What Is Indiana Known For? 23 Things Hoosiers Love About Themselves

Written by Mike Edmisten
Updated: November 2, 2023
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Key Points

  • 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).

2008 Indianapolis 500

The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” draws hundreds of thousands of fans every Memorial Day weekend.

©Carey Akin / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

2. Agriculture

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.

There are 189,000 dairy cows in Indiana, along with 4 million hogs and 7.3 million turkeys.

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.

Country road with red barn-Corn field lit by the rising sun-Cass County, Indiana

Picturesque farms fill the Indiana landscape, such as this one in Cass County.

©William Reagan/ via Getty Images

3. Basketball

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. 

Basket Ball Indiana Style

This might be the most Indiana picture ever!

©Michael Watz/ via Getty Images

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.

Huge Breaded Iowa Pork Tenderloin

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but have you ever seen an Indiana pork tenderloin?

©DarcyMaulsby/ via Getty Images

5. Universities

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.

Some of the largest universities in the state include Indiana University, Purdue University, Ball State University, and the University of Notre Dame.

Indiana University bookstore exterior in Bloomington

Indiana has many top universities, including Indiana University in Bloomington.

©Nicholas Klein/ via Getty Images

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.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

There is a new adventure around every corner at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis!

©Valerie Everett / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

7. Steel

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.

The largest integrated steel mill in North America is in Indiana. The Gary Works Mill is located in Gary on the shores of Lake Michigan. The mill has an annual capacity of 7.5 million net tons.

Gary Indiana  City Hall with US Steel Gary Works on the lakefront.

Gary, Indiana, is home to the largest integrated steel mill on the continent.

©Matthew Kaplan/ via Getty Images

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

Abraham Lincoln 

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.

Lincoln boyhood memorial, Indiana

The Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial is located in Lincoln City, Indiana.

©Cool10191 / Public domain – License

Benjamin Harrison

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)

9. Musicians

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.

Jackson family, 1977

The world-famous Jackson family, seen here in 1977, hailed from Gary, Indiana.

©CBS Television / Public domain – License

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.

Santa Claus Sign

Yes, Virginia… there is a Santa Claus, Indiana.

©suesmith2/ via Getty Images

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.

Homemade Sweet Sugar Cream Pie

Sugar Cream Pie is a simple, custard-style pie.

©bhofack2/ via Getty Images

12. Timber

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.

Hardwood Forest with small stream-Howard County Indiana

Hardwood forests proliferate in Indiana, such as this one in Howard County.

©William Reagan/iStock via Getty Images

13. Baseball 

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. 

Downtown Indianapolis

Victory Field, home of the Indianapolis Indians, is in the heart of the state capital.

©Momoneymoproblemz / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

14. RVs

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.

Exhibit Row in the RV/MH Hall of Fame

The RV Hall of Fame is filled with historic campers and motorhomes.

©Chris Light / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

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.

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts

Every Hoosier remembers Peyton Manning’s days as the Colts’ quarterback.

©Mike Morbeck / CC BY-SA 2.0 – License

16. Casinos

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.

casino dice

Indiana’s casino gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry each year.

©Alper Atmaca / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

17. Limestone

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.

Indiana Capitol Building.

Indiana limestone was used to construct the regal Indiana Statehouse.

©RudyBalasko/iStock via Getty Images

18. Skiing

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!

Perfect North Slopes, Lawrenceburg, Indiana

Perfect North Slopes is a popular ski resort in southeast Indiana.

©Serge Melki from Indianapolis, USA / CC BY 2.0 – License

19. Inventions

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).

Chuck Taylor shoes

The iconic Chuck Taylor shoe (or “Chucks” for short) was named for and marketed by Charles Hollis “Chuck” Taylor, a professional basketball player from Indianapolis.

©Jon Oakley from Eaglescliffe, England / CC BY 2.0 – License

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. 

Indiana Dunes National Park

The beauty and serenity of Indiana Dunes National Park invites visitors to slow down and just breathe.

©PhotosByLarissaB/iStock via Getty Images

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.

Indiana, the Hoosier State. Image extracted from page 235 of King's Hand-book of the United States planned and edited by M. King. Text by M. F. Sweetser, by SWEETSER, Moses Forster. Original held and digitized by the British Library

Indiana has been known as the Hoosier State for a very long time, as seen in this image from a British publication in 1891.

©British Library / Public domain – License

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.

New Richmond, Indiana sign

New Richmond fully embraces its role in

Hoosiers.

©Huw Williams (Huwmanbeing) / Public domain – License

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)
David Letterman, 2016

David Letterman, seen here accepting a Peabody Award, is from Indianapolis.

©Peabody Awards / CC BY 2.0 – License

  • 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

1.Auto Racing
2.Agriculture
3.Basketball
4.Pork Tenderloin
5.Universities
6.Children’s Museum
7.Steel
8.Presidents and Vice Presidents
9.Musicians
10.Santa Claus
11.Sugar Cream Pie (or Hoosier Pie)
12.Timber
13.Baseball
14.RVs
15.Colts and Pacers
16.Casinos
17.Limestone
18.Skiing
19.Inventions
20Indiana Dunes
21Hoosiers (The Nickname)
22Hoosiers (The Movie)
23Famous Folks

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jon Oakley from Eaglescliffe, England / CC BY 2.0 – License / Original


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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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