James Dean, Utopia and Spelunking in the Heartland

USA Today

By Mary Mihaly, special for USATODAY.com

Indianapolis is a good starting point for a variety of day trips focusing on everything from James Dean to views of Utopian lifestyles to architectural wonders and spelunking.

Home of cool — All of Grant County, about an hour north of Indianapolis, claims the late James Dean as its native son and a tourist industry has been built around the actor’s legacy. Styling itself as “James Dean Country — Where cool was born” may be stretching things a bit, but fans of Dean’s short but impressive acting career will find something of interest here, whether it’s his boyhood home, the shop where he got his first motorcycle or his grave. A memorial service is held every September 30 at the Back Creek Friends Church on the anniversary of his death in 1955. Tourist spots are well marked, but making the James Dean Gallery on Main Street your first stop gets you in the thick of things. Non-Dean related attractions nearby include the six-mile drive north to the Mississinewa Battlefield, site of a famous War of 1812 battle, a variety of festivals, fairs and Ivanhoe’s Restaurant on State Road 22 in Upland, a spot that’s known for serving more than 100 varieties of ice cream sundaes and shakes.