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Muncie, IN is a Creative Paradise


Cammack Station is worth a stop just to see all of the oil & gas signs covering every inch of the retro-themed restaurant.
Cammack Station is worth a stop just to see all of the oil & gas signs covering every inch of the retro-themed restaurant.

There seems to be something about Muncie, IN, that inspires creativity. Maybe it’s the college campus in the middle of the city or the endless opportunities to admire art, or the fact that some pop culture icons first made their mark in this midwestern town.


THE LEGACY OF THE BALL BROTHERS


One of the biggest influences in Muncie—and one of the reasons that it is known by home cooks worldwide—is the Ball family. Inventors of the Ball mason jar, the five Ball brothers moved their glass manufacturing business from Buffalo, NY to Muncie in 1886 for its plentiful natural gas. By 1937, the company was worth $7 million—and the Balls, who were noted philanthropists, gave plentifully to the community that helped them make their fortune.



A charming sculpture, entitled Wait for Me, stands outside the Muncie Children’s Museum.
A charming sculpture, entitled Wait for Me, stands outside the Muncie Children’s Museum.

In addition to supporting a hospital and the YMCA, the brothers established Ball State University, which enrolls 30,000 students a year. The campus is also home to the David Owsley Museum of Art, a free museum that is a must-see for its diverse collection from around the globe showcasing Ancient, African, Asian, Oceanic, American, European, and Modern and Contemporary art.


The third largest university in the state, the university campus also houses the Minnetrista Museum & Gardens, which in addition to a 40-acre museum, includes five Gilded Age homes once owned by the extended Ball family.



Kids who visit the Muncie Children’s Museum can take advantage of numerous interactive exhibits.
Kids who visit the Muncie Children’s Museum can take advantage of numerous interactive exhibits.

The Oakhurst Experience, for example, enables visitors to tour the 1894 home of George and Frances Ball and their daughter, Elisabeth, which features a world-renowned collection of children’s books. The famous Ball Blue Book was ‘born’ in Oakhurst’s kitchen, and a Fairies, Sprites and Lights Experience every July attracts more than 5,000 people to the home for the three-day event.


While the original Minnetrista was a Ball family home that burned down in 1967, the museum built in its place lovingly preserves the family legacy through its displays of Muncie and university history, intertwined with Ball jar keepsakes—including specially designed commemorative Ball jars that were given to retiring employees featuring words of affection from factory coworkers.



The former Lucius L. Ball home on campus is now a museum for The Bob Ross Experience, where those who have admired the painter’s work can learn more about the painter and even take part in a certified painting experience. Though the show was later filmed in a studio at the university, this is the home where the original show, which can be found on streaming services today—began airing in 1983.


Those who admired The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross can take part in a certified painting experience while visiting Muncie.
Those who admired The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross can take part in a certified painting experience while visiting Muncie.

Touring the one-room studio inside the house brings a rush of memories for anyone who ever listened to Ross’ soothing voice telling us to “add some happy little trees.” His original easel is still on display, as are the massive cameras that were used to film the show. A gallery of original Bob Ross work is located upstairs, as is a studio where aspiring artists learn how to paint like Bob. But sign up early; these classes sell out six months in advance!


Ball State University was also the alma mater of self-proclaimed ‘C’ student David Letterman, and cartoonist Jim Davis, who created the lasagna-loving cat Garfield. The new communications and media building has since been named after the late-night host, and you can still see the plaque that Letterman dedicated on campus to other average students, as well as visit Dave’s Alley to see the post office box where people could leave letters that would be sent straight to his show.



It’s easy to take a shine to the reflective disco-ball-clad Garfield at Muncie’s United Way office.
It’s easy to take a shine to the reflective disco-ball-clad Garfield at Muncie’s United Way office.

Davis’ legacy can also be seen all over town, as large statues of Garfield can be found in both public and private businesses that attract Garfield-loving tourists from as far away as England and Australia. The statues come in all forms, from the ‘graduate cat’ in the alumni office at the university to the reflective disco-ball-clad cat at the United Way office. There’s even a statue in the Muncie Children’s Museum, the second largest children’s museum in the state, where kids can take advantage of interactive exhibits including water works, a simulated dinosaur bone dig and an outdoor learning center. A short drive away, The National Model Aviation Museum is also a fun family activity where kids can try out model flight simulators, play computer games and experience a wind tunnel.


Not surprisingly for a town that the TV show Parks and Rec was based on, there are also a lot of outdoor spaces in Muncie that can be enjoyed, including the Prairie Creek Reservoir, the second largest park in the country behind New York’s Central Park. The 62-mile Cardinal Greenway rail trail runs through the park and attracts events including an annual 5K race, the Cardinal (bike) ride and IRONMAN competitions, which have been held there for the past 40 years.



Vera Mae’s French onion soup features cheese so thick that they include a pair of scissors on the platter.
Vera Mae’s French onion soup features cheese so thick that they include a pair of scissors on the platter.

It’s not surprising that the town built on the Ball jar is home to amazing food as well. Vera Mae’s, located in Muncie’s historic downtown, is known for its provolone-dripping French onion soup that requires its own scissors; Cammack Station is worth a stop just to see all of the oil & gas signs covering every inch of the retro-themed restaurant. Stop into family-owned Tonne Winery to sample their best-selling Royerton Red, and make sure to pick up some ‘Dark Secrets’ confections at Lowery’s Home Made Candies—the shop, which opened in 1941, is known for closely guarding the 100-year-old chocolate recipe.


There are numerous other options for just about every kind of food available, so make sure to check out the Indiana Foodways Alliance page to get a list of Indiana Culinary Trails at www.IndianaFoodways.com.


To learn more about Muncie, IN, check out https://visitmuncie.org.


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