If Vevay, Ind., is any indicator, Indiana is one cool place to wander around.

The river town of 1,735 residents, known for its quaint B&Bs and offbeat shops, just received accolades from no less than Budget Travel magazine. “We just got word fromBudget Travel that we’re No. 4 in the Budget Travel Top 10 of ‘America’s Coolest Small Towns,’” notes Kendal Miller, public relations director for Switzerland County.

Vevay, Miller adds, was selected “for its quality of life, arts and restaurant scenes, and proximity to nature,” as well as the town’s “edgy, avant-garde galleries.” (A good time to visit is the last weekend in August, when Vevay holds its annual Swiss Wine Festival, named one of “Indiana’s Top 10 Festivals,” at Riverfront Park.)

Of course, Vevay is just one gem in the Indiana crown. From historic burgs such as Columbus to shopping meccas like Nashville, from big-city delights in Indianapolis to theme park fun in the small town of Santa Claus (home of Holiday World), the state celebrates its history even as it embraces its future:

Argosy Casino Resort & Hotel

Argosy just underwent a $300-million renovation, greatly expanding the casino’s gaming space while adding a “Hollywood feel” to the property to reflect, as one publication puts it, “the star-like atmosphere visitors encounter there.” Already, the riverboat Argosy VI is the length of a football field, with three decks. Not only is it one of the largest riverboat casinos in the world, it’s one of the two largest passenger vessels of any kind on America’s inland waterways. Passenger capacity is 4,000, with a crew of 400.777 Argosy Parkway, Lawrenceburg. (888)-ARGOSY-7 or www.argosy.com/cincinnati/.

Belterra Casino Resort

The Miss Belterra riverboat casino near Vevay measures 100 feet wide by 370 feet long, employs 1,500 people, and boasts 57 game tables and 1,350 slot machines amid the 38,000 square feet of gaming space on two levels. Table games include blackjack, craps, roulette, Caribbean stud poker and baccarat.777 Belterra Drive, Belterra. (888)-BELTERRA or www.belterracasino.com.

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum — the state’s No. 1 tourist attraction, not counting that little motor jaunt around an oval track — is perhaps the biggest and best children’s museum in the world. Next to the Indy 500, it’s the city of Indianapolis’ biggest draw, the Children’s Museum has an interactive exhibit or science display to please.3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. $12, $7 for children 2-17 and seniors 60 and older (free on Christmas Eve, Dr. Martin Luther King Day and other select holidays). (317) 921-4000 or www.childrensmuseum.org.

Columbus can boast a national honor for its architectural excellence and stewardship of its historical assets. In the November 2008 edition of National Geographic Traveler, the city of 40,000 residents is ranked 11th out of 109 historic destinations. If you’re an architecture buff, you’ll definitely want to head to this town, where city planners showed considerable foresight in hiring some of the 20th century’s most notable contemporary architects — I.M. Pei, Eliel and Eero Saarinen, and Cesar Pelli among them — to design the library, city hall and other civic structures. Columbus Area Visitors Center, 506 Fifth St., Columbus. (800) 468-6564 or www.columbus.in.us.

Conner Prairie

Conner Prairie is a living-history museum that re-creates an Indiana frontier town, populated by actors who play village residents (circa 1836). This community features authentically costumed interpreters who guide you into the past.13400 Allisonville Road, Fishers. 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. $11, $7 children ages 5-12 (free to children 4 and younger), and $10 for seniors 65 and up. (317) 776-6006 or www.connerprairie.org.

Grand Victoria II

The Grand Victoria II is a replica of a 19th-century Victorian stern-wheeler, with 1,900 gaming positions and 1,302 slot machines. Some 80 tables offer blackjack, craps, roulette, Caribbean stud and Let It Ride.600 Grand Victoria Drive, Rising Sun. (800)-GRAND–11 or www.grandvictoria.com.

Holiday World

Take the kids and hop aboard Blitzen’s Airplanes or Comet’s Rockets, or take a turn on Prancer’s merry-go-round (do you sense a theme here?). Seriously, Holiday World has some whammo rides that have nothing to do with X-mas, including the brand-new Pilgrims Plunge (the world’s tallest water ride) and Voyage wooden roller coaster (measuring 1.2 miles long with a record five underground tunnels). The editors ofAmusement Today magazine recently ranked the Raven as “Best Wooden Coaster” in America, and the destination also won “Friendliest Park Staff” and “Cleanest Park” in the same national survey.452 E. Christmas Blvd., Santa Claus. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. $36.95, $28.95 for those under 54 inches or older than 60, free to children 3 and younger. (812) 937-4401 or www.holidayworld.com.

Horseshoe Casino Hotel

Formerly Caesars Indiana Casino/Hotel, the re-branded Horseshoe Casino Hotel Southern Indiana offers a fresh gambling experience. The resort offers more than 2,000 slot machines, as well as 80 table games including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps tables and poker room. 11999 Casino Center Drive SE, Elizabeth (off Indiana Highway 111), (866)-676-SHOE or www.horseshoe-indiana.com.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway & Hall of Fame Museum

There’s that little Indy 500 auto race each Memorial Day Weekend, sure, but also consider a visit anytime to see the Hall of Fame Museum, a tribute to the sport and its top winning cars and drivers. 4790 W. 16th St., Indianapolis. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. $3, $1 children ages 6-15, children 5 and younger free. Track tours are an additional $3. (317) 481-8500 or www.indy500.com.


If National Historic Landmarks are your thing, the tiny town of Madison showcases more historic homes per square block than just about any other.Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, 601 W. First St., Madison. (812) 265-2956 or www.visitmadison.org.


Dedicated shoppers shouldn’t miss out on Nashville, with more than 90 arts, craft and knick-knack shops, a half-dozen antiques stores, 10 art galleries, and dozens of restaurants and food shops.Brown County Visitors Center, 10 N. Van Buren St., Nashville. (812) 988-7303 or www.browncounty.com.

Perfect North Slopes

This popular resort offers snow skiing and tubing all day and night, plus a ski school for novices, racing clinics and racing camps.19074 Perfect Place, Lawrenceburg. In season, 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Lift ticket $40 (ages 13-59), $35 (ages 7-12 and 60 plus). Tubing $20, $10 for 6 and younger. (812) 537-3754 or www.perfectnorth.com.

Union Station

While other states have turned their historic railroad terminals into museums and malls, or allowed them to be shuttered altogether, Indianapolis’ Union Station is now a fully functioning Crowne Plaza hotel, where you can sleep in one of the more than two dozen Pullman train cars parked on the tracks.123 W. Louisiana St., Indianapolis. Open daily 24 hours. Room rate for train car is $169. (317) 631-2221 or www.crowneplaza.com.