Glass in the backcountry of Clayton, IN. Because of the scope of equipment, these destinations are often in out-of-the-way spots. Lisa was incredibly gracious and patient. She has great teaching skills and her passion for glass art is contagious.
Watching any glass artist is a treat for me. There are so many steps and skills beyond just the “glass blowing”. The glass goes through numerous transformations before the final piece emerges.
Hot Blown Glass pieces are available in galleries across the state. In a later post I will share about the Indiana Artisan Gallery in Carmel, IN. Lisa also does significant commission work. For the novice and curious, Lisa offers classes and group events at her studio. I wish she was closer to me, because I would definitely be a groupie.
I mentioned Danville briefly when talking about motorcycling. Whether on a bike or in a “cage” (biker slang for car) Danville is an adorable, quaint county seat. The town offers history, local food and Americana.
Plan your visit to Hendricks County
Wow! There was a lot to see and do in Hendricks County. I definitely needed more time to explore. Each region in the Midwest has a different feel. It always thrills me to see the farms and countryside of these unique destinations. Looking for a Midwest roadtrip this spring or summer? I highly recommend the counties circling Indianapolis. Josh Duke at Visit Hendricks County will help you put together a perfect itinerary. Their award-winning Visitor’s Guide and website are packed with information and ideas.
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Disclosure: I was hosted by Visit Hendricks County. All opinions are my own.
A special thanks to Josh Duke, Doug Huff, Don Rector and Lisa Pelo for taking time out to share about their communities.