As the season starts to change and the kids go back to school, finding day trips suitable, entertaining and something new for the family can be difficult. These day trips are a fairly short jaunt and take you into Indiana’s best treasures, from state parks and refuges to historic buildings, museums and recreation spots. Fill up your schedule with these trips, and you will guarantee the kids will be pleased to hop in the car to go on another adventure.
Clifty Falls State Park
When you are looking for an excellent spot to take the family almost any time of the year, Clifty Falls State Park may be the perfect choice. The falls vary widely depending on the time of the year, from a huge rush of water to a delicate trickle. You will find the best views during the winter and spring. Visit the dry beds of Clifty Creek to consider the fossils of a bygone ecosystem. If you want a keepsake, there are locations outside of the park where collecting is permitted. Go hiking in Clifty Canyon in any season, with scenery that is guaranteed to delight.
Not far from Clifty Falls is the amazing and engaging Lanier Mansion. It is a beautiful example of Greek Revival architecture, with careful restoration to ensure that it maintains its 1840s splendor. James Franklin Doughty Lanier was a banker and investor in railroad development, whose work made him one of Indiana’s most important pioneers. The mansion is a delight to walk through, but you can also participate in classes designed to get your kids thinking about what life was like in the area in the 1840s. Visit the lovely gardens year-round, and note that they are also kept to look as they did in the 1870s.
Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge
Only a short drive from Louisville or Cincinnati, the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge is a wonderful place to catch a glimpse of wildlife that you might not get to see much of in your regular day. These 50,000 acres are designed to preserve and promote the diverse species of the region. In the spring, the refuge is perfect to see huge numbers of Monarch butterflies. Put your ears to the test and see if you can hear the song of the Cerulean Warbler. Look near the water for river otters or the rare crawfish frog.
Brown County State Park
Brown County State Park is the largest park in the state, full of entertainment and great, scenic views. Some people call the hills of the park the “Little Smokies,” due to their resemblance of the Great Smoky Mountains. The park is an ideal place to see fall foliage, with 20 miles of roads for you to pass through and enjoy. Look for the rare, local Yellowwood. If you have the time and the inclination, you can even try a guided horseback ride through the park. In the winter, the area is popular for ice fishing and other cool-weather activities.
Perfect North Slopes
On the southeastern edge of the state, you can find Perfect North Slopes, a recreation area full of fun for the whole family. During the warmer months, you can participate in the Mud Stash or the Mini Mud Stash. These are muddy obstacle courses that last 4 or 1.5 miles and are designed to give you some good, dirty entertainment. Once the snow hits, you will find some of the best skiing and snowboarding available. You can rent your equipment, take a class and have a full snow day all in one. Lessons for the kids start at age four.
Hoosier National Forest
Due west of Louisville, the Hoosier National Forest comprises an amazing 203,000 acres of natural scenery and entertainment. Canoe down a river, enjoy the many varieties of wildflowers or just come for a pleasant picnic or hike. The scenic byways are perfect for those who need to stay in the car while the little ones take a nap. Visit the Pioneer Mother’s Memorial Forest, which is 88 acres of old-growth forest and an archaeological site. Go fishing on the reflective Sundance Lake or simply get a good view of the forest from the Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower.
Just east of Hoosier National Forest, Marengo Cave is an opportunity to take a walk on the inside of the earth. In the area, you can participate in a walking tour or go on a detailed cave exploration. Gear is available for rent, and your guide provides a spectacular adventure. Kids can enjoy The Crawl, a cave simulator that allows them to crawl through twists and turns, without you worrying that they might get lost. Once you arrive back on the surface, you could strike it rich with gemstone mining and panning for emeralds, rubies and other gems.
Indianapolis Children’s Museum
You have probably taken the kids to see a children’s museum, but it likely was nowhere near this large. At 472,900 square feet, the is the world’s biggest. You could easily fill up your day with five floors of entertainment built to keep any kid entertained. Check out the exhibit called “Beyond Spaceship Earth,” which shows the history of early American space exploration. Walk through the “Treasures of the Earth” and see what mankind has made over thousands of years of history. Take infants and toddlers to the Playscape, for sensory enjoyment and learning.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
Indianapolis also has a rich history related to racing cars, as practically everyone knows. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum features every inch and each year of that history, with historic cars, memorabilia and information about the progression of this American pastime. The speedway opened in 1909 and has been a popular site for racing ever since. The museum also tells the story of the Indianapolis Speedway grounds, which have been labeled a national historic landmark.
White River State Park
If you ever wanted an opportunity to visit a state park with city flair, White River State Park may be ideal for you. The park itself is 250 acres and located right in Indianapolis. Since it is an urban park, it offers the best in urban entertainment within a scenic, green space. All throughout the year, you can come to participate in various festivals, with entertainment, art and plenty of delicious food. The Indianapolis Zoo and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art are fixtures of the park, available to see year-round.
Fill Your Weekends with Adventure
Once fall arrives and school is in session, the time for long vacations is over. However, you can still find a lot of good opportunities for pleasant days with these short day trips into Indiana. From the Hoosier National Forest to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, you have a host of excellent plans to fill a weekend day without completely wearing you out.