This is a travel story about finding Garfield the Cat. So if you’re not a fan of whimsical travel that has the sole purpose of tracking down a lazy, fat cartoon cat, then just move right along.
The rest of you: Pack your bags for an Indiana road trip.
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Garfield the Cat is from northeast Indiana because his creator, Jim Davis, is from northeast Indiana. Davis was born in Marion, grew up on a farm near Fairmount, went to college in Muncie and now operates his business, Paws, Inc., in Fairmount. Really, all of northeast Indiana claims Garfield. Jim Davis is just along for the ride.
Jim Davis went to college at Ball State University in Muncie, graduating in 1967, just a few years before David Letterman. Garfield is also a Ball State grad and hangs out in the alumni center. During graduation week, capped and gowned coeds line up for a photo with their favorite cat, who remains slightly perturbed at all of the commotion.
Garfield the Cat and the History of northeast Indiana
So here’s a little history lesson about northeast Indiana. Back in the mid-1800s, a large deposit of natural gas was discovered between Muncie and Marion. As a result, one of the towns has the unfortunate name of Gas City, which is a shame, because it’s a lovely little community. I can imagine the jokes. But Garfield takes it all in stride and hangs out at the library where he teaches history and glass blowing, both rather industrious undertakings for a lazy fat cat.
Five brothers came to the area in the 1880s to use the natural gas to create their hand-blown glass canning jars. You might have heard of them. The family name was Ball and their company makes Ball Canning Jars. That’s the reason the university is called Ball State.
You can learn all about the history of Ball Canning Jars at Minnetrista, a beautiful museum, garden and orchard the Ball brothers built around their five homes. And then visit with Garfield at The Orchard, a delightful gift shop that offers lots of products in Ball Canning Jars, as well as other products.
Of course, Garfield is quite annoyed with all of the work and commotion that goes along with gardening and canning.
The Two Garfield Trails in Northeast Indiana
As you can imagine, the people of this area love their smart aleck orange cat. There are two Garfield the Cat Trails, one in Delaware County and one in Grant County. Tip: The one in Delaware County, which is basically Muncie, features cats almost exclusively inside, like inside the Mayor’s Office and the Post Office. Those are difficult to experience on weekends. But there’s one at the Children’s Museum and the Arts Center, if weekends are your only choice.
Start off at the Muncie Visitors Bureau at 421 S. Walnut where you can pick up brochures to find all of the Garfields in town. They have a gift shop filled with Garfield goodies and a Garfield ride. Word is that one guy actually proposed to a woman while she was riding the cat (OK, that’s a little weird).
The Grant County Garfield Trail is really spread out, but that makes the adventure so much more fun. I didn’t get to them all, but I fell in love with British Garfield. He is on duty at a place called Payne’s Fish & Chips, an authentic British pub at exit 59 off of Interstate 69.
Where to Eat in Muncie Indiana
Muncie, Indiana has a number of creative and fun locally-owned restaurants. I had a pretty good pulled pork sandwich at the Elm Street Brewing Company and went a little nuts at Concannon’s Pastry Shop. But if you are indeed a devoted fan of Garfield the Cat, I suggest Vera Mae’s Bistro in downtown Muncie.
Located in two historic buildings, Vera Mae’s Bistro is an eclectic fine dining restaurant of the quality that some people might not expect in Muncie. My waitress told me that Jim Davis is a regular at Vera Mae’s, and to show his appreciation for their talents, he created this painting of Garfield and gang that hangs above the doorway between dining rooms. It’s a great place, but when I was there, there was no lasagna on the menu. What!!!
Where to Stay in Muncie, Indiana
This has nothing to do with Garfield, but I loved it so much, I wanted to share. I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, just about five blocks and an easy walk from Vera Mae’s Bistro. Sure, it’s a corporate chain, but this Courtyard by Marriott is special. It is a teaching center, affiliated with the Erskine Green Training Institute for people with disabilities. The Center provides post secondary training in hospitality, food service, healthcare, and more.
It makes a grumpy cat smile when he finds things like this.