When I first moved to Indiana, I did not know there was this nice hid gem about this state. One of the best things about Indianapolis is its proximity to other cities, allowing for fun & quick day trip opportunities. Within three hours of Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, you can travel to so many outstanding attractions that you may be torn on where to decide to visit. So if you are looking for a family day trip or road trips within 5 hours of Indianapolis offering unique experiences and attractions, then here are a few ideas for day trips or weekend getaways near Indianapolis for families with children eight and older.
Marengo Cave US National Landmark
Covid-19 alert: As you plan your day trip, please check the websites and Facebook pages of attractions you’re interested for their requirements and restrictions.
About a two-hour drive, Cincinnati is a perfect spot for a day trip. With more than 200 signs and other artifacts and memorabilia on display, you can see business signs from the past through today at the American Sign Museum.
Children will enjoy seeing signs from as long ago as the late 19th century, as well as neon signs illuminating brightly in the museum. Another entertaining visit involves visiting Fiona the Hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Fiona quickly became a national phenomenon following her birth and remains a popular attraction at the zoo in Hippo Cove. The nation’s second-oldest zoo, having opened in 1875, the Cincinnati Zoo is home to more than 500 animals, including lions, crocodiles, and red pandas.
With about 3,000 plant species, the botanical garden is home to dozens of flower and plant gardens.
Located on the grounds of famed Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby Museum offers a look into the history of thoroughbred horse racing, as well as exhibits on some of the greatest horses to race there, including Secretariat and American Pharaoh. Walk through the museum’s stable, home to a thoroughbred and pony.
Watch as new baseball bats are created from blocks of wood at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory Tour. The tour takes you from a bat’s creation to its finished look, ready to be sold or sent to a Major League Baseball player. With interactive exhibits, the baseball museum features a fun look at baseball history. While you’re there, you must take a picture in front of the world’s largest baseball bat, which stands outside the museum and factory. Alongside the bat, you can climb on, slide down, or just hang out on the big glove.
Louisville is about a two-hour drive from Indianapolis.
Home to the world’s largest collection of military aircraft, the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, about two hours east of Indianapolis. If anyone loves planes then is a must for any plane fanatic. With more than 360 aircraft, you’ll tour American aviation history from the early days of flight when the Wright brothers flew for the first time at Kitty Hawk, NC, to World War II aircraft, including a P-51 Mustang, which changed airpower in favor of the Allies. You’ll also see aircraft from other countries, such as Germany’s Messerschmitt BF 109G fighter and Soviet MiG.
Check out modern aircraft from the Cold War through today, including a F-4 Phantom fighter, B-52 bomber, B1 bomber, and B-2 stealth bomber. The museum also features special galleries and interactive exhibits.
Marengo Cave US National Landmark
Imagine playing with your best friend and discovering a hidden cave. That’s what happened when two friends came upon Marengo Cave in 1883. With two tours available, you can safely explore Marengo Cave US National Landmark by foot. Here’s our experience camping and exploring Marengo cave.
A 60-minute tour of Dripstone Trail takes you along soda straws, totem pole-style stalagmites and Penny Ceiling. A 40-minute tour takes you along the Crystal Palace trail, traversing formation-filled rooms and flowstone deposits. Maintaining a temperature of about 52 degrees Fahrenheit, the cave is a perfect day trip for anyone, and only about 2.5 hours from Indianapolis.
Explore the magnificent city of Chicago. Only 3 hrs awhile from Indianapolis is the drive to Chicago. You can enjoy a 4-5 hr train ride from the Indianapolis Amtrak Train station if you prefer. Stroll through Millennium Park, which is in the heart of the city. A 24-acre park with public art with Chicago’s stunning architecture as a backdrop.
Shop and indulge on the The Magnificent Mile. One of the world’s great avenues with activity, home to an array of stores, restaurants, attractions and architecture. You can check out the Maggie Daley Park on the lakefront where there is rock climbing for the summer and ice skating available in the winter. Chicago has great summer festivals that your family can enjoy. Drive-thru Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum during the winter from November 20 until Jan. 3
For nearly 50 years, Wolf Park in Battle Ground has researched the lives of wolves. The research center offers tours where you can see the wolves and other animals – coyotes, foxes, and bison – up-close. Living in semi-natural environments, the animals are socialized in small groups. While they’re comfortable around humans, the wolves and others are still wild animals, and have not been domesticated.
During guided tours that are offered May-November, you’ll learn about the impact that canids, such as grey wolves, have on the environment, and why they’re important to nature. Saturday evening tours are part of Howl Night, which includes a walking tour, followed by listening to the wolves howl as darkness falls. The event is special and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people.
One of the best things about day trips is that you can get out of the house, take a short trip and see amazing places, and be home in time to tuck in the kids at night and sleep in your own bed.