Water from Lake Mendota and the Rock and Wisconsin Rivers has influenced so much of the South Central Crossroad’s regional distinctions, including its dairy and sawmill industries, Swiss heritage and beautiful state parks. Groups who plan a trip to this region will discover charming downtowns, lush gardens and engaging museums to create a distinctly Wisconsin itinerary.
Begin your itinerary in Beloit with a tour of the Beckman Mill, a restored and functioning 1868 grist mill that includes a sawmill display, visitor center and gift shop. Surrounding the mill is a 50-acre, interactive campus that includes a creamery, blacksmith shop and vintage garden. Visitors can also see effigy mounds on the Beloit College campus, admire beautiful works at the Wright Museum of Art and watch a Beloit Snappers baseball game during their inaugural season at the brand-new Riverbend Stadium.
Continue north to Janesville and tour the Rotary Botanical Gardens, a 20-acre property that showcases plants from Japan, Italy and France. Other group-friendly Janesville attractions include Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center, Daluge Farm and Fermenting Cellars Winery. Your itinerary should also include the Milton House Museum, which was an important Underground Railroad stop in the 1860s and once hosted prominent abolitionist Sojourner Truth.
Begin this morning at the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, which displays the first and last vehicles Studebaker manufactured and the world’s largest presidential carriage collection.
Continue to Elkhart County to see the Quilt Gardens on the Heritage Trail. Over 150,000 plants and one million blooms form immense gardens shaped like traditional Amish quilts, and visitors can step off to admire these arrangements while walking the charming downtowns of Elkhart, Goshen and Nappanee.
Enjoy an evening of entertainment at Blue Gate Restaurant & Theatre in Shipshewana. This enormous complex houses a 1,200-seat theater, seven dining rooms and a bakery under one roof. Performances range from musicals with an Amish theme to country singers, and groups can register for a dinner and a show package that includes discounted rates and a delicious buffet or family-style dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and fresh pie.
Browse the hundreds of stalls at the famous Shipshewana Flea Market and learn about local history at the Menno-Hof Amish-Mennonite Information Center before driving to Pokagon State Park in Steuben County, which has the most lakes of any Indiana county. Framed by Lake James and Snow Lake, the park offers plentiful opportunities for boating, swimming and hiking. Groups can stay at the rustic, 138-room lodge that overlooks Lake James while enjoying a gorgeous sunset.