The annual spectacle at the Shrader-Weaver Nature Preserve
When the Whitewater Valley Railroad first took off in 1867, the train provided a high-speed route from Connersville to Cincinnati. These days, the line’s Fall Foliage Flyer departs Connersville—at 10 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays and at noon Saturdays and Sundays—for a scenic ride to Metamora and back. A two-hour layover in Metamora gives travelers time to browse in more than 50 shops and restaurants and explore the historic attractions of 173-year-old village, where a gristmill and a replica of a horse-drawn canal boat still operate.
Want a waterside view of the foliage? Book passage on that canal boat, the Ben Franklin III. Thirty-minute cruises leave every hour from noon until 4 p.m. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Ben Franklin III hosts kid-friendly Spooky Halloween Cruises, with crewmembers passing out candy and telling scary stories for the duration of the excursions; departures are at 7:30, 8, and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $4. Call 765-647-6512 for more information.
And while you’re in the neighborhood: Maintained by the Indiana Audubon Society, The Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary (3499 S. Bird Sanctuary Rd., Connersville; 765-827-5109, indianaaudubon.org), has more than 700 acres containing foot trails and dozens of species of birds. For more foliage and birding in Connersville, head for the Shrader-Weaver woods (in.gov/dnr/naturepreserve/4698.htm; click on the link for the Shrader-Weaver Nature Preserve for a map), where you’ll find roughly 100 acres inhabited by barred owls, red-bellied woodpecker, and numerous migrant species. Two easy-to-walk trails loop through the property: The Old Growth Woods Trail winds through a forest of maples, oaks, and beeches; the Succession Trail cuts through a forest-in-the-making of mostly younger trees.
GO Whitewater Valley Railroad, 455 Market St., Connersville; 765-825-2054, whitewatervalleyrr.org
Where to stay: The Cat & the Fiddle (19068 Duck Creek Crossing, Metamora; 513-403-0672, metamoraindiana.com) is less than a mile from the old gristmill and claims to be the largest bed-and-breakfast in Metamora; rates are $75, $95, and $115 a night. The Brookville Inn (1049 Main St., Brookville; 765-647-5522, thebrookvilleinn.com) has four themed rooms in a century-old Victorian mansion with elaborate woodwork and stained glass windows; nightly rates range from $90 to $140.
Where to eat: Located in the “Village of Spires” (because there are so many architecturally unique churches), Wagner’s Village Inn (22171 Main St., Oldenburg; 812-934-3854) is known for its fried chicken. Brian’s Bookstore and Coffee (408 N. Central Ave., Connersville; 765-827-4675) has great coffee and pastries, and provides an independent alternative to chain bookstores.
Photograph: Courtesy of Bob Shrader