Now that it’s vacation season, visitors and locals alike are converging to enjoy all that Steuben County has to offer.
“With 101 lakes, Pokagon State Park, nature preserves, beautiful downtowns, great restaurants, beaches, historic train rides and a buffalo preserve, Steuben County is the perfect getaway that’s close to home,” says Janet Hartsuff, Steuben County Tourism Bureau communications/marketing manager, 430 N. Wayne St., Ste. 1B, Angola. “The lakefront Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park has been a family-favorite for multiple generations. We have an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities as well as unique shopping and festivals.”
The region’s newest attraction is the Indiana Rail Experience, adds June Julien, executive director of the Steuben County Tourism Bureau. Passengers can enjoy themed vintage train rides, such as the Wine and Chocolate ride on July 7 and 8, the Wine and Whiskey experience July 15, and more all summer. Details are at indianarailexperience.org.
Outdoor enthusiasts have ample opportunities to enjoy the 101 natural lakes in the area, the most popular of which are Lake James, Hamilton Lake and Crooked Lake, Julien adds.
“Nearly a million campers visit annually at 918,200 people,” she says. “The largest campgrounds are Jellystone and KOA Angola. Our magnet attraction is Pokagon State Park with 750,000 visitors annually.”
Potawatomi Inn & Cabins, nestled in the 1,260-acre Pokagon State Park, is a historic destination featuring 126 guest rooms and 12 cabins that sit on the shore of Lake James. The inn boasts a spacious banquet and conference center, two onsite restaurants, an indoor pool, a hot tub and sauna, a game room, multiple cozy fireplaces throughout, and family-friendly activities year-round. Reservations can be made at in.gov/dnr/state-parks/inns/potawatomi-inn-at-pokagon-state-park/.
Meanwhile, Pokagon State Park features miles of hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing at a nature center.
In addition to enjoying the natural landscape, visitors can take advantage of the surrounding area for its bountiful restaurants, wineries, breweries and shopping opportunities.
“The restaurants with the most visits annually are Acapulco, on Lake James, and Timbers in Angola,” Julien says. The restaurants offer Mexican fare, and steak and seafood, respectively.
For multiple hours of excellent shopping, The Outlet Shoppes at Fremont, 6245 N. Old 27 Fremont, offer both locally owned shops and popular chain stores all in one location.
“The Outlet Shoppes at Fremont is conveniently located at the intersection of Interstate 80/90 and Interstate 69 near Pokagon State Park,” says Heather Crum, senior property accountant/administrative assistant at The Shoppes at Fremont. “I believe all employees are very welcoming to shoppers – they inform them of sales and offer support while shopping. The center also offers free WI-FI and free use of strollers and wheelchairs.”
The convenient location, affordable prices and wide selection of shops keep the center bustling with visitors, Crum adds. She recommends budgeting about 2-3 hours to explore all the shops.
A few particularly unique locations include Petshion, a pet boutique store that carries eco-friendly toys made in the USA, The Pickle Factory, which offers many varieties of pickles and other items, and Amanda Lee Coffee Shop, with coffee, refreshers, bubble tea, smoothies and a small clothing boutique line.
National stores where you’re likely to find sales include Coach, Under Armour, Carter’s, Bath & Body Works, Levi’s, Maurice’s, American Eagle, Famous Footwear, Jockey and more.
“Petshion has been locally owned and operated since 2012 from Fort Wayne, and last year, we decided to open our second location to share great products for the fur babies in Fremont,” says Kee Kim, owner of Petshion. “We carry plenty of dog chew toys, natural and holistic dog and cat treats, a plethora of fashionable dog clothes and accessories, as well as grooming products to make your dog smell fresh and clean.”
Petshion also operates a Doggie Bakery featuring biscuits dipped in yogurt in fun shapes. Items in the shop accommodate pets of all sizes, from small Yorkies to big Great Danes.
“We also have plenty of cat toys and treats, too, and even harnesses and leashes for those cats who love the outdoors,” Kim adds. “Your dog or cat is very special to us, and we would like to pamper them. All our employees are eager and excited to help assist you to find exactly what you need. We are all extremely informed on our products and do our best to make sure you know exactly what you’re buying.”
Another must-visit Fremont shop is The Pickle Factory, offering many varieties of Sechler’s Pickles and pickled items. You can also find hot sauces, grill/BBQ sauces and seasonings, jams, fruit butters, salsa, mustards, dip mixes, popcorn and seasonings, as well as flavored teas and coffees. In addition to pickles and gourmet foods, there’s also lake-themed items, funny signs, and inventive kitchen and grilling accessories.
“We are an over 100-year-old pickle company that has stayed true to its roots of producing pickles and peppers in the traditional way,” says Max Troyer, president of Sechler’s Pickles.
“The Pickle Factory is such a unique store – there are not too many shops that you would find quite like it,” adds Sarah Johnson, store manager. “Many of the products we carry are not readily available at your local grocery store. It’s a store where you can always find something you never knew you needed or wanted. There is something for everyone, even if you’re not a pickle lover. If you are a pickle lover, I bet we have a type or flavor of pickle you haven’t tried.”
Almost all items at The Pickle Factory are made locally in Indiana. The pickles are made in St. Joe, the Essenhaus noodles are from Middlebury, jams and jellies are from Shipshewana, popcorn and seasonings are from Berne, salsa and butters are from Bremen, and canned meats are from Grabill.
“Our employees are always ready to answer any questions a customer may have, or connect them to someone who can,” Johnson says. “We will also help customers locate any item or product they are looking for, as well as try to match an item we carry to something similar they may have gotten elsewhere. Employees will appropriately box or package a customer’s purchase and help carry it to their car if needed.”
The Shoppes at Fremont are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 pm., and Sundays from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Visit theshopsatfremont.com for more information.
To learn more about recreation in Steuben County, go to visitsteubencounty.com. ❚
The Shoppes at Fremont:
Amanda Lee Coffee • American Eagle Outfitters • Bath & Body Works • Carter’s Babies and Kids | OshKosh B’gosh • Claire’s • Coach Outlet • Encore Dance Academy • Famous Footwear Outlet • Jockey • Lake George Surgery Center • Levi’s Outlet Store • Maurices • Petshion • The Pickle Factory • Under Armour