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Indianapolis Day Trips: Outdoor and Nature Adventures

Thinking about packing up the clan for an outdoor nature adventure and Indianapolis day trip? One of the charms of living in a big city such as Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana, is that you can easily escape into the country out of the asphalt jungle. And what a countryside it is.

Check out our list of Indianapolis day trips below; outdoor and nature adventures are well within your grasp, and may just represent the gold ring for you and your family.

Indianapolis Day Trips: Outdoor and Nature Adventures

Angel Mounds State Historic Site in Evansville, Indiana
Eleven ancient Native American mounds have been excavated and studied at this site for decades. The largest mound at Angel Mounds State HIstoric Site is called Mound A, which is forty-four feet tall and the tenth largest known mound in the country. After the Mississippian natives vacated the premises, the land was taken over by a farm family for nearly a century. The mounds’ namesake is from the farm family from the 1800s era, the Angels. A small admission fee is charged to explore part of the mounds and learn about some of the history of this Evansville area attraction.

Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park and Campground in Bean Blossom, Indiana

Known as the Father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe purchased his Bean Blossom property in 1951, to establish a hall of fame and music festival. Today, the Bill Monroe Memorial Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival is the world’s longest continuously running bluegrass festival. Aside from hosting this hugely popular 8-day festival, the park is also home to the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Country Star Museum. Take a stroll through country music history at this museum, which showcases instruments, star studded clothing and other memorabilia collected over the years.

Bluespring Caverns in Bedford, Indiana
A subterranean river boat tour winds visitors through one mile of caves in southern Indiana. The Bluespring Caverns are known as the longest public cave in the Hoosier State, and it’s the only such attraction around that offers a boat tour of the stalactites and stalagmites formed in the underground limestone. In the 1940s, a farm pond just disappeared into a sinkhole. Tours are 100 miles below the Earth’s surface. It’s so dark down in the caverns that when lights are cut, guests can’t even see a hand in front of their faces. Spelunking is a fun Indiana past time that makes for an adventurous day trip.

Bonneyville Mill County Park in Bristol, Indiana
220 acres of exploration waits at the Bonneyville Mill County Park. Each year the park has war reenactments and other educational events. Indiana historians love to visit this site, because it is home to the oldest continually functioning Gristmill in Indiana. Guests can buy fresh flour at Bonneyville Mill all summer long. Another favorite site at this Indiana attraction is the lovely dahlia gardens, managed by the Elkhart Dahlia Society.

Boone County Courthouse
Currently rounding out its 100th year, the Boone County Courthouse in Lebanon, Indiana is one of the oldest remaining classic courthouses in the Hoosier State. What’s more fascinating is the building’s clock tower featuring rare Hahl pneumatic calibrated clocks that still work. This historic courthouse also has the second largest dome in the state. The limestone pillars at the north and south entrances to the courthouse are said to be the largest single piece pillars like it in the whole country. The rotunda of the Boone County Courthouse is decorated by a beautiful stained-glass dome. Dozens of historic artifacts and memorabilia of the older days can be found here, making it an educational destination for a day trip from Indianapolis.

Brown County, Indiana
Not much more than a half hour drive from Naptown, you’ll find a heavenly haven for your day trip from Indianapolis, with the unlikely name of Nashville, Indiana. Try the “Girlfriend’s Getaway,” a day to pamper your mind and body and rejuvenate your spirit. Don’t forget to check out the unique shopping boutiques and galleries before or after your spa visit; you will find treasures galore in Nashville, Indiana.

Charlestown State Park in Charlestown, Indiana
The third largest park in the Crossroads of America is found near the Ohio River in Charlestown. It spans over 4,700-acres and includes a boat ramp, riverbank, boardwalk, playgrounds, hiking trails and campgrounds. Fourteen mile Creek is a great fishing hole for bluegill, catfish and bass. Boaters can also take the creek out to the Ohio River. Hiking trails at Charlestown State Park range from moderate to rugged. The park is only a three hour drive from Indianapolis and it’s an outstanding getaway for a day trip.

Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana
Four breathtaking waterfalls can be found at this Indiana park. 1, 416 acres of natural beauty await in south central Indiana.

Hiking trails, a nature preserve, water park, observation tower and full service hotel are just some of the highlights at this attraction.

Columbian Park in Lafayette, Indiana
About 50 miles northwest of the Circle City on I-65 is the interesting town of Lafayette, Indiana. This is a bustling community of about 60,000 souls, with several points of interest to recommend it for a fun day trip from Indianapolis. Plan to visit the Columbian Park Zoo while you’re there. In June, the town puts on an unbeatable musical and culinary celebration called “Taste of Tippecanoe,” or if you happen to go in the beautiful month of August, you can catch the “Mosey Thru LayFlats Arts and Music Festival,” replete with dozens of local bands and artisans.

Cool Creek Park in Westfield, Indiana
Every year more than 10,000 students visit the Nature Center at Cool Creek park for field trips. There they enjoy the interactive learning experiences like the “Critters and Discoveries Scavenger Hunt.” Another popular exhibit is Oliver the Oak Tree, where kids can earn hands-on how tress grow and how they look inside. It’s not just for kids though, Cool Creek Park offers tons of adventure for all ages. Bird-watchers say it’s the number one spot in central Indiana to observe the 163 species of bird in the area. The park also has hiking trails, softball diamonds, picnic areas, soccer fields, a playground, basketball court and much more.

Covered Bridges of Parke County
There are 30 covered bridges in Parke County and a maple sugar festival each year in February. This is scenic Amish country, rife with history and the staunch, somehow moving character of the Heartland. Take your camera and the kids. Parke County is only about an hour due east of Indianapolis, near Rockville.

The Grave in the Middle of the Road in Amity, Indiana
Nancy Kerlin Barnett is buried right in the middle of County Road 400 in Amity, Indiana. The area wasn’t always covered by asphalt. Before the road was built through town the area was a scenic spot on a small hill overlooking Sugar Creek. It was Nancy’s favorite place, and she was buried there in 1831. A few graves were later placed on the hill, but were eventually removed without protest. Nancy’s grave was special though, because her family took a stand in the early 1900s when the county tried to expand the road. That’s when Nancy’s grandson took a stand and guarded her grave with his life, and his shotgun. So, the road project simply worked around it, and in 1912 a historical marker was placed there. Now, the Grave in the Middle of the Road is an amusing attraction to witness on a road trip through the Crossroads of America.

Hayes Arboretum in Richmond, Indiana
Nature lovers, outdoors-men, hikers and bird-watchers come together to enjoy Hayes Arboretum. The 466-acre property features a variety of hiking trails ranging from easy to hard terrain. The nature center is a main attraction at the Arboretum, offering two floors of educational displays. Stanley W. Hayes bought up the property and built his large estate. When he passed away in 1963, he transferred his land, buildings and equipment to his Hayes Research Foundation. The foundation makes it possible for the arboretum to operate even today. In Richmond, Indiana.

Hoosier Hill in Bethel, Indiana
The highest point of elevation in the Crossroads of America can be found in Bethel, Indiana. Don’t Blink! You might miss it. Hoosier Hill is 1,257 feet above sea level, but it appears smaller because of the surrounding terrain. Each year, travelers visit this Indiana attraction on a quest to see all 50 high points. A logbook mailbox sits atop the hill, and notes from visitors are there for all to see. Signs mark the area and there is a stone path leading to a prime area on top of Hoosier Hill.

Hoosier National Forest in Bedford, Indiana
Southern Indiana is known for its scenic parks and extensive forests. Hoosier National Forest is a huge 200,000 acre nature preserve that offers camping, hiking, fishing and horseback riding activities. A portion of the property is made up of old-growth forest, in an area called the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Sandstone formations, hilly terrain, a rock shelter and waterfalls are all within this 88-acre preserve. Spring and autumn are the ideal times to explore the Hoosier National Forest, when plant life is most colorful. The huge park property spans into six different counties.

Indiana Dunes State Park and National Lakeshore
This breathtaking Indiana nature preserve offers fun for all ages. From camping and hiking, to snowshoeing and bird watching, families can do it all.

This Hoosier gem is just a three hour drive from Indianapolis, and well worth the time and gasoline.


Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville, Indiana

Bird watching is the main event at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Medaryville, Indiana. Sandhill Cranes occupy the area in masses during the migration seasons, and spectators just can’t get enough of these mystical birds. The area is also great for hiking, fishing, hunting, camping and tons of other outdoor activities. The Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area is in northwest Indiana, and it’s not too far from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Lincoln Memorial Park in Zionsville, Indiana
Before making his first major presidential address in Indianapolis, Abraham Lincoln’s train stopped in downtown Zionsville to meet a few of his new constituents. Although the train tracks are long gone, a small one-acre park marks the spot where Honest Abe made his historic visit. Just around the corner from the park is the quaint and quiet downtown Zionsville, where dozens of restaurants and specialty stores can be found.

Lincoln State Park in Lincoln City, Indiana
President Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home was in southern Indiana, and this attraction is a tribute to his legacy. The grave site of his sister Sarah can be seen at the Little Pigeon Primitive Baptist Church at Lincoln State Park. There are 1,747-acres, rolling hills, forests galore and two lakes. Cabins and campsites are available for rent, and guests may rent rowboats or paddle boats. Hiking trails and a nature center are other highlights found on this day trip. Several other Lincoln related sites are in the area, including the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial and the Lincoln Living Historical Farm.

Lost River in Orangeville, Indiana
Twenty-two miles of the Lost River flows underground in the caves and caverns below the earth. Part of the rive emerges in Orangeville in an area known as the “Rise Pool.” After heavy rains, the waters rise to the surface and become more visible. It’s quite a site to see, and it’s just near the popular French Lick Casino and West Baden Springs Hotel.


Marengo Cave in Marengo, Indiana

Two southern Indiana kids discovered a sinkhole on Samuel Stewart’s land. Fifteen year old Blanche Hiestand recruited her younger brother for an underground adventure one day after school. The siblings found themselves traveling deeper and deeper until they were in a large cave room. Tours of Marengo Cave now take visitors to several large cave rooms featuring large flow-stones, stalactites and stalagmites. The Penny Ceiling is a highlight of one tour of the Marengo Cave. Visitors are encouraged to toss change to the cave ceiling and watch it stick to the soft limestone. Two different tours are offered for visitors, and canoes can be rented nearby.

Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center
Goshen College operates the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center, where students and visitors can learn about alternative energy sources and other environmental issues. Over 1,100 acres make up this nature preserve, and it is home to many different ecosystems, including wetlands, bogs, uplands, forests, meadows, lowlands, prairies and lake shores. The Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center recently received an award for its scientific contributions and advancements. In Goshen, Indiana.

O’Bannon Woods State Park in Corydon, Indiana
Former governor Frank O’Bannon and his wfe Judy frequently visited the Wyandotte Woods State Recreational Area near their Corydon home. After the governor died in office, the area was renamed  in honor of the O’Bannon family. Guests can enjoy 15 miles of hiking trails, 80 miles of horse trails and several picnic shelters. A hay press on the grounds works to show visitors the old-fashioned way of compacting hay. An 1830s-era farmstead is seasonally staffed for a glimpse of living history. More than 300 campsites are available for rent, and a church can also be attended on the grounds. A huge family aquatics center opened in 2007, making the O’Bannon Woods State Park an all around great park for all ages.

Prophetstown State Park in Battle Ground, Indiana
Indiana history is alive at the Gibson Farmhouse, a section of Prophetstown State Park in Battle Ground, Indiana. 300 acres of this Indiana park serve as a tribute to the past, including the working farm, which resembles the area as it was circa 1920. Guided tours and educational programs are offered at Prophetstown State Park all year long. The entire park spans 2,200 acres, and guests are invited to hike, bike, hunt, fish, camp and picnic. The history of the Wabash River Valley is rich with exciting tales from the frontier. For example, the monumental Battle of Tippecanoe took place in Battle Ground, and re-enactments are shown annually in Tippecanoe County. Vast prairies once engulfed the area, due to the glacial melt and rich soils of the land. Today, park officials are striving to replenish the grasses and flowers of the prairie by preserving several acres each year. A day trip to Prophetstown State Park offers outdoor adventures for the entire family.

Seven Pillars of the Mississinewa in Peru, Indiana
A small river in Peru, Indiana has been working for centuries on carving out several limestone caves, known as the Seven Pillars of the MIssissinewa. The tranquility and peaceful nature scene at this attraction is unmatchable. Because it’s a well-kept secret, the area is often vacant, making for a very quiet day trip. Native-AMerican history in the area stretches back hundreds of years. The Miami tribes heavily populated surrounding land, and it’s believed that several cultural rituals were held at the Seven Pillars of the Mississinewa.
Nature lovers and historians can both enjoy a day trip to Spring Mill State Park, home of the Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom Memorial, caves, hiking trails and a fully functional 1817 Gristmill. Pioneer Village is a Civil War era town that has a distillery, post-office, tavern, shoe maker, carpenter and many other features. In all, more than 20 ancient buildings make up this seasonal living history village.

Squire Boone Caverns in Mauckport, Indiana
When brothers Daniel and Squire Boone were hunting along the Ohio River in 1790, they came across a waterfall. They later returned to build a gristmill, and it was discovered that the waterfall leads back to a large cave system. The attraction is now known as Squire Boone Caverns. Tours of the caves show visitors the breathtaking rock formations underground, and much more. The actual gravesite of founder Squire Boone is along the tour as well. He was buried after his death in 1815 from an Indian tomahawk to the head. That gristmill still operates here too, although it’s been reconstructed several times due to fires. There are even village shops on the grounds, and many other fun things to do.

Sullivan County Park and Lake in Sullivan, Indiana
Endless opportunities for outdoor fun can be discovered at this Indiana park, which features activities like camping, fishing, boating and picnicking. Sullivan County Park and Lake even has a nine-hole golf course, a perfect place to spend an afternoon on the green. At one time, Sullivan relied heavily on the coal mining industry, and memorials are set up at the park. Visitors can come to pay homage to the nearly 100 victims of coal mining disasters. Plaques in the park list the names of miners killed in the 1900s, and also on display is an old coal car. Not only is this park a scenic spot to spend outdoors, but it’s educational too.

Tippecanoe River State Park in Winimac, Indiana
A beautiful river runs through this scenic Indiana park, where nature lovers and outdoorsmen visit frequently. Hiking, horseback riding, boating, camping and picnicking are a few of the popular activities offered at the Tippecanoe River State Park. This area in northern Indiana is a rich and long running part of Indiana history. From the Native American in habitants of the 1600s, to the French for traders of early explorations, this destination is a small parch of nature that’s collected centuries of Indiana culture. The buildings in the park were build by the Worlds Progress Administration during the Great Depression, just another splash of history to discover here.

Warsaw Biblical Gardens
For a spiritual and relaxing experience in northern Indiana, head to the Warsaw Biblical Gardens. This ¾ acre garden grows only plants mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, and there is even a space on the grounds reserved for meditation and prayer. Indy residents love this relaxing getaway from the Circle City because it is peaceful, calming and soothing. The best time to visit the Warsaw Biblical Gardens is in the early spring, when the colors are very bright with the year’s first blooms. In Warsaw, Indiana.

Wolf Park in Battle Ground, Indiana
Want to walk among the wolves this weekend? What about howling at the moon with an entire wolf pack? Wolf Park in Battle Ground offers this unique opportunity and many other educational events throughout the year. This one-of-a-kind Indiana park was founded in 1972 by retired Purdue University professor Dr. Erich Klinghammer. His mission was to spread his knowledge about animal behavior and show that wolves don’t naturally behave the way they appear on T.V. Educational seminars, research studies and even youth summer camps are held at Wolf Park in order to better educate people about the most stereotyped and misunderstood animals in captivity and in the wild. They even perform controlled hunting demonstrations where the wolves are sent into a herd of bison. People watch as the wolves seek out weaknesses and imperfections in the bison, testing their strength and agility. A day trip to this Hoosier park is unlike any other, and it’s only a short drive from the Circle City.

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Mike Woods