I have always enjoyed traveling throughout the state of Indiana, and there are many fantastic day trips from Indianapolis that you should know about. I have found some communities that I find myself wanting to return to, over and over, after being in town less than one hour. You know you have found a fantastic town to explore when you can’t seem to get enough of everything. Each of these towns is within a 3-hour drive of Indianapolis and worth every moment of your windshield time.
I was hosted in some of these destinations as a FAM Trip guest. All opinions are my own.
1. Hendricks County
Hendricks County offers a little bit of everything, including outdoor adventure and the arts. Danville is in Hendricks County and has one of the best town squares in Indiana. The beautiful courthouse sits in the middle of town. Nearby you can dine at the Mayberry Cafe while dining on Aunt Bee’s famous fried chicken served on the Andy Griffith Show. Stock up on your fresh fruits and vegetables from Beasley’s Orchard. Nature Valley Ranch offers a great lodge with horseback riding. Sitting on the deck with a cup of coffee with a view of the lake makes this a winning choice for lodging in Hendricks County.
A unique experience is tie-dying at The Tie Dye Lab. You choose an item to tie-dye with assistance from trained staff. You will walk away with a colorful item of your choice. Glass blowing is popular at Indiana artisan Lisa Pelo’s glass blowing shop. Lisa and her team will help you create a fabulous work of art with your choice of colors. Hendricks County is a short 10-minute drive from Indianapolis, making this an easy destination to visit.
Richmond, Indiana, sits on the Indiana/Ohio State Line. The Chocolate Trail is not to be missed. Indulge in fine chocolates of all types while exploring Richmond. History comes to life at the Wayne County Historical Museum, featuring incredible antique cars and more. The charming downtown area is home to several shops that make Richmond the ideal girlfriend’s getaway. From the downtown to the parks, Richmond has a lot of areas that you can safely stroll and take in some incredible views. Summertime brings flower gardens in full bloom in several of the parks.
On your return to Indianapolis, stop at the Warm Glow Candle Company at Exit 145. Stock up on the incredible scented candles and products that this candle company has to offer. Plan to spend 30 minutes shopping for treasures at this fun stop. Richmond is an hour’s drive from Indianapolis on I-70.
3. Fort Wayne
From an incredible children’s zoo to boutique shopping, you will find adventure in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It’s not uncommon to find the well-known Vera Bradley products in several boutiques and shops in Fort Wayne. I have several Vera Bradley travel bags and would highly recommend them to anyone that travels a lot. The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is a top-notch facility for folks of all ages. Don’t let the word Children’s Zoo stop you from visiting.
The attractions at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo are at a level that children can easily view the animals. This means that everyone can view the animals and have an enjoyable experience. If family history interests you, a visit to Fort Wayne is in order to dive into your family archives at the genealogy center. The genealogy center is wheelchair accessible and it’s easy to spend hours in this complex if you don’t pay attention to the clock. You can easily fill a full day with the zoo, shopping, and a visit to the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library will complete your day.
4. South Bend
South Bend, Indiana, is a college town, and it knows how to shine. Notre Dame University is in South Bend, and a visit to South Bend should include a tour of the campus. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is an incredible experience and worth going to see. Car buffs will love the Studebaker National Museum, as the Studebaker shines in this fantastic museum. The History Museum & Oliver Mansion still sticks out as one of the finest mansions that I have ever set foot in.
The historical museums in South Bend are top-notch, offering kids activities, artifacts, and a mansion to write home about, featuring 38 rooms. Not only was the history of the home showcased, but the history of agriculture was also present in the Oliver Mansion. A full day of exploring in South Bend also needs to include a visit to the South Bend Chocolate Company. South Bend is a 2-hour drive from Indianapolis.
5. Indiana Dunes
Many people think they need to hop on a plane to experience a fabulous beach. Did you know that Indiana has an incredible beach in the northwest part of the state? Indiana Dunes National Park offers a beach, hiking, biking, and stunning views of Lake Michigan. The prairies and woodlands surrounding the area make it a beach opportunity unlike any other in the country. You can take a stroll on the beach with a pair of binoculars in hand for an incredible birding experience. Memorial Day to Labor Day is the busiest time of year. Spring and fall offer beautiful weather and fewer crowds and make it my favorite time of year to visit. A 2.5-hour drive from Indianapolis makes this an epic adventure for the day.
6. Morgan County
Morgan County sits approximately 45 minutes south of Indianapolis. The outdoor adventures in Morgan County are second to none. The small towns in Morgan County are proud to show visitors what they have to offer. Community pride shines here. Old Town Waverly Park offers historical buildings and a beautiful hiking trail that leads to stunning river views. Old Town Waverly Park is one of several parks in the area that is sure to keep you occupied. A fun surprise in Morgan County is all of the murals that you can find throughout the county. History comes to life in many areas of this town that is a short drive from the metropolis of Indianapolis.
7. Hamilton County
Hamilton County, Indiana, is a short 30-minute drive from Indianapolis and offers some incredible experiences. The sculpture walk in Carmel is second to none. I always enjoy strolling through the town and looking at each of them. It always seems that each one has a story to tell. A visit to Hamilton County would not be complete without a visit to Conner Prairie. This complex is where you can learn how earlier residents lived in the area in the popular 1836 Prairie Town. On my visit to Conner Prairie, I saw the beautiful balloon that sits on the property. It was closed on the day that I visited, but it was clear that this was a highlight for many visitors.
K-Trails adventures at Strawtown Koteewi Park offers an opportunity for you to enjoy a horseback ride. Guided trail rides and sunset rides are popular trail rides for participants. If it’s been years since you have been on a horse, this is a fantastic trail to hop back on a horse. The trail travels through the wooded areas and offers some incredible views of the wide-open spaces. If you are like me, I appreciate a knowledgeable trail guide and a horse that does not wander off the trail. Horses do have minds of their own, making your trail guide the most important person on the ride.
Bloomington, Indiana, is home to Indiana University, making it a city that everyone knows about. University towns are always buzzing and busy with things going on. Bloomington is not any different. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a quiet place to visit, The Wylie House. This historic home is where Indiana University’s first president, Andrew Wylie, lived. On the day that I visited, several students from the university were painting individual wall hangings on the lawn. I quickly saw that this house was a home that was well respected within the town. A highlight of my visit was the Christmas cactus that was blooming in the middle of summer.
Kirkwood Avenue is the most recognizable street in Bloomington. The shops, restaurants, and shopping experiences are endless. You can see street art in several places throughout the town. The Sample Gates, built in 1987, serves as the gateway between Indiana University and the community of Bloomington. These gates are the most photographed place in Bloomington. Nature, incredible dining experiences, historical sites, and unique shopping make Bloomington a fun day trip from Indianapolis.
Each of these places offers something different to do in one day. You can choose to spend one day in these communities, or you may find that you are having so much fun that you need to stay overnight. All types of lodging are offered in each of these destinations, from hotels to motels, bed & breakfasts, and campgrounds. There’s something for everyone in each of these locations. Make your day a fun day, and hop in your car and find a fantastic day trip from Indianapolis.