Things to Do in Crawfordsville IN
Crawfordsville has long been on my list for potential day trips in Indiana. You can easily spend an entire day exploring! I’ve just been waiting for a chance to visit, and recently I had the opportunity. Located towards the central west portion of Indiana, it is the perfect day trip from Indianapolis. In just over an hour from the city, you’ll discover so many fun things to do in Crawfordsville!
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1. A jail that rotates?
Yep, Crawfordsville is home to the first rotating jail. It was built in the late 1800s and is only 1 of 3 rotary jails still standing. Even more astounding is that it is the only one still in existence that actually works.
When the jail was built, the premise was that it was extremely safe for the police. There was only one way in and out, so once a prisoner was locked into the jail, he could only exit through one door. Seems smart, right?
Well, unfortunately, that also meant that it wasn’t particularly safe for the prisoners. If there was a fire or other disturbance there was no way to get them out efficiently.
Another unforeseen but unfortunate aspect of the rotary jail was that it caused many amputations. Once the jail started spinning, it moved quickly enough that if a prisoner had an arm or leg outside the bars, it would be cut off before they even realized what was happening. Yuck.
Therefore, not too long after 18 of these jails were built, most were either torn down, taken out of use, or renovated with individual access doors to each cell, and no rotating (as was Crawfordsville’s version). Luckily for us, the Rotary jail in Crawfordsville was turned into a museum, AND it still works.
We began our tour by checking out the connecting house which is where the sheriff and his family (if he had one) lived. It’s nicely restored with quite a few antiques and information about how the household members coexisted with the prisoners. Quite interesting on its own.
Then, we were able to explore the rotary jail itself. There are several floors to check out, and you are able to go into the cells to see what it feels like to be inside. After a self-guided tour, the docent came out to show us how the jail rotates as well as give us a bit more history. It was amazing how quickly it moved, with very little effort!
If you are looking for things to do in Crawfordsville, a visit to the Rotary Jail Museum should be high on your list just for the uniqueness of the jail alone!
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2. Next stop, General Lew Wallace Study & Museum
Once you’ve explored the Rotary Jail Museum, head over to the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum.
If you’ve ever read the book Ben Hur (super cheap on Kindle right now) – or more likely seen one of the movie adaptations, you might be somewhat familiar with General Lew Wallace. An interesting character, and it turns out he was MUCH more than just the author of Ben Hur.
At the museum, you’ll start with a short movie that highlights his life which was quite impressive. He was a successful military man, artist, and musician. A true Renaissance man.
The museum exhibit rotates regularly, and when we visited, the displays were mostly about his art. General Lew Wallace was quite talented and it was interesting to see his work and learn a bit more about how and why he was so artistic.
After touring the museum, the docent will walk you over to the actual study. We were allowed to spend as much time inside as we’d like, and it has been preserved as closely as possible to how the General enjoyed it. It’s quite an amazing structure and absolutely a wonderful place to work, rest, and study.
We also spent some time touring the grounds and imagining life as it was when General Lew Wallace and his family lived there.
3. Enjoy a break for lunch
Downtown Crawfordsville has a decent number of shops and restaurants to peruse. It is apparent the town is working hard to revitalize which I love to see happening to small towns in Indiana. We chose the highly rated (on Yelp) Maxine’s on Green.
A cute little sandwich place, Maxine’s had an excellent variety of sandwiches, wraps, and salads. It was hard to choose, but we ended up with the Turkey Bravo sandwich and the Apple & Blue Cheese wrap. I was especially delighted that fresh fruit is a side option.
Both sandwiches were tasty and filling – if the weather had been cooler, I would have been quite interested in trying out their soups – they sound delicious also!
4. Check out Wabash Campus
Also located in Crawfordsville is Wabash College. Founded in 1832 as a private men’s college, it’s just minutes from downtown. The setting is lovely with plenty of green space and wooded areas.
Although it’s a small college (less than 1000 students), it’s still fun to spend a bit of time exploring and imagining the local college experience. It is quite interesting to compare it to many of the large universities we’ve recently visited – especially since it’s a men’s college.
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5. End your day with a decadent treat from the local coffee shop
On our way out of town, we decided to stop at the local coffee shop, The Joshua Cup. I was thrilled to find such a fabulous coffee shop in downtown Crawfordsville. The location is right downtown and had a few outdoor tables, but so much space inside. There were several levels of seating, so if you need a place to sit and work or study, The Joshua Cup would be ideal.
We decided to try the seasonal specialty, The Chumpkin. This is an iced pumpkin chai latte. It was absolutely amazing. It tasted like pumpkin pie in a cup, but way more refreshing. I was with my mom and we both commented that if we lived closer, we’d be indulging in this drink almost daily. It was that good. Definitely, the perfect way to end a fun-filled day.
Looking for more things to do in Crawfordsville, IN?
We were out of time on our day trip to Crawfordsville, but there are plenty of additional fun things to do if you have more time.
6. Lane Place Antebellum Mansion
A Greek-Revival home that was built in 1845 by Senator Henry Smith Lane and his wife, Joanna Elston Lane, today Lane Place is a lovely restored mansion that showcases many of the period furnishings and other items belonging to the Lane and Elston families.
7. Shades State Park
One of the best Indiana State Parks for hiking is also the closest state park to Crawfordsville. In addition to gorgeous trails, Shades offers fishing, camping, and more. There are also several outfitters nearby if you’d like to kayak or canoe on Sugar Creek which runs right through Shades.
8. Enjoy a show at the historic Vanity Theater
Home of the Sugar Creek players, this local, restored, downtown movie theater is a unique place to watch a live performance. If you are lucky enough to be in town when there is a show, definitely add this to your list of fun things to do in Crawfordsville!
9. Coal Creek Cellars
I love a good winery, so the next time I’m in Crawfordsville on a weekend, I’ll definitely be making a stop at Coal Creek Cellears Winery. I’ve heard through the grapevine that the owners are from California so the wines tend to run a little on the dry side. Since I love a dry white wine, that sounds perfect to me!
Free things do to in Crawfordsville Indiana
Don’t miss out on these free things to do in Crawfordsville Indiana on your next trip to the area!
10. Crawfordsville Strawberry Festival
Every year in June, the lawns of the historic Lane House are transformed into the Crawfordsville Strawberry Festival.
With strawberry treats, live music and plenty of arts & crafts, it’s a fun way to spend a summer afternoon! There is even a car & tractor show if you get tired of strawberries – which I can’t imagine since June is the month when strawberries are sweetest in Indiana!
11. Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County
I love a good historical museum, so the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County sounds right up my alley! Admission is free, but hours are limited, so be sure to call before you plan your visit.
Full of Crawfordsville and Montgomery County history, this little local museum is a terrific place to get your bearings and dig in deeper in the background of the area.
12. Check out the courthouse
The Montgomery County Courthouse is located in downtown Crawfordsville. It was the first of six Indiana courthouses still standing that were designed by George W. Bunting of Indianapolis. It was actually the third courthouse for the county, and the one you’ll see today if you visit downtwon Crawfordsville.
13. Enjoy the Art at the Athens Art Gallery
It’s always fun to poke around a local art gallery, and if you happen to be in Crawfordsville when the Athens Art Gallery is open, definitely stop to visit.
Full of art from incredibly talented local artists, it’s a feast for the eyes! Original artwork is for sale, and exhibits are changed regularly to keep things fresh.
14. Explore downtown Crawfordsville
While you are visiting Crawfordsville Indiana be sure to take some time to stroll downtown. Crawfordsville has a variety of boutiques perfect for browsing, and some delicious restaurants located right downtown. The streets are quite walkable and it makes for an enjoyable stroll.
FAQs About Crawfordsville Indiana
What is Crawfordsville known for?
Crawfordsville is known for the only currently working rotary jail in the United States, as well as home to some of the best hiking in the state at nearby Shades State Park.
When was Crawfordsville founded?
Crawfordsville was founded in March of 1823.
What college is in Crawfordsville?
Wabash College is in Crawfordsville. It was founded in 1832 as a private liberal arts college for men.
Conclusion: Fun Things to Do in Crawfordsville Indiana
Whether you are looking specifically for fun things to do in Crawfordsville Indiana or just love visiting small towns in Indiana, Crawfordsville in Montgomery County has you covered!