One Tank Trips: Our Visit to Culbertson and Lanier Mansion
Day Tripping In Southern Indiana
This post is sponsored by the Indiana State Museum. All opinions are my own.
There's More than Corn in Indiana| Transparency Moment: I have lived in Indiana my entire life and haven't really explored the state outside of the occasional Brown County or French Lick trip. Having 2 kids under the age of 8 can be challenging over the Summer; they get restless and want to do A LOT of things, which can get expensive and overwhelming when Disney is the ultimate goal. Who here has had that conversation with their kids ALL THE TIME? Regardless, we're a family that loves travel, so it only made sense to step up our local travel game this Summer and save a few bucks. Luckily, the Indiana State Museum started a campaign to connect Hoosiers with travel destinations that would take less than a tank of gas to visit but offered cool and unique experiences surrounding the history of our state. They call them "one tank trips". We were fortunate enough to visit 2 of the sites a few weeks back. So yes, on just one tank of gas, we drove 2 hours south of Carmel and toured 2 amazing mansions on the lower east side of the state: Culbertson Mansion and Lanier Mansion.
New Albany, IN
William Culbertson moved to Indiana and eventually became one of the richest men to live here during the late 1800's. The moment you walk into the home you can feel the grandeur and decadence. Obviously, we were awestruck by the architecture, however, the story of the home's residents was equally intriguing. You'll have to visit yourself to find out what I'm talking about, but to give you a hint...visit the "Rose Room".
A complete restoration project; historians are uncovering remnants of the past in this home every day. On your extensive tour, you will have the opportunity to see exactly how they restore the ornate home. Simply put: Culbertson Mansion is breathtaking!
Traveling back in time some 40 years, we arrived at Lanier Mansion. Clearly, no expense was too much for this extravagant home not only of its time but of today as well. The woodwork, the textiles, the landscaping...to die for! Take a look at a few of our favorite features of the home.
A complete list of all of the sites you can visit this Summer is listed below with a description of each, including the 2 we visited! (c/o the Indiana State Museum)
Angel Mounds State Historic Site, Evansville - 165 miles (3 hours) from downtown Indy
Note: Angel Mounds is in the Central time zone.
At this location, visitors become immersed in 1,000-year-old Native American culture at this incredible site featuring earthen mounds built by a Mississippian society. Updated experiences inside the Visitor Center provide an interactive walkthrough of the history of the site and other cultures that lived in the area over time with casts of real Native American artifacts that visitors can touch. Never-before-seen artifacts found at the location are also on display for the first time.
Corydon Capitol State Historic Site, Corydon - 132 (2 hours) from downtown Indy
At Corydon, visitors learn all about Indiana’s first state capital – and can still tour the state’s first capitol building, built from limestone and logs from 1814 to 1816. Exploring the governor’s mansion gives visitors a taste of what life was like in the 1820s, both for a family as well as for political leaders of the time. Plus, fun events like a Murder Mystery Dinner in August or the Capitol Ball in September provide an opportunity to enjoy an evening out.
Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site, New Albany – 116 miles (less than 2 hours) from downtown Indy
Featuring fantastic architecture and gorgeous walls and ceilings, this picture-perfect mansion is ideal for those who love art, architecture or incredible stories about real people who have impacted their communities. William Culbertson was extremely wealthy – with the house to prove it – but also gave back to the local community in New Albany, funding the construction of a widows’ home, founding an orphans’ home, and serving in civic affairs. In fact, his endowment still funds local programs today, continuing his culture of benevolence long after his death.
Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site, Rome City - 156 miles (2 hours 30 minutes) from downtown Indy
This location offers a stunning natural setting with views of Sylvan Lake, the vibrant Wildflower Woods and special gardens started by Hoosier author Gene Stratton-Porter herself. Visitors can tour her cabin and learn about how she used nature as her laboratory while studying and writing about birds, plants and more. A woman ahead of her time, this site tells the story of Gene’s career, independence and innovation at a time when women were expected to fulfill only certain roles.
Indiana State Museum, Indianapolis – Less than one mile (just a 5 minute drive) from Monument Circle in Indy
This summer, families can spend a day exploring right in their own backyards in Indianapolis. The Indiana State Museum is located in beautiful White River State Park, and it offers two floors of permanent experiences and one floor of changing experiences, where visitors can immerse themselves in Indiana art, culture, history, science and more. Kids will enjoy the hands-on science in the newly renovated R. B. Annis Naturalist’s Lab before winding their way through a chilled ice tunnel and marveling at real mastodon bones in one of the newest experiences, “Frozen Reign: A State of Change.” Visitors can get up-close with original Hoosier art in the temporary experience “Lois Main Templeton: A Reinvented Life,” open through Aug. 5, or enjoy a beautiful walk along the outside of the building to see unique art representing all 92 Indiana counties.
Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, Madison - 102 miles (less than 2 hours) from downtown Indy
Lanier Mansion is one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in the Midwest, and it’s known as the “crown jewel” of Madison. The mansion is settled along the Ohio River. It features ornate gardens outside the home, as well as a spectacular spiral staircase inside the front entrance, which winds its way up to windows that let in natural light all the way from the top floor. Visitors – children especially – will also enjoy the top floor, which has extremely low ceilings, as it was intended only for children’s bedrooms and servant corridors. In fact, the handprint of one of the Lanier children can still be seen in the paint in one of the bedrooms.
Levi and Catharine Coffin State Historic Site, Fountain City - 76 miles (1 hour 15 minutes) from downtown Indy
For those looking for a visit that will make an impact, this location is perfect. Here, visitors tour the home known as the “Grand Central Station” of the Underground Railroad, and they can even explore the hidden chambers where freedom seekers may have hidden during raids. During their time in the home, the Coffins helped hundreds of freedom seekers make it to freedom. The story of the Coffins is one of standing up for what’s right even in a time when it was not popular, and visitors will leave with a heightened awareness of this significant time in the nation’s history.
Limberlost State Historic Site, Geneva - 104 miles (less than 2 hours) from downtown Indy
This location is another one where the outdoors is at the forefront. This location served as Gene Stratton-Porter’s home before she moved to Rome City – the site of Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site. At Limberlost, visitors can explore the Loblolly Marsh, as well as step inside the actual cabin where Gene lived. Nature programs throughout the summer also offer visitors a chance to enjoy guided tours of the land surrounding the site with an on-staff naturalist.
New Harmony State Historic Site, New Harmony – 181 miles (3 hours) from downtown Indy
Note: New Harmony is in the Central time zone.
This unique town will take visitors back in time because around every corner there seems to be another historic building. At this site, visitors will learn about two early-American utopian societies that became a haven for scientists like Thomas Say – the man who discovered Say’s Firefly, which became Indiana’s official state insect earlier this year. Guided tours of the historic buildings will give sightseers a glimpse of what it was like to live in these societies, which in many ways were ahead of their time.
T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Nashville - 70 miles (1 hour 15 minutes) from downtown Indy
Beautiful artwork and gardens are the focal points for this location. Here, visitors can explore artist T.C. Steele’s Brown County home and stroll through the gardens that gave him so much inspiration for his work. Relax by lily ponds teeming with fish and frogs, or take a walk through the new historic garden, featuring plants that the Steeles would have grown while living there. Plus, you can see original T.C. Steele paintings up close in his large studio and throughout his home, known as "The House of the Singing Winds." Later this September, visitors will have access to a new Visitor Center that will enhance the visitor experience and allow for additional programming, indoor facility rentals and catering, and new restrooms.
Vincennes State Historic Sites, Vincennes – 127 miles (2 hours 10 minutes) from downtown Indy
Vincennes State Historic Sites explores Indiana’s history as a territory. It’s the home of Fort Knox II, the 1809 French House, Jefferson Academy and other historic buildings. Visitors can walk the same ground where Tecumseh and Benjamin Harrison once trod and learn what it was like to live on Indiana’s frontier. Tours are offered of Elihu Stout Print Shop – the location where Indiana’s first newspaper, the “Indiana Gazette,” was printed – and visitors can explore Sugar Loaf Mound, a natural feature that Late Woodland Indians used as a burial mound around 900 A.D.
Whitewater Canal State Historic Site, Metamora – 68 miles (1 hour 20 minutes) from downtown Indy
Everyone knows the downtown Indy canal, but in the 1840s, canals were the preferred mode of transportation. Draft animals pulled long, narrow boats by a rope next to the hand-dug canal. Today, visitors can experience what it was like by riding on the Ben Franklin III – a real working canal boat that offers rides throughout the summer season. At the site, visitors can also find the Metamora Grist Mill, which visitors can explore, for free. Small shops around the site make Metamora a perfect destination for the whole family to spend the day.