One Perfect Day in Carmel, Indiana

Midwest Travel

Carmel, Indiana is quickly becoming one of Indiana’s visitors’ hot spots. What sports are to neighboring Indianapolis, the arts are to Carmel. With the Center for the Performing Arts and the Arts & Design District for the art lovers, Monon Trail for the outdoor enthusiasts, and an active food scene for foodies, Carmel can add up to the perfect day for a family outing.

And it’s closer than you think. For Midwesterners, it’s one tank of gas away from cities like Chicago, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So Carmel is a great place to add to your must-see destination list.

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Breakfast – Eggshell Bistro

Asparagus Strata at Eggshell Bistro
Asparagus Strata at Eggshell Bistro

We started the morning early with breakfast on the City Center’s north side at Eggshell Bistro, where Chef Larry Hanes is creating a Euro-influenced oasis in the middle of Indiana. Eggshell Bistro makes brunch an art form.

My favorite dish was asparagus strata, an egg and bread cassolette. The chef incorporated a double-smoke ham, caramelized onion, Jarlsberg cheese, and basil pesto. It had tasty bits of caramelization around the edges. A mix of fresh fruit accompanied the dish. Chef Larry Hanes’ signature arrangement of dried and fresh flowers decorated each plate. I wasn’t surprised to learn; Chef Hanes is a former graphic designer.

Biscotti is Eggshell’s specialty dessert. The chocolate-covered biscotti with sea salt draws chocolate lovers. The almond corn biscotti pays homage to Indiana and Italy. Don’t miss these! They’re a portable mid-afternoon snack.

Morning – Explore Carmel Arts & Design District

Sculpture in a bakery called No Label at the Table located in Carmel Indiana
Sculpture in Front of Bakery

Discovering Carmel Arts & Design District, hunting for just one more of J. Seward Johnson’s 17 life-size sculptures is like a scavenger hunt at its best. Sometimes the sculptures are so life-like you’ll do a double-take, as I did when I saw a statue of a suited-business man seated on a bench reading a newspaper.

You’ll find art galleries throughout the district where Indiana artisans offer one-of-a-kind creations like glass works, stoneware, drawings, and paintings.

Lunch – Burgers

Bub's Milk Shake
Bub’s Milk Shake

If you prefer burgers, Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream offers burgers hand-made from fresh ground chuck, never frozen. Then they’re flame-grilled. They make the buns daily in house to perfectly fit the burgers. Lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion, accompany each burger.

The Big Ugly, a one-pound burger starts with 22 ounces of pre-cooked weight and becomes a one-pound burger after it’s cooked. Finishing this giant burger will get your picture on the wall.

Afternoon – Hiking or Biking the Monon Trail

After that one-pound burger, you’ll need some exercise to work it off. The 23-mile paved Monon Bike Trail connects Carmel to Indianapolis through Westfield and Sheridan. This former railroad section is now the perfect trail for hiking and biking.

Piper’s Pro Planning: If you don’t have your bikes with you, check out Carmel Cyclery Bicycle Shop to rent bikes for your trek.

Handmade Chocolate at X'Chocol'Art in Carmel, Indiana
Chocolate at X’Chocol’Art

That biking and hiking may have made you work up an appetite for a snack. Two options for sweet treats are the award-winning hand-made chocolates from XChocol’Art or a gluten-free, dairy-free bakery treat from No Label at the Table.

Dinner – Casual Dining Options

After a break and a quick change for the evening, there are several options for dinner in Carmel Arts & Design District.

Sun King Brewing has several counter-service restaurants situated within the food-court-style brewery. They offer handmade spirits and beer to accompany your meal. While Sun King Spirits is for all-ages, you have to be 21 or older to drink beer or spirits.

La Margarita serves Mexican fare, The Den by FoxGardin has local favorites like the Carmel Tenderloin, Queenie’s Pizza offers up your favorite pizza.

Evening – Experience the Theater

The Palladium in Carmel, Indiana
The Palladium

We ended the day with another type of art – the performing arts. After dinner, we attended a ballet at the Tarkington, one of Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts venues. The center includes four sites, The Palladium, The Tarkington, The Studio Theater, and the Great American Songbook Foundation. The Palladium is a 1,600-seat concert venue that hosts gifted performers like Lyle Lovett and Trisha Yearwood. At the same time, the Tarkington is a unique 500-seat proscenium theater featuring Broadway shows like A Chorus Line or Steve Martin and Martin Short. Finally, the Studio Theater is a flexible theatrical space and home to the Actors Theatre of Indiana.

If you are in the area Monday through Friday during business hours, check out the Great American Songbook Foundation’s rotating exhibits, dedicated to preserving and promoting the music of the Great American Songbook. The public exhibits share the Songbook’s music, history, and culture. When I was there, the Foundation featured the Andrews Sisters. The year before, they featured Meredith Willson of Music Man fame. Each year the exhibit is different. The current display is From the Jazz Age to Streaming: The Soundtrack of the 20s-20s.

So, whether you’re an art lover, an outdoor enthusiast looking for hiking and biking, or a foodie, the perfect day awaits you in Carmel, Indiana.

Getting There

Carmel, Indiana is in the Eastern time zone and in Hamilton County. Noblesville is the county seat.

Most major US airlines serve Carmel through Indianapolis International Airport (IND). You’ll find flights on:

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Air
  • Allegiant
  • American
  • Delta
  • Frontier
  • Southwest
  • Spirit
  • Sun Country
  • United

How far is Carmel, Indiana from?

CityDriving Distance
Chicago, Illinois181 miles
Fort Wayne, Indiana121 miles
Grand Rapids, Michigan240 miles
Indianapolis, Indiana23 miles
Lansing, Michigan333 miles
Milwaukee, Wisconsin279 miles
Driving Distance from Carmel, Indiana

If you’re looking for even more things to do in Indiana, Jamie Ward can help you out with her book “100 Things to Do in Indiana Before You Die.”

Book Cover for "100 Things to Do in Indiana Before You Die"

For more Midwest travel inspiration, check out these posts:

Pin this to your favorite Midwest Travel Board!

Pinterest graphic with images from Carmel, Indiana
Amy Piper
Amy Piper

While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.

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9 Comments

  1. Dawn

    Looks like a great place to visit! Thank you for the itinerary!

    Reply
  2. Alexa Meisler

    What a quaint town! The are and food scene look amazing.

    Reply
  3. Ivan

    Funny you mentioned the statues being life-like, as I got confused too. On a first glance, I thought the man on the bench was a living one too 🙂 Would love to see the other statues from the series!

    Reply
  4. Cosette

    I didn’t know there was a Carmel in Indiana. I’ve only been to Carmel in California. That milkshake from Bob’s looks really good!

    Reply
    • Piper

      Believe me it was!

      Reply
  5. Bob

    For some reason I am now craving a one pound burger and a milkshake.

    Reply
  6. Agnes

    I haven’t heard of Carmel but haven’t been to Indiana yet. I think it’s high time to get interested in this direction because your article is fascinating. I want to explore Carmel Arts & Design District, and I love the idea of biking the Monon Trail.

    Reply
  7. Kelly

    Indeed, this looks like one perfect day! That theater is absolutely beautiful.

    Reply
  8. Sage Scott

    Delicious food and fun public art? Sign me up! I’ll definitely have to make plans to check out Carmel, Indiana!

    Reply

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Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in luxury and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.

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