Located approximately 40 minutes northeast of Indianapolis, Anderson, Ind., the county seat of Madison County, offers a unique blend of Midwest history, cultural experiences and, of course, tasty eats.
The city, which has a population of 55,800, offers several historic landmarks showcasing notable moments in the state from the Civil War until the present day. Start at the Museum of Madison County with collected artifacts from 1884 to the present day. Archivists and preservationists have amassed photos, documents, relics and antiques – even dinosaur bones found in a nearby bog – about Madison County and the city of Anderson.
Situated inside a former bank, complete with vaults and antiquated safe deposit boxes, the museum takes up three floors and 23,000 square feet. A volunteer docent guides guests through the building, starting at the entry with display cases full of Civil War items such as guns, cannonballs and photographs and culminates in the basement with dollhouses and working model train collections. Vintage glassware and exhibits of the once booming Indiana auto industry fill the top floor. While not every exhibit is connected to the area, such as the mini locomotives, they were donated by Madison County residents. The museum is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.
A block away is the must-see Paramount Theatre Centre and Ballroom, a beautifully restored venue dating back to 1928. Initially built for vaudeville and silent movies, the space has undergone extensive renovations since reopening in 1995. The non-profit Paramount Heritage Foundation dedicates itself to the building’s preservation. According to the theater’s website, it’s the location of one of three remaining Grande Page Pipe Organs in the United States, and currently boasts the second largest non-IMAX screen in Indiana. The 1,458-seat theater holds live performances and shows films throughout the year. Tours are offered at $20 per person, and reservations must be made beforehand.
If visiting the theater, take a quick detour through the adjacent Artist’s Alley, an outdoor art gallery supported by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority. Once a blighted pass from a parking lot behind the theater to Meridian Street, patio lights crisscross overhead while a pair of swings add a sense of fun. It now provides an opportunity for local artists to present their work to the public.
If exploring Anderson works up an appetite, not to be missed is The Lemon Drop, a roadhouse burger spot a quick five-minute drive from downtown. Opened in 1954, the brightly painted yellow restaurant with the retro sign has been a fixture for travelers and locals. With a model train traveling the circumference of the ceiling, it’s a quintessential hamburger joint with three booths and a dozen stools around a counter. Simplicity is key here. Just order a single or double of the famous onionburger or toasted cheeseburger – or maybe a breaded pork tenderloin – add fries or onion rings and a milkshake, and you definitely won’t go home hungry.