It’s only been two years since I was in Evansville for school, and already the city has changed, from the new restaurants to the construction blocking my usual route to downtown. The third largest city in Indiana, Evansville is experiencing a boom worth noticing.
Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden
Opened in 1928, Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden is one of the oldest and largest zoos in the state. It’s 45 acres is home to over 700 animals from around the world, but most importantly it is home to Fong, the Malaysian sun bear cub who came to the zoo in 2015. The zoo hosts plenty of kids events throughout the year, like Boo at the Zoo and Breakfast with Santa.
Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science
The Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science has its origins in the Ladies Literary Club formed in 1874, who encouraged the study of art in Evansville. The museum’s permanent exhibits include Rivertown, USA, which looks at 19th century life in this city on the Ohio River; Arms for Victory Gallery, which highlights Evansville’s role during WWII and the USS LST 325 battleship that is docked just down the river; and the Evansville Museum Transportation Center located just across the parking lot, exploring transportation in Southern Indiana in the 20th century.
Formerly Casino Aztar, this riverboat casino was Indiana’s first casino. Tropicana Evansville has plans to expand to a land-based casino later this year. The riverboat is designed to look like it is straight from the Civil War era. The 2,700-passenger riverboat casino is coupled with the 253-room Tropicana Evansville Hotel and the 96-room Le Merigot boutique hotel. The casino connects to the Downtown Waterfront Entertainment District.
Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve
Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve is a National Natural Landmark and a State Nature Preserve that has nearly 200 acres of virgin bottom land hardwood forest. This is the largest old growth forest inside city limits in the US. The nature preserve features over 6 miles of walking trails, and the adjacent park features a golf course, basketball courts, tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, softball fields, and a playground.
Willard Library is the oldest public library in the state, and may be the most haunted. Inside its beautiful Gothic Revival walls are housed local archives, standard publications, 19th century artwork, and the ghost of the Grey Lady. Many people report seeing the Grey Lady, typically in the basement level of the building near and around the children’s section.
The West Side Nut Club Fall Festival
Since fall is just around the corner, now is the time to get ready for the Fall Festival. The first full week of every October, the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival welcomes 100,000 guests a day to this week-long street festival. The west side of town has been hosting fall festivals since 1918, and the Nut Club took over organization of the festivals in 1921. The festival features carnival attractions, local entertainment, and a parade. But the most important part of the Fall Festival is the food, donut burgers, brain sandwiches, and deep-fried everything. You’re going to want a Munchie Map for this.
The Old Courthouse Catacombs
Since I’m already getting you into the Halloween spirit with fall festivals and haunted libraries, I’d might as well take this time to suggest the Old Courthouse Catacombs haunted house. The Old Vanderburgh County Courthouse is more than just a great place for a wedding, though the 1888 German Beaux-Arts masterpiece is a truly beautiful venue for that too. Every year, the old courthouse basement is transformed into Evansville favorite chilling venue for Halloween thrills. Combo tickets are available for the catacombs and the House of Lecter located just down the street, because if you make it out of one alive, you should try your luck with the next one.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Evansville? Tell me about it in the comments!