With a location in the heart of America, Indiana tends to be one of those states that can be overlooked as a travel destination.
This summer we headed out on a road trip from Chicago in a Dodge Journey in search of some must see sights and were pleasantly surprised by what we discovered in the Hoosier state. Not only does the state have culinary trails, they have amusement parks, and outdoor adventures in spades. So buckle up, we’re sharing our 5 must see sights on a road trip through Indiana.
We set off early in the morning with the five of us piled in the Dodge Journey. The car has third row seating, but honestly the back row seemed a bit crowded for our larger 14 year old. We decided to have our 12 year old make himself comfortable back there and fold down the other half of the third row to make room for luggage. The other two kids sat in the middle row with an arm rest we folded down to separate them for the duration of the trip.
Koteewi Adventure Park
Our first stop was about three and half hours from Chicago in the town of Noblesville. We grabbed a quick bite to eat at Rosie’s Place, a welcoming stop on the Hoosier Pie Trail. With our bellies full, we were ready to get a work out at the nearby Koteewi Adventure Park. The park takes visitors through different obstacle courses and zip lines high above the trees. After we suited up and received safety instructions, we set off to explore at our own pace. Our kids flew through the air, navigated the suspending wood bridges, and balanced on the hanging beams. It took a bit longer for my husband and myself to muster up the courage to take on some of the obstacles, but our kids were fearless! Our entire family loved this experience and we learned a lot about team work, puzzle solving, and persistence. It is something we can’t wait to try again!
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is one of the premier museums in the country with dinosaur fossils, Chihuly glass sculptures, and five floors of interactive exhibits. Outside the museum are life size dinosaur statues pretending to climb in the building, setting the stage for a full day of fun. Inside, children will love exploring the Dinosphere and its fossil digging exhibit, the Treasures of the Earth with its Egyptian mummies and pirate ships, and taking time out for the playscape. My kids loved sitting on the Kaleidoscope and staring up at the Chihuly glass ceiling trying to discover hidden shapes and making up names for the sculptures. There’s a full service food court inside, so families can stay as long as they want!
Towns of French Lick/West Baden
After leaving Indianapolis we headed south to the towns of French Lick and West Baden, home to two of the most beautiful historic hotels in the state, West Baden Springs Hotel and French Lick Resort. We were extremely comfortable in our Dodge Journey and enjoyed sharing the songs on satellite radio with our kids (they didn’t enjoy it as much). Built in the 19th century as competing mineral spring spa resorts, the two properties are now owned and operated by the same company. The towns may be small (their combined population is just under 2500), but they offer plenty of tourism opportunities. There’s French Lick Winery (on the Indiana Uplands Wine Trail), championship golf courses at French Lick Resort, a casino, a scenic railroad, and it sits on the edge of Hoosier National Forest, so there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
One morning we took the Dodge Journey on a fifteen minute drive to Paoli, Indiana, home of Wilstem Ranch. We had one thing set for that morning, Elephant Spa. I know it sounds crazy, but every year, from March to October, Wilstem Ranch brings three elephants from Florida to live in Indiana and roam on their property.Twice a day visitors can enjoy bathing the elephants. We sprayed them down, scrubbed behind their ears, and even brushed their toes. Afterwards, we had a question and answer session to learn more about these majestic creatures. It was an experience our family will not forget. Wilstem Ranch also offers zip lining, ATV tours, and horseback riding. Families will not want to miss this stop on an Indiana road trip.
Located in Santa Claus, Indiana, Holiday World is one of the best kept secrets in the amusement park world in my opinion. The park is divided into separate sections based on holidays: Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Halloween, and Christmas. Rides, characters, and food in each area is themed accordingly. So Christmas has Prancer’s Merry-Go-Round, Reindeer Games, and Comet’s Rockets. You get the idea. There’s also an amazing water park, Splashin’ Safari, with what my kids deemed the “most amazing” water slides ever. The park offers free beverage stations throughout the park and sunscreen dispensers too. There are roller coasters for the big kids and play areas for the little ones. We were so excited to spend the day at Holiday World and can’t wait to return.
Our Dodge Journey took us through corn fields, covered bridges, past Amish buggies, and some spectacular Indiana scenery. We rode in comfort the entire way and enjoyed the lumbar support in the seats, the easy to read (and navigate) radio and back up camera, and well thought out storage space. (If you’re looking for a complete review of the Dodge Journey, you’ll want to read this.) We thought our road trip in the Dodge Journey was fantastic, but Indiana surprised us and we can’t wait to return again.