- Indiana is known for auto racing, with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway being the home of the world-famous Indianapolis 500.
- Agriculture is a significant industry in Indiana, with family-owned farms contributing over $35 billion to the state’s economy each year.
- Basketball is deeply ingrained in Indiana’s culture, with the state producing basketball superstars and the excitement of high school basketball tournaments being coined as ‘Hoosier Hysteria’.
- Indiana is the largest steel-producing state in the US, accounting for nearly one-fourth of the total US steel production.
- Indiana is home to the largest children’s museum in the world, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which welcomes over one million visitors each year.
Indiana is in the heart of the United States Midwest. It is the 13th smallest state in the U.S. in terms of total land area, but it is also the 17th most populous state. An estimated 6.8 million people call Indiana home, per the United States Census Bureau. Why do so many people choose to live in Indiana? What do Hoosiers know and love about their state? While this is far from an exhaustive list, here are 23 things that set the Hoosier State apart. A few of them may be a bit surprising to folks outside of Indiana.
1. Auto Racing
This first one probably comes as a surprise to nobody. Racing is as synonymous with Indiana as sunshine in Florida, potatoes in Idaho, and music in Tennessee. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway claims to be The Racing Capital Of The World, and it’s hard to argue with that assertion.
The 2.5-mile track is located in Speedway, Indiana, a town on the west side of Indianapolis. When the town itself is named for a race track, that’s a sign that residents take their racing rather seriously!
The speedway itself boasts the largest seating capacity of any spectator venue in the world, with 257,325 permanent seats. The highest attendance ever at the speedway was 350,000 in 2016.
The speedway is home to the world-famous Indianapolis 500. The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is held on Memorial Day weekend each year. The track also hosts the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard, a NASCAR race that replaced the Brickyard 400 in 2021, along with other races and events throughout the year.
Indiana is also the home state of some of the biggest stars in racing, such as John Andretti (Indianapolis), Jeff Gordon (Pittsboro), Tony Stewart (Columbus), Chase Briscoe (Mitchell), and Justin Haley (Winamac).
According to the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), there are 56,649 farming operations in Indiana, with an average farm size of 264 acres. Ninety-five percent of the state’s farms are family-owned and operated.
Indiana is the eighth-largest farming state and agricultural exporter in the nation. Agriculture contributes over $35 billion to the state’s economy each year.
Indiana is the top state for commercial duck production in the United States. It ranks second in popcorn, processed tomatoes, and total egg production, third in spearmint, fourth in pumpkin and peppermint, and fifth in corn, soybean, and watermelon production.
Indiana and basketball are inseparable. Dr. James Naismith, who is credited for creating the game, said, “While the game was invented in Massachusetts, basketball really had its origin in Indiana, which remains the center of the sport.”
The state has produced basketball superstars such as Louie Dampier (Indianapolis), Larry Bird (French Lick), John Wooden (Martinsville), Charles “Chuck” Taylor (Brown County), Oscar Robertson (Indianapolis), and many others.
Whether it’s high school, college, or professional basketball, the people of Indiana are here for it. They even coined the phrase “Hoosier Hysteria” to describe the excitement of Indiana residents about basketball, specifically the state high school basketball tournament.
4. Pork Tenderloin
The pork tenderloin sandwich was reportedly created at Nick’s Kitchen, a diner in Huntington. Nick Freienstein opened the diner in 1908, and the breaded pork sandwiches are still made in that location using his original recipe.
One trademark of an authentic Indiana pork tenderloin sandwich is the size of the tenderloin. It far exceeds the size of the bun on which it is served. It is a staple of fairs, festivals, and more in the Hoosier State.
Indiana is home to some of the top colleges in the nation. Loyalties to these schools are often sharply divided within the state itself, though, especially when it comes to basketball, football, and other collegiate sports.
6. Children’s Museum
The largest children’s museum in the world is found in Indiana. The stated mission of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is “to create extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that have the power to transform the lives of children and families.”
That mission is seen in every inch of the 472,900 square feet of space at the museum. There are five floors of exhibit halls with over 130,000 artifacts and exhibit items on display. The museum welcomes over one million visitors each year. It is a world-renowned treasure that sits in the heart of the Hoosier State.
Pittsburgh may be the “Steel City,” but Indiana could be known as the Steel State. It is the largest steel-producing state in the nation, accounting for nearly one-fourth of the total U.S. steel production. In 2022, Indiana produced nearly twice as much steel as Ohio, the nation’s second-largest steel-producing state.
8. Presidents and Vice Presidents
Indiana has been the home of three U.S. presidents and six vice presidents.
William Henry Harrison
Prior to his election as the ninth president of the United States, William Henry Harrison served as the territorial governor of the Northwest Territory. During his governorship, he lived at “Grouseland,” a 300-acre estate in Vincennes. It is now a national historic landmark.
While he was born in Kentucky and lived in Illinois as an adult, Abraham Lincoln spent some of his most formative years in Indiana. He lived in Spencer County near modern-day Santa Claus from 1816-1830. His boyhood home is a national memorial in southwest Indiana. The memorial includes a museum, a living historical farm, and the final resting place of Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln.
Lincoln would go on to serve as the nation’s 16th president and would lead the Union through the Civil War. He is widely regarded as the greatest president in U.S. history.
The grandson of William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison served as the 23rd president of the United States. He was born in Cincinnati but moved to Indianapolis to practice law before entering politics. The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is located in Indianapolis. Harrison launched his famous “Front Porch Campaign” from this house, speaking from the porch to listeners gathered in the street.
Six U.S. vice presidents were either born or spent much of their lives in Indiana.
- Schuyler Colfax, VP under Ulysses S. Grant (South Bend)
- Thomas A. Hendricks, VP under Grover Cleveland (Shelby County)
- Charles W. Fairbanks, VP under Theodore Roosevelt (Indianapolis)
- Thomas R. Marshall, VP under Woodrow Wilson (North Manchester)
- Dan Quayle, VP under George H.W. Bush (Indianapolis)
- Mike Pence, VP under Donald Trump (Columbus)
Indiana has produced a significant number of world-famous musicians. For example, the Jackson family hailed from Gary, Indiana. Michael, Janet, Tito, Jermaine, La Toya, and the rest of the Jackson siblings all got their start in the Hoosier State.
Some other famous Indiana musicians include:
- John Mellencamp (Seymour)
- Adam Lambert (Indianapolis)
- Cole Porter (Peru)
- Axl Rose, Guns N’ Roses singer (Lafayette)
- Izzy Stradlin, Guns N’ Roses guitarist (Lafayette)
- David Lee Roth, Van Halen singer (Bloomington)
- Connie Smith (Elkhart)
- Steve Wariner, (Noblesville)
- Deniece Williams, (Gary)
- Kenneth Edmonds, better known as Babyface (Indianapolis)
While we’re on the subject of music, did you know that the Band Instrument Capital of the World is in Indiana? Elkhart County houses several major band instrument manufacturers, including Selmer and United Musical Instruments. Elkhart also features an annual jazz festival that draws around 20,000 people each year.
Along with band instruments, Elkhart is the capital for another type of manufacturing, as well. More to come on that.
10. Santa Claus
So you thought that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole, right? Well, he also has a residence in Indiana. In fact, he has an entire town named after him: Santa Claus, Indiana.
The town is located in Spencer County in southwestern Indiana. It was founded in 1854 and was originally known as Santa Fe. However, the U.S. postal service refused to accept the name as an official mailing address because another Indiana town was already called Santa Fe. The town’s name was changed to Santa Claus, and you’d better believe this small town has leveraged that name to its fullest extent.
It’s Christmas all year long in Santa Claus. While visiting this Indiana town, you can enjoy Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Santa’s Candy Castle, the Santa Claus Museum, Frosty’s Fun Center, Santa’s Lodge, Lake Rudolph, and much more.
It should also be noted that Bobby Helms, who recorded the iconic holiday tune “Jingle Bell Rock,” was born less than two hours up the road from Santa Claus in Brown County. So, no one will judge you if you want to dance and prance in Jingle Bell Square.
11. Sugar Cream Pie (or Hoosier Pie)
This pie is a true Indiana original. Sugar cream pie dates back to the 1800s, though its precise origin is up for debate. Some claim it came from Indiana’s Shaker communities, while others assert it was a creation of the state’s Amish communities. Either way, the earliest recipe for sugar cream pie dates back more than 160 years.
The pie is a “desperation pie,” meaning it could be made from simple ingredients that were on hand even in tough economic times. Most sugar cream pie recipes include sugar, whipping cream or milk, flour, and butter. In some variations, you can add cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla.
Sugar cream pie was named the unofficial state pie of Indiana in 2009 through a special, nonbinding resolution in the Indiana Senate.
If you want to sample some of Indiana’s best sugar cream pies (along with many other types of pie), you can visit the 32 stops along the Hoosier Pie Trail.
Over 80 percent of the state’s land is either farm or forested land. Indiana is a top-tier state for hardwood production. In fact, it is the number one state for wood office furniture and hardwood veneer production. It is the second largest state for wood kitchen cabinets and countertops, third for engineered wood products, and fourth for pre-fabricated wood buildings.
The timber industry is on a sustainable track in the Hoosier State. ISDA reports that Indiana’s forests are growing in volume by more than 1.8 times the amount being removed.
This may seem strange, considering Indiana doesn’t have a Major League Baseball team. The state does feature numerous minor league teams, including the very popular Indianapolis Indians that play at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
The state’s love of baseball is not just found in its modern-day teams, though. The first professional baseball game ever played was contested in Fort Wayne in 1871.
Also, the music for the iconic song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” was written by Indianapolis native Albert Gumm in 1908.
Elkhart is not only the Band Instrument Capital of the World. It is also the RV Capital of the World. There are well over 30 RV manufacturers headquartered in Elkhart, including major companies such as Forest River, Keystone, Skyline, Sun Valley, Thor, and many others. Approximately 60 percent of all motorhomes and travel trailers on U.S. roads today were manufactured in Elkhart.
Appropriately, Elkhart is also home to the RV Hall of Fame & Museum. The video below details what you can expect when you visit the hall of fame.
15. Colts and Pacers
Indiana is home to two major league sports franchises: the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League (NFL) and the Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). It should come as no surprise that Hoosiers rabidly support these teams.
The Pacers were formed in 1967 as part of the American Basketball Association. The team would move to the NBA in 1976. The Pacers have been a fixture in Indianapolis since the team’s inception.
The Colts were founded in Baltimore. They played in Maryland from 1953 until they moved to Indianapolis after the 1983 season. Today, it is hard for Hoosiers to imagine a time without the Colts playing in Indy.
Star players from these organizations, such as Peyton Manning and Reggie Miller, are Indiana royalty.
While casinos are relatively new in some neighboring states, such as Ohio, and still illegal in other states, such as Kentucky, the casino gaming industry has been a mainstay in Indiana for many years. There are currently twelve casinos operating in the Hoosier State. Those casinos brought in a whopping $2.5 billion in revenue from July 2021 to June 2022, the seventh-highest among all U.S. states.
So we now know that the Band Instrument Capital and the RV Capital are both in Indiana, but we’re not finished yet. The Limestone Capital of the World is also located in the Hoosier State.
Bedford, Indiana, is considered the world’s limestone capital. The limestone quarried in Bedford has been used to construct the Indiana Statehouse, as well as the National Cathedral, the Pentagon, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Empire State Building. Salem limestone was designated as the official stone of Indiana by the state’s lawmakers in 1971.
This one admittedly seems odd, especially to those outside of Indiana. But, while Colorado will always be the skiing Mecca of the U.S., Indiana gives midwesterners a chance to hit the slopes, as well. Paoli Peaks in Paoli and Perfect North Slopes in Lawrenceburg are the state’s two notable ski resorts.
And, in case you’re wondering if Indiana skiing is the real deal, just remember that freestyle skiers Nick Goepper and Justin Schoenefeld are both from Lawrenceburg and learned to ski at Perfect North Slopes. Goepper has won multiple Olympic medals, and Schoenefeld is an Olympic gold medalist, so yeah… the skiing in Indiana is for real!
Indiana was the birthplace of many inventions that we take for granted today. A shortlist of inventions from the Hoosier State includes:
- the rearview mirror
- the gas pump
- sliced bacon
- the breathalyzer test
- the Gatling gun (the precursor to the modern machine gun)
- Wonder Bread
- Chuck Taylors shoes
Indiana was also home to the first city ever lit by electricity (Wabash).
20. Indiana Dunes
There is one national park in the Hoosier State. Indiana Dunes National Park was originally designated as a national lakeshore in 1966 but was reclassified as a national park in 2019.
Indiana Dunes is located on the shores of Lake Michigan. The park extends for about 20 miles and encompasses 15,349 acres. The park features shifting sand dunes, swamps, bogs, prairies, rivers, and forests.
There are over 50 miles of trails through all the different ecological features in the park. Birding is especially popular, with over 350 species of birds observed within the park.
There are eight pristine beaches in the park where visitors can swim in the summer and marvel at Lake Michigan’s shelf ice in the winter.
21. Hoosiers (The Nickname)
Indiana residents have been known as Hoosiers for well over 150 years. It is one of the most common state nicknames in the nation, but no one is sure where the name originated or what it means exactly. The word showed up as early as the 1830s in a poem, letters, and political speeches. It slowly became more widely used in the following decades, but again, no one knows its genesis or original meaning.
One theory posits that when someone knocked on the door of an Indiana pioneer cabin, the resident would respond, “Who’s here?” That phrase morphed into the word, Hoosier.
Another possibility suggests there was a contractor named Hoosier who worked on the Lousiville and Portland Canal. He hired workers from Indiana, and they were known as “Hoosier’s men.” The term later came to be applied to all Indiana residents.
There are other, more outlandish theories as well. While we don’t know the origin of the name, we now know it as a moniker that Indianans wear with pride. So much so that the athletic teams of Indiana University are known as the Hoosiers.
22. Hoosiers (The Movie)
This 1986 film starring Gene Hackman has become part of the Indiana identity. The movie centers on a coach with a spotty past and a local drunk who led a small-town high school basketball team to the state championship. It is loosely based on the true story of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team. The team won the state championship on a last-second shot by Bobby Plump. It came to be known as “The Milan Miracle.”
The film was set in the fictional town of Hickory, Indiana. It was based in the small town of New Richmond in Montgomery County. New Richmond was used as a filming location for Hoosiers. Other filming locations in the state included Knightstown, Brownsburg, Lebanon, and Indianapolis.
Hoosiers has become known as one of the best sports movies ever made. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 2001.
23. Famous Folks
Indiana has a long list of famous residents. Some of those well-known Hoosiers include:
- Johnny Appleseed (pioneer who introduced apple trees to Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and beyond)
- Jim Gaffigan (comedian)
- James Dean (actor)
- David Letterman (late-night host)
- Lew Wallace (Civil War general, author of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ)
- Fuzzy Zoeller (golfer, Masters and U.S. Open champion)
- David Boudia (diver, Olympic gold medalist)
- Bridget Sloan (gymnast, silver medalist)
- Jim Davis (cartoonist, creator of “Garfield”)
- Gil Hodges (Hall of Fame baseball player)
- Jane Pauley (journalist)
- Kurt Vonnegut (writer)
- Edd Roush (Hall of Fame baseball player)
- Brendan Fraser (actor)
- Wilbur Wright (eldest of the Wright brothers)
- Jenna Fischer (actor)
- James Brian Hellwig, better known as The Ultimate Warrior (professional wrestler)
- Hank Stram (Hall of Fame football coach)
- Florence Henderson (actor)
- John Dillinger (infamous gangster)
- Orville Redenbacher (popcorn entrepreneur)
- Craig Counsell (baseball player)
- Colonel Sanders (yes, the creator of Kentucky Fried Chicken is from Indiana!)
- Steve McQueen (actor)
- Scott Rolen (Hall of Fame baseball player)
- Alex Smith (football player)
Summary of 23 Things Hoosiers Love About Themselves
|Presidents and Vice Presidents
|Sugar Cream Pie (or Hoosier Pie)
|Colts and Pacers
|Hoosiers (The Nickname)
|Hoosiers (The Movie)
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