15 Best Things to Do in Elkhart, IN


Elkhart, Indiana, holds a special place in my heart.

This hidden gem of the Midwest is my hometown, my stomping ground, my personal slice of American paradise.

Over the years, I've discovered an abundance of activities and attractions tucked between its quaint neighborhoods and sprawling landscapes.

From its peaceful river walks, thriving arts scene, and rich history that echoes in the architecture, Elkhart is more than just a city—it’s an experience.

Let me share my insider's guide to the best things to do in Elkhart, Indiana!

About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Stroll Through Wellfield Botanic Gardens

The waters of Wellfield Botanic Gardens
IndyTaylor, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every now and then, I need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, and that's when I head to Wellfield Botanic Gardens.

This peaceful oasis never fails to calm my senses and rejuvenate my spirits.

As I stroll along the landscaped beds, I am enthralled by the vivid hues and diverse textures of the blooming flowers.

The planning is tastefully done, and you can see the care and thought that has gone into where each flower is planted.

I also love how they've incorporated several small bridges and statues into the design, adding depth and character to the overall landscape.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my visits to Wellfield Botanic Gardens is the tranquil promenade around the pond.

Here, amidst the soothing sounds of water and the gentle rustle of leaves, I love to sit and let my thoughts wander.

It's refreshing to see such a thriving ecosystem right in the heart of our city.

The garden also hosts several seasonal events and holiday light displays, which are always a delight.

The whimsical holiday lights transform the garden into a magical wonderland, making it a must-visit during the festive season.

And if you're lucky, you might even catch a beautiful wedding in one of the garden's picturesque locations.

Remember, admission is free if you're a member of any botanic gardens or hold a membership to the Wellfield Botanic Gardens.

Pay a Visit to Westwind Brewery Co.

There's nothing like a pint of dark beer at Westwind Brewery Co. to wrap up the day.

You'll know you've come to the right place when Aaron, the owner, welcomes you.

He's a sweetheart, as is his staff, always greeting every customer with the warmest smiles.

The beer here, oh, the beer. It's pure artistry in a glass, especially their dark beer, which has become my all-time favorite.

They seem to have a knack for a good brew, appealing to all tastes.

Each visit brings about a new adventure, a chance to explore the varying beers on tap.

And their food, let's not gloss over that. They offer a light menu that's just as enticing as their beers.

From appetizers to sandwiches, every dish is a delight. Their pulled pork nachos, in particular, are a crowd-pleaser.

Wander Around Elkhart Environmental Center

It's funny how you stumble upon hidden gems in your own backyard.

That's exactly how I felt when I discovered the Elkhart Environmental Center.

Tucked away in the heart of our city, this little oasis is a haven for nature enthusiasts and people like me who enjoy a calm, rejuvenating walk.

What grabbed my attention initially was the renewed paths and the sheer effort taken to maintain the area.

A leisurely stroll or an adventurous bike ride, these well-paved paths cater to both.

I could indulge in my love for cycling, and honestly, it has become my favorite go-to spot for some peaceful rides.

Have a Night to Remember at The Lerner Theatre

Exterior of the Lerner Theatre
Publichall, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine a place where elegance meets entertainment and history and architecture come alive.

That's exactly what you get when you step foot into The Lerner Theatre.

This historic gem, located in the heart of downtown Elkhart, is my go-to place whenever I want a taste of culture, music, and performing arts.

Last year, I had the privilege of attending a wedding reception in the Crystal Ballroom of the theatre.

Let me tell you, the grandeur of the room was nothing short of breathtaking!

I still remember the way the light played off the crystal chandeliers, creating an ethereal atmosphere that was perfect for the celebration.

But that's not all The Lerner Theatre has to offer. It's not just a marvelous venue for weddings; it's also a great place to catch a show.

A few months ago, I went to see the Hodge Twins perform, and it was an experience I'd never forget.

From the moment I arrived, I was made to feel like a VIP.

The staff were all incredibly friendly and welcoming, and an usher named Patti even walked me to my seat.

Talk about excellent customer service! And if you're a fan of architecture like I am, you'll be captivated by the theatre's interior.

The intricate designs and detailing are a testament to the craftsmanship of a bygone era.

Step Back in Time at Ruthmere Campus

Every now and then, I find myself craving a taste of history and culture.

On such days, there's no better place to go than the Ruthmere Campus (link).

Nestled quietly in my hometown, it's a historic residence turned museum, boasting a stunning beaux arts facade and period furnishings that instantly transport you back in time.

The tour around the residence is a treat, as the guides are knowledgeable and engaging.

Although the tours only start every hour, it's definitely worth the wait.

What truly sets the Ruthmere Campus apart from other attractions is its beautiful architecture and wealth of historical value.

Unleash Your Inner Superhero at the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum

The child inside me squealed joyfully the first time I stepped into the Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum.

It's one of those hidden gems tucked away in Elkhart, Indiana, that you just can't miss if you are a fan of Marvel, DC, or anything that has to do with superheroes.

Walking down into the replica Bat Cave, I felt like I had been transported straight into a comic book.

Everywhere I looked, there were vintage toys, TV, and movie props, transporting me back to my childhood days.

I tell you, walking through this museum is like taking a stroll down memory lane.

The museum is filled with fun activities and games for all ages, which can easily turn an afternoon visit into a full day of excitement.

The price is pretty affordable, too, making it a perfect spot for a family outing or a fun date.

One thing that really impressed me was the breadth of the collection.

From Superman and Batman to Iron Man and the Avengers, they've got it all.

Revisit the City's History at the RV Hall of Fame & Museum

Exterior of the RV Hall of Fame & Museum
Cheri Alguire / Shutterstock.com

Though I've been living in the area for a while, I've always appreciated the RV Hall of Fame & Museum's ability to transport you back in time.

The first time I stepped foot in this remarkable museum, I was awestruck by the array of retro RVs gleaming under the soft glow of the lights.

Sure, the lighting might not be perfect, but it certainly adds to the charm, making you feel like you've stepped back in time.

As I meandered through the exhibits, I was struck by the fascinating history of the RV and manufactured housing industry.

With each RV, you could see the evolution of this industry, reflecting the changes in society over the decades.

The collection of toy RVs, an unexpected delight, is another testament to the rich history encapsulated within these walls.

One of the things I relish the most about this place is its pet-friendly nature.

Display in the RV Hall of Fame & Museum
Cheri Alguire / Shutterstock.com

It's become a tradition to take my golden retriever Max along whenever I visit.

Beyond the RVs, the mobile home area drew my attention. The history of this area is often overlooked, but not here.

At the RV Hall of Fame & Museum, you can dive deep into this unexplored part of our past, learning about the roots of the manufactured-housing industry.

What struck me the most about this contemporary event facility and museum is that it's not just about RVs or manufactured homes, but a chronicle of our society's progress.

Airstream RV in the RV Hall of Fame & Museum
Cheri Alguire / Shutterstock.com

Visit the Boot Lake Nature Preserve

Every time I step out of my car at Boot Lake Nature Preserve, I am welcomed by the symphony of birds nestled high up in the trees.

This place has been my go-to spot for hiking for years now, the changing landscape providing a scenic journey every time.

I remember when the lake was full, reaching all the way to the pier, and the trails were untouched, etched out only by the foot traffic of fellow nature enthusiasts.

Nowadays, the lake has receded, leaving behind a puddle in the middle, but the trails are kept in pristine condition by a diligent team of tireless workers.

From bird watching and hiking, tapping into my creative side, and sometimes even playing a game or two of Pokemon Go, Boot Lake has been my sanctuary for rejuvenation.

The trails at Boot Lake never fail to excite me. Each turn is a new adventure, and the side trails often lead to unexpected surprises.

Discover Elkhart County Through its Visitor Center

There's no better way to kickstart a day in Elkhart County than swinging by the Elkhart County Visitor Center.

It's more than just a pit stop. It's a gateway to the heart of Indiana.

Trust me, whether you're a local like me or a tourist, you'll love the rich information available here.

The space is incredibly welcoming. The cleanliness standard is off the charts.

It's not just the visitor space; even the bathrooms are immaculate.

Believe me; it's probably the cleanest visitor center in the entire country!

The center is also a great place to kick off your exploration of Elkhart and the wider county.

Grab Some Beers at Five Star Dive Bar

There's something unquestionably charming about an old-fashioned dive bar, and Five Star Dive Bar is exactly that.

This hangout spot has become my weekly reprieve from the mundanity of life.

Nestled in the heart of our town, it brings to life an atmosphere that’s hard to replicate.

You might think I'm exaggerating, but let me paint a clearer picture.

The moment you walk in, you're welcomed by the laid-back ambiance - a perfect reminder of its dive bar roots.

The aroma of burgers, tacos, and wings in the kitchen wafts through the air, making your mouth water.

And if you're a fan of trivia nights, comedy, or live bands like me, there's always something happening here to keep you entertained.

One of my personal favorites from their menu is the burger. The first bite of that juicy goodness will leave you craving for more.

And let’s not forget the fried pickles - they are a delightful, tangy surprise!

See Paintings at Midwest Museum of American Art

Exterior of Midwest Museum of American Art
Paul Sableman from St. Louis, MO, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every time I walk through the doors of the Midwest Museum of American Art, I'm greeted by warm smiles and a treasure trove of art that spans the 19th and 20th centuries.

The museum, nestled in the heart of my hometown, is a special place.

It's small enough to feel intimate and not too overwhelming, yet it houses an impressive collection that rivals larger institutions.

One of the highlights of this museum is its selection of Norman Rockwell lithographs, which transport me back to my high school history class every time I see them.

It's not just a walk down memory lane but a journey into the heart of Americana, captured with Rockwell's quintessential charm.

In addition to these iconic pieces, the museum showcases an unexpected gem - an Indiana ceramics exhibit.

As someone not well-versed in ceramics, this exhibit was a pleasant surprise, offering a fascinating glimpse into the world of pottery and its place in Indiana's cultural history.

The museum, housed in a charming old bank building, retains its original architectural features.

The vault has been repurposed as an exhibit room, which adds a quaint touch to the overall experience.

It's also staffed by some of the friendliest people who are always eager to share their knowledge, making each visit a learning experience.

The Midwest Museum truly embodies the spirit of the Midwest, with a collection that is as diverse as the region itself, featuring everything from paintings and pottery to bronze statues.

They also support local talent, displaying the works of local artists alongside those of big names like Warhol and Grant Wood.

Discover the Charm of NIBCO Water and Ice Park

One thing I love about living in Elkhart, Indiana, is the changing seasons.

And with each season, there's a special place I love to visit - the NIBCO Water and Ice Park.

There's something magical about that park, whether it's a sunny summer afternoon or a chilly winter's night.

During the summer months, the park transforms into a paradise for kids.

The splash pad is definitely a hot spot to cool down and frolic in the water.

But it's not just for the kids; it's a great place to relax for adults too.

The beautiful path that meanders through the park is well-maintained and perfect for a leisurely stroll or a tranquil sit.

You can always find me here, soaking up the sun and enjoying the serene atmosphere.

Spend a Day Out at Linton's Enchanted Gardens

If you're ever looking for a sprinkle of magic in your day, pay a visit to Linton's Enchanted Gardens.

From the moment you step in, you'll be greeted with an array of vibrantly colored flowers and unique plants - something that always makes me feel like I've been transported to a different world.

One can't help but appreciate the wide variety of structures that add to the charm of this place.

My personal favorite has to be the petting zoo. Seeing those adorable animals would put a smile on anyone's face.

The birdhouse, filled with cute little birds, is another must-see.

I find it to be a serene spot where one can truly enjoy the beauty of nature.

Over the years, I've noticed that their prices can be a bit steep, but for the quality and variety they offer, I believe it's worth every penny.

Discover the Wonders at the National New York Central Railroad Museum

Entrance to the National New York Central Railroad Museum
David Wilson from Oak Park, Illinois, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A chill in the air didn't stop us from having a fantastic time at the National New York Central Railroad Museum.

The short tour, presenting an array of grand engines, was intriguing and the conductor, with his endless patience with kids, was the highlight of the day.

Every corner of the museum is brimming with fascinating information about the historic 11,000-mile NY Central Railroad - all presented in such a way that even the youngest visitors were captivated.

The joy on my young niece and nephew's faces, when they explored the children's space was priceless!

They could not only dress up as train conductors but also interact with a life-size train.

Playing in the ticket booth and train space, they were captivated for hours.

The museum even had two wooden train tables filled with a wide variety of trains and train pieces.

Steam locomotive at National New York Central Railroad Museum
David Wilson from Oak Park, Illinois, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The kids were thrilled to construct sets according to their whims and fancies. The Lego train-building table was another hit.

The pièce de résistance, however, was the room with the model train set up.

My nephew, a train enthusiast, could just sit there for hours, watching the trains from various angles, thanks to the convenient step stools.

Although the museum doesn't offer food, they have a train car with tables.

It was the perfect spot to enjoy our packed lunches while watching real trains pass by outside.

The entire experience at the National New York Central Railroad Museum is simply unforgettable.

And the friendly and knowledgeable staff only add to the overall charm of the place.

Whether you're a local or a visitor, this place is a must-visit.

Enjoy the Serenity at Island Park

One of the great joys of living here is being able to spend leisurely days at Island Park.

Nestled along the beautiful riverfront, it feels like an oasis amidst the bustling city.

The park, which you can find more about here, is the embodiment of tranquility and beauty.

It genuinely offers something for everyone, making it a beloved part of our community.

I enjoy taking early morning walks here, often surprised at the lack of crowds, even on a Saturday morning.

The sense of peace and quiet is truly remarkable, making it a perfect place for some much-needed solitude.

The park, with its immaculate landscape, gazebo, bandstand and picnic shelter, is also an excellent spot for family outings.

Final Thoughts

Elkhart, Indiana, is definitely a place that exudes charm, culture, and history.

Whether you're a beer enthusiast roaming around Westwind Brewery Co., or you revel in the tranquility offered by Wellfield Botanic Gardens, you'll find that Elkhart has something to cater to every preference.

Each day in Elkhart brings a new adventure, making it a place that I am proud to call home.

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