Home to magnificent landscapes of densely forested woodlands teeming with wildlife, bordered by lovely beaches lapped by gin-clear waters, Indiana offer a wealth of recreational activities for everyone to enjoy. Whether you are looking for a day out with the kids or a weekend escape, Indiana has plenty of great places that beg to explored and many activities for the whole from hiking and horseback riding to mountain biking, fishing, sailing, swimming, and wildlife watching. Here are some of the top things to enjoy with the family in Indiana.
1.Black Pine Animal Sanctuary
The Black Pine Animal Sanctuary is an 18-acre sanctuary in Albion that provides permanent refuge for rescued, captive-raised exotic animals that have been performing animals or kept as ‘pets.’ Formerly known as the Black Pine Animal Park, the sanctuary has a population of animals of around 100 animals across 60 species, some of which are endangered, including bears, wildcats, wolves, foxes, parrots, and reptiles. Animals are housed in natural habitats throughout a lovely wooded area, and various educational visitor and outreach programs are offered throughout the year for all ages, including guided sanctuary tours, school field trips, and special events.
1426 W 300 N, Albion, IN 46701, Phone: 260-636-7383
2.Bluespring Caverns Park
© Bluespring Caverns Park
Bluespring Caverns is an extensive karst-and-river type cave system in Lawrence County that contains over 20 miles of surveyed passages and three-mile subterranean river – the longest such river in the United States. The cave system drains a 15-square-mile sinkhole plain and features four caves, the others of which are the Squire Boone Caverns, the Wyandotte Caves, and the Marengo Cave. The cavern system is controlled by the Bluespring Caverns Park, which offers guided boat rides on the subterranean river and overnight adventures for organized youth groups during the high season. The popular boat ride is conducted on a 17-person boat equipped with lighting and ventures along the river into the cavern system for about 600 meters and lasts about an hour.
1459 Blue Springs Cavern Rd, Bedford, IN 47421, Phone: 812-279-9471
3.Columbian Park Zoo
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Located at Columbian Park in Lafayette, the Columbian Park Zoo is an animal sanctuary that is home to over 190 animals from over 90 species, ranging from alligators, elk, and bears to lions, monkeys, and zebra. Founded in 1908, the zoo features habitats, including the Americas, Australia, Butterfly Garden, Family Farm, Fountain Plaza and Sculptures, and the Historic Animal House, and is surrounded by the Columbian Park, which features family-friendly picnic areas, children’s playgrounds, a walking trail, and a baseball stadium. The Columbian Park Zoo offers a variety of education programs for children of all ages, as well as weekend classes, workshops, summer camps, and fun events such as the Zoo Pajama Party.
1915 Scott St, Lafayette, IN 47904, Phone: 765-807-1540
4.The Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education
Set within the Indiana Dunes National Park, the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education is a modern visitor center on the western side of the park that and provides visitors with all kinds of information and activities that can be enjoyed in the park. Stretching along 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes National Park is home to a diverse range of habitats, including 50 miles of hiking trails that wind through tranquil forests, lush wetlands, rugged dunes, and sandy beaches. Other activities in the park include bird-watching and guided nature hikes to identify some of the 1,100 native plant species that call the 15,000-acre park home. The Paul H. Douglas Center is open daily year-round.
100 N Lake St, Gary, IN 46403, Phone: 219-395-1824
5.Fort Harrison State Park
© Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com
Fort Harrison is an Indiana state park in Lawrence based on the former site of Fort Benjamin Harrison. Also known as Fort Ben, the dog-friendly park features several historic sites and structures, including a Civilian Conservation Corps camp, a former Citizen's Military Training Camp, and World War II prisoner of war camp. Park amenities include a dog park, picnic shelters with tables and benches, a nature center with knowledgeable staff to provide information, hiking and mountain biking trails, cycling tracks, horseback trail rides, and hayrides. Other fun activities in the park include fishing, ice-fishing, sledding, cross-country skiing, and golf on an 18-hole golf course and driving range.
6000 N Post Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46216
6.Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
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The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo is a 40-acre animal sanctuary that protects and preserves over 1,000 animals in specially designed exhibits that replicate the animals’ natural habitats. Founded in 1965 and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the zoo is based within Fort Wayne's Franke Park, which features beautifully landscaped grounds. Top attractions and features at the zoo include taking a real-life safari drive in a real Land Rover to see giraffe, lions, hyenas, wildebeest and zebra; and gliding through the treetops 38 feet above the ground on a Sky Safari. Ride a surfboard, pet a stingray, and come nose-to-nose with orangutans, tigers, and giant reptiles in the Indonesian Rain Forest exhibit.
3411 Sherman Blvd, Fort Wayne, IN 46808
7.Fort Wayne Museum of Art
© Fort Wayne Museum of Art
Located in downtown Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art celebrates contemporary and historical art through a diverse range of permanent collections and traveling exhibitions. The museum is home to several anthologies, including American Brilliant Cut Glass, Indiana Impressionism, Prints & Drawings, and Special Collections and Archives. The museum is also home to an Early Learning Center, which provides a fun-based haven for children to build their visual literacy skills through interactive exhibits such as a drawing area with a self-identity gallery, a magnetic tree gallery, and a building area that encourages motor skills. The Paradigm Gallery displays a range of fine arts and crafts that can be purchased.
311 E Main St, Fort Wayne, IN 46802, Phone: 260-422-6467
8.Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens
© Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens
The Garfield Park Conservatory is a 10,000 square foot conservatory that is home to hundreds of different plants from the world's tropical regions. Designed and built by respected German landscape architect George Kessler in 1916, the conservatory features a welded aluminum frame in a beautiful art-deco style with vast expanses of glass and houses a wide variety of plant species including ferns, bananas, palms, orchids, coffee, and vanilla. The Sunken Garden encompasses three acres of European classical formal gardens with beautifully manicured flower beds, graceful fountains, and George Kessler-designed concrete urns and bowls. The gardens provide a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and host two main floral displays each year.
2505 Conservatory Dr, Indianapolis, IN 46203, Phone: 317-327-7183
9.Hall of Heroes Museum
© Hall of Heroes Museum
Take to the skies with Superman at the Hall of Heroes Museum in Elkhart. The museum is the only Superhero and comic book museum in the world and is dedicated to showcasing and preserving the eight-decade history of superheroes in comics, toys, film, and animation. Built as a replica of the Hall of Justice from the classic Super Friends cartoon, the two-story museum features a vast array of television and movie props, vintage toys, a replica Bat Cave, Adam West’s personal Batman costume from the 1960's television series, Batman, and the original shield from the film Captain America. Other fascinating items in the museum include over 60,000 comic books and over 100 pieces of original comic art pages from famous cartoons and comic books.
1915 Cassopolis St, Elkhart, IN 46514, Phone: 574-333-3406
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10.Hesston Steam Museum
© Hesston Steam Museum
The Hesston Steam Museum celebrates the age of steam-powered machinery and features four different gauge railroads and a variety of vintage farm equipment. Set in 155 acres of land in Hesston, the museum is operated by the Laporte County Historical Steam Society and is home to a unique three-rail narrow gauge railroad on which narrow gauge locomotives can move around the property; steam or gasoline-powered quarter-scale locomotives and a 7.5-inch gauge railroad. Other equipment that can be seen at the museum includes the Hesston Sawmill that dates back to 1900 and features a 60-inch insert tooth blade, an electric power plant, and steam traction engines dating back to the early 1900s.
1201 E 1000 N, La Porte, IN 46350, Phone: 219-778-2783
11.Hoosier National Forest
Blanketing the hills of south-central Indiana, the Hoosier National Forest spans 203,000 acres and boasts pristine landscapes of rolling hills, winding back-country trails, and rural crossroad communities. The forest is made up of four separate sections and features several popular areas and sites, including Potts Creek Rockshelter Archeological Site, the Lick Creek Settlement, and Jacob Rickenbaugh House. The trail system that runs through the forest is almost 266 miles long and is suitable for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, with beautiful waterfalls, wintergreen plants, and hemlock trees along the way.
811 Constitution Ave, Bedford, IN 47421, Phone: 812-275-5987
12.Indiana Dunes National Park
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Previously known as Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes National Park is a state park on the southern shores of Lake Michigan in North-western Indiana. The park is home to over 15 miles of beautiful beaches, vast rolling dunes, and blowouts, along with marshes, wetlands, fields of wildflowers and groves of black oak savanna and maple sugar trees that grow with the seasons. Three of the largest dunes in the park include the 192-foot-high Mount Tom, followed by Mount Holden at 184 feet and Mount Jackson at 176 feet. The dunes can be reached and explored via a network of hiking trails known as the Three Dune Challenge, which also passes forests of white pine trees, and sandy depressions known as dune blowouts.
1215 N State Rd 49, Porter, IN 46304
13.Indiana Transportation Museum (ITM)
© Indiana Transportation Museum (ITM)
The Indiana Transportation Museum (ITM) is a railroad museum dedicated to preserving the rich history of the state's railroad system through a variety of well-preserved railroad equipment, some of which is still in use today. Located in Logansport, Indiana, the museum features five operational early EMD model diesel locomotives and offers fun excursions on an authentic, historic train that takes visitors back to the peak of the state’s railroad-era. The museum also hosts special events such as rides on The Polar Express where visitors can enjoy meeting Santa, exploring Santa’s workshop, caroling, and sipping hot chocolate.
136 S 9th St, Noblesville, IN 46060, Phone: 317-773-6000
Home to over 3,800 animals representing 320 species, the Indianapolis Zoo features a zoological park, an aquarium, and a botanical garden. Located in White River Park, the zoo is organized into biomes (areas of the planet with similar climates, plants, and animals) and a variety of exhibits, habitats, and displays showcasing the zoo’s inhabitants. The zoo is famous for its state-of-the-art dolphin pavilion, which features a combination of approaches to dolphin/human interaction and is home the Underwater Dolphin Dome, where dolphins can be viewed from beneath the water; the Marsh Dolphin Theater, which features a vast pool and a coastal village scene, where a dolphin show occurs every day; and the Dolphin In-Water Adventure, an interactive dolphin program.
1200 W. Washington St., IN 46222, Phone: 317-630-2001
15.Marengo Park Cave
Marengo Cave is a privately-owned cave in Marengo that offers a variety of cave-based activities such as walking tours of the cave, cave exploring, and gem mining. One of only four show caves in Indiana, the Marengo Cave was discovered in 1883 by two school children and was immediately opened for the public to explore on guided tours by the owner of the land on which the cave was found. Two walking tours are offered – The Crystal Palace and the Dripstone Trail, which provide an in-depth look at the cave and the spectacular rock formations within it. Other adventures and activities that can be enjoyed in the cave include cave exploring, waterfall crawling, pedal karting, gemstone mining, maze-running, and a cave crawl for smaller children. There are overnight camping facilities and cabins for visitors spending a few days at the cave.
400 East State Road 64, Marengo, IN 47140, Phone: 812-365-2705
16.Muncie Children's Museum
© Muncie Children's Museum
The Muncie Children’s Museum is an interactive, immersive museum that features hands-on exhibits and displays that encourage creative learning through play in a safe and creative environment. Designed for children of all ages, the museum features several innovative exhibits that focus on specific themes such as Water Works, Veterinarian Office, Recycling Center, Schoolhouse, Barnyard, Make Believe Theater, and Book Nook. The Muncie Children’s Museum also offers a range of programs, workshops, and field trips that are based on the Indiana Academic Standards for Science and Literacy and are designed to encourage exploration, investigation, and experimentation.
515 S High St, Muncie, IN 47305, Phone: 765-286-1660
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17.Museum of Miniature Houses
© Museum of Miniature Houses
The Museum of Miniature Houses is dedicated to the art of fine-scale miniature and is one of only a few museums of its kind in the country. The museum aims to preserve and display scale miniatures, introduce the fine art of miniature making to the public, and preserve the art form for future generations. The museum boasts a collection of thousands of miniatures, including miniature houses, room boxes, and intricate individual items, which are showcased through a range of rotating exhibitions throughout the year. These exhibitions highlight the concept of architectural scale, the importance of detailing, and the beauty of decorative arts and signature pieces include a tiny Victorian home and a miniature replica of Hoosier athlete Major Taylor’s bicycle. Free audio tours and guided docent-led tours of the museum are offered, and magnifying glasses are provided in each room to view the pieces in detail.
111 East Main Street, Carmel, IN 46032, Phone: 317-575-9466
18.National Model Aviation Museum
© National Model Aviation Museum
Located at the International Aeromodeling Center in Muncie, the National Model Aviation Museum is the largest model aviation museum in the world, detailing the rich history of aeromodelling through fascinating exhibits of more than 11,000 artifacts that span two centuries. The museum houses a permanent collection of model airplanes, kits, engines, and other flying equipment, and the comprehensive gallery presents interactive rotating exhibits and hands-on opportunities for visitors of all ages. There is a range of educational programs and field trips for school and scout groups, and visitors can explore the museum on guided tours.
5151 E Memorial Dr, Muncie, IN 47302, Phone: 765-287-1256 ext. 504
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19.National New York Central Railroad Museum
© National New York Central Railroad Museum
The National New York Central Railroad Museum is a railroad museum in Elkhart that is dedicated to the preservation of the New York Central Railroad (NYC). The family-friendly museum features several outdoor displays of railroad equipment such as steam, diesel, and electric locomotives and a 1974 caboose, indoor model railroads, and a variety of railroad-related artifacts. Signature items in the museum include a freight house built in 1907 and a modified NYC 20th Century Limited train set. The museum also features several informative educational displays that explore the history of the railroad and how its development helped develop and shape the city.
721 S Main St, Elkhart, IN 46516, Phone: 574-294-3001
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20.Potawatomi Wildlife Park
Set along the banks of the Tippecanoe River, the Potawatomi Wildlife Park is a 317-acre preserve privately owned and managed nature sanctuary that preserves, conserves and protects the pristine landscapes of the Tippecanoe region and the fauna and flora that inhabit it. The area was once called home by the Potawatomi Tribe in the 1830s and features the site of a rare Potawatomi village that existed until the early 1850s. The park is home to a variety of diverse terrain, ranging from fields of wildflowers and woodlands to wetlands and ponds and offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, bird watching, and wildlife watching.
16998 IN-331, Tippecanoe, IN 46570, Phone: 574-498-6550
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21.Red Wolf Sanctuary
The Red Wolf Sanctuary is committed to the preservation and protection of North American wildlife and is home to a variety of species native to North America that has been rescued or are recuperating from life-changing injuries. The sanctuary provides a safe and natural environment for the animals which have rescued from unfortunate circumstances, and a team of professional and veterinarian-trained staff is on hand to take care of the animals. The sanctuary is home to a variety of animals, including grey wolves, red foxes, coyotes, arctic foxes, bobcats, black bears, opossums, and several raptors, and animals can be adopted with all proceeds going towards the care of the animals. The sanctuary can be visited by appointment only.
3027 IN-262, Rising Sun, IN 47040, Phone: 812-438-2306
22.Santa Claus Museum and Village
© Santa Claus Museum and Village
Located near the community of Santa Claus, the Santa Claus Museum & Village is a popular attraction that explores the history of the town of Santa Claus, from its humble beginnings as the tiny settlement of Santa Fee to the present-day bustling city. The museum features informative exhibits that tell the story behind the town's famous name, the growth of the town and the tourism industry, and an array of historical documents, artifacts, photographs, and hundreds of letters from children to Santa Claus. There are also beautiful displays of antique toys and Santas of every shape and size, and children can visit the Original Santa Claus Post Office and write their letter to Santa. Don’t miss the beautiful historic 1880 Santa Claus Church and the historic 1935 Santa Claus Statue that stands 22 feet tall.
69 North, IN-245, Santa Claus, IN 47579, Phone: 812-544-2434
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© Science Central
Science Central is an interactive science center in Fort Wayne that explores the world of science through over 200 imaginative, innovative, and hands-on exhibits. Science Central focuses on the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, commonly known as STEM, and offers visitors a fun and interactive way of learning. Permanent exhibits at the center include riding a bicycle balanced on a 25-foot high thin metal rail to learn about the principles of balance and gravity; and watching demonstrations about the human body, the weather, and a variety of other topics in the Lincoln Financial Foundation Demonstration Theater. The science center is also home to Kids Central, which is designed for children, ages two through seven and includes a water table, a giant piano keyboard, and the Fort Discovery play area.
1950 N Clinton St, Fort Wayne, IN 46805, Phone: 260-424-2400
24.Squire Boone Caverns and Village
Located in Mauckport, Squire Boone Caverns and Village is a popular tourist attraction centered around the Squire Boone Caverns, which were discovered by Daniel Boone and his brother, Squire, in the late 18th century. The brothers were hiding from Indians at the time they found the cave, and Squire later purchased the land in which the cave was situated and started a grist mill at the site. The property and caverns were donated to the public when Squire died in 1815, and today still features the mill which visitors can explore on guided tours. The caverns are open year-round, and the working pioneer village features a soap-making building, a chandler house where candles are made, and an old fashion candy shop. Guided tours are of the caverns, the grist mill, and the working pioneer village are available year-round.
100 Squire Boone Rd SW, Mauckport, IN 47142, Phone: 812-732-4381
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25.The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
© The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is home to over 120,000 artifacts and objects and fascinating permanent exhibits. Located in United Northwest, the museum is the largest children’s museum in the world and features outstanding collections that include the American Collection, the National Art Museum of Sport, the American Collection, and the World Cultures Collection. Visitors can take a journey back in time to the ancient tombs of Egypt, travel around the world to explore China, get up close to a dinosaur, experience the rich culture of Greece, get lost in a haunted house, head into space and watch a variety of live shows.
3000 N Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46208, Phone: 317-334-4000
25 Best Things to Do in Indiana with Kids
- Black Pine Animal Sanctuary, Photo: bertie10/stock.adobe.com
- Bluespring Caverns Park, Photo: Bluespring Caverns Park
- Columbian Park Zoo, Photo: Nikolay N. Antonov/stock.adobe.com
- The Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education, Photo: Rawpixel.com/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Harrison State Park, Photo: Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Wayne Children's Zoo, Photo: Maria Sbytova/stock.adobe.com
- Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Photo: Fort Wayne Museum of Art
- Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens, Photo: Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens
- Hall of Heroes Museum, Photo: Hall of Heroes Museum
- Hesston Steam Museum, Photo: Hesston Steam Museum
- Hoosier National Forest, Photo: carroteater/stock.adobe.com
- Indiana Dunes National Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Indiana Transportation Museum (ITM), Photo: Indiana Transportation Museum (ITM)
- Indianapolis Zoo, Photo: done4today/stock.adobe.com
- Marengo Park Cave, Photo: aguinaldo/stock.adobe.com
- Muncie Children's Museum, Photo: Muncie Children's Museum
- Museum of Miniature Houses, Photo: Museum of Miniature Houses
- National Model Aviation Museum, Photo: National Model Aviation Museum
- National New York Central Railroad Museum, Photo: National New York Central Railroad Museum
- Potawatomi Wildlife Park, Photo: Nikolaj/stock.adobe.com
- Red Wolf Sanctuary, Photo: EvgeniiasArt/stock.adobe.com
- Santa Claus Museum and Village, Photo: Santa Claus Museum and Village
- Science Central, Photo: Science Central
- Squire Boone Caverns and Village, Photo: Nick/stock.adobe.com
- The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Photo: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
- Cover Photo: Nick/stock.adobe.com