From the extensive caves of Southern Indiana to the Great Lakes of the north and northeast, Indiana has no shortage of day trips that can be easily accessed from Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati or Chicago. Explore historic early 19th century townships, including the childhood home of President Lincoln, spend a day immersed in Amish culture, or browse some of the Midwest’s best antique marts and flea markets.
Bloomington is home to Indiana University. The Hoosiers are an influential presence in this college town that’s surrounded by forests, hills and lakes. Explore the University campus, or catch a football game, musical performance or explore the campus museums and galleries. Downtown Bloomington features a historic quarter with buildings made of local limestone. Enjoy shops, restaurants, nightlife, arts and culture. Step outside the city for a kayak, paddleboard or party boat excursion on Lake Monroe. Begin a cycling adventure with Indiana Jim’s, or take a mile-long underground boat tour through the caves at Bluespring Caverns Park.
Bloomington, IN 47421
Bridgeton is the home of Indiana’s most famous covered bridge, the 1907 Conley Ford Bridge. The authentic mill town’s first two blocks are listed with the National Register of Historic Places, and historic structures include an 1822 log cabin, the 1878 Bridgeton House, and the 1823 Bridgeton Mill. The mill continues to operate today, grinding corn and flour into meal with 200 year old French grindstones. Shopping and dining and comes alive in October each year for the Covered Bridge Festival. The festival hosts over 400 arts, crafts, collectible and antique vendors. The Mountain Man Rendevous takes place each April, and offers a weekend of pioneer reenactments.
Bridgeton, IN 47836
3.Brown County State Park
Brown County State Park is the largest in Indiana at 16,000 acres. Open year round, the park is exceptionally beautiful in the fall as the deciduous trees change color. Closely resembling the Great Smokey Mountains, the park has been nicknamed the “Little Smokies.” Abe Martin Lodge, built in 1932 of timber found in the park and local stone, offers lodging, dining and an indoor water park. Climb a 90-foot tall fire tower for views of the hills, hike or mountain bike along miles of trails, swim in the Water Park pool at the park’s lodge, or enjoy a guided horse back ride from the park’s saddle barn. Along Trail 5, visit the endangered Yellowwood tree.
1405 S.R. 46 West, Nashville, IN 47448, Phone: 812-988-6406
Southern Indiana’s Historic downtown Croydon offers shopping, dining, wineries, and history. Croydon was Indiana’s first state capitol and full of history from the earliest pioneers to the Civil War. The Battle for Croyden Memorial Park recognizes the only Civil War battle to have been fought in Indiana. Take a walking tour of the historic city center, visit the Harrison County Artist’s Center to see the work of local artisans, and finish the day with a craft beet from the Beaver Street Tap Room. For a dose of outdoor adventure, visit the Indiana Caverns Family Adventure Park for ziplining and roller coasters, or go underground for a tour of Southern Indiana’s caves with Deep Darkness at Indiana Caverns.
Historic Farmland is home to several unique shops, restaurants and cultural events. The rural small town in East Central Indiana is home to a walkable and charming downtown historic district that’s been lovingly preserved. The Farmland Cultural Center hosts several well attended events throughout the year, including live music, dinner concerts, theatrical productions, yoga classes and charity events. Visit the old fire station, listen to the bells of the local church, shop and dine. The annual Christmas Walk takes place the first Tuesday in December and features a chili supper, window display competition, free carriage rides, and a chance to meet with Santa.
Farmland, IN 47340
© Discover Downtown Franklin
Downtown Franklin is a quaint community with a rich history in Johnson County, Indiana. The main street community has been nationally accredited with the Trust for Historic Preservation and is a vital and thriving area which has fully embraced its historic appeal. Attend a Saturday morning farmer’s market for locally grown fruits and vegetables, and hand made crafts, or enjoy a farm-to-table meal at one of several local restaurants. The Strawberries on the Square festival takes place each May, and combines live music with food vendors and a classic car show. While Hops and Vines each August offers an outdoor beer garden, wine tastings, food vendors and more.
Franklin, IN 46131
7.Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes is a National Park bordering Lake Michigan. Open year-round, the park offers everything from swimming in the summers, to winter cross-country skiing. Enjoy the wildflowers when hiking in the spring, or the fall foliage in autumn. The visitor’s center is open daily and displays information about the park and surrounding area, local artwork and two brief orientation films. Over 60 historic sites within the park include the Chellberg Farm and Camp Good Fellow. Over 400 ranger-led tours and interpretative programs are available annually. Programs begin at the visitor’s center or the Center for Environmental Education, named for Senator Paul Douglas, who was instrumental in the park’s founding.
1215 North State Road 49, Porter, IN 46304, Phone: 219-395-1882
© Town of Knightstown
Knightstown is a small rural town known best as the filming location for the movie Hoosiers about a small town basketball team winning the state Championship. The Hoosier Gym has now been transformed to a community center and museum and maintains the same look from the 1986 movie. Home to Jellystone Park, visitors can visit with Yogi Bear, rent cabins, or enjoy swimming pools, paddleboats and a playground. Try panning for gold at Bonnieville Gold Camp within Jellystone Park. The downtown business district boasts historic American architecture, including a 1938 mural in the post office painted by Raymond L Morris.
Knightstown, IN 46148
Madison, Indiana is a thriving small community perfect for visiting historic sites, antiquing, shopping, dining, and wine tasting. Three scenic historic routes bisect the town, including the Underground Railroad self-guided driving tour, the Ohio River scenic route and the Michigan Road historic byway. Visit Hanover College, Indiana’s oldest four-year institution, founded in 1827. Take a carriage ride through the historic downtown district, or board a vintage passenger trolley or antique funeral casson. To see the Ohio River, take a jet boat tour spring through fall, or attend the Madison Regatta or the RiverRoots Music and Folk Arts Festival. In December, the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes will introduce you to the area’s historic properties.
Madison, IN 47250
Marengo Cave is the most visited natural attraction in Indiana. The US National Landmark offers two walking tours, The 40-minute Crystal Palace tour takes visitors past large flowstone deposits and rooms filled with formations. The 60-minute Dripstone Trail tour is best known for its totem pole stalagmites and soda straws. Combination tours are available. Additional tours include canoeing adventures just 4 minutes from the caves, and The Crawl, a wet and muddy underground adventure. The caves remain a cool 52 degrees year round. Children of all ages can mine for gemstones in a replica sluice outside the cave’s entrance. A gift shop on site offers 3,000 square feet of educational items and souvenirs.
400 East State Road 64,Marengo, IN 47140, Phone: 812-365-2705
© Merom Camp and Retreat Center
Merom is a scenic small town with fewer than 200 residents, home of the Union Christian College, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Merom Bluffs rise 200 feet above the Wabash River. The rich historical town was once home to a ferry service that brought people and livestock across the river between Indiana and Illinois. In Merom Bluff Park visitors can see an old Civil War cannon at the site where the Johnson brothers completed the first successful flight of a monoplane. The Chautauqua House at the park was the site of many famous speeches by traveling orators throughout the early 20th century, including the prohibitionist Carrie Nation.
Munster is a picturesque small town located on the south shore of Lake Michigan. The suburban community offers over 20 parks, including golf-courses, dog-parks, open natural areas, formal gardens and walking paths. A thriving arts community is centered around the Muster Center for Performing and Visual Arts, which includes two art galleries and a theater where visitors can see plays and Broadway musicals. Each Sunday, the arts center hosts a family brunch. Visit the Community Veteran’s Memorial for a look at artifacts from each U.S. War from WWI through Desert Storm. The Albanese Candy Factory produces the world’s best gummy bears, while Three Floyd’s Brewing company is most popular for local craft beer.
Munster, IN 46323
Nashville, Indiana is home to the Brown County Visitor’s Center, full of information on guided tours and area adventure. The Nashville motto is “escape comes naturally” and the area indeed offers opportunity to explore nature via hiking, mountain biking or kayak tours. Nashville’s rural quietude has long made it a destination for artists. Studio tours take place each October, galleries abound and live music takes place at the Brown County Music Center, Mike’s Music and Dance Barn, the Red Jamboree and several other venues. Visit the county’s first legal distillery with a tour to Beer Wallow, take a historic walking tour of downtown Nashville, or visit Blue Monroe’s Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Country Star Museum.
Nashville, IN 47448
© Visit New Harmony
New Harmony is a river-side town and an easy road trip from many Midwestern metropolitan areas. Explore art and architecture, history and walking tours, music and theater, and outdoor recreation. Enjoy a self guided tour of New Harmony’s public art works, which includes stops to several galleries and the Gallery of Contemporary Art. Guided historic tours include stops to the 1830 Owen House among several other historic properties. Join a ghost tour for a visit to the historical cemetery and a 90 minute stroll through town. Several parks and trails are located throughout town, and there’s a boat ramp, canoe and fishing access in town at the shores of the Wabash River.
New Harmony, IN 47631
© New Africa/stock.adobe.com
Paoli Peaks is a ski, snowboard and tubing mountain in southern Indiana, perfect for beginners and families. A 45,000 square foot lodge offers rentals, lessons, The Peaks Pizzeria and Grill and the 21 and over Bully Barn. The natural ski hill offers a 300 foot drop, the majority of the trails are marked as intermediate, only 20% of the trails are marked as advanced. A separate tubing lodge and tubing area offers ten 700-foot long lanes for snow tubing, with a carpeted conveyor to take guests back up the hill. Outside of the winter months, the mountain is open to outdoor events such as the Rugged Maniac Obstacle Course.
2798 West County Road, RT 25 SOUTH, PAOLI, IN 47454, Phone: 812-723-4696
Patoka Lake is a 26,000 acre park containing the 8,800 acre lake. The lake protects several bald eagle nesting sites, freshwater jellyfish, river otters and osprey. Two resident bald eagles were rescued at the lake, the non-releasable birds may be visited at the Patoka Lake Raptor Center, alongside a red-tailed hawk and screech owl. State Park rangers lead guided programs on outdoor skills, Dutch oven cooking and kayaking. Star parties, turtle walks and other guided nature hikes take place year round. Enjoy the lake for swimming, boating and fishing, or hike along the many trails. Campsites and picnic areas are available.
3084 N. Dillard Rd, Birdseye, IN 47513, Phone: 812-685-2464
17.Pokagon State Park
Pokagon State Park is located on Lake James in northern Indiana. Activities include fishing, walking or cycling along the park’s bike path, trail hiking and cross-country skiing. A toboggan run is open in the winter between November and February. Originally named Lake James Park when it opened in 1925, the park now takes the name of Simon and Leopold Pokagon, noted leaders of the Potawatomi tribe who once lived in the area. Stone and log structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps are found throughout the park, including the Powatomi Inn. Boat rentals are available, and park facilities include playgrounds, a sand volleyball court, saddle barn offering guided rides, and a meeting and conference center.
450 Lane 100 Lake James, Angola, IN 46703, Phone: 260-833-2012
© Sue Smith/stock.adobe.com
Santa Claus, Indiana is known as America’s Christmas Hometown. Themed attractions include Santa’s Stable, which offers family friendly guided riding experiences, including pony rides for younger children. Santa’s Candy Castle is a 1935 historic castle turned candy shop. Holiday World and the Splashin’ Safari are adjoining theme parks, the first offering roller coasters and other thrill rides, the second a water park. Historic attractions in the area include Lincoln’s boyhood home, the national memorial preserves the place where Lincoln spent his childhood in the early 1800’s. The memorial includes a living historical farm, visitor’s center and two museums.
Santa Claus, IN 47579
Northern Indiana’s Shipshewana in historic La Grange County is home to the country’s third largest Amish population. Experience Amish culture and history with a tour of the Amish acres historic farm, a buggy tour of the historic downtown area, or a carriage ride through the Amish countryside. Visit Shipshewana’s famous flea market on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from May through September where you’ll find over 700 vendor booths with everything from Amish crafts, to antiques and collectibles. Grab a bite to eat at the food court, where you’ll find the popular pit-tatos and Nelson’s chicken, or visit the farmer’s market in the heart of the flea market.
Shipshewana, IN 46565
© Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com
Spencer County is home to the small town of Santa Claus, which offers Christmas themed attractions alongside the historical birthplace of President Lincoln, local wineries and museums. At the Spencer County Visitor’s Center, which is located adjacent to the Santa Claus Christmas Store, you’ll find brochures and maps of the local attractions. It’s Christmas all year round in Spencer County. A large statue of Santa Claus greets guests at the entrance to the Santa Claus Museum, which is full of town history. Write a letter to Santa at the museum, get it postmarked at the Santa Claus post office, and chat with Santa’s elves via the North Pole Network at Santa’s Candy Cane Castle.
39 North Kringle Place, Santa Claus, IN 47579, Phone: 888-444-9252
21.Tippecanoe River State Park
© Nancy Mae/stock.adobe.com
The Tippecanoe River State Park offers hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, horseback riding trails and reservable campsites. The picturesque Tippecanoe river is the main attraction at this state park, which is popular for canoeing and kayaking. Enjoy a total of 23 miles of trails, 14 of which are accessible by foot, or on horseback. Several historic structures throughout the park were built in the 1930’s by the Works Project Administration. A 90-foot tall fire tower offers panoramic views of the park’s landscape and the Tepicon Recreation Hall is popular for events and weddings. Interpretative events include evenings of guided stargazing and Hoosier Quest, in which participants earn prizes and pins for exploring and discovering natural elements of the park.
4200 N U.S. 35, Winamac, IN 46996, Phone: 574-946-3213
Vincennes is Indiana’s first city, and is the perfect day-trip for history enthusiasts. Historic attractions include the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park, the Old Cathedral Library and Museum and the Old French House Library and Museum. Those interested in genealogy should visit the McGrady-Brockman House and Genealogical Research Center. Living history events include WWI Days and the Salute to Veterans of WWII, both at the Indiana Military Museum. The Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous takes place each Memorial Day weekend. The Revolutionary War reenactment hosts over 100 booths with live actors demonstrating entertainment, crafts and trade from the era, and selling period wares and food.
Vincennes, IN, 47591
© Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com
Williamsport is a historic small town on the banks of the Wabash River. Founded in 1828, it’s the site where Paul Dresser wrote Indiana’s state song, “On the Banks of the Wabash.” The top attraction in Williamsport is the Fall Creek Gorge. This area is managed and protected by the Nature Conservancy and offers a short trail to the canyon, alongside waterfalls and streams. Visit the Williamsport Falls, Indiana’s tallest free-falling waterfall. The Badlands ATV Park is less than 5 miles away and offers camping and all-levels of trails for motocross, dirt bikes, ATV’s and Jeeps.
Williamsport, IN 47993
© Town of Yorktown Indiana-Community
Yorktown is a quaint rural town just outside Muncie, the home of Ball State University. With two gold courses and several parks offering over 2 miles of trails throughout 120 total acres, Yorktown is a center of outdoor recreational activity. Morrow’s Meadow traverses both the Buck Creek and White River and offers a boat ramp for canoe or kayak put ins. Connect from Morrow’s Meadow to the newly revitalized downtown Yorktown through a pedestrian bridge. Shopping and dining awaits in this charming small town. The family-friendly area is home to over 25 churches for the 14,000 residents, and has been named Indian’s top place to raise a family.
Yorktown, IN 47396
© Zionsville, Indiana - Town of Zionsville
Zionsville is a charming historic town known for its period architecture, brick paved streets and cutting edge boutiques, restaurants, cafes and bars. The historic downtown area, which was founded in 1852 is known today as the Village. Maps for self-guided walking tours are available at the chamber of commerce, and point out the town’s historic architecture, which is representative of every major 19th and 20th century style. Outside of the downtown district, Zionsville is home to 400 acres of parkland across a total of 17 parks. The Big-4 Rail Trail is over 20 miles of railway track turned cycling and walking corridor. The Zion Nature Center offers interactive displays, a close-up look at a working beehive and other live animals.
Zionsville, IN 46077
25 Best Day Trips in Indiana
- Bloomington, Photo: Shelley/stock.adobe.com
- Bridgeton, Photo: wildnerdpix/stock.adobe.com
- Brown County State Park, Photo: Michele/stock.adobe.com
- Croydon, Photo: Richard/stock.adobe.com
- Farmland, Photo: francescodemarco/stock.adobe.com
- Franklin, Photo: Discover Downtown Franklin
- Indiana Dunes National Park, Photo: EJRodriquez/stock.adobe.com
- Knightstown, Photo: Town of Knightstown
- Madison, Photo: simonwhitehurst/stock.adobe.com
- Marengo Cave, Photo: Nick/stock.adobe.com
- Merom, Photo: Merom Camp and Retreat Center
- Munster, Photo: milanares/stock.adobe.com
- Nashville, Photo: IRStone/stock.adobe.com
- New Harmony, Photo: Visit New Harmony
- Paoli Peaks, Photo: New Africa/stock.adobe.com
- Patoka Lake, Photo: jarupan/stock.adobe.com
- Pokagon State Park, Photo: alyssamaephoto/stock.adobe.com
- Santa Claus, Photo: Sue Smith/stock.adobe.com
- Shipshewana, Photo: Branden/stock.adobe.com
- Spencer, Photo: Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com
- Tippecanoe River State Park, Photo: Nancy Mae/stock.adobe.com
- Vincennes, Photo: SNEHIT/stock.adobe.com
- Williamsport, Photo: Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com
- Yorktown, Photo: Town of Yorktown Indiana-Community
- Zionsville, Photo: Zionsville, Indiana - Town of Zionsville
- Cover Photo: SNEHIT/stock.adobe.com