Less than 50 miles from Indianapolis, Anderson is a town that has gone through many phases since its inception, reinventing itself each time. As a result, it’s a town rich with a variety of things to experience, from expansive parks and trails along the beautiful White River, to theaters and museums as part of its local university, and world-class restaurants to whet any foodie’s appetite. Read on to discover how to make the most of your time in this small town with a big heart.
History of Anderson
Anderson was named after Chief William Anderson, the son of a Lenape Indian chief and Swedish settler. After being called Anderson Town and Andersontowne, its name was shortened to Anderson in 1844. Anderson grew thanks to the railroad system and industrial revolution bringing in jobs. Natural gas was discovered in 1887, sparking a population explosion. When the gas dried up in the early 1900s, Anderson transitioned to becoming a manufacturing hub until the 1970s when the factories closed up. Today, the town is best known for its university and as a headquarters for different religious organizations.
Best Restaurants in Anderson
1. The Lemon Drop
Looking for a good ole burger and fries? The Lemon Drop may look like an unassuming greasy spoon tucked away, but it is revered among locals for having the absolute best burgers in the area. A toy train runs along the perimeter, giving the restaurant an extra homey vibe. Make sure to try their specialty the onion burger, which has grilled onions sandwiches between two patties. And clean your palette with the titular lemon drop candies, served in a dish at the cash register.
2. Burro Loco
If you’re hankering for Mexican food while in town, Burro Loco has your hookup with delicious tacos and massive burritos. Transport yourself to a sandy beach with their signature lime margarita, served in a huge glass as blue as the ocean. They were voted the Best Margarita in Madison County, so go see for yourself what the fuss is about.
3. Gene’s Root Beer and Hot Dogs
Shuttle back to the 1960s with this old school joint where you’re served in your car. Not much has changed for Gene’s since they opened in 1964. Grab some root beer floats, hot dogs, ice cream, and their not-to-be-missed onion rings. It’s a really small town experience. Make sure to plan ahead because Gene’s is usually busy with a line to get in. People visit from across central Indiana for their trademark root beer and hot dogs.
4. 1925 Pub House
1925 Pub House has a wide variety of American-style food. Dig into steak. Cut yourself a slice of pizza. Enjoy seafood cuisine like lobster rolls and fish tacos. Everything tastes great. There’s a breezy patio for outdoor seating in the spring and summer, or hang by the bar and catch all your favorite sports games while nursing a beer.
5. Art’s Pizza
Art’s has been family run since 1956, and that personal touch is still evident today in their thin crust pizza, cut into signature horizontal strips. They’re also known for piling on the toppings, so keep this in mind when ordering. If you’re looking for something hardier, check out their incredible roast beef sandwich, the homemade roast beef is made fresh each day.
Best Outdoor Activities in Anderson
6. Mounds State Park
Situated on the White River, Mounds State Park is the biggest park in Anderson. The park is named for the three ceremonial mounds from ancient indigenous people built between 250 BC and 50 AD, older than the Roman Coliseum. Researchers still aren’t 100% certain what the mounds were used for, so allow your mind to go wild with possibilities when you visit. Take advantage of six different hiking trails, campgrounds, and entrance spots for canoeing and kayaking on the river.
Entrance Fee (for Hoosiers): $7, Entrance Fee (for non-Hoosiers): $9
7. Rangeline Nature Preserve
Rangeline Nature Preserve is a 180-acre nature preserve ideal for mountain bikers. They have a variety of biking trails by skill level, with different obstacles for you to conquer like suspension bridges, gap jumps, and teeter totters. Their expert 6-mile trail is one of the most challenging in the state, while the 2-mile novice trail is great for families.
8. White River Paintball
With 12 exciting paint ball fields, WRP is Indiana’s largest outdoor paintball facility and a great group activity. You can book private parties or participate in open play. They also have scenario events, like invasions and heists, where you can role play like you’re the star of an action movie. For experienced paint ballers, check out their Chuck Norris package, which gets you 1000 paint balls to use.
9. Sanders Memorial Disc Golf Course
A fan of disc golf, or frolf as Andy Bernard called it? You can enjoy 18 holes at the Sanders Memorial course, founded in 2017 by a local disc golf league. The course is free and open to the public, and on their website, you can print out a scorecard. Unlike actual golf, you don’t need expensive clubs to play, just a frisbee.
10. Shadyside Memorial Park
Founded in 1897 as a park for railroad employees, Shadyside Memorial Park boasts walking trails, sand volleyball courts, and paddle boat rentals for the White River. They’re the home of Terrace Gardens, commonly known as the Japanese Gardens, with beautiful outdoor structures for relaxing. They’re also a popular spot to take wedding pictures, so you may just see a bride and groom-to-be on your visit.
11. Anderson Community Park
IF you are interested in local history, then you will want to check out Anderson Community Park. The park features a concrete monument dedicated to those from Andreson who strove to better their community, through the armed services or social justice initiatives. Different bricks in the monument are dedicated to specific people.
Best Cultural and Educational Places to visit in Anderson
12. The Museum of Madison County History
The Madison County Historical Society runs the local museum. Learn about the interesting history of Anderson and its surrounding communities through objects, artifacts, documents, and photographs preserved from nearly thousands of years of history. They have exhibits ranging from fossils and tools of indigenous tribes to life on the home front during World War II. For the crafters out there, they also have in-depth exhibits on quilting, as well as old model trains and doll house restored in exquisite detail.
13. Anderson Museum of Art
The Anderson Museum of Art focused as much on nurturing local talent as they do bringing in works. They regularly host calls and stage exhibitions of local artists. There are community programs to encourage Anderson residents to tap into their creative side. Checking out local art is one of the best ways to get a feel for the community. You can see firsthand the deep bench of talent waiting to be discovered.
14. Jeeninga Museum & Wilson Gallery
Both are conveniently located on the campus of Anderson University. The Jeeninga hosts a collection of near eastern and biblical archaeology, including original artifacts from the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Hellenistic, Roman, and Israelite periods of the ancient Near East. The Wilson Gallery features regionally and nationally recognized artists, as well as the work of Anderson University’s design students.
15. Gruenwald Historic House
Experience the best of historic Anderson with this house, once owned by the Gruenwalds, a prominent, wealthy family in the 1800s. Soak in the restored architecture of this French Second Empire House. The beautiful winding staircase at the center was meant for a social media post. Learn about the development of the town and the family via a guided tour.
Best Entertainment Options in Anderson
16. York Performance Hall & Byrum Hall
Take in a show at the performance spaces at Anderson University. The venues have hosted choral concerts, orchestras, musicals, and plays. There are different performances going on around campus throughout the school year. Check the website to see what’s playing.
17. The Paramount Theater Center
This gorgeous theater was built in 1927 for vaudeville shows and now showcases music performances and local original performances. Its intricate interior design gives the illusion of a Spanish casa or villa complete with wrought-iron gates, statues, a ceiling painted like a sky with stars that really twinkled, and clouds projected onto the ceiling which slowly moved across the sky.
18. The Scrounge Around
What’s a trip without a little bit of shopping? Rather than break the bank, visit the Scrounge Around, a massive flea market featuring over 130 vendors. It’s the largest market in the area, perfect for wandering and exploring. Get lost in the different booths filled with vintage furniture, books, and accessories. You may just find a steal!
19. Belgian Horse Winery
For the wine and beer lovers, treat yourself to a visit to this local winery. They infuse their drinks with fresh fruit like raspberries, blackberries, and peaches. Do a tasting or have a drink while enjoying their outdoor summer concert series and let your cares fade away.
20. Harrah’s Hoosier Park
Some of that Vegas razzle dazzle can be found right in Indiana. Test your poker face at their casino. Root on the next Seabiscuit at their horse-racing track. Settle in for a delicious dinner at their steakhouse and end your night with a comedian or music performance in their main auditorium.
Anderson offers something for everyone, whether you want to hike or bike, watch a show or take in an art exhibit. Whatever your speed, you can easily find a good time and really good food. Take advantage of their Midwest hospitality for a long weekend and let the serenity of the White River carry you away!