Traversing Indiana is akin to unearthing a treasure chest.
An eclectic assortment of products found in American homes and businesses can be traced back to the Hoosier state. It’s a production hub for goods ranging from Amish furniture to recreational vehicles, as well as more obscure finds, like shimmering stained glass and natural perfume. Foodies will also be delighted to find their fair share of treats throughout the state.
This itinerary highlights some of Indiana’s most distinct products and shows groups how they’re made with factory and shop tours in Amish Country and its surrounding towns. It starts in northern Indiana in South Bend then heads east to Elkhart and Shipshewana before turning south for stops in Ligonier and Kokomo. Group leaders should allow five days to explore the plentiful bounty this rich land has to offer.
Indiana’s Largest Chocolate Company in South Bend
South Bend Chocolate Company has been satisfying each visitor’s sweet tooth since its founding in 1991. Its 58,000-square-foot factory, museum and store in South Bend is Indiana’s largest chocolate company and home to one of the largest chocolate memorabilia collections in the world. Chocolate-covered pretzels, coffee and chocolate-covered cherries are among the thousands of sweet treats lining the shelves of the factory’s outlet store.
The Inside Scoop Tour lets factory guests see how the chocolate is made at every step from the planning to the candies being coated in creamy chocolate. Visitors also get to dip a chocolate spoon and enjoy samples on the tour. Afterward, groups can visit the museum to learn about the company’s history and the history of chocolate with a selection of artifacts and exhibits, including a Mayan chocolate pot. They can round out their visit with a stop at the factory’s store to grab lunch and some chocolate of their own.
While you’re there: South Bend is home to many other attractions suitable for groups, including the Studebaker National Museum, a vintage automobile museum with about 120 vehicles. With 400 species of animals, the Potawatomi Zoo is another favorite. Groups can visit the city’s multiple art museums, explore Notre Dame’s campus and peruse downtown’s shops and restaurants.
A Top-selling RV Company in Elkhart
Elkhart County is known as the RV Capital of the World for a reason — 80% of the country’s recreational vehicles are manufactured there. Groups can see this process with a factory tour of one of the area’s many RV plants. Plant tours are a great way to learn about one of the area’s most prevalent industries and how it ties into the community, from incorporating locally made Amish cabinetry into the RVs to using the state’s abundant infrastructure to transport them.
Thor Motor Coach has multiple plants in Elkhart for visiting groups to tour. They’ll see how the company makes RVs at every stage, from building an RV’s chassis, or framework, to installing its cabinetry, to testing it against weather. These intricate processes involve skilled laborers in many lines of work, and on a factory tour, groups can see some of that work in action.
While you’re there: RV enthusiasts can also head to the nearby RV/Mobile Home Hall of Fame and Museum for a deeper appreciation of the industry, but Elkhart is also located in the heart of Indiana’s Amish country. Groups should take advantage of that with visits to shingle shops, small Amish shops that crop up on the area’s roads. They can also arrange an in-home Amish meal for some comforting cuisine by lantern light, stop at an Amish-style restaurant and visit the Quilt Gardens, 17 stunning quilt-themed gardens on the county’s Heritage Trail.
America’s Oldest Producer of Art Glass in Kokomo
Opalescent glass is a term for opaque glass. Kokomo Opalescent Glass, a glass factory and retailer, also creates cathedral glass, as seen in stained-glass windows in many houses of worship. It’s the glass used in many Tiffany lamps and light fixtures — in fact, Tiffany was one of the largest customers of the Opalescent Glass Factory, and the Kokomo company is still a main source for Tiffany restorations. This glass company was founded in 1888, making it one of the oldest as well as the leading producer of glass products. In addition to art glass for wholesalers, the factory makes gift items such as glass lamps, bowls, paper weights and more.
Groups can visit Kokomo Opalescent Glass for a factory tour. They’ll put on their safety gear to head behind the scenes and watch glass being made using the same processes that have been used since the factory’s founding. Visitors will watch glass blowers create distinct pieces and will finish up the tour with a complimentary gift from the factory.
While you’re there: Art is central to Kokomo, which has several galleries and art centers downtown for visitors to check out. Downtown also features a collection of boutiques and shops, including Kokomo Toys and Collectibles, antique malls and flea markets. The city’s attractions also include the Elwood Haynes Museum, which covers the Kokomo resident known for unique inventions and design.
The Only All-American Perfumery Ligonier
What makes the Annie Oakley Natural Perfumery distinct is its use of all natural ingredients exclusively sourced in the U.S. This unassuming perfumery in Ligonier is the only perfumery in the country whose products all come from America. Founded in 1980, it produces a line of fragrances, bath products, essential oils and more, which are sold at retailers around the country. The perfumery has sold over 2 million bottles of fragrances.
Groups can visit Annie Oakley Natural Perfumery to learn about the company’s history and see how perfumes are made. They’ll visit the perfume studio, watch the blending and bottling process, and sample the fragrances, including some products not yet released to the public. Groups will also have the opportunity to create their own personal fragrance at the perfumery’s mixing bar. Then, they can walk around the gift shop and purchase their own fragrances and gifts to take home.
While you’re there: The small community of Ligonier has plenty of history to explore at the Ligonier Visitor Center and Heritage Station Museum. Stone’s Tavern, a 19th century tavern that now houses a historical society, is the site of the Annual Pioneer Festival. Groups can enjoy a comforting, hearthside dinner at the tavern served by historical reenactors. Ligonier also has plenty of parks, gardens, shopping and restaurants to enjoy.
Shipshewana’s Amish Country Creamery
Halfway between Shipshewana and Middlebury, Heritage Ridge Creamery is an Amish creamery founded by in 1979 by an Amish man. The shop and cheese factory is housed in a large red barn and is now a popular stop for anyone visiting the Shipshewana area. The creamery gets its milk from a dairy farming cooperative made up of family-operated farms in the area. It uses this milk to make a variety of cheeses, from Colby to cheddar to pepper jack, as well as butter.
Visitors to Heritage Ridge Creamery can look behind the scenes to watch the cheese production process. Groups can sample the cheeses and peruse the creamery’s shops, which contains several other local Amish goodies like meats, salsas, pickled products and candies.
While you’re there: Shipshewana has no shortage of Amish-made products, many of which can be found at the Shipshewana Flea Market, the largest outdoor flea market in the Midwest. Groups can find bargains on food, antiques, quilts, jewelry and more. Another major attraction in Shipshewana is the Blue Gate Theater and Restaurant, where groups can enjoy a theater production and a hearty homemade meal.