After a busy first day during our weekend trip to Lafayette/West Lafayette, we were up bright and early for another full day in the twin cities, as well as nearby Delphi (Carroll County). The whole theme of the trip was to find any First, Only, or Notable in the area.
Here’s where we went:
Lafayette Farmer’s Market
The Lafayette Farmer’s Market is one of Lafayette’s oldest landmarks at 165 years old. It’s a city block at 5th and Main Street, and filled with fruits, vegetables, flowers, honey, maple syrup, coffee, tea, meat, breads, and even dairy products from Traders Point Creamery in northwest Indianapolis.
The Market takes up the entire block, and is closed off for the morning. It’s open from March – October, so we got to visit on the last weekend of the season. We also took some time to wander around downtown, stopping in at a bookstore, a couple antique stores, and even a music store.
McCord Candies is celebrating 100 years old in existence, after opening as Glatz’s Candy in 1912. And in keeping with their rich tradition — their rich, velvety, smooth, chocolatey tradition — they make most of their candies on the premises, upstairs in the third floor candy making kitchen.
We stopped by for a quick treat after spending the morning at the Farmers Market, trying a few of the different candies they offered. Luckily, we only committed to spending a few dollars there, because there was an entire 20 foot case filled with different candies and goodies. We sat and relaxed for a few minutes, enjoyed our candy (I had the coconut cluster with dark chocolate), before we headed out for a nice beverage.
Lafayette Brewing Company
Ashley from Visit Lafayette/West Lafayette said to stop by the Lafayette Brewing Company for a quick beer. While we’ve visited many different brewpubs and microbreweries over the years, this was a first for us, because it was the first microbrewery in the entire state of Indiana — another first for us.
I had the Scottish Ale, which I haven’t had in a while, and thoroughly enjoyed. My wife, Toni, tried the Pilsener, which she also gave a big thumbs up to. We’re both normally Belgian ale drinkers, so we’re picky about the kinds of non-Belgians we drink, but we both liked the offerings of the LBC.
Speaking of Belgian ales, as Indiana’s first, they have trained several people who have gone on to open their own microbreweries, including Ted Miller, owner of Brugge Brasserie, the Belgian brewpub in Indianapolis. That makes the Lafayette Brewing Company the daddy and granddaddy of Indiana microbreweries.
Red Seven Grill (Lunch)
Red Seven may be a unique stop on the weekend tour for us, because it wasn’t a First or Only. Located right on Main Street, just west of the Tippecanoe County courthouse. It’s right next to the Pedestrian Bridge that crosses the Wabash River from Lafayette to West Lafayette.
(A quick note about the courthouse: It’s a gorgeous example of Second Empire, Beaux Arts, Baroque, Rococo, Georgian and Neo-Classical architectural styles — there are pictures in the slideshow in this post. As county courthouses go, this may be my favorite one in the entire state. I wish we could have spent time exploring it, but we were on a tight schedule, and even after the light morning, we were running behind.)
The food at Red Seven is delicious and high end, but not overly fancy or stuffy. You can feel comfortable conducting a business lunch or dinner, dinner with friends, or even a special date. Its modern design and decor makes it a good fit for any occasion.
I had the fish tacos, my two youngest kids loved the chicken fingers, my oldest daughter had the chicken caesar salad, and Toni raved about her pecan crusted chicken salad. I’ve become a real connoisseur of fish tacos over the years, and am usually disappointed to find that most fish tacos are nothing more than a glorified fish stick wrapped in a flour shell with a little lettuce sprinkled on top.
These fish tacos are bite-sized pieces of walleye, fried to a fishing camp golden brown, with lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Sprinkle a little lime, and it’s a party! A normal serving is only three tacos, which is a problem when they’re this good. Still, I came away satisfied, and anything more would have been too much. The Baha Fish Tacos at Red Seven are now in my top five fish tacos in Indiana.
If there’s one thing Tippecanoe County is known for on the national history stage, it’s the battle between Tecumseh and General William Henry Harrison at Prophetstown, a Native American village. The battle, which took place in 1811, was the precursor to the War of 1812.
The 104-acre park features an 85 foot tall marble obelisk monument to the Battle of Tippecanoe. They also have a nature center, picnic shelter, the Wabash Heritage Trail, an educational center, and a chapel.
Unfortunately, it’s the one place we missed, because we were running out of time. We had to make it to our next destination by 2:30, and we were afraid we weren’t going to make it.
Still, it’s a place we promised to get back to. And since we home school our kids, we can take a trip back here, visit the Battlefield Museum, and count it as an educational trip.
Wabash & Erie Canal Interpretive Center
In 1836, after seeing and hearing all the hubbub around the country for canals, Indiana was a little canal-crazy herself. After a few failed attempts in previous years, Indiana received $6 million from the Internal Improvements Act of 1836 to build our very own canal.
Despite the many controversies and complaints about the canal, including a lot of borrowing we had to do — which eventually bankrupted us — our 468 mile canal, which stretched from Toledo to Evansville became the largest fabricated structure in the United States, and was part of the second-longest canal in the world. (Another first and notable for Indiana!)
This was only one of two canal systems completed in Indiana. The other was the 101 mile Whitewater Canal that stretched from Hagerstown to Cincinnati.
The Wabash and Erie Canal Interpretive Center is dedicated to keeping the history of the canal alive, even if 465 miles of it are now closed down, stagnant, or inaccessible because its on private property.
Over the last almost-40 years, the Wabash and Erie Canal Association has strived to clean up, resurrect, and restore a 3-mile stretch of the canal just north of downtown Delphi, Indiana in Carroll County.
The Interpretive Center itself is a museum that details life on and about the canal, including displays of tools and equipment used to build the canal, samples of goods that would have been carried on the canal, and even a working water display that shows how boats could travel “uphill” on a downhill body of water.
There’s also a small village replica called Canal Park, which includes several actual buildings left over from the Canal era, including the house of the canal building manager. We got to tour the house, a school house, and another home in the park, and marveled at how small everyone lived back in those days. If you’ve been to other living history parks like Conner Prairie, you’ll enjoy visiting the buildings and getting an idea of what life was like back in the 1830s and 40s.
But the best part of all, and the thing our kids were looking forward to all day, was the ride in the canal boat. The Delphi is a 2/3 replica of a real canal boat, which has been outfitted and modernized — it runs on electric engines, rather than mule power — and Dan McCain, president of the Wabash and Erie Canal Association was our guide on the canal and around the park.
Dan spoke for the entire 40 minute ride about the history of the canal, as well as the recent history of their efforts to restore and beautify this three mile stretch of water. The cool thing about Dan’s storytelling, in addition to how smooth and enjoyable he is to listen to, is that he is a veritable wealth of information on local Indiana history. While our trip lasted from one end of the canal to the other, I imagine we could have taken that trip three times without Dan running out of a single piece of information.
While the canal ultimately bankrupted Indiana and fell into disuse, it’s an important part of our state’s history. If you find yourself in the area with a couple hours on your hand, head northeast to Delphi on SR 25, and stop in at the Interpretive Center.
Arni’s Restaurant (Dinner)
There are 15 Arni’s Restaurants around Indiana, and the one in Lafayette is the flagship. (Yet another first.) It’s also another first for Indiana pizza fans — anyone who loves Pizza King also loves the square cut shape and the diced pepperoni. Guess where that came from.
Yep, from Arni’s.
Arni’s has been a Lafayette legend for decades, and is still as popular as it has ever been. We were told that we needed to visit the Toys In The Attic room, and we were lucky enough to get a seat there. My wife and I are both in our 40s, and we saw plenty of original toys from our own childhood, as well as our parents’ childhoods as well.
My kids thought it was a hoot to listen to Toni and me reminisce about the toys we loved when we were kids, and the stories we heard from our own parents about their toys. They’re so used to their video games and computer games that sometimes I worry that they miss out on something when their heads are buried in their screens. Still, they have their own classic toys — my son loves his Legos, and my daughters love their American Girl dolls — so they’re not missing a lot.
The pizza itself was grand. I’ve had Arni’s pizza in Indianapolis, and this was as good as I remembered. Square cut, lots of toppings, and plenty of cheese. We ordered two larges (their larges are only 14″), which we were almost able to polish off between the five of us. I think maybe if we had gone on a little hike around the Tippecanoe Battlefield trails before dinner, we could have managed the last four pieces, but we made a respectable showing.
We had a chance to tour part of the restaurant when we were done, including a stop in the Loading Dock, a loading and shipping dock themed bar area inside Arni’s. It is a bar area, so no kids allowed. They can look inside, but there’s nowhere to sit.
And be forewarned: as you’re standing in the bar area looking in, there’s a cab of a semi truck near the door. Stand there long enough, and the driver will beep at you. When you go, bring the kids in, but don’t tell them what’s about to happen.
When we were done, we were supposed to go to Exploration Acres for the corn maze, but we were so tired, and it was really cold out, so we decided to save it for the next day after lunch at the Triple XXX. We had a feeling we were going to need it.