Why would anyone go to Elkhart, Indiana? Well, if you own an RV, there’s a good chance that you would visit because Elkhart is everything RV. The small city touts itself as being RV Capitol of the World and rightfully so. But what if I told you there are so many other cool things to do in this Indiana lake town while you’re waiting for your RV to be repaired?
Most RVers can appreciate the importance of Elkhart, Indiana. More than 80 percent of global RV and component production is based throughout this region. That means that if you see an RV rolling down the road anywhere in the world, chances are that it was built in northern Indiana.
Truckload after truckload of fifth wheel caps, travel trailer frames, lumber, steel and aluminum, all zip from one manufacturer to another. It’s common to see big box trucks with RV component advertising wraps carting products to different manufacturing plants any given day of the week. Elkhart is one of those cities where even rust never sleeps.
This is precisely why Elkhart, Indiana prides itself as the RV Capitol of the World. But, while RVs seemingly are the main attraction, there’s much more to to see and do in this small northern Indiana city.
But, before we see all there is to do and see in Elkhart, let’s learn about how this incredible city earned its’ place.
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About Elkhart, Indiana
Located only 15 miles east of South Bend, Indiana, 110 miles east of Chicago, Illinois, and 150 miles north of Indianapolis, Indiana, Elkhart prides itself as being the Recreational Vehicle Capital of the World.
In 1935, thanks to Wilbur Schult, the production of the very first camper trailer began; just one trailer per day. Those campers sold for just under $200.
By 1948, the media referenced Elkhart, Indiana as the Trailer Capitol of the World. At that point, 100 companies were building recreational trailers in Elkhart County.
Today, approximately half of the RV’s you encounter the road was built in Elkhart County.
But, Elkhart, Indiana is also known as the “Band Instrument Capital of the World” for decades.
The Bonneyville Mill is Indiana’s oldest continuously operating grist mill. And, Speedy Alka-Seltzer, the character symbolizing the product Alka-Seltzer, is a notable native. Alka-Seltzer was produced in Elkhart by Miles Laboratories – now Bayer Corp, which holds the trademark on Speedy.
As more manufacturers sprung up, they attracted more suppliers, which in turned lucrative by enticing more manufacturers to set up shop. Because of Elkhart’s geographical location, this small city became an important transportation hub for not only RV and RV component manufacturers but also other corporations and brands. Railroads, Rivers and Roadways all come together in Elkhart, Indiana, making it a prime location for industry of all types.
Thus, Elkhart, Indiana became an important map dot. Today, this small up and coming hip Indiana city offers so much more than industry! From quilt gardens, huge painted murals, elks and hearts, nature and walks to remember, it’s all here! I promise, you’ll need more than a week or two to experience what Elkhart is all about!
So, let’s explore and read about the 15 things to do in Elkhart, Indiana!
15 Best Things to Do in Elkhart, Indiana
RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum
|ADDRESS: 21565 Executive Parkway, Elkhart, IN 46516|
|PHONE: (574) 293-2344|
|WEBSITE: RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum|
The RV-MH Hall of Fame and Museum is where over 80 years of the RV industry shows what it’s all about under one roof. You’ll get to experience how outdoor recreation and camping began in trailers and how, through the many decades, it’s become one of the biggest industries in the world.
The three halls of the RV-MH Museum; the RV Founders Hall, Exhibitors Hall, and the Go RVing Hall.
Step inside the RV Founders Hall where you trek through from the RV industry’s birth to the advancements of today. You can find a great collection of RV originals and early models of trailers and 1920’s and 1930’s memorabilia. Here, you will be able to view the following exhibits:
- Mae West’s 1931 Chevrolet Housecar
- Walk along the road back into the history of the RV industry
- 1969 Ford Based Chassis Mount Motorhome
- Fleetwood’s First Motorhome – 1969 Fleetwood Pace Arrow
- 1985 prototype of 1986-87 Fleetwood Bounder
- 1932 Gilkie Tent Trailer
- 1954 Ranger By Hille Engineering Pop Up Trailer
- 1931 Tennessee Traveler Motorhome
1974 GMC Motorhome
Check out the Go RVing Hall that features a contemporary, state-of-the-art display celebrating the campaign’s vital role in the RV industry and invites visitors to discover RVing as it is today. You’ll get to step inside select new RVs to compare those you’ve seen in the RV Founders Hall. And enjoy a video as well as interactive digital kiosks that you can research everything from RV manufacturers, campgrounds and RV dealerships.
And lastly, don’t miss the museum’s Exhibitor Hall that displays everything from component manufacturers, service providers, RV insurance, travel services and even RV camping opportunities history and how far the RV industry has come.
Elkhart Riverwalk Trail
|ADDRESS: Downtown Elkhart, IN 46514|
The RiverWalk Trail gets you to some of the most popular food and entertainment of downtown. Discover concerts, art, architecture and parks along the Elkhart River. The Riverwalk will be expanded to complete a full 1.5 mile loop around The River District.
Located on the Elkhart River and starting either off of Main St near the bridge or on Waterfall Dr. near High St, this Riverwalk is a scenic walk next to the water. It’s beautiful and can be romantic. It’s a nice way to take the stress of the day and tuck it away with a nice walk along this River.
This Riverwalk allows you to get up close and personal with the river without getting so close that you will fall in. In the middle of the walk is Island Park where you can circle the island and really get a great view of both the St Joe and Elkhart Rivers.
You can enjoy the RiverWalk any day you want from dawn until dusk. Whether you’re needing a stroll by yourself or to get the family out for a walk, the RiverWalk is a great place for just that.
|ADDRESS: 410 S. Main Street, Elkhart, IN 46516|
|PHONE: (574) 293-4469|
|WEBSITE: Elkhart Gateway Mile|
Elkhart’s Gateway Mile is where you can start your cultural tour of the city. Located in downtown Elkhart, you’ll walk the mile exploring lots of local pub and grub venues, museums, local shops and stores, and more!
You can enjoy a breakfast bagel and coffee in the morning, late lunch at a bistro, or a dim-lit white tablecloth dinner with an ice cream sweet treat for anytime! And for those who dig deep into the nightlife, there’s a microbrew and winery that’s perfect for an evening closer.
Discover and enjoy the outdoor art in urban settings, indoor places with storied pasts, beautiful quilt gardens and eclectic events. All of which connect Elkhart’s scenic RiverWalk with three unique districts.
|ADDRESS: 410 South Main St., Elkhart, IN 46514|
|PHONE: (574) 294-4469|
|WEBSITE: Lerner Theater|
Lights! Camera! Action! The Lerner Theater is all about the performing arts in this amazingly recently renovated 1920’s 1700 seat movie theater and ballroom. Enjoy everything from musicals, films, theatrical arts and other performances that will earn your applause.
Originally opened in 1924, it’s stood the test of time of enjoyment through the silver screen, magicians, acrobats, comedians to singers and dancers, and even if you’re not scheduled to see a show or performance, you may, with permission, score a view of the beautiful classical and ornate interior.
The architects left no stone unturned when renovating the interior! Resemblance of a 19th century European opera house takes center state with its’ gigantic chandelier, rotunda ceiling and balcony. Marble floors of every color, rich red seating and gilded gold will welcome you into a world of make believe filled with performances including acting performances, music and dance.
Midwest Museum of American Art
|ADDRESS: 429 South Main St, Elkhart, IN 46516|
|PHONE: (574) 293-6660|
|WEBSITE: Midwest Museum of American Art|
If you’d love a quiet afternoon away from the kids, then trek off to the Midwest Museum of American Art. But then again, you may want to take your teens if that’s their thing.
There’s two big must sees at the museum, the largest Norman Rockwell lithograph collection and the largest Overbeck Art Pottery collection in the state; also paintings, sculpture and ceramics.
The museum is a beautifully renovated bank building locate in downtown Elkhart, Indiana. Amongst the two big features noted above, you’ll also get to enjoy their 19th-21st century American Art. There’s a wonderful collection of Norman Rockwell lithographs, signed by himself.
National New York Central Railroad Museum
|ADDRESS: 721 S Main, Elkhart, IN 46515|
|PHONE: (574) 294-3001|
|WEBSITE: National New York Central Railroad Museum|
Located in downtown Elkhart, the National New York Central Railroad Museum welcomes visitors to learn about the coming of locomotive transportation and how they were symbols of progress.
Once, the second-largest railroad in the United States, the New York Central routed 11,000 miles of track in eleven states and two Canadian provinces. Just as when the railroad first arrived in Elkhart in 1851, Elkhart still functions as a vital link in the chain connecting the Atlantic Seaboard with the Midwest and beyond.
Heritage Trail Auto Tour
|ADDRESS: 3421 Cassopolis St., Elkhart, IN 46514|
|WEBSITE: Heritage Trail Audio Driving Tour|
Even if you’re not big on museums and nature, you still can take a cool tour without even leaving your car! The 90 mile Heritage Trail Audio Driving Tour is one of most scenic drives through some of America’s heartland.
You’ll learn about the history of Elkhart and surrounding communities while enjoying the beautiful rural landscapes looping through Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Bristol, Wakarusa, and Shipshewana.
The Heritage Trail can be as short or long as you’d like. But it’s easy to make it into an all-day adventure through Indiana’s Amish countryside where over 20,000 Amish residents call home. You’ll get the full monty of how Elkhart became a well-establish city of industry, culture and heritage. From RV manufacturing, Alka Seltzer, quilt gardens, and even delicious home baked goodies, you’ll be amazed by everything you see, smell and learn.
You can pick up your free self-guiding Heritage Trail audio CD from the Elkhart County Visitors Center in Elkhart or other stops along the trail. Then, set out on what Life magazine called One of America’s Most Scenic Drives.
Just make sure you have a full tank of fuel and some cash, because you’re going to want to shop for Amish handcrafts or stop for some pop and pie!
Elkhart County Visitors Center – 3421 Cassopolis St, Elkhart, IN 46514
Hall of Heroes Comic and Superhero Museum
|ADDRESS: 1915 Cassopolis Street, Elkhart, IN 46514|
|PHONE: (574) 333-3406|
|WEBSITE: Hall of Heroes Comic and Superhero Museum|
If you’re a comic book and super hero fanatic, Elkhart’s very own world renowned Superhero Museum and Hall of Heroes is the place for you!
Enjoy meandering about this incredible museum that winds you through 75 years of Super Hero history. Get up close up views of over 60,000 comic books, comic artwork, and tons of super hero toys, action figures and movie props.
Check out the original Batman costume worn by Adam West, a replica of the Bat Cave, the actual ’65 Shelby Cobra from Iron Man, the Ghost Rider motorcycle and even the Captain America Shield!
For less than $10 per person (kids are less!), he Superhero Museum is a great to spend a cold or rainy afternoon with your favorite comics.
Wellfield Botanic Gardens
|ADDRESS: 1011 North Main Street, Elkhart, IN 46514|
|PHONE: (574) 266-2006 x105|
|WEBSITE: Wellfield Botanic Gardens|
Open all year, Wellfield Botanic Gardens 36 acre natural growing community affords incredible educational opportunities, workshops and seasonal programming.
The botanical gardens reside on the historical piece of property originally known as the North Main Street Well Field. Since the mid-1800’s, this historical property has been a source of hydraulic energy and drinking water for the City of Elkhart.
Throughout the year, you can happen upon cool festivals and special events. In the Springtime in May, they plant their Peace Quilt Garden. Depending on when you visit determines the progress of this beautiful array of flora.
During the summer months, you and your family can enjoy their summer concert series. The Fall brings color to the leaves while the winter sparks the holiday season with their wonderland holiday lighting.
If you love botanic gardens, check out 15 Best Botanical Gardens in the United States
Linton’s Enchanted Gardens
|ADDRESS: 315 County Road 17, Elkhart, IN 46516|
|PHONE: (574) 293-9699|
|WEBSITE: Linton’s Enchanted Gardens|
If you and your family loves fairy tales and enchantment, look no further than looking for those fairies at Linton’s Enchanted Gardens.
It’s own botanical 9 acre outdoor displays will lead you to whimsical garden designs sparking tons of mythical imagination. You’ll see lots of exotic and rare plants of the Heartland. And, according to Trip Advisor, Linton’s has been recognized as the number one tourist attraction in Indiana!
And just when you think you’ve seen every quilt garden, there’s yet another; a Vera Bradley-inspired quilt garden.
Of course, the kids will love to visit the animals at the free petting zoo. And then, they can take a tour of the beautiful grounds on the Enchanted Gardens Train. Your family can experience gemstone mining, walking on water in an orb, a swan paddle boat, a quad-cycle and hand pedal train cars.
But, the show isn’t over until you’ve shopped in Linton’s 50,000 square foot Village of Shoppes indoor shopping. You can find everything from hand-crafted jewelry, women’s fashions & accessories to seasonal decor and gift items.
Also, the Garden Café at Linton’s serves all meals including handcrafted hot and cold drink including local Indiana wines. You can take some fresh baked cookies home with you.
Elkhart’s County Parks
Located in north central Indiana, the Elkhart County Parks offers wonderful peaceful opportunities to discover the natural beauty and rich history of Elkhart County.
Three of those County Parks are located in the City of Elkhart itself. Each park is unique and maintained with your family’s recreational and nature interests in mind. Whether you want to fish, hike, bike, kayak, nature photography or just want a place to relax, Elkhart County Parks makes it easy.
Miles of trails for hiking and skiing can be found throughout the parks along with rentable shelters, recreational facilities and historical sites to enjoy.
|ADDRESS: 56266 Armour Avenue, Elkhart, IN 46514|
Treasure Island offers a place for visitors to relax and enjoy nature on it’s cozy 4 acre plot. It’s open from April to December. It’s located on the banks of the lower St. Joseph River, so bring your kayak or fishing pole!
Boot Lake Nature Preserve
|ADDRESS: 51430 C.R. 3, Elkhart, IN 46514|
So, bring your camera and spend a day escaping the city life at Boot Lake Natural Preserve located just north of the City of Elkhart. This beautiful 300 acre Preserve has been restored to its’ original natural environment of wetland, forest and prairie habitat.
It’s the perfect place to just enjoy a stroll through the wildflowers, wildlife and woodland nature, look no more! Boot Lake’s expansive trails winding through prairie and forest will make hikers feel like they are explorers traversing wild terrain.
If you’re a birder, this is just your place to bring your binoculars and camera. Over 200 species of birds have been found at the preserve, including rare and unusual birds.
Boot Lake is home to a number of state-threatened and endangered species, such as Blanding’s Turtles and Sandhill Cranes, and the stunning wetland plant, the Purple Bladderwort. Finish your day with a picnic at the small picnic pavilion.
|30680 C.R. 8, Elkhart, IN 4651451430 C.R. 3, Elkhart, IN 46514|
You and your family can spend an afternoon taking in the beauty of Cobus Creek County Park located a couple miles northwest of the City of Elkhart.
This 84 acre natural creekside county park used to be farmland but has been restored to its’ natural woodlands, wetlands and prairie. The diversity of habitats attracts a wide variety birds, and has hosted several state-endangered species.
Visitors can fish in the cold water trout creek, enjoy a quiet outdoor picnic and let the kids run around until their hearts content. There’s also hard-packed trails around the prairie offer a smooth and scenic bicycle ride or hike.
For more information on Elkhart County’s parks, visit Elkhart County Parks
Pumpkinvine Nature Trail
If you enjoy a good long stroll, running or bicycling, the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail is the perfect way to get some fresh air and enjoy the Amish country at a slower pace.
Three trails totaling 25 miles connect Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana; the MapleHeart Trail, Wilden Avenue Trail and Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. Be aware though, there are the two sections of trail that put you on county roads; combined distance 2.25 miles.
The trail surface is asphalt except for 1.75 miles of packed limestone surface from SR 5 to CR 28 northeast of Goshen. Four public parks, Oak Ridge Park, Ox Bow Park, Abshire Park and Krider Garden, along the trails provide parking and restrooms. For more information on trail access including places to park and unload your bikes, check out the Friends of Pumpkinvine Nature Trail site.
Before trekking out on your bicycle, read our bicycle safety tips: Bicycle Safety: How to Ride Safely on Roads and Bike Trails
Where to eat in Elkhart?
There’s several good places to eat in Elkhart. We actually prefer the local cuisine as we are proponents of supporting small business. Some of our favorites are:
- Chubby Trout – Great appetizers and dishes; awesome ambiance. Has a small sushi bar too!
- The Vine on Main – Fine to casual dining, wine, spirits and brews. Great indoor and outdoor bistro dining.
- The Iechyd Da Brewing Company – Fantastic pizza and craft brews with outdoor games like outdoor corn hole.
- 523 Tap and Grill – Delicious steaks and offers gluten free and vegetarian dishes. More refined white tablecloth dining.
- Flippin’ Cow – Awesome burgers, their own Fat Hop craft brew with a lakefront view!
You can find other great eats, not just in Elkhart but around Elkhart County at the Elkhart County Dining Guide.
- Where to stay in Elkhart, Indiana?
Because of Elkhart’s industrious location, there’s no shortage of lodging. Whether it’s hotels, AirB&B’s, campgrounds and cabins, Elkhart has everything under the sun when it comes to resting before a new day of exploring and adventure.
Shipshewana North Park Amish Log Cabin Lodging & Campground – 5970 IN-5, Shipshewana, IN 46565 – (260) 768-7770
Read our Campground Review! Elkhart Campground – Elkhart, IN
Lodging in Elkhart, Indiana
When is the best time to visit Elkhart?
The best time of the year to visit Elkhart is from mid June to mid September when the temperatures are warmer. Typically, short sleeves in the daytime and a sweater or light jacket may be needed during your evening adventures.
From May 25 to September 19, with an average daily high temperature above 72°F. The hottest day of the year is July 19, with an average high of 82°F and low of 64°F. Be aware, it does get a bit hot and muggy in the summer months. Typically, throughout the year, it’s partly cloudy most days.
But, if you do visit during the winter months, the winters can be brittle cold and windy. From December 1st to March 5th, with an average daily high temperature below 42°F. The coldest day of the year is January 29, with an average low of 19°F and high of 32°F. And of course, if snow is your game, well, just wait five minutes and you may have enough for a tiny snowman.
Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 19°F to 82°F and is rarely below 2°F or above 90°F. So, those are great gauges of when you may want to visit Elkhart.
Don’t forget to check out our 8 Most Popular Weather Apps for RV Travelers
Our final thoughts on visiting Elkhart, Indiana
So, WOW! For those who have been to the RV Capitol of the World, I bet you didn’t realize all these wonderful things to do in Elkhart! It looks like you’ll want to either plan a week or two or make Elkhart, Indiana your next vacation destination.
While you’re in Elkhart, see how RVs are manufactured at one of the many RV Factory tours!
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