Indianapolis may be the largest city in Indiana, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only spot in state worth exploring. There’s so much to do and see in Indy, but there are plenty of amazing destinations outside of the city, too. From magical caves to sandy dunes, here are some day trips worth taking from the Circle City.
Indiana Dunes State Park
This amazing state park is home to one of the most incredible natural attractions in Indiana: the Indiana Dunes. This park contains over 2,000 acres of sand dunes, which were originally formed during the Ice Age. This geological treasure is a historic site in Indiana, but it also provides hours of non-stop fun. From hiking and camping to sunbathing and swimming in Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes State Park is the ultimate spot for an unforgettable day trip.
Indiana Dunes State Park, 1600 N 25 E, Chesterton, IN, USA +1 219 926-1952
This stunning cave system formed over one million years ago and was discovered by Orris and Blanche Hiestand in 1883. The cave is roughly five miles long and offers two cavern tours: the Dripstone Trial Tour (1 mile/60 minutes long) and the Crystal Palace Tour (.33 mile/40 minutes long). Visitors will see incredible stalagmites and formation deposits that look like something from another planet. After taking a tour, visitors can also enjoy mining for gem stones or visit Cave Country Canoes down the road for a canoeing adventure on Blue River.
Marengo Cave, 400 East State Rd 64, Marengo, IN, USA +1 812 365-2705
During the wintertime, there’s no better place to spend the day than at Paoli Peaks. Indiana might not be known for its ski slopes, but Paoli Peaks brings skiing and snowboarding to Hoosiers across the state. This park is also a great spot for families to go snow-tubing and even has indoor waffle, coffee, and snack bars.
Paoli Parks, 2798 W County Road 25 S, Paoli, IN, USA +1 812 723-4696
Every year millions of kids mail letters to Santa, and every year their letters are answered by the post office at Santa Claus, Indiana. This unbelievable town celebrates Christmas year round, clinging to its wintery theme with Santa Claus-themed shops and the Lake Rudolph Campground. Santa Claus is also home to Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, arguably Indiana’s best amusement and water park. Visit Santa’s Candy Castle or Frosty’s Fun Center, while taking a tour of this unique town.
Since Indiana isn’t located along a coast, Hoosiers love visiting lakes during the summertime. From swimming and boating to fishing and lounging, lake trips always make life better. Patoka Lake is the second-largest reservoir in the state and is home to floating cabins where visitors can spend a weekend letting the lake lull them to sleep. Patoka Lake also offers many boat tours, including an exciting wine cruise and has a nearby winery worth visiting.
Patoka Lake, 2991 N Dillard Rd, Birdseye, IN, USA +1 812 685-2203
The heart of Amish Country can be found in the small rural town of Shipshewana, north of Indianapolis. Shipshewana is full of family-friendly attractions that are perfect for a day trip. Discover exotic animals at the Dutch Creek Farm Animal Park, visit the Shipshewana Trading Place (the largest flea market in the Midwest), or enjoy traditional Amish cuisine and a show at the Blue Gate Restaurant and Theatre. Visitors can even take a stroll and tour the town in an Amish horse and buggy.
Brown County State Park
For the ultimate outdoor experience, take a day trip to Brown County State Park, located south of Indy in the quiet, artistic town of Nashville. This gorgeous park is a must-visit in the fall, since it’s teeming with bright, vivid foliage. Visitors love exploring this natural gem on foot, trekking across one of the park’s many hiking trails. This park also has horseback riding, a nature center, two historic covered bridges, a swimming pool, and an indoor water park.
Historic New Harmony
Dystopian novels and TV shows may be all the rage now, but Indiana is actually home to a former utopian society. New Harmony is a small, quiet town, south of Indy, that has the most incredible history. This town was originally founded as a utopian commune and relics of the failed community can still be visited. Explore the Roofless Church, designed for all religions to worship under, check out the town’s two labyrinths, and enjoy shopping at local antique stores in this quaint town.
Kids and adults will love this specialty wildlife park located in Battle Ground, Indiana. Wolf Park is an educational facility that opened in 1972 to study wolves and coyotes. On the grounds, visitors will encounter wolves, coyotes, foxes, and bison. Take a tour to learn more about each of these wild animals and to see them up close. Visitors also get to howl with the wolves while learning more about wolf calls and behaviors.
Wolf Park, 4004 E 800 N, Battle Ground, IN, USA +1 765 567-2265