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The state of Indiana, in the heart of the Midwest of the United States and brushing against the Great Lakes, offers a wide variety of fun things and popular activities for the whole family. Though it’s not often thought of as the perfect place for a vacation, Indiana boasts a range of attractions and fun activities to suit nearly any taste or lifestyle.
Here are some of the best things you can do in this place full of rich history and unique culture. From history museums full of world-class exhibits to outdoor sports areas, Indiana is so much fun to visit even in the winter months.
- Things to do in Indiana with the family
- Indiana Dunes National Park in Chesterton and the Indiana Dunes State Park
- Michigan City
- South Bend and Elkhart
- Fort Wayne
- Circus City
- Brown County
Things to do in Indiana with the family
Indiana Dunes National Park in Chesterton and the Indiana Dunes State Park
Northern Indiana is bounded by Michigan on the north, Ohio on the east, and Illinois to the west. Lake Michigan covers the northwestern quarter of the boundary and provides numerous recreational options for first-time visitors. For an outdoor adventure, you can visit and enjoy the natural beauty of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Chesterton and the Indiana Dunes State Park.
The parks offer gorgeous beaches, swimming, and hiking along many kinds of terrain. Camping is available, and there are numerous bike routes throughout the area. Northwestern Indiana offers city life, as well, since there are suburbs of Chicago here. Vacationers looking for nightlife and excitement can find it after spending the day enjoying the out-of-doors. Michigan City is home to Lighthouse Place Outlet Mall and the Blue Chip Casino for shoppers and gamblers to enjoy.
South Bend and Elkhart
In the middle of northern Indiana are the cities of South Bend and Elkhart. The scenic St. Joseph River winds its way through both towns and boasts canoeing and fishing, including salmon fishing. South Bendís East Race is one of the best places that have observation decks where you can watch the salmon swim, and then you can walk around downtown.
South Bend Chocolate Company’s Chocolate Cafe
While you are wandering around South Bend, be sure to stop at the South Bend Chocolate Company’s Chocolate Cafe for a good time. You will discover amazing chocolate concoctions to spoil every chocolate lover. The University of Notre Dame is located in South Bend, as well as the Football Hall of Fame. Sports fans may also want to pay a visit to Coveleski Stadium to watch a bit of minor league baseball in the summer.
Midwest Museum of Art
The cost is minimal, and games are often followed by fireworks! Slide on over to Elkhart to visit the Midwest Museum of Art where you can see works by Grandma Moses, Norman Rockwell, and Alexander Calder. The museum has a free admission policy, which is always nice! A bit farther to the east is the small town of Bristol.
Bonnyville Mill Park
While you are there, visit Bonnyville Mill Park, where you can see a working grist mill, powered by the nearby Elkhart River. The huge water wheel turns the giant millstones and you can watch as corn and wheat are ground into flour.
The Old Bag Factory
Just a bit to the south of this area is the town of Goshen. The Old Bag Factory is a group of artistsí shops and studios where visitors can watch craftsmen at work and purchase unique gifts and decorations from their gift shop.
Peddlers’ Village, between Elkhart and Goshen, also hosts a number of similar shops and includes antique stores, as well. Historic Nappanee is the site of Amish Acres, where you can tour a working Amish farm and learn about this lifestyle and local history. The Round Barn Theater offers the play ìPlain and Fancyî as well as other productions. Have dinner at the huge, family-friendly restaurants that boast authentic Amish cooking before you leave.
Travel to the east and you will discover Shipshewana, another Amish community. Shipshewana draws visitors throughout the spring, summer, and fall months on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for its huge flea market. Hundreds of vendors gather to sell their wares while animals are auctioned off nearby. Shipshewana also has craft and decor shops that are open year-round as well as stores that cater to the needs of the local Amish. If you’re searching for ìold-fashionedî things, then this is the place to look.
Fort Wayne is a bit to the south of Angola on Interstate 69. The city gets its name from the historic fort in the downtown area, and visitors can walk around the grounds. While you are there, visit the Greater Fort Wayne Aviation Museum to see displays related to the history of military and commercial flight.
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is on Sherman Boulevard in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This well-known children’s attraction opened in 1952. Animal lovers can view more than 1,500 animals during their visit to the facility. A featured exhibit, the Australian Adventure, allows children to get close to kangaroos and take a tour the coral reef aquarium.
For kids of all ages, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo also offers a petting zoo, and rides, including a train and a carousel that features endangered species of animals rather than horses. Children can also enjoy pony rides at the zoo.
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is open daily from late April into early autumn. Rides carry an additional fee. Children and senior citizens receive discounted admission rates. The zoo rents strollers, wagons and wheelchairs. Free, on-site parking is available.
The young children will love Science Central, located in downtown Fort Wayne. Look for the brightly-coloured smoke stacks that mark the building, and head inside for science fun galore. A huge spiral slide takes kids from the top floor to the basement, displays teach lots of science concepts, and kids can even try their hand at riding a bike on a track twenty feet above the floor. The Fort Wayne Childrenís Zoo is considered one of the world’s finest zoos for families. Check out the world’s only Endangered Species Carousel while you’re there, and ride the bush cars through the African exhibit.
Peru, Indiana bills itself as ‘Circus City’ because historically, a large portion of the local economy was based on the business of boarding circus animals for the three large circuses that travelled around the country in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Each July, the town puts on a circus using young performers, ages six to eighteen. About thirty miles west of Peru, there is a family amusement and water park in Monticello. Indiana Beach has rides and slides, camping and dining that will keep a family entertained for several days.
The state’s capital city, Indianapolis, is a busy community with lots to see and do. The Indianapolis Childrenís Museum, with five stories of fun and interesting hands-on exhibits, is the world’s largest museum of its kind. Conner Prairie is open April through November and will take you on a trip through time back to pioneer days. The American Cabaret Theater offers live shows and live music year-round. Take a tour and enjoy samples at the Easley Winery, or check out the animals and displays at the Indianapolis Zoo. Mystery Cafe offers an interactive mystery dinner theatre show for brave souls.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is on North Meridian in downtown Indianapolis. The museum opened in 1925 and has received rankings as one of the best and largest children’s museums in the nation from publications like “The Wall Street Journal,” “The USA Today” and “Smithsonian Magazine.” The collection housed at the museum includes more than 105,000 artefacts.
The exhibits at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis encourage children to learn through hands-on play. In the Playscape area, toddlers and preschoolers can explore an indoor playground with age-appropriate toys. The Science Zone allows older kids to conduct scientific experiments.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is open daily from March through Labor Day and Tuesday through Sunday for the remainder of the year. The museum closes on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Children and senior citizens receive discounted admission rates. The museum rents wheelchairs. Free parking is available on-site.
Over in Marshall, Indiana, near the Illinois border, you will find Turkey Run State Park which will tickle the fancy of outdoorsmen and women everywhere. The park’s claim to fame is spectacular hiking trails leading along ledges and ravines, camping, and water sports on Sugar Creek. Its lesser-known sister park, Shades, is nearby, and hikers can visit the spectacular Silver Cascade waterfall.
Bloomington, Indiana is home to Indiana University. Visitors can also enjoy Jordan Hall Greenhouse, a botanical garden, with its displays of exotic, tropical, and desert plants. Those interested in rare books will want to visit the Lilly Library to see the first complete Bible printed in English and a 1454 Gutenberg New Testament, among other unusual pieces.
Brown County is the gem of southern Indiana. There is a state park with modern cabins and a lodge and visitors can camp or stay in hotel-like accommodations. Hiking and horseback riding is available through the rolling hills and scenic forests, and bird watching is a favourite activity. Near the park, you will want to visit the town of Nashville, which is an artistsí colony. Over three hundred shops, art galleries, and craft studios await tourists and visitors to find unique art, gifts, and decorations. In Marengo, Indiana, be sure to visit Marengo Cave. Gem mining and cave tours are among the attractions here.
From north to south, east side to west side, Indiana has something for everyone in nearly every corner of the state and in the middle, too! Whether you want a vacation to sample Midwest nightlife, discover fun for families, or enjoy historical or art museums, you will find just what you are looking for as you travel through Indiana.