Cutting through the rolling hills of horse country, I-65 offers amazing natural features, great roadside eats, fascinating history, and some pretty awesome towns to explore-- from Indianapolis to Nashville to Louisville, you'll be experiencing some pretty cool places. Use this guide to make the most of your road trip along I-65 from Chicago to Birmingham.
I-65 starts in Chicago, one of the Midwest's coolest cities. There are endless things to see in Chicago, from Navy Pier to Willis Tower (BKA Sears Tower) to Millennium Park. Eat a deep dish pizza from Lou Malnotti's, a Chicago-style hot dog from Portillo's, and an Italian beef sandwich from Mr. Beef. Stay the night at Talbot Hotel, The Palmer House, Palomar Chicago, or one of the many other hotels in Chicago. Once you're well-rested and have had a taste of the city, get ready to hit the road!
The first thing you'll see once you take I-65 out of the city is endless fields of windmills, but fear not! There's more to see along the way than wind farms. Trust us, things are about to get interesting.
9750 Indiana Pkwy, Munster, IN, US
First stop is off Exit 1 at 3 Floyds Brewery. 3 Floyds Brewery has somehow taken craft beer to a new level with people clamoring for it across the country. A trip to their tap room for a pint or to pick up a few bottles is the perfect way to show everyone just how hip you are.
Pro tip: If you can’t work 3 Floyds into your trip, check the beer selection at Fair Oaks Farms further down the road, as they carry 3 Floyds (including their much-coveted Zombie Dust) while supplies last.
2300 Jackson St 46407, Gary, IN, US
Off Exit 10 in Gary, Indiana you'll come to Michael Jackson’s Boyhood Home. Don’t let Gary’s rough and rowdy reputation scare you off. The King of Pop’s house is literally just a couple stoplights off the highway so you NEED to stop here. There’s not a lot to Michael Jackson's House, just a granite memorial, but this is the perfect place for a picture that’ll make your friends jealous they don’t see more fun stuff on their road trips. Bonus points for moonwalking outside the house.
864 N 600 E, Fair Oaks, IN, US
At Exit 220, you'll come to Fair Oaks Farms. This isn’t exactly a “hidden gem,” since it’s right off the highway and there are plenty of signs along I-65 as you approach, but it’s definitely worth a stop. To state the obvious, the place is huge… There’s a cheese shop. There’s a bakery. There’s a market. There’s an ice cream shop. There’s an auditorium where you can watch a cow give birth (we're so serious.) There’s a place where your kids can learn all about how milk is made. There is honestly something for everyone here.
While the bread and butter (pun intended) of this dairy farm is its numerous family activities, it’s still well-worth stopping even if you’re childless. It's a great place for a quick snack... their fried fresh cheese curds are soooo good.
200 Battleground Ave, Battle Ground, IN, US
After the farm, I-65 will take you to the Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum. The battlefield is beautifully maintained with several monuments and memorials making it a great place to stretch your legs and learn about the battle that pitted Tecumseh and the Prophet against then-General William Henry Harrison. The Tippecanoe Battle would prove to be devastating to Native Americans as their settlement, Prophet’s Town, would be razed as a result. Admission for the actual museum is only $5 for adults.
West Lafayette IN, West Lafayette, IN, US
If the weather is nice, consider stopping by nearby Prophetstown State Park for even more nature and history (and a sweet waterpark in the summer).
2 N Salisbury St, West Lafayette, IN, US
If you’re more in the mood for a classic diner, we suggest Triple XXX Family Restaurant. Yes, the name seems all sorts of bizarre, but it’s actually Indiana’s oldest drive-in. It’s a Lafayette staple and has been collecting local and national accolades for years, even making an appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
329 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN, US
Still at Exit 172 off I-65, visit Harry’s Chocolate Shop and the campus of Purdue University. If you’ve never toured this college's campus now’s a good chance to drive by Ross-Ade Stadium and other landmarks. When you're done seeing the "official" landmarks, stop by one of the "unofficial" Purdue landmarks... Harry's Chocolate Shop.
Truth be told, Harry’s Chocolate Shop is not a chocolate shop at all, but Purdue students and alumni’s favorite bar and grill. Originally functioning as a soda shop, Harry’s was supposedly serving something much stronger during Prohibition, if you knew the password, which was “Go Ugly Early.”
319 W. Main Street, Lebanon, IN, US
Tucked into an old filling station in the small town of Lebanon, IN (at I-65's Exit 139), Mo's Vintiques isn’t your average antique store… it's packed wall-to-wall with some of the coolest vintage automotive/racing antiques and memorabilia ever. From vintage go-karts and mini bikes to Indy 500 team jackets to old racing trophies, pins, buttons, and badges, the place is a car-lover’s dream. The exterior of the filling station is perfect for a photo-op, and even if you’re not in the market for a racing collectible, you’ll still absolutely love the aura of Mo’s Vintiques.
Take I-65 into Indianapolis, where you can hop off the highway and spend a day or two relaxing. Of course, Indy is home to the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy 500 Hall of Fame and Museum, but some of the coolest things to do in Indianapolis aren't racing-themed. The Canal and White River State Park District, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, and the National Art Museum of Sport are some interesting attractions worth visiting. Eat at St. Elmo Steakhouse, BRU Burger Bar or Pure Eatery, and check into the Old Northside Bed and Breakfast, The Columbia Club, or one of the other cool hotels in Indianapolis.
Franklin, IN, US
Hop off the highway and onto US 31 for a truly bizarre photo op. After you cross a creek you’ll notice the road splits around a little mound of earth. That’s actually a grave... with no less than 7 bodies in it. Despite originally planning to relocate the remains, the officials in charge were too afraid, so they just paved around it. It’s a unique photo op, for sure.
12595 Executive Dr, Edinburgh, IN, US
For some interesting shopping, visit Exit 76 Antique Mall. Here you’ll find over 600 booths covering a whopping 72,000 sq. ft. with everything from antique furniture to automobilia. You can't take a road trip without picking up a few souvenirs, right?
11606 Ne Executive Dr, Edinburgh, IN, US
Or across the road there's an outlet mall! It's not the most offbeat attraction on I-65, but deals are deals, man. The Edinburg Premium Outlets are exactly what you’d expect at a nice outlet mall.
400 Brown Street, Columbus, IN, US
While the stretch of road from Louisville to Indianapolis (and vice-versa) isn’t normally an overnight trip, maybe you’re coming from further away or you just want to spend more time in town, which you should strongly consider, because Columbus, IN is an incredibly place. For overnight road trippers, we recommend the Hotel Indigo Columbus. Of course, it’s an architectural and design gem itself with posh and beautiful accommodations.
Exit 68: Discover the architectural secret gem of the midwest, Columbus, Indiana
Despite being a city of just 44,000, Columbus, Indiana consistently ranks right behind big cities like Chicago, NYC, San Francisco, Boston, and DC for its architectural design, and that’s just one of the many things that make this small city such a perfect pit-stop on your I-65 journey.
329 Washington St, Columbus, IN, US
If you visit one thing in Columbus, make it Zaharakos. For 115 years this ice cream parlor has been a destination for both locals and ice cream-lovers abroad. With a beautiful 50 ft. mahogany bar, stained glass, and antiques from the turn of the century, the vibe of the interior is nostalgic perfection.
From here you can plan how you want to tackle the city's many architectural and artistic sites while you enjoy one of the antique music machines providing classic background noise.
506 5th Street, Columbus, IN, US
If you’re an architecture buff, your next stop is the Miller House and Garden Tour. If you love Modernist architecture with open, flowing layouts, flat roofs and lots of stone and glass, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven in the Miller House. Now owned and lovingly cared for by the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the museum elaborates on the house and grounds. Tours of the property are $25 and last about an hour and a half. If you’re stopping by the Miller House, you should also cruise by the 6 other National Historic Landmarks in town.
8111 East 450 North, Columbus, IN, US
While in Columbus, IN you’ve probably worked up quite a thirst so why not try one of the area’s 4 breweries? For instance, a great place to wet your whistle is at 450 North Brewing Co.
2001 N Ewing St., Seymour, IN, US
Exit 50B takes you to singer John Mellencamp’s hometown of Seymour. The prolific musician's boyhood hometown has an art center thanks to John. When his childhood buddy’s house was put up for sale, Mellencamp bought it, used the pre-Civil War building during the filming of “Falling from Grace,” and then turned it into the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts. The place has become Mecca for “Mellenheads,” according to the SICA, and it is pretty much the only place you’ll find rare art created by John Mellencamp himself (and THE only place you can buy John Mellencamp prints).
100 N. Broadway Street, Seymour, IN, US
If you’re one of those “Mellenheads,” stop by the Jackson County Visitor Center as soon as you hit town for a special CD and map for touring his old stomping grounds.
1050 S. Main St., Scottsburg, IN, US
Once you get back on I-65, it won't be long before you hit another must-see stop. You can hop off at Exit 29 and hunt for ghosts at Scott County Heritage Center and Museum! Once the county’s “Poor Farm,” today this old brick home serves as Scott County’s quaint museum, but apparently the place has some leftover guests from the Poor Farm that make the nighttime a little less quaint. If you’re passing through on a Friday or Saturday night you can learn all about the ghosts like flannel-wearing Bubba or the cat-loving Mary and her accompanying smell of sewer gas. A ghost tour is just $10. A small price to pay to potentially have the bejeezus scared out of you.
13576 Memphis-Blue Lick Rd, Memphis, IN, US
As you near the state border between Indiana and Tennessee, you'll find another attraction. At Exit 16, you can oogle some vintage cars at Gateway Classic Cars. Gateway Classic Cars has locations across the US, each offering visitors the chance to see beautiful collector cars from the comfort of an indoor space. Their “Louisville” location is actually right off the highway in Memphis, IN and consistently boasts at least 70 cars on the showroom floor. While their bread and butter is the buying and selling of classics, they understand sometimes people just want to gawk at the beauties. For this very reason, a couple bucks will get you in the door to wander their ever-changing collection of cars for sale. (Maybe a good start to your road trip is just buying that vintage convertible you always wanted…)
I-65 then takes you into Louisville, Kentucky, a town well worth stopping off to explore for a day or two. Check out the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, the Frazier International History Museum, or one of the other cool attractions in town, and grab a bite to eat at Against the Grain or Jack Fry's.
If you're going to be sampling some of the town's signature drink, bourbon, at Proof on Main, Sidebar or Garage Bar, then you'll want to book a night at one of the hotels in Louisville. The 21c Louisville and the Brown Hotel provide vastly different, but equally memorable experiences.
Mint Julep Tours offers a great Bourbon Trail tour that leaves from Louisville, if you want to really go all out. Then it's back on I-65 to continue further south!
4400 Paralee Dr, Louisville, KY, US
While still in the Louisville area, take a quick detour over to the edge of the city to one of the most awesome and terrifying places in America: the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Once a massive sanatorium, treating over 400 patients, today it is one of the most famous ghost-hunting destinations in the world. They offer private and public paranormal tours, so if you feel like getting the bejeezus scared out of you, plan to make a stop here on your trip to or from Louisville. According to Waverly Hills, “there is Paranormal Activity happening here on a regular basis. Even though you many not always easily see it, hear it, feel it, or smell it... when you do, you know it.” Schedule your paranormal tour and see if you have an “experience”.
526 Happy Hollow Road, Shepherdsville, KY, US
Once outside of Louisville and back on I-65, you’ll cruise for about a half hour until you hop off the highway for your next stop, the Jim Beam Distillery. Over the past few years, Kentucky Bourbon has exploded in popularity, and trips like the Bourbon Trail have become popular vacations. If you’re cruising up/down I-65, however, you probably don’t have time to take a bourbon tour through Kentucky... unless you took a day while in Louisville for a bourbon trail tour. You do have time to make a quick stop at America’s most recognized bourbon brand: Jim Beam. Here you can learn all about the process of making a darn good bourbon.
502 W Dixie Ave, Elizabethtown, KY, US
After a sip or two at Jim Beam’s Stillhouse, you’re back on the highway for just 10 minutes or so until your next stop in Elizabethtown, KY. If you’re an old car lover, you’ll enjoy a quick stop at Swope's Cars of Yesteryear Museum. The museum, owned and operated by the Swope Family of Dealerships, is completely free and features cars from the early 1900s to the 1960s.
216 E. Main St., Glendale, KY, US
Break for lunch at the Whistle Stop (Exit 86 if you skip the car museum). No trip through Kentucky would be complete with a good ol’ country-style meal, and The Whistle Stop can give you exactly that. With popular comfort food items like fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, meatloaf, and roast beef almost all made from scratch, a lunch or dinner here will surely leave you full and happy. Save room for their desserts, though... Southern Living has raved about them on multiple occasions.
3700 L and N Turnpike Rd, Horse Cave, KY, US
After lunch, you’re off the the Mammoth Cave National Park area. Even if you’re just passing through, there’s plenty to do around the park!
At Exit 58 you'll come to Kentucky Down Under. Things you don’t expect to see in the middle of Kentucky: kangaroos, lorikeets, and tortoises. Well, at Kentucky Down Under you’ll see all three and more. Kentucky Down Under is also a great, quick way to get your Mammoth Cave fix without having to go far off I-65. Their Mammoth Onyx Cave is open year-round and is easily accessible.
711 Mammoth Cave Road, Cave City, KY, US
Or, a few miles down I-65 at Exit 53, you can hit up Dinosaur World. If your kid (or you) is always digging holes in the yard or watching Jurassic Park on repeat, they'll love Dinosaur World in Cave City.
PO Box 7, 1 Mammoth Cave Pkwy, Brownsville, KY, US
The longest system of caves in the entire world is in Kentucky: Mammoth Cave National Park. Stop off for one of the guided tours of the cave (check online for times and types of tours), hit up the visitor center to learn more about this incredible natural wonder, or hike around above ground. Either way, cross it off your bucket list!
350 Corvette Dr, Bowling Green, KY, US
Next stop off I-65: Exit 28, where you'll find the National Corvette Museum. The infamous sinkhole has been filled in, but you can still see some of the poor Corvettes fished out from its depths. In addition to the sinkhole sideshow, the National Corvette Museum itself is a wonderful place for anyone with an interest in cars. If you have time, you can also tour the GM Corvette Assembly Plant across the street for a mere $7.
353 Johnny Cash Parkway, Hendersonville, TN, US
Once you get to Exit 97, congratulations! You've made it to Tennessee! Visit the Hendersonville Memory Gardens and Funeral Home to pay your respects to the Man in Black. Near the middle of the cemetery you’ll find the final resting places for Johnny Cash and June Carter. They’re not the only big country starts here, though. Several members of the Carter family, including Mother Maybelle, are laid to rest here along with Johnny Cash’s long time guitarist, Luther Perkins. It'll have you in the mood to put on some Johnny Cash as you continue your cruise down I-65.
4580 Rachels Ln, Nashville, TN, US
As you inch toward Nashville, make one last stop before hitting Music Row: The Hermitage. The former home of President Andrew Jackson, it's a beautiful and well-preserved estate. There are interpretive exhibits onsite, lovely gardens and grounds to tour, and they even offer wagon rides in the summer, ghost tours of the property, and tons more.
After that, it's smooth sailing into Nashville! Here in Music City, you can spend the day checking out Nashville attractions like the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Parthenon and more. Listen to live music and enjoy the nightlife on Broadway, explore the delicious restaurants and adorable boutiques in East Nashville, and have a down-home good time! And as for hotels in Nashville, you can't go wrong with the Hermitage Hotel, Union Station Hotel, or the Gaylord Opryland Resort.
With Music City in the taillights, I-65 quickly turns back into the rolling hills of the southern countryside, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see just minutes from the highway.
First stop, take Exit 65 and explore the charming downtown of Franklin, Tennessee.
True, blue southerners often lament about Nashville going corporate or being too touristy… Waylon Jennings’s son, Shooter, even wrote that “They built Music City by sacrificing soul.” Thankfully, that southern soul is still alive and well just a few miles south in the quaint town of Franklin, Tennessee. Come ready to eat, shop, and snap pictures of the classic Victorian buildings and brick sidewalks along the town's postcard-perfect Main Street.
120 Fourth Avenue South, Franklin, TN, US
Few restaurants open more than one location in a community and still stay true to their roots. Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant is one of them. Despite expanding into Nashville and Columbia, owner Andy Marshall has kept true to his vision of providing good southern food paired with good music.
94 E Main St, Franklin, TN, US
For those of you wanting a little coastal cuisine, try Puckett's Boat House up the street for raw Apalachicola oysters and grouper from down at the Gulf Coast.
110 4th Ave S, Franklin, TN, US
For baked goods that will blow your mind, make a stop at Merridee’s. Like so many places in Franklin, Merridee's Breadbasket has earned a lot of accolades from Southern Living Magazine, the Food Network, and more. Everything is made from scratch, and it shows in the taste.
332 Main St, Franklin, TN, US
If you want a hip place that combines its unique history with great local food, live music, and handcrafted cocktails, Gray's On Main is the place for you. Set in beautifully restored 1876 building where the Gray Drug Co. pharmacy once operated, Gray’s pays homage to their roots from the striking vintage sign outside to the 19th-century inspired drinks. Just take it easy on those cocktails… Remember, you’re on a road trip!
230 Franklin Rd., Franklin, TN, US
Those two pickers with a store up in Nashville may be on TV more (ahem, Antique Archaeology), but Kim and David Leggett down at City Farmhouse in Franklin can pick pretty darn well themselves, having been “pickers” for more than 20 years. Lucky for you, they have a store where you can reap the rewards for their hard work. "Their trained eye and vivacious personalities have earned them national acclaim, from individuals interested in following popular vintage trends to interior designers.
114 East Main Street, Franklin, TN, US
Have a soft spot for bookstores? Then Landmark Booksellers is well worth a quick stop. The building itself, originally known as the “Old Factory Store” has had some pretty famous visitors like Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, and even Davy Crockett, and even saw its fair share of the Civil War’s wounded as a makeshift hospital. Today, you can read a book about the Civil War right from a building involved in it. With 60,000+ new and used books (including 1500 signed first editions) you’re bound to find something to read here.
413 Main St., Franklin, TN, US
A co-op of 5 boutiques, the Shoppes on Main is a great place if you don’t have time for an all-day shopping tour of Franklin. They have pretty much everything imaginable… home decor, clothes, baby stuff, gifts, candles, bath and body stuff. Maybe that’s why Southern Exposure Magazine keeps recognizing them with their Sizzle Awards for Williamson County.
212 South Margin Street, Franklin, TN, US
The Shoppes on Main may be where you buy a family member a nice gift, but Carpe Diem is where you buy yourself something funky. It’s Williamson County’s only record store, but LPs aren’t the only thing you’ll find here. If you’re looking for something cool and funky like a vintage camera or a retro article of clothing, Carpe Diem should be on your list of places to stop.
W 7th And S High Sts, Columbia, TN, US
Whew. After exploring Franklin, get back on the road!
You're next stop is off Exit 46, where you'll get presidential at James K. Polk’s House. Hopefully you already knew James K. Polk was a U.S. president (the 11th, to be precise). School books don’t talk a lot about him, but he did a lot… started the Naval Academy, got the ball rolling on the Washington Monument, added 3 states, and even issued the first postage stamp. You can learn even more about him and feel like a well-educated American by making a stop at the James K. Polk Home. The guided tour only takes 30 minutes. Why not stop? You never know when a Polk question is going to pop up on Jeopardy.
28232 Upper Elkton Rd, Elkmont, AL, US
Next up is the Alabama Welcome Center! Pretty much all state welcome centers and rest areas have the same stuff… Vending machines, bathrooms, people letting their dogs pee in the grass. The Alabama Welcome Center just happens to also have a giant freakin’ rocket. The rocket is a Saturn I-B, a predecessor to the massive Saturn Vs we used to land on the moon. Take a picture, stretch the legs, and hit the road for even more awesome NASA stuff is in your near future. You literally can't miss it as you drive down I-65!
1 Tranquility Base, Huntsville, AL, US
Then, at Exit 340B you can geek out some more at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. If you grew up dreaming of going to Space Camp but never got to go, here’s your chance to get there as an adult. The US Space and Rocket Museum (Home of Space Camp) in Huntsville, AL is the best space exploration experience you’ll get outside of Kennedy Space Center. For starters, you’ll get to see one of only 3 remaining Saturn V rockets. If you’ve never seen one in person, prepare to be amazed.
A walk through the Rocket Park will also have you in awe as you gaze up at 27 missiles and rockets. Finally, you’ll also get to see the world’s only space shuttle with its solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank still attached. Of course, the museum exhibits are also awesome. Budget lots of time for a stop here because you won’t want to rush.
1600 St. Bernard Drive SE, Cullman, AL, US
Keep on I-65 until Exit 308, where you can hop out of the car to snap some pictures of the bizarre miniatures at Ave Maria Grotto. Even after 80 years, one monk’s weird little hobby known as the Ave Maria Grotto still amazes people. It's a park filled with miniature replicas of some of the world's most famous icons and buildings.
From the Ave Maria Grotto, it’s back on the road for about an hour until you’re in the heart of Birmingham, Alabama.
Then it's on to Birmingham! This Southern city is loaded with soul. Some of the coolest things to do in Birmingham include the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Southern Museum of Flight, and the McWane Science Center. There are great hotels in Birmingham, too; book a night at the Hotel Highland, or the Aloft Birmingham in Soho Square. And, whatever you do, make sure you enjoy some soul food here: Saw's BBQ is out of this world!
Whether your trip along I-65 ends in Birmingham, or it ended way back in another city, or you keep on driving, it's nice to know that you don't have to adventure too far off the highway to experience the small town charm and big city fun to be had along the route!