Saturday, December 6, 2014

Capital Fun!

Indiana's First State Capitol

Corydon, Indiana doesn't get all the fame it deserves.  Most of it goes to Indianapolis, the upstart capitol located in the northern part of the state.  When people think of Corydon (if they do at all), they might say..."Wasn't that the first state capitol?" Yes, it was and if not for a little tomfoolery (well, who really knows why), the state capitol might be located in this sleepy little town in Southern Indiana. 

Regardless, the original capitol has so much to offer.  Think of Corydon as the country mouse and Indy as the city mouse.  A city mouse is exciting for a bit, but for real down-home Indiana flavor, nothing will beat a visit to the country!  Located just three hours from Indianapolis, Corydon is really part of the "Kentuckiana" area--a mix of Louisville, KY and the surrounding counties in southern Indiana.  It's a fairy short drive from anywhere in either state and definitely worth a trip.  If you have an entire day, be sure to drive using the Ohio River Scenic Byway --it's a gorgeous drive along the Ohio River during any season.  For more information on the Byway, visit the website Ohio River Scenic Byway.

Corydon has a lot to gloat about, besides being the original capitol.  It is the home to one of the oldest county fairs; there is the annual Halloween parade (another oldest in the nation); it's home to the only civil war battle in Indiana; and, I'm pretty sure it's the nation's capitol for popcorn production.  If it's not, it should be!  While Corydon seems a sleepy little town, there is plenty to do and one day won't begin to touch it.  Try a weekend, or two, and you just might scratch the surface of this little town gem.

While in Corydon, be sure to check out these places:


What To Do:

  • Start with a trip to where all this history began, the Indiana State Museum State Capitol. The 1800's limestone building is worth the ticket price and is beautifully restored inside.  If you come during the holiday season, you can get a picture taken with Santa right beside the old stone fireplace.  During Halloween season, the entire square opens up to a haunted history tour that is big on the 'wicked' history of some past Corydon residents, called Unsavory Past.  While walking around the square, be sure to check out some other notable historic buildings, like the Governor's Headquarters (named for William Hendricks, Indiana's second governor) and the First State Office Building, which is still being faithfully restored.  Check out the Indiana State Museum website for more information.
  • If you're a Civil War fan, you have to check out the small battlefield and museum, located about 1/2 mile out of town.  This little known battle is a source of pride for the residents and the battlefield has been undergoing renovations. The Battle of Corydon Civil War Museum is located at 203 North Capitol Avenue, Corydon, IN.  Call 812-736-0985 for more information or see their website at Battle of Corydon Memorial Park.
  • No trip to Corydon is complete without a tour of the caves.  Harrison County, Indiana, has one of the largest cave systems in the United States, next to that of Mammoth Caves in Kentucky.  Start your tour at the original, Squire Boone Caverns.  Squire, and his more famous brother Daniel, Boone discovered the cave in 1790.  Today, the property is home to a show cave, an historical village, and a zip line adventure.  For more information, visit Squire Boone Caverns.
  • Indiana's newest cavern just opened in the last part of 2013 but is already generating a lot of buzz.  Indiana Caverns is Indiana's longest show cave.  In addition to a walking tour, you can also take a boat tour and see recently discovered ice age bones.  For more information, visit Indiana Caverns.
  • If you're in the mood for some nightlife, Corydon can provide that, too!  Corydon Jamboree is a cross between The Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw--a whole lot of country with a bit of redneck fun.  The Jamboree is open on Saturday nights with shows that are good for the whole family.  For more information and to see a show schedule, visit the Corydon Jamboree website.  If your tastes are a bit more theatrical, try the cutest little theater you'll ever share with about 40 strangers.  Hayswood Theater packs a whole lot of drama into that small space and even though the venue is tiny, the talent is not.  This is theater the way it should be--sitting close enough to the stage to see every expression on the actors' faces and being able to watch the piano player beating out the musical score.  Most nights, for intermission, there is popcorn or cookies.  Wonderful, home-town fun.  For more information and to see a show schedule, visit the Hayswood Theater website.
  • If art is more your thing, Corydon also has that!  Just downtown are three museums and working studios, within walking distance.  This first is the Artisan Center, located just one street over from the square.  The Artisan Center features local artists and has three galleries of work.  Most artwork is for sale and the main gallery has rotating artists and works.  For more information, see the Artisan Center website.  Zimmerman Art Glass is local legend in the Corydon area, a family affair that creates incredible works of blown glass in a small studio.  There are pieces to purchase, but patrons can also order unique works of art while watching glass-blowers at work.  Be sure to call 812-738-2206 for times and hours as this is a family studio.  If hands-on art is more your thing, be sure to visit White Cloud Window stained art studio.  At White Cloud, you can either shop the extensive gallery or you can schedule your own stained art studio time and create a masterpiece to match your personality. Visit the White Cloud website form ore information.
  • If you decide to visit in the growing season, there are plenty of family-owned farms in the area.  In the summer, a must-do is picking blueberries straight from the bush at Bryant's Blueberry Farms.  Be sure to get there early as the place gets absolutely packed.  And, be sure to check the Bryant's Blueberries website as they are closed some days due to ripening of the berries and picking shortages.  There is nothing more delicious than blueberry muffins or a pie you picked yourself.  Hot, but fun, work!  In the fall, many local farms offer corn mazes, pumpkin patches and "family" friendly activities.  One of my favorites is Deere Farm, located in nearby Lanesville.  Check their website for year-round activities and events at Deere Farm.
  • Harrison County is home to five different wineries! Each one is unique and a treat and you could spend a full day just taking a wine drive in the area.  All the wineries listed do complimentary tastings.  The winery with the prettiest drive is definitely Best Vineyards in Elizabeth, Indiana.  It's about 15 minutes outside of Corydon on winding country roads.  Best has a full range of wines, from dry to sweet and often has special weekend events with music. My favorites are the Mango (super sweet) and the Blue Moon (just right!). For more information, see their website at Best Vineyards.  After visiting Best, Turtle Run Winery is just a short drive away.  Turtle Run is unique because they don't add any sugar to their wines and that purity really shows.  Their labels are gorgeous and I haven't met a wine there I didn't just love.  Still, if I had to pick, my favorites are Red My Mind, Crossed My Mind, and Lost My Mind .  They often have special weekend events including music.  Turtle Run was also named Indiana Farm Winery of the Year for 2014.  For more information, visit their website at Turtle Run Winery.  From there, keep on traveling to quaint, nearby Georgetown, Indiana.  It's a short drive and worth it to stop at this still growing winery, Indian Creek Winery.  My favorites here are Lily White and Cardinal Red.  Indian Creek has a lovely outside sitting area and you can buy locally made artisan cheese for a nice afternoon snack.  For more information, visit Indian Creek Winery.  The newest winery on the block is Quibble Hill, located in nearby Depauw, Indiana.  They have a full range of wines and often host special events.  For more information, visit their website at Quibble Hill Winery.  From there, make a full circle back to Corydon and stop at Scout Mountain Winery.  Scout Mountain also offers a bed and breakfast (The Hideaway Bed and Breakfast) that is an entire farm house all to yourself! An absolute must try wine is the Apple Cherry--it is sinfully delicious and addictive.  They often have special weekend events that include music and often food options.  For more information, visit their website at Scout Mountain Wines.
Where to Eat:
  • It might be hard to believe a small Midwestern town could have authentic Italian, but that's the surprise of Alberto's on the Hill.  As soon as you walk in the door of the strip mall restaurant, it's like you're transported to some small eatery in New York--Frank Sinatra is crooning on the speakers, the bartender nods you to a table, and the dark ambiance and delicious smells complete the picture.  And, the food!  Wow!  So good!  I was fortunate enough to go with three other people and, because they know me well, they all let me nosh off their plates.  The chicken parmesan and eggplant parmesan were so delicious, but my entrĂ©e was the best of all--a lemon chicken fettuccini (the night's special).  Alberto's is located at 1237 Edsel Lane, Corydon, Indiana, 47112.  Phone number is (812)738-4900.
  • Corydon's newest restaurant is a welcome blessing--it's right on the square, within easy walking distance of all the quaint shops and the food is truly delightful.  It's hard to find really good barbeque outside of the south, but Big D's Smoking Butt BBQ is doing it right.   They have sandwiches and platters with your choice of pulled pork, brisket, chicken, smoked sausage and Memphis style rib dinners.  Sides include BBQ beans, brisket chili, mac and cheese, fresh cut fries, collards, cole slaw, corn pudding, and corn bread.  I am embarrassed to say I've had them all from stealing bites from friends' plates.  They're all equally delicious.  The bar has a nice selection of beer, too.  The only negative is the really small space--it's almost always packed.  Big D's is located at 101 Beaver St., Corydon, IN  47122.  Phone is (812)725-8900.
  • Corydon is just all wine.  You'll be happy to know they also have their very own brewery, complete with a delicious restaurant.  Point Blank Brewery.  This microbrewery has a healthy list of local, national, and even international brews.  You could probably go there every day for a year and not drink the same thing twice.  While that's a nice treat, the food is also up for the task.  A wood-fired oven churns out delicious and unique pizzas and the sandwiches are delicious.  My favorite item, however, is the Scotch eggs (hard to find elsewhere).  Actually, now that I think of it, every item I've tried there has been delicious.  They often have special events, like a monthly Beer 101 and weekly Trivia and game nights.  Point Blank is located at 105 Beaver Street, Corydon, IN.  Phone is 812-225-5141.  For more information, visit the website at Point Blank Brewery.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

North for Winter?

Why Go South for Winter?

Most people I know head south for winter break, lured by sunshine and tropical winds.  But, when you live in an area that hardly gets any snow, you have to look at vacations a little differently.  Snow was calling my name this year!  Snow and the promise of winter activities like sledding, skiing, and tubing.  With nowhere close to have that kind of fun, my family packed up and made the short trip to Mishicot, Wisconsin.

Why Mishicot?  You've probably never heard of it and before this vacation, neither had I!  Truthfully, we picked it because it was on the 'thumb' of Wisconsin, and my mother-in-law told me she had visited this place decades earlier and that it was great fun.  I needed no more encouragement than that.  And, of course, mothers are always right.  It was, indeed, great fun.

Things to See and Do:
  • Winter Fun.We went for outdoor winter fun and we found all we could use at Winter Park Recreation in Kewaunee County.  What was so great was that this wasn't a huge ski resort, but a mom and pop operation catering to locals.  It was a blast!  We didn't waste any time and went snow tubing the very first night we arrived. Snow tubing at night is one of the highlights of my life experiences.  I don't think I've ever had so much fun.  Flinging myself down a snowy hill on a tube with the stars twinkling above and glittering snow all around.  There were six runs and a hands-free tow rope that pulled me to the top over and over again--hours of fun for $6 a person.  Skiing the next day was just as much fun--no crowds, just snow.  Since this is a mom and pop location, you have to bring your own ski equipment but there is a small "lodge" available with snacks and hot chocolate.  It's only open on the weekends and there are future plans to build a little ice rink.  Too cute!  For more information, visit Kewaunne County Promotions & Recreation Department.
  • Think the Great Lakes is only good in the summer?  Think again.  Right on the edges of Lake Michigan is the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in downtown Manitowoc.  The museum is three floors of maritime history, in and around the Wisconsin area, focusing mainly on World War II.  The museum has plenty of kid's exhibits, an entire floor dedicated to the sea-faring way of life in Wisconsin, and plenty of interactive exhibits.  The best part, though, was the completely restored WWII submarine, the USS Cobia.  A themed tour guide will take you through the ship, section by section, explaining how the seaman lived and worked on the submarine.  Everything has been painstakingly restored, right down to the torpedoes and even the plates in the galley.  It was an amazing experience.  For more information, visit Wisconsin Maritime Museum at Manitowoc.
  • Ah, wine.   Doesn't every good vacation have a wine tasting or two? Or, possibly even three if it is a good vacation?  This one did.  I have to say that this wine tasting will go down in history as the greatest of all time.  Nearby Door County, Wisconsin, features a wine tour that will knock your socks off.  It was a trolley winery tour.  We were picked up at a local hotel and taken to three different wineries in the area where we wined, wined, wined.  My favorite winery was Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery.  The wine was first rate and worth the whole drive to Wisconsin itself.  We bought a case and I am saving each one, savoring it drop by drop.  Another favorite was Simon Creek.  Most of their wine has names based on mobsters and Al Capone, as the area was a favorite with gangsters from Chicago.  The tasting room was beautiful and the wine good enough to rate another case!   At one, we were even treated to a horse drawn carriage ride in the snow through the cherry orchard.  This winery, the Orchard Country Winery and Market featured cherry wines, salsas and a delightful county store.  The company does all different kinds of tours from Halloween to Lighthouse and everything in between.  For more inforamtion, check out Door County Trolley.
Places to Eat:
  • What vacation is complete with a cozy pizza joint?  This is our number one job on vacation--find the best pizza in town, and it has to be a mom and pop place.  Mission accomplished!  Waverly Inn Pub and Pizzeria fit the bill perfectly.  Housed in an old, old hotel in nearby Two Rivers, Wisconsin, this pub had the finest pizza in the area. Trust me, we tried several.  Baked made to order with paper thin crust.  So delicious!  For more information, visit Waverly Inn Pub and Pizzeria.
  • While you're in the area, there is one place you have to stop.  It's right beside Waverly Inn Pub and Pizzeria, and it is a famous historical landmark concerning food--Historic Washington House in Two River, Wisconsin.  This 1850 hotel has been kept in sparkling vintage shape and houses a period ice cream parlor and upstairs museum.  This house is the original location of the very first ice cream sundae ever served in the US.  Invented by Ed Berner, it is served the same today--in sundae glasses with whipped topping, nuts and a cherry.  The most popular flavor is chocolate topping and it's easy to see why this invention is still around today.  For more information, call Historic Washington House at 920-793-2490.
  • Looking for a fun breakfast or lunch place right on the water?  Check out M&M Lunch.  This quaint diner is like something straight out of the 1950's with a revolving glass dessert case and a bar with swivel chairs.  They have daily specials on the menu board and everything we had was so good on such a cold blustery day:  homemade potato soup, cheese curds and fried mushrooms and a Double Bratwurst sandwich with the works, which is a brat, butterflied and fried, served on a bun with all the toppings.  Be honest, that description made your mouth water a little, didn't it?  For more information, visit M&M Lunch.
  • Another favorite lunch spot for us was Friar Tuck's.  This place was so funny!  From the outside, it looked like a regular square brick building.  From the inside, we felt as if we had been transported straight to England!  Brown wood beams, a long bar, and wenches serving sandwiches.  What's not to love?  Naturally, we had the cheese curds once again because it is Wisconsin and their cheese curds are not to be missed.  We also had cheese and crab chowder, chili and a Reuben.  Everything was so good--I felt as fat as Friar Tuck himself when we waddled out of there.  For more information, visit Friar Tuck's.
  • My favorite restaurant of all was the Harborside Restaurant in Manitowoc.  The outside is very plain but it is a little gem of a place.  Open the door and you are in a romantic little hideaway with the Rat Pack playing on the speakers and the best Italian food I've eaten in many years, maybe ever.  We started with the best calamari I have certainly ever eaten, followed by homemade bread and olive oil spread, a fabulous salad and a stuffed pecan chicken.  It is one of those places where each bite is more delectable than the last.  Truly amazing.  The food was only overshadowed by the cocktails.  There are so many varieties of martinis, from the classic to my favorite, the Pumpkin Martini, a dessert in itself.  For more information, visit the Facebook page of Harborside Restaurant.