I recently performed in a comedy show in a town I'd never heard of: Metamora, Indiana. I felt like I drove out of a wooded country side into a little paradise that time forgot. The small village (built in 1800's) is full of antique shops, tourist activities, and bed and breakfast residencies. A train brings people from other areas of Indiana into the area to enjoy a day of shopping and entertainment in the historical town. We looked like maniacs driving through town when we arrived. We were grinning ear to ear while exclaiming, "Oh, my god! This is awesome!" I never really ever thought I'd want to vacation in Indiana, but now I look forward to returning! So, here are five reasons I think you'll enjoy it as much as I did.
1) The people - they're absolutely crazy ( in the best way possible).
You know you're in a small town when some of the tenants have prefixes like "mad" or "drunk" or "sweet" in front of their name. We heard all kinds of tales about the town and met some amazing characters. The folks were all so nice, I just wanted to marry them. I actually said that to Catrina Campbell, our charming fiddle playing hostess at the Cat and the Fiddle at the Thorpe House where we stayed. She was so lively and kind; we felt so at home and didn't want to leave. The garden out front is charming, and you enter through a vintage shop into a dining area with things hanging everywhere including decorative umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. The place had a very New Orleans vibe to it, and it was full of kind souls. We had a blast with her boyfriend as well, who runs a comic book shop in the town (and cooks in her kitchen while wearing a Batman body apron). Although there are no liquor stores in the small town, the locals never have to go without. They knock her doors down for "bread pudding" that is topped with a cream topping made from schnapps and rum amongst other things. Another awesome family aided our desire to run away and live there. Smelly's Gourmet is one street over; it's a restaurant and shop with a guest room for visitors above it. It features amazing coffees, mouth watering paninis and his signature gourmet popcorn without hulls. He'll hand you a sampling of the popcorn as soon as you walk in, so you can be astounded at the delicious treat that does NOT get stuck in your teeth. A couple of musicians came in and started picking guitars and singing while we ate and were not even slightly offended that I started singing along with them. We just felt so welcomed everywhere we went.
"I was an engineer on a submarine for twenty years, so I could learn to do this just right," he said as he made my cappacino.
2) They've got a boat -and horses.
Our city has a boat and horses, but the two work together to pull visitors through Metamora along a canal from the 1800's. I can't tell you how ridiculously excited and fascinated I was with a wooden boat named "Ben Franklin" being pulled by horses plodding alongside on the banks nearby. I sang to the audience at the show, "Welcome to the Jungle, we've got fun and stores. We've got everything you want, we've got a boat pulled by a horse." Yes, I can be that ridiculously cheesy, but they loved it and so did I. There is also a large grist mill and museum that is free to enter.
3) They've got a train.
Running parallel just 20 feet or so from the canal, a train will carry you through town and the countryside and back again for just $4. You'll pass a lot of fields, canal locks, awesome historical structures and "Hearthstone" a restaurant and tavern where part of the movie Rainman was filmed. If you take pictures of the train conductors, one of them might pop out and wave a flag for you. You might even make some new friends like we did.
4) The security patrol.
After our arrival, we stood on the sidewalk at about 6:30 p.m. and were immediately amused at a cat strutting down the sidewalk as he swung his head side to side. "Here comes their security patrol," I said. "Making his 6:30 rounds." I wasn't far from the truth. We saw this cat making his sidewalk rounds several times while on our stay. He also showed up at the kitchen door for payment later in the evening.
5) The shops.
You can visit the many shops and walk away with a bag full of treasures without feeling like you had to save for a year to do so. Antiques,arts and crafts, baked goods, Amish cheeses, gemstones, homemade jellies, candles and more are all available at a pretty good price. You can mine for gems, too. There's even an "oddities museum" that looked really awesome, but the owner was out of town. I must return to see it. There are over 40 shops in the town comprised of just a couple streets, and I plan to return to do some Christmas shopping there.
The surrounding areas seemed to have some hidden gems, too. It's not in the small village town, but there is a castle on top of a nearby hill called Mount Metamora. Considering I had already made a Monty Python and the Holy Grail joke on the way there after seeing a farm run by nuns, I was even more amused to see this castle looming as we made the return drive to Louisville. Turns out they have a huge cross that is sacred and rare there that pilgrims come to visit. As if all of this didn't make for a surreal enough experience, we came down a big hilly and curvy country road to see some fellow grunting uphill on some sort of altered mountain unicycle. For about $20 in gas, $40 for food and drinks (for 2 people), and $50 for shopping and activities, we had an awesome time. I highly recommend it. I mean - come on: a boat, a horse, a train, antiques, a comic book shop, random unicyclers, and crazy awesome people you'll talk about for years to come -- how can you top that? You know you want to go. June 7th would be a great time to visit: It's their annual "Strawberry Days". You can spend less than $100 bucks to get away and enjoy all the live music and strawberry shortcake you can handle. (So, you know, the locals --like Louisvillians -- have their own pronounciation of their town: Mat- a- More).