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State Spotlight: Indiana

Temperate weather and the perennially astonishing display of colorful foliage make fall an ideal season for travel. That’s certainly the case in Indiana, a state that leverages its natural environment and heritage of fall festivity to become a premier destination throughout September, October and November.

Fall brings blankets of beautiful foliage to Nashville and surrounding Brown County, where a large state park gives visiting groups numerous ways to experience vivid fall color. And the harvest season makes a great time to visit Indiana farms, markets and restaurants throughout the state to sample seasonal produce and homemade treats.

A calendar of special events adds to the fall activity options throughout the state. Fall in South Bend means Notre Dame football, and visitors can get in on the school spirit and seasonal festivities that surround every home game. In Rockville, the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival is the largest annual event in the state and showcases the best of small-town tradition. And Indianapolis hosts the Heartland Film Festival every October to highlight the work of independent filmmakers.

Falling for the Outdoors
The town of Nashville is a picturesque, pedestrian-friendly village that has become a favorite of tour groups visiting the area. But during fall, it’s the nearby Brown County State Park that captures travelers’ attention.

Brown County State Park is the largest state park in Indiana and is visited by more than 5 million people each year. Many come for the fall season, when the hundreds of thousands of trees throughout the park come alive in a brilliant display of color. Many groups choose to enjoy the foliage on horseback tours that are offered by an outfitter inside the park.

Visitors also have many other ways to enjoy fall, both inside and outside the park. Local companies offer bicycle rentals and guided all-terrain-vehicle excursions, as well as zip-line rides that take participants into the heart of the fall tree canopy for a colorful and thrilling experience.

Covered Bridge Celebration
In west-central Indiana, Parke County holds the distinction of having more covered bridges than any other county in the state. Many of the area’s 31 covered bridges were built long ago by members of nearby Amish communities, and today the bridges connect the area’s history to its lakes, rivers and other scenic beauty.

In the fall, locals celebrate their heritage with the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival. The event, which always begins on the second Friday in October, has taken place on the courthouse lawn in the town of Rockville since 1957 and has grown to become one of the largest festivals in the state.

Visitors to the festival will find local organizations selling food to raise funds for their nonprofit work. The streets around the courthouse fill with craft vendors, some of whom have displayed wares at the festival since it began more than 65 years ago.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.