The Best Stops Along I-65 Southbound

All roads lead to Nashville! If you're taking a road trip to Music City, add some excitement to your drive by pulling off at one of these stops to sightsee, stretch your legs, and nosh on some of the best roadside eats around. These spots can be found between Gary, Indiana and Nashville along Interstate 65 southbound.

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440 miles to Nashville
Gary, IN

Start your adventure to Music City on a musical note with a visit to the childhood home of the Michael Jackson and the whole Jackson 5 clan. Located at 2300 Jackson Street (though the street name is fitting, it was actually named after President Andrew Jackson), the humble house is now a landmark where many flock to pay tribute to the “King of Pop.” It is surrounded by a gate, but there is a plaque stating the significance of the home, and visitors are encouraged to write messages on the boards attached to the fences outside.

A short distance north, take in the Lake Michigan shoreline from Marquette Park, which offers several places to swim and a view of the Chicago skyline on a clear day. Adjacent to the park is Miller Beach Arts and Creative District, a community that has undergone a transformation in the past few years and boasts murals, its own center for the arts, and a number of restaurants.


289 miles to Nashville
Indianapolis, IN

There’s more to Indiana’s capital city than just its speedway. In fact, the best way to experience this city is not by car, but on foot in its sprawling parks. The Canal Walk cuts through downtown, providing joggers and sightseers a three-mile loop alongside the Indiana Central Canal, which was dug in the 1800s. You can traverse the canal on a kayak, paddle boat, or even a gondola. Should you prefer to remain landlocked, there are several attractions just steps away from the Canal Walk, including the Indiana State Museum, numerous public art installations, and the NCAA Hall of Champions. The southern terminus of the Canal Walk connects with White River State Park, which contains the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens. When your feet are tuckered out, do make a point to visit Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To fully appreciate the size of the track, you can drive a lap around it for a nominal fee. Don’t forget to “kiss the bricks” at the start-finish line; it’s been a tradition among race winners since 1996 as a way of paying homage to the history that took place on the brick track after it was laid 1909.

In the summer months, enjoy live music and an evening with friends while water gently rolls past at Concerts on the Canal.

You must be hungry. It’s a good thing because the Indianapolis culinary scene has come into its own in recent years, giving nearby cities like Chicago a run for their money. Since opening in 2014, Milktooth has been redefining American cuisine with its brunch-only menu that uses unconventional ingredients — think calamari and wasabi — which wouldn’t otherwise get play before noon. Let your adventurous side take you wild places, or stick with the more familiar but equally delicious sourdough waffles or eggs, grits, and bacon. For as much as Indy has grown, don’t forget to honor its culinary past, too. St. Elmo Steak House is a classic for a reason. Operating since 1902, its tuxedo-donning waiters have flitted around the dining room serving shrimp cocktail and prime rib in the classiest of fashions. Just how famous is St. Elmo’s steak in Indiana? Even Ron Swanson gloated about it in Parks and Recreation.


176 miles to Nashville
Louisville, KY

Sitting on the edge of the Ohio river, Louisville is a city of multitudes: baseball and bourbon, horses and Muhammad Ali. A walk in this city feels a bit like serendipity. At every corner, a new delight. Start your day where you’ll want to spend most of your time: Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby Museum. Get a tour of the grounds where the “Run for the Roses” has taken place since 1875. More than just a sporting event, it’s a spectacle filled with bright hats, mint juleps, and bold bets. Inside the museum, see if you have what it takes to become a jockey, learn what sets a horse apart, and try your hand at announcing race standings at lightning speed.

A bronze statue memorializing the beloved race horse Barbaro, who handedly won the 2006 Kentucky Derby, is located in front of the Kentucky Derby Museum. His remains are interred on the site. Photograph courtesy of the Kentucky Derby Museum

Afterwards, head downtown to learn about two of Louisville’s most iconic exports. Get the inside scoop on how baseball bats are made at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and hold your favorite player’s game-used bat in your own hands. Downtown is also home to several distilleries. Learn why 95 percent of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky (hint: there’s something in the water) and sample spirits from the likes of Jim Beam and Evan Williams a stone’s throw away from where they’re made. If you’ve got even more time to spend in Louisville, explore the life and legacy of one of the greatest heavyweights of all time at the Muhammad Ali Center and take a stroll along the Big Four Bridge, which crosses over into Indiana.

For endless dining options, head to Frankfort Avenue, shared by the walkable Crescent Hill and Clifton neighborhoods. Stop by Please & Thank You for coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and some of the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever tasted. For rib-sticking fare and something to wet your whistle, The Silver Dollar is housed in an old firehouse and themed after an earlier era of Bakersfield honky-tonks. Wash down an order of chicken and waffles with a bourbon-based cocktail. If you prefer tequila, nearby El Mundo is known for its margaritas as well as locally-sourced ingredients.


127 miles to Nashville
Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park

If you have time for a 20-minute detour, take Exit 91 and jump onto Highway 61 to visit the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. The first memorial in the nation to be dedicated to the 16th president, it sits on a gently sloping knoll where his birth cabin is believed to have been located. Take the 56 steps up to the building — one for every year of Lincoln’s life — and step inside the monument to see a replica of the single-room cabin.


89 miles to Nashville
Mammoth Cave

Spanning more than 400 miles, Mammoth Cave National Park contains the longest cave system known to the world. It contains five levels, and new caves in its network are still being discovered to this day. A geological wonder, Mammoth Cave is anthropologically fascinating, too — it was first explored by humans more than 2,000 years ago. See what’s lured adventurous spirits into the depths and darkness of the Earth on a guided tour led by an expert park ranger. Once you’ve reemerged into the light, take advantage of the park’s abundant trails and kayaking opportunities.

The stalagmites and stalactites inside Mammoth Cave have formed over the course of thousands of years, creating quite the impressive sight for visitors.

Mammoth Cave was named for its size — not the wooly mammal — but prehistoric creatures do roam these parts. If you’ve got kids traveling with you, Dinosaur World is a fun destination for the whole family where you can see life-sized replicas of dinosaurs and examine fossils.


66 miles to Nashville
Bowling Green, KY

Immortalized in American culture for its speed and sleek attitude, the Corvette is only manufactured in one place on earth: Bowling Green. The National Corvette Museum is a behemoth, capturing the sports car’s cultural impact with a collection of models ranging from classics to futuristic prototypes. If you’ve got a need for speed, the NCM Motorsports Park offers the chance to go for a spin in a Corvette with a professional driver on the park’s track.

Hot rod enthusiasts, start your engines — you have seven decades of Corvette history to explore at the museum. Photograph courtesy of the National Corvette Museum

Auto racing was born in the South during Prohibition, when “runners” would transport bootleg moonshine and outpace the authorities using modified cars. There’s no need for that these days, but after you tour the National Corvette Museum, get to Corsair Distillery as quick as you can because you’ll want time to sample and savor its craft batches of spirits. Before opening its popular Nashville outpost, Corsair got its start in Bowling Green. While Kentucky might be known as bourbon country, the distillery spans the gamut with its production of gin, absinthe, whiskey, vodka, and rum. Learn the science behind gin- and whiskey-making on an intimate tour before bellying up to the bar to try Corsair’s experimental pours.


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