Indiana, home of the Indianapolis
Indy 500 and so much more, is inviting vacationers to restart their engines this summer, and there isn’t a better place to do it. The Midwestern state of about 7 million people is also home to twenty four state parks, four national protection areas and hundreds of lakes and reservoirs. The beauties of nature and the ruggedness of the outdoors offer literally hundreds of opportunities for walking, hiking, fishing, hunting, swimming and other outdoor sports. The Indiana bureau of tourism and travel offers suggestions for some of the most popular getaways – both weekend and more extended – for families, couples and other travelers. Here’s our picks for the best Indiana getaways and attractions.
Indiana’s 90 mile long Heritage Trail winds through northern Indiana’s Amish Country, offering a glimpse into the life lived by an estimated 20,000 Amish. Highlights of the Trail include Menno-Hof, a unique center that tells the Mennonite and Amish story with multimedia presentations and hands on exhibits; Amish Acres Historic Farm and Heritage Resort, an 80 acre farmstead outside Nappanee that offers demonstrations of farming and crafting, as well as their famous Threshers’ Dinner. Make a point of stopping overnight in Shipshewanna, where the adults can enjoy the Shipshewanna Flea Market, and the kids can cool off at Water Universe, a water park with all the amenities needed for a splashing great time!
Head up the border to Covered Bridge Country and take the Parke County Covered Bridge Tour, featuring 30 covered bridges. Let the kids (and adults!) stretch their legs at Turkey Run State Park on the banks of Sugar Creek where they can enjoy hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and canoeing. Camp out overnight – or spend the night at the park’s inn, and continue on toward Terre Haute to take in the splendors of the underwater world at Inland Aquatics, an inland aquarium with over 40,000 gallons of display tanks featuring living coral reefs and saltwater fish.
Indiana is home to twenty four state parks and four protected national areas. Among the best of the best is Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Dunes offers all the usual beach activities, including swimming and body-surfing, at seven different beaches on the shores of Lake Michigan. Sandy beaches, dunes to climb and hills to hike are highlights of the Dunes Lakeshore area.
If you get tired of the sun, retreat underground at one of Indiana’s awe-inspiring caves. Indiana has over 2,600 known caves, some of the miles long. The most well-known of these is Marengo Cave, which has been open as a tourist attraction for over 120 years. Marengo Cave Park operates a National Landmark Cave, as well as Cave Country Canoes on Blue Lake to offer a full-fledged outdoor adventure trip.
Take a weekend to howl with the wolves at Wolf Park in Battle Ground. The natural wildlife park is dedicated to learning and teaching about the animals that have so captured the imagination of so many people. Wolf Park offers daily tours of their “Retirement Colony” where visitors can meet and view the wolves of Wolf Park, but the real treat is on Friday and Saturday nights, when visitors get lessons on wolf communication and then literally have a chance to howl with the wolves. For natural photography buffs, Wolf Park holds regular one day Photo Seminars on Saturdays in the Spring and Fall. Participants learn about wolf and human interaction and then get a full day to photograph the wolves in their natural habitat. It’s a wonderful gift for a photographer, or for anyone who loves wolves.
Indiana Beach Amusement Parks is one of Indiana’s favorite destinations. Home to the #1 Wooden Coaster in the World by Themeparkcritic.com, Indiana Beach features five different coasters, nearly two dozen other rides, a paddlewheel riverboat and a full water park. When the kids are tired of the museums and roadside attractions, head on over to Indiana Beach for a day full of roller coasters, Ferris wheels, carousels and some of the most daring amusement rides in Indiana. For some 75 years, Indiana Beach has been proving that “there’s more than corn in Indiana”.
Indiana is home to several important zoos, including the award winning Indianapolis Zoo and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Both zoos feature unique animal exhibits along with other attractions, including amusement park rides.
The Indianapolis Zoo shares grounds with White River Gardens, a 3.3 acre botanical garden that continues the zoo’s mission to connect animals, plants and people. The Zoo features five different Biomes – the Plains, Forests, Desert, Oceans and Encounter Biome, where visitors are encouraged to get up close and personal with program animals.
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo was recently rated one of the top ten zoos in the country by Child Magazine, and with good reason. Families can go on an Australian walkabout and meet kangaroos, echidnas and dingoes, as well as the marine animals of the Great Barrier Reef. Sky Safaris over the under construction African Safari exhibit allow kids and parents to get a glimpse of life on the African savannah, and a walk through the Indonesian Rainforest will take you through a Tiger Forest and the Orangutan Valley.
Santa Claus, Indiana, that is. The town of Santa Claus is home to the first tourist attraction in the United States, Santa’s Candy Castle, and Santa Claus Land, the first theme park in the United States. If you visit Santa Claus today, you can spend a few hours exploring the history of Santa Claus at Santa’s Candy Castle, and top it off with a Frozen Hot Chocolate, then wander over to Holiday World and Splashin Safari, originally Santa Claus Land and now holder of the very prestigious International Applause Award for 2005. Holiday World is six fun theme parks in one, and worth more than just a day of fun.