Posted on August 24, 2017 by Indiana's Cool North
With over 100 lakes in a 558 square mile radius, Kosciusko County’s lakeside charm makes it a popular year-round destination in Indiana’s Cool North. The county’s Native American heritage is preserved in its many lake names, including Tippecanoe, Wawasee, Papakeechie and Waubee. Naturally, fun on and around the lakes is near the top of many to-do lists when visiting (and a couple awesome options are included here), but there’s no shortage of eclectic activities on land, either.
Known for its agriculture, the great outdoors, inventions and innovation, and abundant natural beauty, Kosciusko County has all kinds of unique attractions to make your visit memorable. An added bonus? They’re all within a short drive of each other. Read on for our top five recommendations of things to see and do in Kosciusko County.
If you’re a history buff or like to learn while exploring Indiana’s Cool North, you’ll be delighted to find several intriguing museums and historical buildings in Kosciusko County. Together they showcase some the county’s most interesting figures, industries, and impressive accomplishments over the years.
In downtown Warsaw, the county capital, the Old Jail Museum is an ideal starting point and must-see stop. You’ll get a comprehensive look back to the county’s founding in 1836, including many original county records and archives. The original jail’s neo-gothic stonework and turrets (built in 1870) make it more of a fascinating small castle. Admission is free, and the museum offers guided tours.
Other great museums include the Pound Store Museum, the county’s oldest commercial building, in Leesburg. It opened in 1838 as an Indian trading post. The Lawrence D. Bell Aircraft Museum in Mentone, where the first supersonic jet was invented, and the original home of the famous baseball evangelist, Billy Sunday, at the Billy Sunday Home Museum in Winona Lake (tours here are by appointment only) are also well worth a visit. Looking for more? Here’s a list with more museums in Kosciusko County.
Indiana’s oldest sternwheel tour boat has entertained guests on Webster Lake since 1929 (and she’s never missed a season). Dixie, also affectionately known as New Dixie since her refurbishment, is a 76 ft. sternwheel steel-hulled paddleboat that was added to the prestigious National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
Dixie offers 75-minute narrated tours that include live music and dancing under the stars in the evening. She runs every evening from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend (and offers daytime runs on weekends). If you’re hunting for a bargain, a tour aboard Dixie is one of the lowest priced lake tours you’ll find in Indiana’s Cool North—or just about anywhere—at just $7 per trip. It’s tough to find a more classic experience with excellent scenery at a comparable price point. Dixie can be rented for a private group charter, and snacks and refreshments are available on board.
Looking to dine on the water? If you’re visiting South Park or Syracuse, you can also enjoy a two-hour brunch, lunch, or dinner cruise on Lake Wawasee, Indiana’s largest natural lake, aboard the SS Lillypad.
Just eight miles from Warsaw you’ll find the small town of Pierceton, known fondly as the “antique town,” and for good reason. Pierceton has been a popular stop for antique hunters for nearly 70 years. The town retains much of its old-time allure and despite its small size, is jam-packed with antique stores. The small size is a big bonus: most of the antique shops and attractions are conveniently close together.
You’ll find everything from glassware and furniture to clothing and crafts, plus lots of unusual, unique vintage items from America, Europe, and beyond. Be sure to stop at Blue Pearl Fine Estate Jewelry & Antiques, My Red Moon Curiosities & Collectables, Village Antique Gallerie and Fern Gully Antiques. For a full list of Pierceton’s antique shops, click here.
Looking to fuel up before or after browsing antiques? While the trains no longer stop, delicious meals run on time at the beautifully restored Old Train Depot, a cozy restaurant with a full bar. The brick depot was built in 1867 by the Pennsylvania Railroad as a warehouse for shipping and receiving and retains its original charm. A stop here adds to the old-time experience of a visit to Pierceton, and you’ll enjoy its delicious homemade soups, salads, and cocktails.
Just north of Pierceton is The Pisgah Marsh Nature Preserve, a pristine area set aside to protect the natural habitat of many different plant and animal species. The marsh is a 118-acre property that’s part of a larger 445-acre Pisgah Fish & Wildlife Area.
While hunting and fishing are permitted in the southern Durham Lake Area, the boardwalk area of the park is a hidden treasure in Indiana’s Cool North for nature lovers and bird enthusiasts alike. You’ll find diverse terrain spanning grassland, wetland, upland forest and lake habitat, there are over 290 bird species present, plus excellent wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the year.
Keep your eyes peeled for beavers, rails, squirrels, raccoons, and deer, all while walking along a boardwalk that gives access to this sensitive habitat. Helpful interpretive signage with information about the area’s habitat and wildlife is posted along the way to accompany your walk.
Winona Lake offers amazing activities on the water—fishing, swimming, and boating in the summer, plus ice fishing in the winter—but there’s lots to nearby do on shore, too.
For excellent shopping, visit the Village at Winona, where over 20 Victorian homes have been converted into convenient eateries and artisan shops on the shoreline. The Village is also the host of numerous festivals and events throughout the year, including the Fat & Skinny Tire Fest, Art Fair, Porsche Festival, Canal Days and Oktoberfest.
You can rent canoes and kayaks from the Winona Lake Parks Department, and for award-winning shoreline dining, visit BoatHouse Restaurant or Cerulean Restaurant, or Kelainey’s Sweet Dreams for gourmet salads and sandwiches and a delicious ice cream dessert.
The Village holds several exciting events through the year, including its annual Canal Days on the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. Browse an arts and crafts sale, cheer on a cardboard boat race, enjoy food vendors along the water, and find all kinds of fun for the kids. In the fall, visit for the combined Oktoberfest/Porsche Festival, with a Porsche-only car show along the canal, live music, delicious German food, and lots of refreshing Oktoberfest-style beers to sample and wash it all down.
There’s far more to do than we could cover with a top five, so find even more exciting things to see and do in Kosciusko County and around Indiana’s Cool North here.