Located in the heart of downtown, the Indianapolis Zoo allows visitors to immerse themselves in the natural habitat of a myriad of wildlife. The Ocean exhibit features the country’s largest smooth dogfish shark touch pool and a 17-foot underwater dome for viewing dolphins. Nearby, the Desert exhibit raises the temperature to appease the meerkats, iguanas, cacti and poisonous snakes that inhabit the space. The Plains exhibit allows kids and adults alike to check out the lions through thick-gauge glass, explore a pavilion overlooking white rhinos as they play in the mud, watch staff feed giraffes or feed them yourself and test your legs against a simulation of the zoo’s own cheetahs. Elsewhere, guests can gawk at tigers and fawn over brown bears, then ride the zoo’s mini-train for a faraway look at animals and behind the scenes pavilions, before taking in the sprawling, butterfly-filled indoor garden.
A boer goat stares at you. A donkey stares at the goat. And a baby tennessee walking horse reads its first Dr. Seuss book. No matter where you point your eyes, you’ll be treated to sights of charming animals at Jane’s Saddlebag’s petting zoo. It’s one of many delightful fixtures at the rural getaway—a hands-on historical education experience at a restored saddlebag home, which sprawls across more than 35 acres near Big Bone Lick State Park. A historic smokehouse adjacent to the home offers insight to the days before refrigeration, when Kentucky farmers would preserve their cured meat by hanging it above a smoldering fire. And behind the saddlebag home lies a replica of a 1700s flatboat, a low-cost form of transportation used by settlers to take one-way trips down the Ohio River and achieve ankle tans.
From April to October, these rustic outposts bathe in the sound waves of live music, and the cook-in-residence slakes the hunger built up from exploring both the refreshing nature of the grounds and the historical splendor it offers. When it’s in season, the cook uses freshly grown vegetables and puts flames to a new york strip steak until it’s almost as tender as the mashed potatoes with which it’s served. There’s even a wine and gift shop, where regional wines—some from Kentucky—vie with antiques and gift baskets for the attention of gift givers.