The Hoosier state is a perfect slice of Midwest life.
Outside the urban reach of Indianapolis, across the plains that span out as to the horizon, there are a wealth of small towns in Indiana, each with its own individual charm.
From lush green forests to historic downtown areas, from towns that are thriving with trendy art scenes to Amish communities that live life at their own pace, there’s a lot to explore here.
So, we’ve picked 17 of the best small towns in Indiana for anybody looking to explore the nooks and crannies of this beautiful state.
Let’s dive in.
1. Madison: quaint towns in Indiana
Walking the wide, tree-lined states of Madison can feel like you’re walking through a lost time.
It’s the largest continuous stretch of nationally registered historic buildings in the country, a smorgasbord of perfectly preserved 19th and 20th-century buildings (over 15,000 of them) and museums that celebrate this long, rich history that has thrived here along the banks of the wide Ohio River.
But don’t let that make you think Madison is just for the history enthusiasts out there.
Block after brightly-colored block of historic buildings is now stuffed full of locally owned restaurants serving meals made with local produce, cozy independent stores, and as many bars as you could wish for (check out Shipley’s Tavern for some of the best beers in town).
2. Williamsport: Indiana small towns
This charming little spot is home to fewer than 2,000 people, combining that small-town lifestyle with some of the state’s most impressive nature.
The historic old town, watched over by the domed Warren County Townhouse, is full of mom-and-pop stores and local restaurants that look out over the steady meander of the Wabash River.
Its nickname is ‘Side-Cut City’ after the canal that was built here to lure in more shipping traffic, but the river and canal are not the most impressive water features here.
Without a doubt that goes to Williamsport Falls, Indiana’s tallest waterfall.
Only a short hike from the center of town, here the water rushes down over 90 feet, crashing and foaming to white on the rocks below, a perfect trip out from town for all the family to soak in one of the state’s best sights.
3. New Harmony
New Harmony was originally set up as a religious commune, meant to be the perfect town on earth.
While inter-group bickering might have led to the religious dreams fading away, what was left behind is one of the best small towns in Indiana.
Visitors can enjoy the historic architecture that has endured along the riverside, stopping into museums that celebrate the history of this unique town.
Head over to the Harmonist Labyrinth, a maze-like garden that was designed to evoke the feelings of calm and tranquility that the original founders envisioned for this charming slice of rural Indiana.
4. Merom: best small towns in Indiana to visit
Of all the cute, quaint towns in Indiana, Merom is one of the smallest.
Just over 200 people live in this peaceful place, in historic brick buildings that, seen from above, seem almost swallowed by the sea of trees that coat the area here along the riverside.
It was founded in 1817 and feels timeless, everything moving at its own leisurely speed.
After you’ve meandered around the tree-lined streets, stop into Meleah’s Café for the town’s best rustic food, homemade meals served with that trademark Indiana welcome.
Paoli is a little bit different from the other cute towns in Indiana.
There are the usual quality restaurants and open space, that state-wide feeling of warm hospitality, but it’s the outdoors that really set it apart.
The nearby Paoli Peaks offer some of the best skiing in the area, with skiers migrating here en masse with the coming snow.
In the summer, the Hoosier National Forest (a gorgeous Indiana National Park) can satisfy any outdoor cravings with mile after mile of winding hiking trails, while a dip in the Ohio River is there to cool you down after it all.
Patriot is tiny.
The whole town covers less than half of a square mile, clinging to a curve on the Ohio River, looking directly across to neighboring Kentucky.
Around 200 people call this little town home, and it provides the perfect base to explore the huge open space that surrounds it.
When you’ve wandered down the historic buildings of Main Street (it doesn’t take that long), you can explore the trails that spread out into the lush landscape around it or take advantage of its prime location on the river, spending the day fishing or hiring a kayak to explore the gentle meanders of the Ohio River, drifting between two states.
7. Pine Village
Another choice that is definitely on the smaller side, little Pine Village was originally a trading post in the 19th century, providing a resting spot for travelers traveling between the growing cities of the area.
Today, it can be the perfect resting spot for you, either if you’re looking to satisfy your thirst at Brummett’s Village Inn or spending some time here to enjoy the quality hunting and fishing that’s available in the area.
Very few places have maintained their old-school feel like Metamora.
It’s a hotbed of authentic culture and history, perfect for a weekend to soak in a different, older way of life.
It used to be an important stop on the nearby canal, and you can live this history on a horse-drawn canal boat.
Yes, a horse-drawn canal boat.
The 25-minute trip feels like you’re living in a lost time and you can learn all about the industry that helped put this town on the map.
After, that go sifting for gems at the Metamora Gem Mine, or just grab something to eat and drink at the Canal Town Diner right on the waterside and watch the steady pace of this beautiful life drift on by.
You can find traces of Amish culture scattered throughout Indiana but nowhere better than here, as horse-drawn carriages (not canal boats) trot away up and down the streets in between rustic-feeling homes.
Head over to Menno-Hof for interactive and family-friendly exhibits that give you an insight into the Amish-Mennonite culture of the area.
The town’s famous for hosting the biggest flea market in the Midwest, the perfect place to while away a few hours exploring stall after stall, after stall of trinkets and produce and antiques and that thing that you wanted, but just didn’t know yet.
This tiny little town was originally called Buena Vista, before its name was switched to celebrate the United States’ victory during the Mexican War, all the way down in Monterey, California.
War-inspired through it might be, it’s all peace here now. the patchwork fields and trees of the countryside here are laced through with trails, with the Panhandle Pathway providing over 20 miles of the well-maintained route for you to cycle or hike at your choosing.
Corydon used to be the capital of Indiana for a brief spell and has one of the richest histories of anywhere in the state.
You can learn all about the town and how it helped shape what we know as the modern Indiana at the Capital State Historic Site, the still-standing old state capital.
The rest of the town is similarly well-preserved, with an alternating mix of historic buildings and open green space.
It’s this intermingling of nature and town that consistently draws people to Corydon, with the town opening out to the pristine space of Hayswood Nature Reserve.
The area around this tiny little town developed in line with the nearby canal and flourishing industry of the area, but today is better known for its prime hunting and fishing.
The Riley Conservation Club employ recreational activities over a large site, allowing people to enjoy their favorite pastime in a way that works in step with the local environment.
If fishing is more your speed, the local lake is the place to be.
13. Nashville: small towns or cities in Indiana
The music might not be quite up there with the music in the other Nashville, but there is more than enough culture here to keep even the keenest intrigued.
The town is one of the most artistic places in the state, with the Brown County Art Colony providing a haven for creatives to express themselves.
This artistic impulse has spread into the local community, with an eclectic range of galleries, quirky shops, and independent restaurants keeping the tow going.
Head over to the Brown County Art Gallery to see the work made by local artists.
14. French Lick: cute towns in Indiana
The curiously named French Lick is a gorgeous place.
It became famous for the natural mineral springs of the area, people flocking here to soak in the natural wonder before heading into town to enjoy themselves.
Now, the town is dominated by the genuinely impressive French Lick Resort and Casino, a huge, domed building that offers premium entertainment with beautiful natural surroundings.
It’s the perfect place to stay to combine the comfort of premium luxury with the soul-rejuvenating wonder of this lush Indiana landscape.
While you’re here, hop aboard the French Lick Scenic Railway as it winds its 20-mile route beneath the boughs of the Hoosier National Forest.
Of all the other options here, Angola is one of the best small towns in Indiana to live in.
It combines all the amenities that residents are looking for, with the charm and natural surroundings that bring visitors here year-round.
Downtown is a well-maintained orchestration of green public spaces and historic buildings, stuffed full of independent restaurants and charming shops.
Just 15 minutes drive out of town, Lake James is always there for you during the summer, whether you’re looking for a casual day’s boating or fancy a dip.
And if you’re a keen hiker you’ll be spoilt for choice with the nearby Pokagon State Park.
For a small town, it’s got it all.
16. Winona Lake: charming towns in Indiana
As the name might suggest, the main raw here is the beautiful Winona Lake, 67 acres of tree-lined water that comes alive in summer as locals and visitors swim, kayak, or just look out over to enjoy.
The town itself is a charming place, full of lake houses gazing out at the view and tree-lined streets that weave around independently-owned stores and family-run restaurants.
If you’re a keen shopper, you can find the rejuvenated district ‘The Village at Winona’ right on the canal, a strip of quirky boutiques selling locally made products from the area.
After you’ve shopped, swam, kayaked, or just relaxed, stop by the Boat House Restaurant for some great steak or seafood right there on the lakefront.
On a summer’s day, few things are better than kicking by with a locally made wine, some quality food, and a view over Winona Lake as the sun sets.
Riverside life has never felt sweeter than in Aurora.
Well-maintained bike routes wind along the river bank through green space full of people picnicking, looking out to the water of the Ohio River as it shimmers under the sun.
Historic buildings line the town, creating a feeling of real, authentic stillness here as the water winds on.
It’s a great place to just kick back for a while.
But there is a young, trendy edge to the town as well, creative types drawn here by the beautiful nature and easy living.
Nowhere can you see this better than in the burgeoning restaurant and beer scene in the town.
Head on over to Great Crescent Brewery to see the best of it.
Nestled right on the river, this brewery/tap room/restaurant/all-around-good times venue offers great BBQ food, even better beer they’ve made themselves, and selections of wine and spirits from the best distilleries and vineyards of the area.
It’s worth the trip to Aurora by itself.
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