Unique Things to Do in Evansville

by Paul Joseph  |  Published March 27, 2023

Perched on the banks of the Ohio River in Indiana, Evansville is home to a heady mix of cultural, historic and outdoor attractions that draw visitors from far and wide.

The scenic environs of Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Gardens (Photo: Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Gardens)

One of the most popular destinations anywhere in southern Indiana, the self-titled “River City” is packed full of one-of-a-kind sights and notable landmarks to explore. If you’re visiting Evansville and would like to start building an action-packed itinerary that makes the most of your stay, we’ve done the research so you don’t have to and picked out 12 of the most unique things to see and do across the city,.

Explore acres of historic zoo and gardens

Spread over 45 scenic acres, the historic Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden immerses visitors in its raw and inspiring natural beauty. A staggeringly diverse collection of more than 700 animal species calls the zoo home, and particularly well represented are creatures typically found in the Amazon in South America, including jaguars, capybaras, squirrel monkeys, black howler monkeys and Cuvier’s dwarf caimans. The venue’s botanic gardens are a delight to explore at your leisure, too.

545 Mesker Park Drive / Mon-Sun 9am-4pm

Take in some culture

One of Southwestern Indiana’s most respected cultural institutions, the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science maintains a permanent collection of more than 40,000 objects, including fine art, decorative arts, historic documents and photographs, and anthropological artifacts. Also on the museum’s campus is the Evansville Museum Transportation Center, featuring Southern Indiana transportation artifacts from the late-19th through the mid-20th centuries. The museum’s Koch Immersive Theater & Planetarium offers programs in astronomy and full-dome projection science films for all ages. 

411 SE Riverside Drive / Thurs-Sat 11am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm Closed Mon-Weds

An exhibition space at Evansville Museum (Photo: Evansville Museum)

Families visiting Evansville have plenty to keep little ones entertained, and among the most popular attractions is the Children’s Museum of Evansville. Designed for kids up to age 12, the museum is housed within an elegant Art Deco building and is packed full of interactive exhibits and displays that serve to spark children’s curiosity and imagination. Specially curated ‘experiential zones’ include Live Well, which promotes healthy eating, and Work Smart, which explores the basics of mechanics and engineering.

22 SE 5th Street / Tues-Thurs 9am-4pm Fri-Sat 9am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm Closed Mon

Attend a fun-packed festival

Devotees of the legendary Mexican fried corn treat flock to the hugely popular Evansville Taco Festival in downtown Evansville each year. At the event, you’ll find some of the area’s best food purveyors dishing out a variety of tacos, while bars and beverage stations serve up margaritas, tequila flights, ice-cold beer, soda and more. There’s also live stage music, plus tons of other entertainment and activities, including a chilli pepper eating contest, a piñata smash, and a kids’ zone with face painting and bouncy castles.

Veterans Memorial Coliseum, 300 Court Street / April each year

Revellers pose for a photo at Evansville Taco Festival (Photo: Evansville Taco Festival)

Held annually in Evansville, the Victory International Film Festival features screenings of a variety of films including feature films, short films, documentaries, student films, animated films and films from around the world.  The festival includes workshops, plus a chance to meet and interact with many of the filmmakers. Locations for screenings include the Victory Theatre, Showplace Cinemas, Old National Theatre at WNIN.  Red carpet events and a nightly After Party cap off each evening.

Venues across Evansville / September each year

Marvel at a relic of WWII

During the Second World War, industrial production in Evansville flourished, particularly  on the riverfront. Central to these wartime efforts was a large shipyard tasked with building tank landing ships (LSTs), amphibious vessels designed to deliver tanks, trucks, jeeps and troops directly onto enemy territory. Today the city remains the home port for the USS LST-325, the only remaining operational LST on American waters, where it offers frequent tours to the public.

610 NW Riverside Drive / Weds-Sun 10am-4pm Closed Mon-Tues

Discover 700 years of Native American history

Situated about eight miles southeast of Evansville, the Angel Mounds State Historic Site  takes visitors on a historical journey to a millennium ago. Steeped in Mississippian culture, the site represents the very beginning of modern archaeology in Indiana, and is one of the best-preserved, pre-contact Native American sites anywhere in North America. As well as its pre-historic resonance, it’s also an area of stunning natural scenery, with many coming here to hike or bike along the four-mile Angel Mounds Loop Trail. There’s also an interpretive centre that teaches you more about the original settlers who once lived here.

8215 Pollack Avenue / Weds-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon-Tues

A misty scene at Angel Mounds State Historic Site (Photo: Angel Mounds State Historic Site)

Peruse books at Indiana’s oldest public library

It’s fair to say that libraries don’t typically make it onto lists of top tourist attractions – but Willard Library is one of the rare exceptions. Situated in downtown Evansville, Indiana’s oldest operational library is housed in a palatial Gothic Revivalist building that dates back to 1885. But far more than mere architectural merit, the library has also had a major impact on intellectual life in Evansville, and is especially renowned for its extensive genealogy and local history collections.

21 North First Avenue / Mon-Tues 9am-8pm Weds-Fri 9am-5.30pm Sat 9am-5pm Sun 1pm-5pm

Watch a live theatre show

Once a grand 1920s playhouse, the Victory Theatre underwent a significant renovation in recent years to bring it up to modern standards while retaining much of its previous character and style. As a result, the 2,000-capacity venue now offers spectators clean viewing lines and state-of-the-art audiovisual facilities together with many of its original features. Located on downtown Evansville’s charming cobblestone walkway, in addition to being the home of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, the theatre also hosts a wide variety of concerts, Broadway shows, and children’s programming.

600 Main Street 

Performers line up for a promotional shot at Victory Theatre (Photo: Victory Theatre)

Go hiking in urban marshlands

A 35-acre natural area teeming with marshes, forests and meadows, the Howell Wetlands are one of the largest urban wetlands anywhere in Indiana. The rare ecosystem features a variety of habitats, with beavers, eagles, cranes, migrating birds, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, and possums among the animals that have made the area their home. A network of hiking trails and boardwalks can be traversed solo or as part of guided tours.

1400 South Tekoppel Avenue / Mon-Sun 8am-10pm

Catch a baseball game

As is the case in cities all across the US, baseball is a seriously big deal in Evansville. First opened back in 1915, Bosse Field is a historic sports arena and the home stadium of the Evansville Otters baseball team, who enjoy a loyal and vocal following that regularly packs the stately old ballpark to the rafters for matches. Luckily for visitors, tickets are usually made available to the public, meaning you can also take part in that most quintessential of American sporting experiences.

Bosse Field, 23 Don Mattingly Way

A baseball match at Bosse Field (Photo: Zigger_Dog via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Get close to nature at an arboretum

Another of Evansville’s outdoor places of interest, Hartman Arbetorium was founded in 2001 to serve as a nature classroom for schoolchildren, as well as a place where all visitors could come and learn about the diversity of trees and shrubs found in Southern Indiana and the wider region. Home to some 500 tree varieties, there’s also a Wildlife Garden featuring nectar and host plants where butterflies flutter around you to much delight, along with an impressive hydrangea collection, a wild meadow., a memorial garden, and more.

5939 Spirit Trail / Thurs 8am-12pm Closed Fri-Weds