Travel: One-Tank Getaways

Going on big trips to faraway places is fun, but sometimes a shorter adventure can be just as memorable. Day trips are great because they’re easy to plan, a fun way to do something different and most importantly, they don’t cost a lot of money! Just fill up your car’s gas tank and check out these ideas for trips that your kids will definitely enjoy.

Fort Wayne

Distance from Indianapolis: 2 hours 15 minutes

Families will find lots to explore in Fort Wayne, a city that sits among three rivers. A visit to Promenade Park is a must — this one-of-a-kind park features trails along the water, a tree-top canopy trail, a kids’ canal with an amazing playground, and opportunities to hop aboard a riverboat cruise or rent a kayak. The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo recently opened its brand-new Red Panda Ridge, one of the largest Red Panda habitats in U.S. zoos. And Science Central — where families can participate in hands-on science exhibits — has something for all ages.

French Lick

Distance from Indianapolis: 2 hours

French Lick West Baden offers the best of both worlds: opulent amenities for grown ups and activities galore for kids.  Home to two historic hotels, three golf courses, two spas, indoor and outdoor pools and a Las Vegas-style casino, activities range from horseback riding to bowling to surrey bike rentals, and there are tons of hiking trails to explore the grounds. Enjoy some fun in the water at French Lick’s Big Splash Adventure Indoor Water Park, or spend a leisurely afternoon on a wildlife boat cruise through Sept. 27 on scenic Patoka Lake, which was named “best cruise or wildlife viewing in Indiana” by USA Today. Need even more nature? Animal lovers can enjoy viewing more than 50 species of animals, all from the comfort of their own vehicle at Wilstem Wildlife Park. 

Santa Claus

Distance from Indianapolis: 2 hours 45 minutes

If you’re the kind of person who puts holiday lights up the day after Halloween, then you’ll love Santa Claus, Indiana. This destination is all Christmas, all the time. Treat your family to a cup of famous frozen hot chocolate at Santa’s Candy Castle, and then visit the Santa Claus Museum & Village to write a letter to Santa. But Santa Claus is much more than just Christmas. Thrills await you at Holiday World & Slashin’ Safari, the area’s largest amusement park. A few miles away from Santa Claus is Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, one of the three National Parks in Indiana. Pick up a junior rangers activity book at the memorial visitor center, then hike through the park and complete the activities while learning about our 16th president. As you explore the living historical farm, you’ll meet park rangers dressed in period clothing, performing activities typical of daily life in the 1820s.

Terre Haute

Distance from Indianapolis: 1 hour 15 minutes

Located east of the Illinois/Indiana border, Terre Haute is a small town with lots to explore. Families will especially enjoy the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, which is three stories of nonstop fun. The museum includes a huge ropes challenge course, which is open on the weekends. Experience great American art at Swope Art Museum, located in the heart of downtown. Visit on Tuesday afternoons to participate in one of their free Art Start programs for kids ages 3-5, which combine art and storytelling. When you visit Terre Haute, make sure to bring your bike and helmet! Griffith Bike Park — designed for riders of all ages, skills and abilities — has been heralded as one of the best mountain bike trails in the state, and it’s located right in Terre Haute. 

Nicole Sipe
Nicole Sipe
Nicole Sipe is the editor of Indy's Child and Southwest Ohio Parent magazines. She has a BA in Journalism from California State University Northridge, and has been involved in the print and digital publishing world for most of her life. Born and raised in Southern California, Nicole traded the city and sun for corn and creeks, and now lives in central Indiana with her husband, two sons and Collie. Her latest book for children, “All About Me! Art Journal” was published in 2022 by Walter Foster Jr. In her spare time, she likes traveling with her family, enjoying good food and drink, volunteering at her children’s schools and around her community, and practicing yoga.

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