If you ever plan to travel by train for an over 10-hour trip from home, it can be a mixture of both pleasure and pain.
The incredibly long train ride could take you around almost half of the country just to get to one destination. The layover times between stops. The sitting around in a train cabin with limited space to move. Not to mention, the overpriced sandwiches and bagels, as well as, a bathroom that, at times, smells like fart.
It's an adjustment but if you are willing to, as the saying goes, "suffer through the storm," there is a great reward on the other side. Your 10-hour layover may be the best part of your adventure. The people you meet and the serenity that you encounter along the way could be the 'bang for your buck' that you were hoping for. Especially if you got a great discount on your ticket online.
So here were a few places that I was able to see on my weekend train ride adventure as well as some of the fun sites the places had to offer:
Indiana is the home of the Hoosiers and if you don’t know who the Hoosiers are, you might want to make the Indiana State Museum your first stop. The museum explains the history of the first settlers of the state and also has a great tribute to the famous celebrities and athletes who call Indiana home.
The pre-historic section of the museum has a lot of activities for kids of all ages such as, 'How do you measure up?'
You can weigh yourself and see which Ice Age animal comes closest to your weight. The animal I 'measured up to' was the long-nosed peccary, which looks like a mix between a boar and a wolf.
Around this time of the year, the museum also has a LEGO exhibit. It’s a lot of fun seeing what amazing pieces of art can be created with LEGOs. Plus, they have tables where you can create your own LEGO designs.
Not too far away from the Indiana State Museum is the Eiteljorg Museum. At first, the museum looks like just a few pieces of art and some sculptures but there is much more to explore further inside. There is a western movies exhibit where you can see the hats and capes of actors from Django Unchained and Zorro.
On the top floor, you can create your own tipis and learn how to weave like Native Americans. But, before you leave the museum, there is one thing you must check out! Don’t go before taking a look at the 3-piece scenic portrait of the Grand Canyon near the front of the museum. I guarantee it will be worth the visit!
For the non-museum lovers, grab an electric scooter and, for less than 10 dollars, take a ride around Indianapolis in a unique way. You can also ride the scooters over to the Observation Tower which pays tribute to Indiana’s silent heroes. But, unless you are ready to get your workout for the day and climb 29-stories, (which is about 320 steps) I’d recommend spending $2 and just taking the elevator up to the observation deck. It’s worth it. The view from the top is stupendous.
Although, I didn’t get to spend as much time in the city as I had hoped, Cincinnati, for me, was so spine-tingling at night. But one thing I would never do again, is visit this city during a Bengals game!
The entire area along the city’s riverfront becomes a sea of orange and white as Cincinnati’s “die heart” fans flood the streets, the eateries and the SkyStar, a London-style Ferris wheel that’s over 100-feet high and gives you eye popping views of the Ohio River, including the surrounding stadiums in the area. If heights are not your thing, you can take a walk over to Kentucky along the Roebling Bridge. The views of the river from this bridge are so romantic.
While on the subject of the Ohio River, it played such an important part in American history as it became a sign of freedom for runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad. What better way to learn more about their struggle than to visit the Underground Railroad’s Freedom Center.
Inside of it lies a museum that is so humbling, it touches every fiber in your being. It features a replica of a slave pen where runaways were caught and forced to endure the most inhumane conditions. There’s even a pair of shackles in the middle of the floor so you can feel the weight of the chains they carried, adding more humility to the experience.
The museum gives so much information about the Underground Railroad that you are destined to learn something about it you may not have known before. They show some of the code words used to get slaves from point A to point B. There’s even a replica of a safe house that shows where runaways were hidden.
Go see it in the winter time because, afterwards, you can enjoy nice Christmas lights and ice skating in front of the Fifth Third Bank. It’s like Cincinnati’s own version of the Rockefeller Center in New York City. It's bound to bring holiday cheer!
The last stop of my journey was the home of so many things, it was hard to count!
Not only is Kentucky the Bluegrass State, it’s the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I'm from New York and I have not tasted fresher KFC chicken than in it’s home town. At the airport, you can even take a picture with the colonel himself. In Louisville, they take pride in their KFCs!
It’s also the home of “The Bourbon” and “The Kentucky Derby.” Although, I did not get a chance to taste the sweet and “all mighty” Derby pie, I did get a chance to try some "Big Ass" Bourbon Truffles (yum yum yum) at Art Eatables. I also had some Old Forester and Bourbon Butter Chicken and Waffles at Book & Bourbons. The bourbon butter sauce made the waffles taste so delicious, I could not stop licking my fingers! The restaurant also gives out an Urban Bourbon Trail passport. Bring this passport to at least six restaurants listed inside and you can get a free T-shirt in the mail.
So, like I said before, Louisville’s attractions seem endless. They have so many caverns but my favorite has to be Louisville Mega Cavern. There is so much to do in there! They have a zip lining adventure, in which you can zip through 5-6 different lines. They even have mountain biking and a climbing obstacle course.
The best time to go is during the holiday season. The cave offers a trolley ride through several “larger than life” Christmas light displays with Santa Claus, Rudolph and Charlie Brown. Even if you are adventurous enough to go zip lining, the Christmas displays make the experience that much more enjoyable!
But one thing I couldn’t leave Louisville without doing is checking out the Louisville Slugger Museum. I’m not even into baseball that much but it was worth going just to see the skill that goes into running a bat-making factory.
By machine, one baseball bat can be made in less than 40 seconds! The tour guide even goes through the different types of wood and grades of baseball bats that various players like Derek Jeter, Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio liked to use. And if that doesn’t excite you, you can find out your pitching speed by swinging a few fastballs near the museum’s entrance. Or do like I did and take a whole bunch of crazy pictures next to Derek Jeter and Jackie Robinson (aka Mr. 42) while swinging around the mini- Louisville Slugger that you get after the tour. And don’t miss a photo opportunity with the overgrown slugger outside the museum. Now that Louisville Slugger is huuuuggeee!!!
So if you have an extra day or two on your hands, pick up a few good books or magazines and hop on a train. You'll get a chance to meet the Amish as well as greet to a whole bunch of cows and horses along the way! Go enjoy the country side and the simplicities of life. I know I did!