More and more individuals are opting for road trips over flying these days, and I am here for it. I have always been a strong advocate for the road trip. All I need are a few of my favorite people and a great playlist!
Road trips offer excellent opportunities to explore off the beaten path and discover new things in your backyard that may have been previously overlooked.
The Midwest has an abundance of cool travel destinations; my latest discovery is Hamilton County, Indiana!
I have driven through Hamilton County multiple times during road trips to Indianapolis and beyond. But, I had no idea about the beautiful gem that I repeatedly passed through!
Hamilton County, Indiana
Named after Alexander Hamilton, Hamilton County is about 30 minutes north of Indianapolis, Indiana. Its largest cities consist of Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, and Westfield. The county as a whole and cities within have received numerous national accolades, including:
- 2018 Best Small Cities for Biking in the U.S. by People For Bikes (Carmel)
- 2018: 9 Best Food & Drink Trails in the U.S. by Trips to Discover (Hamilton County)
- 2019 Best Fall Getaways by Reader’s Digest (Hamilton County)
- 2018 World’s #1 Amphitheatre: Ruoff Music Center by Pollstar (Noblesville)
- 2019: 19 Places in the Midwest to Visit with Family by Chicago Parent
- 2019: 50 Best Food Towns in America by The Daily Meal (Carmel)
- 2019: Safest Cities in America by Neighborhood Scout (Carmel, Fishers, Westfield)
A drive from Chicago with a 6:30 a.m. start time put us at our first stop in Carmel around 9:00 a.m. central time.
Within the cities of Hamilton County, visitors will find public art and galleries, hiking and bike trails, unique local shops, incredible food, museums, and lots of nature and outdoor activities such as golfing, kayaking, and boating. My husband and I agreed that we could have spent a few extra days because there was so much more that we wanted to see but ran out of time. Another trip is definitely in our future.
Dave and I relished in a lovely relaxing weekend and fit quite a bit into our schedule at an enjoyable pace. With everything that we’ve been experiencing over the past few months, this getaway was exactly what we needed.
Where to Stay in Hamilton County Indiana
Our accommodations were at the Drury Plaza Hotel at 9625 N. Meridian St. This was our first road trip during the pandemic; the protocols implemented by the hotel when it came to social distancing and cleaning put me at ease. Our room was spotless.
Hotel amenities include free hot breakfast, business center, pool, and 24-hour fitness center (pool and fitness center require reservations). There’s also a restaurant and a 5:30 kickback every evening with complimentary cocktails and food. If you want a comfortable and refreshing stay, I recommend this hotel.
Where to Shop, Eat, Sip, and Play in Hamilton County Indiana
The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolynn Rogers–Carmel, IN
Carmel City Center: 799 Hanover Place Suite 260
We began with brunch at The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolynn Rogers. Let me just say that you don’t want to miss this fairy-tale experience! As soon as I gazed upon the exterior, I knew that I was in for a treat! As I entered and peered around, the word magical came to mind. Every inch of the decor is stunning, and the cakes are exquisite! We were also extremely impressed with the service, food, and cocktails! I had the best quiche of my life here (Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil, and Feta.)
My friends know that I prefer pie over cake, so when I told them that I’d drive back to The Cake Bake Shop just for another slice of the blueberry lemon cake, they knew it slapped! The Cake Bake Shop is on my list for whenever I return to Hamilton County. Maybe next time, I’ll try their Afternoon Tea. Walk ins are welcome but reservations are recommended.
Carmel City Center: 741 Hanover Pl, Carmel, IN
Bath Junkie is only a few steps away from The Cake Bake Shop. Stop in to create your own bath and body products. Select your product, choose your fragrance and color, and they’ll mix it for you. It was hard settling on a scent because there’s a plethora to choose from. The staff were very knowledgeable regarding which scents worked well together and patient with mixing according to my liking.
I ended up creating a bath oil with an acai and bamboo scent, and I love it! Dave created a cologne consisting of woodlands, chocolate & sage, sweet grass, and cedar.
Kawachinagano Japanese Garden
One Civic Sq., South of Carmel City Hall
We didn’t let the rainfall prevent us from exploring this beautiful garden park.
Entry through a Japanese arch led to a colorful tranquil garden featuring a large koi pond, flowers, and seating to take in the peaceful surroundings. Also, there’s, a covered picnic area with tables.
The small park was inspired by representatives of Carmel’s Sister City, Kawachinagano, Osaka, Japan.
Urban Vines Winery & Brewery
303 E. 161st St., Westfield, IN
Urban Vines Winery & Brewery is Westfield’s first winery and second brewery. The 5-acre property includes a tasting room, brewery, outdoor patio, and meadow overlooking the pond and vineyard. The rain subsided in time for us to enjoy a lovely afternoon of wine, sun, and conversation. My cousin, who lives in the area, met up with us at the vineyard. It felt good seeing family again! There’s plenty of space to spread out and get comfy here. There’s also live music in the evenings.
Grindstone Public House
101 N. 10th St., Noblesville, IN
Saturday evening we dined at Grindstone Public House, a locally owned restaurant, in the charming historic town of Noblesville. Grindstone Public House is located in the historic Castor building built in 1891 by William H. Castor, a local farmer, and entrepreneur. The restaurant specializes in American fare.
I ordered the fish & chips (I substituted the chips for mashed potatoes), and it did not disappoint! Ordering fish at restaurants is always a risk, in my opinion. I was delighted with this dish; the fish was perfectly cooked and flavorful throughout while the batter was light. The Stuffed’ Shrooms appetizer was also ahhhhmmmazzzzzingggg! On another note, I was intrigued to see a fried bologna sandwich on the menu, which was my go-to as a kid! Next time, lol.
Four Day Ray Brewing-Fishers, IN
11671 Lantern Rd.
We ended our evening with a stroll around downtown Fishers and beer flights at Four Day Ray Brewing. The brewery features a constantly rotating selection of award-winning brews at their 24-tap tasting room. I’m pretty tolerant when it comes to strong craft beer. However, I think their Monk Sweat put some hair on my chest! It definitely made me sweat!
51 W. City Center Dr., Carmel, IN
Sunday began with brunch at Eggshell Bistro, a globally inspired award-winning restaurant from Chef Larry Hanes. We shared the Truffled Egg Tartine: sous-vide poached hen’s egg, roasted asparagus, truffle oil, preserved lemon, watercress, bottarga, and fontina and the Shakshuka: Moroccan-spiced tomato base, habanera, onion, garlic, kale, chèvre, zhoug, baked hen’s egg, grilled baguette.
My taste buds went nuts when I bit into the Truffled Egg Tartine; as a result, I had to talk myself out of ordering a second serving. The flavor combination was outstanding! The Shakshuka had incredible taste and spice. It came with a grilled baguette that was out of this world. Food and Wine Magazine named Eggshell Bistro the best breakfast in Indiana; well, they certainly won’t get any argument from me. Don’t miss this spot!
Books & Brews
61 West City Center Drive, Carmel, IN
Our final stop before heading home was at Books & Brews.
We love books. We love beer. We love people. At Books & Brews we’re passionate about disconnecting people from technology and reconnecting them with each other.Books & Brews
It was love at first sight when Dave and I walked into this place. There’s a bookstore selling gently used books in front and a bar selling craft beer named after books in the back. We tried some of the Nancy Brew and couldn’t leave without a 6 pack to enjoy at home. I can’t wait to return so that I can spend more time here.
Our weekend hit the spot in so many ways and created great memories.
I suggest that you add Hamilton County Indiana to your list of Midwest Destinations!
My visit to Hamilton County, Indiana was hosted by Visit Hamilton County Tourism Inc. All opinions in this article are my own.