There are a lot of fun places for families to play for the day or weekend within a short drive of Indianapolis, and we want want to hear from the experts - you! - about all of your favorite places to go and things to do for a weekend of fun around Indy.
Do you have a great drivable vacation from Indianapolis that you've taken with your kids? What activities made for great memories? Add your recommendations, tips and reviews below!
And, find plenty of inspiration for new weekend getaway destinations, road trip activities and more by checking out other parents' favorite recommendations, too!
Kristy Pepping: Columbus has tons to do for the whole family. There are several natural parks to explore and even one located in the heart of the city, Columbus Commons with a carousel. If you want to check out a fun museum, Columbus offers quite a few kid-friendly options. Try COSI, Columbus' science museum complete with an indoor playground. And if all these activities are making you hungry, head to North Market where your family can try local farm fresh food.
Warren County, OH
Dawn Denning: Named Ohio's Largest Playground, your family is sure to have a great time! If you have a roller coaster fan in the family, then you must take a trip to Kings Island. Open year-round, the park offers rides for all sizes, Dinosaurs Alive! and Soak City waterpark during the summer hours. While in Warren County, be sure to check out Great Wolf Lodge where you can have your water fun year round in this indoor waterpark and stay overnight.
Rides, not your speed? Warren County has festivals, skydiving and zip lining - fun for everyone in the family!
Kristy Pepping: Batavia is one town that is near the lake of William H. Harsha. This lake offers boating, hiking trails, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, camping, museums, waterfalls and much more. They are also a wildlife habitat so great nature watching for the kids!
Dawn Denning: Home to the Newport Aquarium and riverboat cruises, Newport, Kentucky is full of fun. Newport Aquarium is the host to gators, sharks, stingrays and more. Spend the afternoon with amazing underwater creatures that you can touch, see or explore. After a day at the aquarium, book a cruise on BB Riverboats. BB Riverboats offers family cruises with a buffet and even a themed pirate cruise for your kids to enjoy.
Dawn Denning: Cincinnati is a fantastic destination for families! The Cincinnati Zoo is home to an array of adorable animals, catch a Red's game or visit the Reds Hall of Fame. If you can visit in the summer, Coney Island offers a 2-mile long pool for your family to splash! If your kiddos love trains, check out the world's largest train display at Entertainment Junction! Another crowd favorite is Jungle Jim's, International Market. Jungle Jim's offers 20,000 square feet of market space for groceries, tastings and demos. There is something for everyone in Cincinnati!
Pine Lake Waterpark, IN
Dawn Denning: Pine Lake Waterpark is a must do in the summer for your family. The waterpark is full of slides, platform jumps, cable rides and log runs. There is even a teeter-totter in the water! Once you are done sliding and flipping, be sure to stop by Quabache State Park for hiking, fishing and picnicking with the family. If you are tired of the sun and have an interest in history, Swiss Heritage Village is an area museum dedicated to the Swiss settlers in the area. It is hours of fun and a "must do" to add to your vacation list!
Lake Cumberland, KY
Kristy Pepping: Lake Cumberland, known as the Houseboat Capital of the World, is the largest lake in Kentucky. It's a fun tourist destination and offers several kid-friendly activities. Your kids will enjoy fishing, mini golf, outdoor adventures, water activities, camping and more.
Kristy Pepping: Taylorsville Lake is located in Taylorsville and is a favorite fishing and camping area. They offer horseback riding near the lake as well. If your kids are looking for a breath of fresh air, there are plenty of hiking trails and outdoor activities near this lake setting. Activities include boating activities, state park, and Red Scooter Gift Shop.
Lake James, IN
Yoli B: Lake James is a small town located in the Northeast corner of Indiana and offers some of the best lake sunsets that I have ever seen! The lake offers all water sports, including kayaking, paddle boarding, pontoon-ing, jet ski-ing, and I've even seen a fly board or two. Lake James is surrounded by Potawatomi State Park and is in the quaint town of Angola, which has plenty of restaurants and shopping opportunities!
Kristy Pepping: Campbellsville is an easy drive from Indy and is home to Green River State Park. This lake has tons of activities to do if you love water sports: rental houseboats, ski boats, jet skis and pontoon boats. There is also fishing, hiking and horseback riding.
Dawn Denning: Home of the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Kentucky Derby and the Louisville Zoo, your family could spend a day or weekend exploring this great city. Be sure to check out downtown for their underground zip lines housed in a former limestone mine under the downtown city- the only underground zip line in the world!
Dawn Denning: This historic little town hosts millions of visitors every year. Home to a large Amish population, visit delicious restaurants with homegrown ingredients, quaint shops and enjoy a buggy ride. While there, visit Black Pine Animal Sanctuary which is home to bears, lions, reptiles and more. This is a fun day or weekend trip for your family.
Squire Boone Caverns, IN
Dawn Denning: At a cool 54 degrees year round, the Squire Boone Caverns are a great spot for the family in any season! Enjoy the day on a zip line over ravines, then mine for gold and gems all before a tour. Would you rather experience the longest cavern in Indiana? Then Indiana Caverns might be the better stop for your family. You will see waterfalls and can also check out a Saber Tooth and mine for gems. There are tons of festivals for the fall, shows to watch and also local restaurants with home cooked meals if you want to eat before hitting the road or while in town.
Brown County, IN
Dawn Denning: Named the "Little Smokies," Brown County State Park, is a 16,000-acre area of hills, trails, trees and hiking trails. Your family can horseback ride, canoe/ kayak, zip line or just walk around. Have fun in nature, enjoy a picnic and some family bonding in this beautiful park. After your day in the park, be sure to stop in Nashville, Indiana. This small town has tons of shops and restaurants for everyone to enjoy. If you aren't too full from dinner or tired from the day in the park, Brown County offers year-round shows and festivals.
Marengo Cave, IN
Dawn Denning: Southern Indiana offers so much for nature lovers, including Marengo Cave. This National U.S. Landmark offers guided tours featuring stalagmites & flowstone deposits. While you are there, enjoy canoeing & horseback riding. More of a water lover? Then visit beautiful Patoka Lake. Your family can fish, boat & bike or if you just want to take a break, there are picnic areas and a beach too. In the winter months, Patoka Lake is used for ice fishing & cross country skiing. Try & plan your visit around one of the many festivals this county has to offer.
Monroe Lake, IN
Big Splash Adventure
Tracy Snyder Molina: When you want all the features of an outdoor waterpark but the weather is unpredictable, how about trying this 40,000 square foot indoor waterpark with retractable roof! This water play land has four different slides, 3-story interactive play structure, activity pool, lazy river, toddler splash area and outdoor pool with zero-depth entry. Even better, this waterpark has a hotel attached so you can extend the fun!
French Lick, IN
Dawn Denning: No matter the time of year, French Lick has a ton of stuff for you and your family to enjoy. If it is cold and snowy outside, ski or tube at Paoli Peaks then warm up and play at the indoor waterpark, Big Splash Adventure! If you have a train lover in your family, check out French Lick Railway and enjoy their Polar Express Train ride or other special events. If it is warm enough, take a hike, zip line or see elephants and more at Wilstem Ranch! Be sure to check out French Lick Resort for golfing, dining and fun!
Sister Lakes, MI
Tim Ponisciak: Sister Lakes is a beautiful small town with a number of different lakes that are great for kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or taking a pontoon boat out for a ride! A few favorite restaurants include Lutz's, Driftwood, and Lakeview Inn.
Kristy Pepping: Holland, named after its Dutch heritage, hosts a fun tulip festival each spring. The summer is a perfect time for a visit with the kids. They have a vibrant downtown with local shops where you can buy wooden shoes and other Dutch-inspired gear. There are also plenty of white sandy beaches to build sandcastles all day! Activities include bowling, gocarts, petting zoo and farm and Holland State Park.
South Haven, MI
Kristy Pepping: Located on Lake Michigan, South Haven offers several kid-friendly activities. There are tasty eateries, quaint shops and plenty of natural scenic surroundings. With several nature trails and inland lakes, the kids are sure to have fun! Activities include the beach, bike trails, boat rentals, and the Michigan Maritime Museum.
Kristy Pepping: Saugatuck is located next to the town of Douglas. These two towns offer tons of beach adventures. There are lots to do from visiting Lake Michigan's shore to exploring downtown shops and restaurants. Activities include Dune rides and Saugatuck Dunes State Park.
Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
Dawn Denning: My sons and I just finished a day trip to Holiday World! Holiday World is divided into holiday-themed areas and features 4 big roller coasters and a lot of smaller rides and games. It is perfect for all ages! Visit in the summer to enjoy waterparks with a lot of big drops! The park is clean, offers free soft drinks & sunscreen. If you like to camp and hike, check out the Hoosier National Forest which is only 30 minutes from the park.
St. Joseph, MI
Erin P.: St. Joseph, along the shore of Lake Michigan, offers some of the most beautiful views in all of Michigan. Downtown St. Joe offers visitors a quaint and picturesque stroll. Silver Beach has been ranked among the top family beaches. Kid-friendly amenities throughout St. Joseph include a carousel, a splash pad and the Curious Kids' Museum. A personal recommendation: Be sure to stop at Silver Beach Pizza for great views and delicious pizza!
Turkey Run State Park, IN
Dawn Denning: Horseback riding, canoeing, hiking and fishing are just a few things to do at Turkey Run State Park. Located on the border of Indiana and Illinois, Turkey Run is a fall family favorite. Be sure to stop by the Nature Center to learn more about the history of this state park. The Covered Bridge Festival is a nationally known annual tradition for a lot of Indiana residents. It features wooden bridges built over 150 years ago nestled in beautiful fall foliage. The festival offers food and crafts from local vendors too!
Indiana Dunes, IN
Dawn Denning: Over 15 miles of beaches on Lake Michigan are just a short drive from Indianapolis! Indiana Dunes is open for families to splash, play and run down the beach at the state park. If it is too cold to splash, enjoy hiking trails and a dozen parks for your kids to play. Plan ahead and bring along your bike to ride on biking trails. While you are up there, be sure to check out the bird and wildlife sanctuaries. Fish year around and enjoy the unique experience of ice fishing on the water with your kiddos. Hours of fun, with an easy drive home!
Traverse City, MI
Kristy Pepping: Sitting on Grand Traverse Bay off Lake Michigan, Traverse City offers a plethora of family-friendly activities. They have an annual cherry festival, a Victorian City Opera House and nearby museums. Plus, there are plenty of beach areas and natural surroundings to explore. Additional activities include the Boardman River Nature Museum, bike and ski rentals, hiking trails and fishing charters.
Dawn Denning: Home to family favorites like the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science & Industry and the Children's Museum, Chicago can entertain your kids for hours. When the weather is warmer, visit Navy Pier, Millennium Park, beaches, the Riverwalk and the several parks around the city. There are also dozens of activities to keep your kids entertained and sports teams for your family to cheer on! Every visit to Chicago can be an adventure and you never have to see the same thing twice!
Starved Rock State Park, IL
Dawn Denning: Ottawa, IL is home to Starved Rock State Park, voted the #1 attraction in the state of Illinois! This breathtaking park hosts 18 canyons home to 14 waterfalls. There are also miles of hiking paths, beautiful foliage and wildlife in the area. Visit December-March and Bald Eagles will arrive to drink from the fresh lakes and streams. The winter months offer the unique opportunity to view natural ice sculptures from the waterfalls. Other things to do in the area include trolley tours, horseback riding and camping.
Primary photo: Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash
Upparent collects community-submitted recommendations and reviews, and any ideas that are shared reflect the opinions of individual contributors.