Here are a few of the things you can do while you are in the Mitchell area. Some of the attractions are in Mitchell proper, some a short distance away (less than 5 miles) and some are a bit farther afield. However, all would be considered an easy "day trip".
Opera House Gus Grissom Memorial Children's Playground
Spring Mill State Park Antiques Golf
Bluespring Caverns John Hay Center - Salem The Depot - Salem
French Lick Railroad & Museum West Baden Hotel Hoosier National Forest
Lake Monroe Patoka Lake Martin State Forest
Paoli Peaks Turner Dolls Hoosier National Forest

Opera House
The Opera House in Mitchell has a long and varied past and a vibrant present. In or around 1900, the Indiana Legislature passed what was called an Enabling Act for the specific purpose of constructing public buildings outside of county seats. Some individual or individuals were far-sighted enough to see the need for such a building in Mitchell, the request was submitted, and the building was built in 1902. The building was barely completed when the Legislature repealed the Enabling Act and Mitchell was the only town in the state to take advantage of the opportunity. Originally, it was known as County Hall and was available for public meetings and entertainment purposes. About 1916, Menlo Moore, a member of the pioneer Moore family, rented the building from the city. Mr. Moore was a professional theatre man who, at one time, had offices in New York City. Mr. Moore remodeled the County Hall into the Opera House and it has been remembered by that name ever since. Through Mr. Moore's connections, it became part of the nationwide B. F. Keith Vaudeville Circuit. Many great celebrities of the day appeared at the Opera House, such as, John Philip Sousa's Band, Norma Talmadge and the Great Blackstone. 24 musical comedies and dramas from New York toured there. 11 Minstrel Shows were presented.
During the 1930's, it fell into disrepair and was closed. In 1979, a restoration project financed by local funds was begun and in November, 1985, it was reopened. It now offers a wide variety of live entertainment 12 months a year. The Opera House is located at 7th & Brook Streets. Schedule

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Grissom Memorial
At 409 S. 6th Street is the City memorial to it's favorite son, astronaut Virgil "Gus" Grissom. The location is next to City Hall.

 
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Children's Memorial Playground
It is not often that a playground is considered to be a tourist attraction, but this one is. The playground covers nearly 26,000 square feet and full of activities. Built and financed by the people of Mitchell, crying is most often heard when children are told they have to leave.

 
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Antiques
With 6 quality antiques stores in town (5 of which are on the same block), Mitchell is an antique shoppers paradise. With wide ranging inventories, there is truly something for everyone. Check out the Yellow Pages

 
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Spring Mill State Park
Spring Mill State Park and Mitchell are closely intertwined. In 1999, there were over 650,000 visitors to the park making it one of, if not the most visited state parks in Indiana. With its 1,319 acres, Spring Mill offers a wide variety of activities - boating, camping, caving, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, picnicing and swimming. The focal point of the park is the reconstructed Pioneer Village as it might have been in the 1830's when the first village was established by Hugh and Thomas Hamer. State employees and volunteers in period dress performing every day chores or creating crafts interact with visitors. The village is centered about the water-powered grist mill which still grinds corn meal the way it did over 70 years ago. When not driving the grist mill, the water from the water wheel is diverted to a saw mill located adjacent to the grist mill.
Several events take place during the year. The Tri Kappa Candlelight Tour kicks off the annual Persimmon Festival in Mitchell in September. Autumn Harvest Days in October and Holidays in the Village in early December highlight village activities in the latter part of the year.
Two caves are located in the park which are open seasonally to tourists. Take a boat ride into Twin Caves (times are posted daily) or walk into Donaldson Cave. There are several hiking trails in the park. Some of them wend through Donaldson Woods Nature Preserve which is one of the few remaining forests in the continental US which has never been timbered. The Saddle Barn has horses for hire for those who wish to ride the miles of trails in the park. There are both modern and primitive camp sites available along with a Camp Store (seasonal hours). The Nature Center offers interpretive programs and "Badge" programs for the youngsters. Spring Mill Inn offers 74 guest rooms and a dining facility.
Near the entrance to the park is the Grissom Memorial which honors Mitchell's "Gus" Grissom, on of the seven original Mercury astronauts and America's second man into space. The Gemini III space capsule highlights the display area. Contact the park at (812) 849-4129 or the Spring Mill Inn at (812) 849-4081 or (toll free) 1-877-977-7464. As a state park, Spring Mill is operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This link will take you to the DNR web site for Spring Mill.

 
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Lake Monroe
The Lake Monroe reservoir was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1960 and 1965. It is the largest body of water in Indiana, covering 10,750 acres. It is comprised of the Paynetown SRA, Fairfax SRA, Allen's Creek SRA, Cutright SRA, Moore's Creek SRA and Salt Creek SRA which cover 23,952 acres.

 
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Patoka Lake
Patoka Lake is the 3rd largest body of water in Indiana covering 8,800 acres. The entire recreational area covers 25,800 acres. The project was started in 1972 and completed in 1978 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a unit of the comprehensive plan for the Ohio River Basin to control flooding in areas downstream. Located within the Hoosier National Forest, Patoka Lake offers a wide variety of recreational activities. 450 modern campground sites and 96 primitive campground sites are located in the Newton-Stewart State Recreational Area (SRA) on the south side of the lake. The Nature Center is also located in the Newton-Stewart SRA. The center contains many displays on the history and wildlife of the area. Patoka Lake is the winter home to several Bald Eagles and there is one eagle that can be viewed up close at the Nature Center. There are 9 launch ramps for boats located around the lake making it easily accessible from any direction for fishing, water skiing and general boating. The lake has a large supervised beach for swimming open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In addition to hiking trails, there are 10 miles of paved bicycle trails available. Jackson SRA, Lick Fork SRA, Little Patoka SRA, Painter Creek SRA, Walls Lake SRA and South Lick Fork SRA comprise the remaining recreational areas. The Patoka Lake recreational area is operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. For more information on Patoka Lake, visit DNR Patoka Lake.

 
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Hoosier National Forest
The Hoosier National Forest spreads over southern Indiana from Bloomington southward to the Ohio River. The 197,000 acres, including forest and open land, are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, a federal agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is not to be confused with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) who manage state lands. The Hoosier National Forest is not a single tract of land, but a patchwork quilt of protected forest interspersed with private land ownership and small towns stretching over 600,000 acres. This mixture of preserved forest and private ownership makes a wonderful blend as you drive along the backroads.
The Hoosier National Forest offers a wide variety of activities. There are nearly 239 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding and biking. Fishing, hunting and camping (including some primitive camping sites) is permitted in specified recreational areas.
There are several notable specific areas of wide-ranging interest near Mitchell.
Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest - this 88 acre tract is the last old growth forest of it's size in Indiana. It has been left virtually undisturbed since 1816 (two trees were felled in 1936). The Indiana forests were a mixture of beech, hickory and oak. These species were the primary trees felled in pioneer days for the cabins to house the early settlers. Indiana became a state in 1816. Most of trees here are older than the state itself. A one mile hiking trail through the forest leads past the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Wall. The Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest is located just south of Paoli, IN. The parking lot is on the east side of Hwy 37.
Lick Creek Settlement - Settled by free blacks who left their homes in North Carolina due to increasing persecution and increasingly restrictive laws. The settlement was established 5 years before Indiana became a state and most of the inhabitants were gone before the Civil War was over. All that remains today is a family cemetery and the traces of home sites. See Lick Creek Trail for directions south of Paoli to the Lick Creek Trail Head.
Hemlock Cliffs - a box canyon with sandstone formations and seasonal waterfalls. The cool climate created by the rock formations provide an ideal climate for hemlock and wintergreen (a protected plant). Hemlock Cliffs is one of only 3 areas in Indiana where the wintergreen still thrives. A two mile trail wends through high canopied trees, rock formations and seasonal waterfalls. Although an especially beautiful treat in the winter months with snowfall and frozen water, extreme caution must be taken on the trails due to extremely slippery ice conditions. Located west of Highway 37 near Interstate 64.
Charles C. Deam Wilderness - this area of nearly 13,000 acres of the Hoosier National Forest (Hoosier NF) on the south side of Lake Monroe was designated by Congress in 1982 as a wilderness area. As such, the rules and regulations concerning its use are more restrictive. Trail use is restricted to hikers and horseback riders. There are several primative camping sites available in the area. The Hickory Ridge Fire Tower is the only remaining fire tower on the Hoosier NF. Built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, it was manned during periods of high fire danger until the 1970's. It is open to the public and offers wonderful views of the wilderness area, especially in the fall.

 
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Martin State Forest
The major area of Martin State Forest (MSF), along with the office, is located on both sides of US Highway 50 between Mitchell and Shoals, IN. In addition to this large tract there are several other smaller tracts scattered in the area. The total area is approximately 7,000 acres and is operated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Fishing, hunting, camping and hiking are the major activities to be enjoyed here. The Hoosier Woodland Arboretum Trail (0.25 miles, easy) winds through a 3 acre portion that is designated as a living arboretum that established in an existing woodland area. It will eventually contain between 80 and 100 different species of the common woodland trees of Indiana. The Woodland Education Trail (1.25 miles, easy) provides access to a picnic area as well as the Willow Valley Fire Tower (open to the public). The Tank Spring Trail (3.0 miles, moderate) trailhead is located a short distance south on Highway 650 across from the main entrance. This hilly trail provides access to two fresh water spring areas which offer a different habitat for flora than is present in other parts of MSF. In addition to these trails, MSF offers over 20 miles of fire lanes in its total acreage that can be walked. Spring with the blooming redbud and dogwood trees and fall foliage displays are great times to enjoy these trails. In winter, weather permitting, these trails make for great cross-country skiing. Three lakes are available for fishing and there are 26 Type-C (primitive) camp sites.

 
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Bluespring Caverns
This commercial park features the Myst'ry River Voyage on an underground river featuring blind fish and blind crayfish. This boat tour lasts approximately 1 hour. The park is open everyday from Memorial Day through Labor Day and on weekends in April, May, September and October. The park is located 1.5 miles west of the intersection of US 50 and Indiana Route 37 north of Mitchell. Call (812) 279-9471 for more information.

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West Baden Hotel
baden.jpgSalt deposits, commonly known as "licks", were very important to wildlife and the early Indian tribes. Animal trails to the licks were well established in the dense hardwood forests and one of the most significant was known as the Buffalo Trace, a migration path of the American Bison. This trace ran in a northwesterly diagonal across southern Indiana from the Falls of the Ohio near New Albany to Vincennes. The buffalo's hooves widened and deepened the path until it was over 20 feet wide in places and worn down below the level of the surrounding ground. This easy path through the dense forest became a major travel route for the early settlers. As the settlers moved along the trace, towns were established. One of those came to be known as French Lick. In addition to the salt deposits there, several mineral springs were in the area. In the middle 1800's, a recreational mineral springs resort was built in French Lick. Shortly after that, land was purchased north and east of French Lick by Dr. Lane who named the new town West Baden after the Weisbaden Springs in Germany. The original West Baden Springs Hotel was built and became a thriving resort after the Monon Railroad built a line through the area in 1887. In 1901, the hotel was burned to the ground after a fire started in the kitchen. In a bold move, the hotel was rebuilt centered about what was then the largest free standing dome in the world. The dome spans 200 feet and is 135 feet tall. The stock market collapse of 1929 emptied the hotel of its big-time spenders and it was closed in 1932-33. After that, it was used as a seminary by the Jesuits, as a college, and even as a Larry Bird basketball camp. It was closed in 1983 and the decline and ruin of the hotel and the grounds began in earnest. Restoration began in 1992 and has continued under the auspices of several owners and speculators. The hotel has now been restored to some of its past grandeur - to stand in the restored atrium is well worth the visit. A lot remains to be done. One of the best web sites for the hotel is West Baden Springs Hotel. For tour information, see the web site provided by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

 
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John Hay Center
The John Hay Center consists of three distinct facilities. First, is the Stevens Memorial Museum that was built in 1970. Additions were added in 1984 and 1995 to accommodate the hundreds of native historic relics. Many of these include Civil War mementos, tools, agriculture tools and items, furniture, clothing and many other displays. The building also houses the Washington County Historical Society and genealogy library. This wing, that was added in 1984, contains Indiana and local records. It also maintains data and records from other states. It is a large and valuable asset to genealogical research in this area. Lastly, is the Pioneer Village. This reconstructed "living village" of the 1840s will challenge the mind's imagination to the way of life for early settlers.
 
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The Depot
A replica of the railroad station that served Salem for 70 years, The Depot is filled with displays of railroad equipment, depot furnishings, dishes and glassware from dining cars and other items used by southern Indiana railroads. The Depot commemorates the role Salem played in the 1847 organization of the New Albany & Salem Rail Road which later became the Monon. The 2700 square foot basement is home to a large HO scale model railroad what depicts the Monon through Washington County in the period 1957-1964. The Depot is conveniently located adjacent to the pioneer village at the John Hay Center.
 
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French Lick Railroad & Museum
monon.jpgIn the middle to late 1800's, small railroads began to flourish in southern Indiana. They eventually supplanted the canals that had become a major transportation route of new settlers and goods. Over time, these small railroads were merged or were abandoned when they were no longer profitable. In 1887, the Monon Railroad built a spur that ran from Indianapolis to the French Lick area resulting in rapid growth of the mineral springs resorts that had been built there. Now, nearly 115 years later, you can still "ride the rail" in French Lick. Departing from the original limestone Monon depot in French lick, riders are taken on a 20 mile (actually 10 miles to Cuzco and 10 miles back) ride through the Hoosier National Forest and the 2,200 foot long Burton Tunnel. This tunnel is one of the longest in the state. On special weekends during the summer, “Wild West Hold-ups” are featured, with bandits robbing the train. Call for times and dates. The train runs at 10 a.m., 1 and 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from April– October, and at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays from June–October. For more information, call the museum at (812) 936-2405 or 1-800-74-TRAIN. Check out the museum web site for more information on schedules.

 
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Paoli Peaks
Paoli Peaks Ski Resort with 8 lifts offers downhill skiiing and snowboarding for the winter enthusiasts. This 65 acre snow resort on the north side of Lake Patoka offers 15 trails from beginner to expert that drop up to 300 feet. Trails vary in their length ranging from the 3/4 mile beginner run to the 2,400 foot expert trail. Snowboarders will enjoy Fun Park with its half- and quarter-pipes, rolling snow mounds and jumps. Paoli Peaks utilizes more than 90 snowmaking towers with snow guns covering the entire ski area with 12" of snow. When Ol' Man Winter chips in with his natural cover, the Peaks are a midwestern skiers delight. Travel south from Mitchell on Hwy 37. In Paoli go one quarter of the way around the town square and take Highway 150 west for 2 miles to the edge of town, turn left at the sign and follow the road up the hill for 11 or so miles.

 
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Golf
Cedar Valley Golf Course 3 miles north of Mitchell on the west side of Highway 37 offers an 18 hole course, driving range and snack bar. (812) 849-2255.
 
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Turner Dolls
The Turners manufacture their own dolls on their farm located outside of the small town of Heltonville in Lawrence Co. These highly collectible dolls have been gaining in popularity since they were first introduced in 1991 with Kitty Kay as the original creation. Now, new dolls are introduced yearly with a limited number produced. If you are in the area, take a tour of the doll factory and be certain to visit their outlet store. Call 1-800-887-6372 for more information.

 
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Last updated Jan 21, 2007. Any corrections or additions should be sent to