Gazebo under golden maple trees.
Many people think of the Northeast when they think of fall, and it is certainly a beautiful part of the U.S., but the Midwest is also an excellent place to experience the season.
There are orchards, pumpkin patches, festivals and historic sites that offer a relaxed atmosphere and friendly people in the midst of small towns filled with 1800's architecture, open fields ready for the harvest and state parks filled with trees, rivers and lakes to explore. It also has the added advantage of being less crowded and usually quite a bit less expensive than places overrun by tourists. Smaller crowds makes things easier and more enjoyable for everyone, but especially for slow walkers and anyone using a wheelchair. (Note: Some festivals do draw very large crowds, but in general it is easy to enjoy fall in a relaxed atmosphere in the region.)
Buildings along Old National Road, the main road that settlers in covered wagons used to move west.
Here are a few of our favorite experiences based in the Indiana/Ohio area.
Attend the Starr Gennett Walk of Fame Music Festival in the place where some of the top names in music made their first recordings! It is considered the "Birthplace of Recorded Jazz," but other music genres were recorded here as well. Stroll the Walk of Fame and be amazed at the names you see in this unassuming location. The festival is in September. The Walk of Fame is open all year and is located by a walking trail and the ruins of the Starr Gennett Piano Factory where the recordings were produced. CDs of the early recordings can often be found at the large furniture store in the nearby Depot District. While in the Depot District, don't miss the Firehouse BBQ and Blues restaurant in a historic firehouse painstakingly restored by local firemen. The Gennett Mansion on National Road has dinners and other events you can enjoy as well.
It seems especially appropriate to pick out a pumpkin in Indiana, the home state of James Whitcomb Riley (author of "When the Frost is on the Punkin") and visit an orchard in the land of Johnny Appleseed who is buried in the northern part of the state.
Historic Stockdale Mill and Roann Covered Bridge are historic sites that offer great photo opportunities. Both can be seen from the road, and you can drive through Roann Covered Bridge to appreciate the craftsmanship. Nearby Roann has a quaint downtown that makes it easy to remember that this was the frontier not that long ago. A log cabin and log jail are just up a small hill from the main street.
Levi Coffin House was known as "Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad."
Travel historic highway 27, a key route on the Underground Railroad. Learning about the courage and determination of abolitionists from the 1800's may just inspire you to fight against modern-day slavery and injustice.
Visit the Levi Coffin House,"Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad," and attend a traditional service of silent reflection at a church whose congregation was well-known for its work in the movement at New Garden Meeting House.
New Garden Meeting House, Fountain City, Indiana
The church is a Quaker church, but the area is also home to Indiana's newest Amish settlement, so you can really feel like you stepped back in time if you stay at the former schoolhouse/parsonage and watch the buggies go past. In fact, you can even book a carriage ride.
Don't miss the chance to buy cheese and other goodies at the Amish store down the road. Better yet, pack a picnic and travel along the nearby American Discovery Trail, a coast-to-coast trail. This section is flat enough to be very easy to enjoy no matter what mobility challenges you face.
If you are flying into the region, there are a lot of choices, but Dayton International Airport is a pleasant option because it is small and easy to navigate. It is also technically outside of Dayton by the small town of Vandalia so there is less traffic when you first start driving. (It is right by Interstate 70, but you can even take Old National Road/US Highway 40 to Historic Highway 27 to many of the attractions listed above.) The Wright Brothers are from the area, so the airport celebrates that with a model of one of their planes.
If you have any interest in aviation at all, you don't want to miss the area's attractions. Dayton has several related to the Wright Brothers including a replica of their bicycle shop and the field where they ran many of their test flights. As one aviation enthusiast put it, "It's just a field, but it's a field where the course of history was changed." There is also the National Museum of the United States Air Force,the largest and oldest museum of its kind in the world. It is amazing and free! There are also other attractions within about an hour or two including the Wilbur Wright Birthplace Museum in Millville, Indiana. (Note: They close for the winter.) The Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum honoring the accomplishments of the first man to walk on the moon is located in western Ohio. On a smaller scale, anyone who has ever enjoyed model airplanes would enjoy a visit to the Academy of Model Aeronautics in eastern Indiana.
Follow antique trails with over 900 antique shops! Many are near Old National Road, the main road that settlers in covered wagons used to move west.
Covered Bridge Driving Tours
Visit the "Covered Bridge Capital of the World."
Lincoln's Boyhood Home
“We reached our new home about the time the State came into the Union. It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up."
There are a lot of pumpkin and apple festivals to enjoy in the area. Check out the Indiana and Ohio festival websites below for a complete list of all different kinds of festivals.
Accessible trails in state and national parks make it possible to enjoy the wonders of nature no matter what mobility challenges you face.
Model of Wright Flyer at Wilbur Wright Birthplace Museum
Model of Wright Cycle Shop at Wilbur Wright Birthplace Museum
For even more ideas and possible discounts visit the following websites:
Note: Some attractions are located in historic buildings that have varying degrees of wheelchair accessibility.(For example, the Levi Coffin house exterior, main floor and barn can be viewed relatively easily, but the stairs to the 2nd floor and basement are steep.) When visiting stores, attractions or booking overnight accommodations, it is always a good idea to call ahead to inquire about their degree of accessibility. The sites listed were visited by members of our staff and their families who have serious health challenges and were chosen for how easy they are to enjoy despite those challenges. To the best of our knowledge, all of the attractions are at least partially wheelchair accessible. We wish that all portions of all attractions were barrier free, but we chose to include even those that still need to improve in that area so that people with other health challenges can benefit from them in the meantime.