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The Majestic Midwest: The 10 Best Day Trips from Indianapolis

Published May 19, 2017

When it comes to the largest city in the state of Indiana, Indianapolis seemingly has it all. From its diverse recreational opportunities to its dynamic nightlife to its iconic attractions, those who elect to spend time experiencing Indianapolis’ continental climate zone understand that a good time is never more than a few minutes away. However, often overshadowed by the glory of downtown and suburban Indianapolis is the variety of quality experiences which lie just outside of the city’s limits.

From zoos to beaches to museums, a personalized educational, outdoor or adrenaline-filled experience is always closer than you would think! With these ideal day trips which keep you close to home, and simultaneously introduce you to the beauty of attractions which have eluded your attention, you’re sure to find that whether you’re planning on remaining in the area for a week, a year, or the foreseeable future, each and every day becomes an adventure!

Top 3 activities to book in Indianapolis (and vicinity)

1. Whitewater Valley Railroad

Ex-Cincinnati Union Terminal #25 leading the 2015 Day Out With Thomas Caboose Train. Photo Courtesy of Robert Zyromski

Posted by Whitewater Valley Railroad Information Station on Wednesday, 3 August 2016

If there’s a railroad you must see during your stay in the Indianapolis area, it’s the Whitewater Valley Railroad. This stretch of authentic track, expertly crafted alongside a trade route from 1836, is the perfect getaway if you’re looking for an innovative new way to experience local history. Recognized by locals for its iconic sound, and by visitors and train enthusiasts alike for its close adherence, even today, to historical accuracy, the Whitewater Valley Railroad is today part railroad, part museum.

Regular and special event train rides are always available, so be sure to check out their schedule for the latest updates. Whether you’re looking to take part in their Fall Foliage Flyer, Wild West Train, Santa Claus Limited, or Metamora Canal Days Limited excursion, or you’re just looking to lay your eyes on the best that exists in railroad lore, be sure to check out the Whitewater Valley Railroad!

Whitewater Valley Railroad

Address: 455 Market St, Connersville, IN 47331

Website: Whitewater Valley Railroad

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

2. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

Part theme park, part water park, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari is the answer to all of your adrenaline-inducing needs! Located only a short distance from Indianapolis, we promise this destination fun zone is well worth the trip. Immerse yourself in four themed sections of Holiday World, each respectively dedicated to Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July! From their games to their rides to their provision of live entertainment, Holiday World promises a thrilling experience for all!

When you need to slake your water ride needs, take advantage of the adjoining Splashin’ Safari: its raft rides and water slides prove to be only the beginning of the makings of a scintillating experience! From wave pools to a lazy river to regions of the park specifically dedicated to families and to children, Splashin’ Safari proves the perfect counterpart to Holiday World, making this reputable establishment a virtual must-see when you’re in the area!

Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

Address: 452 E Christmas Blvd, Santa Claus, IN 47579

Website: Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

3. Pokagon State Park

Immerse yourself in the absolute beauty of authentic natural wildlife, at the Pokagon State Park. The absolute best that the northeastern quadrant of Indiana has to offer in terms of natural immersion, the Pokagon State Park provides seasonally the perfect escape. Its reception of light snows in winter allow for the delicate covering of wildlife in hibernation, and as winter gives way to spring, you’ll witness the blooming and blossoming of the wildflowers that characterize the space as truly unforgettable.

Also responsible for hosting a variety of local attractions throughout the year, Pokagon State Park is always typified by an exciting event. Whether it’s the Pokagon Annual Triathlon, the Mother’s Day Meander, or the celebratory schedule of international Migratory Bird Day, you’ll find yourself basking in all of the panoramic glory that the Pokagon State Park has to offer you.

Pokagon State Park

Address: 450 Lane 100 Lake James, Angola, IN 46703

Website: Pokagon State Park

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

4. Indiana Zipline Tours

Posted by Indiana Zipline Tours, Inc. on Monday, 25 November 2013

Take to the skies, with the Indiana Zipline Tours! If you think that it’s a privilege to witness the best of Indiana’s natural landscapes from below, you’re surely in for a treat once your perspective is gifted the privilege of height. Soar over the best that Indiana has to offer in terms of sights and sounds, all for affordable rates that give way to incredible, lifelong experiences!

With high ratings and a local following, this attraction is well worth the visit. Only a short distance from the heart of downtown Indianapolis, Indiana Zipline Tours offers a unique assortment of ziplining packages, including day and night flight discounts! The location also sports a rock wall and a gyroscope, so you can enjoy extra adrenaline before your zipline experience even begins! For the best sights and sounds of Indiana’s diversified wildlife, check out Indiana Zipline Tours!

Indiana Zipline Tours

Address: 4641 W 450 S, Crawfordsville, IN 47933

Website: Indiana Zipline Tours

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

5. Marengo Cave

The heart of the true adventurer will love the endeavor that is a journey to Marengo Cave. Just outside of Indianapolis, this recognized U.S. National Landmark is one of only four caves in Indiana that remains open for public adventure, and the visit is one you can’t pass up. Since 1883, when the cave was by chance discovered by two children, the attraction has offered a unique experience, allowing you to get in touch with that which lies beneath the surface. With offered individual, group, school, and media tours, you’re sure to discover that the only way to truly understand Indiana’s best, is by including the Marengo Cave in your heartland to-do list!

Marengo Cave

Address: 400 East State Rd 64, Marengo, IN 47140

Website: Marengo Cave

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

6. Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

If you’re looking for a family friendly atmosphere that allow to experience the best in rare animal exposure, you’ve found your answer in the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Only a short distance from Indianapolis, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo boasts affordable prices, and services thoroughly geared toward children and their families.

With seasonally themed events year-round and rated among the best family attractions within the state of Indiana, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in an occasion like none other, a venue which allows personal interactions with orangutans, penguins, leopards, turtles, and various exotic birds. Whether you’re in the mood to visit with the Capuchin monkey or the dingo, allow your children to indulge in one of the best day trips that the state has to offer, the likes of which are sure to create lifelong memories!

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Address: 3441 Sherman Blvd, Fort Wayne, IN 46808

Website: Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

7. Brown County State Park

Get in touch with authentic Indiana nature at Brown County State Park! With an area of nearly 16,000 acres (6,475 hectares), and an additional 70 miles (113 km) of horse trails, this park has it all. From hiking to biking opportunities, cabin rentals to an indoor water park, Brown County State Park is aptly nicknamed the “Little Smokies,” given their resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Hosting a wide variety of local events year-round, Indiana’s largest state park plays host to stunning natural sights, including vistas from which you can catch breathtaking views of the sunset! Whether you’re there to hike the Taylor Ridge Trail or to experience their reputable ice fishing venues, Brown County State Park proves the ultimate getaway in Indianapolis’ backyard!

Brown County State Park

Address: 1810 State Road 46 East, Nashville, IN 47448

Website: Brown County State Park

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

8. Indiana State Museum

Posted by Indiana State Museum on Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Witness to local lore at the Indiana State Museum! This educational, innovative center sports constantly changing exhibits, providing visitors and locals alike with the perfect venue to experience everything from the area’s fossil collection to its stunning IMAX presentations. The museum also sponsors a long list of the region’s historic sights, so if you’re in the mood for a spontaneous field trip, their recommendations are second to none.

With art galleries, authentic exhibits, family friendly learning opportunities, and available presentations on anything from Indiana’s climate to its decorated athletics past, the Indiana State Museum hosts the sate’s best collection of everything that makes the Midwest so unique. Come visit President Lincoln’s mallet, and encounter real memorabilia from Indiana Pacer past! Whether you’re looking to make your next day getaway fun or informative, you’ll find the perfect combination of education and thrill at the Indiana State Museum!

Indiana State Museum

Address: 650 W Washington St, IN 46204

Website: Indiana State Museum

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

9. Indiana Beach

It was a close race, but the people have spoken - Falling Star is Indiana Beach's most loved attraction!

Posted by Indiana Beach on Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The state of Indiana might well have gone two million years without a tidal wave, but that doesn’t mean the state is without its beaches! Indiana Beach, only a day drive from downtown Indianapolis, is a relaxed resort, amusement park, and encounter with a fantastic shoreline! From its addictive carnival games to thrill rides like the Double Shot and the Den of Lost Thieves, Indiana Beach’s amusement park features are outdone perhaps only by the views from the shore of Lake Shafer.

Kiddy Land is available to host young children, and Indiana Beach also comes complete with the Ideal Beach Water Park! Hotel accommodations and two full campgrounds also frequent the space. The previous winner of the World’s Best Roller Coaster (Cornball Express) and the World’s Best Walkthrough Attraction (Dr. Frankenstein’s Haunted Castle) Awards in past years, Indiana Beach is the getaway for you if you’re looking to turn a beach venue into an unforgettable endeavor!

Indiana Beach

Address: 5224 E Indiana Beach Rd, Monticello, IN 47960

Website: Indiana Beach

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

10. Paoli Peaks

If you think you need to travel out of state to experience the full throes of skiing, snowboarding, and mountain life, Paoli Peaks encourages you to think again. With local events like the Big Air Special and tubing discounts, Paoli Peaks comes complete with ski and snowboard rentals, multiple runs, a terrain park, pro shop, and accompanying ski lessons!

Take full advantage of midwestern hospitality and get your boots on, because one of the nation’s premium ski and snowboarding venues is in Indianapolis’ backyard. And with military, second day, college, group, and corporate discounts, there’s no reason not to save big when you make Paoli Peaks your next destination ski and snowboarding getaway! Competitive rates, spectacular natural views, and unbridled adrenaline await!

Paoli Peaks

Address: 2798 W Co Rd 25 S, Paoli, IN 47454

Website: Paoli Peaks

See our full list of recommended hotels in Indianapolis and also compare the prices with vacation rentals in Indianapolis

The best of your backyard

From its trails to its slopes, its amusement parks to its zoos, its caves to its water parks, Indiana plays host to much more than rows of corn fields. We encourage you to check out the best that these Indianapolis day trips have to offer! You don’t have to go far from home to experience the thrill of everything that makes Indiana the place to be.

John Gallagher is an english and theology double major from San Diego, California. He currently works as the lead sports editor for the Troubadour Newspaper, and serves as the head script writer...Read more

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