With gas prices hovering near the $4 a gallon mark, many families are opting to stay close to home for family vacations this year—also known as 'staycations'—where day or overnight trips replace far-flung travel.
Discovering, or re-discovering, unique destinations within a few hours drive of home can be just as fun as long trips, or even more so, since everyone is spared long hours in the car. Kids will barely have time to ask, "Are we there yet?"
Another bonus? Less packing required. Take some extra changes of clothes, maybe a cooler of snacks (though unique restaurants are readily available), a camera, sunscreen, swimsuits and towels if you're going the water route, and you should be good to go.
Check out these trip ideas, all which are located within a three hour drive of downtown Indianapolis.
Located two and a half hours from downtown and on the edge of the Hoosier National Forest, resides French Lick Resort and its two historic hotels; the French Lick Springs Hotel and the West Baden Springs Hotel.
Most of the resort activities are open to the public, such as bowling, an arcade, stables, golf, biking/hiking trails, and more. The hotels are located one mile apart from each other on State Road 56, with a shuttle that runs between the two and a trail that connects them. Seewww.frenchlick.com for more information.
Big Splash Adventure Indoor Water Park, which features a retractable roof and an outdoor pool, is also located on State Road 56, not far from French Lick Resort. Open year-round, the weather does not matter when it comes to enjoying this innovative park.www.bigsplashadventure.com.
Just three hours away from Indy is Santa Claus, Ind., where the amusement park Holiday World is located. Holiday World opens for its 65th season on Saturday, May 7, and its water park, Splashin' Safari, opens on Friday, May 13. Rollercoaster enthusiasts will love The Voyage, the world's #1 wooden coaster, with a top speed of 67 mph and five underground tunnels, and Splashin' Safari's Wildebeest, the world's longest water coaster. New this year to the park is Splashin' Safari Sam's Splash Land for children, with eight fun water slides and an activity pool. Seewww.holidayworld.com for more information.
Park tips and notes: Have a meeting place in case you get separated and note what your children are wearing. Try a weekday visit for smaller crowds and less wait time. The park supplies free sunscreen and soft drinks. Save $4 off the General Admission ticket price and $2 off the Guest-Under-54" and Senior 60+ ticket price when you purchase tickets online. Children ages two and younger are free.
Also in Santa Claus, Ind., Lake Rudolph Campground & R.V. Resort is only a few minutes from Holiday World and offers over 200 family rental RVs and cabins. RV rental rates range from $130 to $175 per night in-season (beginning Memorial Day weekend) and cabin rates begin at $185.
Tent and RV sites are also available and range from $31 to $54 per night. Golf carts are available for rent too, rates are $35 per day for 4-passenger carts and $55 per day for 6-passenger carts. See www.lakerudolph.com for more information on rentals as well as what to bring on your stay.
Less than one hour south of Monument Circle in Bloomington, Ind. is WonderLab, an award-winning science museum that offers interactive exhibits for all ages. This summer, a new exhibition titled Toys: The Inside Story, will open on June 2 through September 4. Through the exhibit, discover how combinations of gears, pulleys, linkages, circuits and more make toys work like Jack-in-the-Box, Operation, and Etch A Sketch.
WonderLab is located at 308 W. Fourth Street in the Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District, and is near the Indiana University college campus as well as other downtown area attractions. Visit www.wonderlab.org for more information. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.. Admission is $6 for children ages 1 to 17 and $7 for adults ages 18 and up.
Another Bloomington, Ind. attraction is Indiana's largest inland lake, Lake Monroe. Spend a day relaxing on the water with family and friends by renting a boat at one of the Local boat rental marinas, or by taking a hike along one of the surrounding trails.
Also located less than one hour from Monument Circle and just 30-some miles east of Bloomington, Ind., is Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor and Museum in Columbus, Ind. The historic Zaharakos, which has been operating for 111 years, serves up premium ice cream, floats, milkshakes and old fashioned sodas. Zaharakos is located at 329 Washington St. in Columbus, Ind., and is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 9 a.m to 8 p.m. www.zaharakos.com
For more adventures, head a few doors down to kidscommons Children's Museum in downtown Columbus, Ind. located at 309 Washington St. Check out their climbing wall, which is not just any climbing wall, but a replica of the historic building's front. Kids will also find the giant toilet that they can actually climb into, which is pretty cool, too. Kidscommon is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.. Admission is $6 for ages 18 months and up. www.kidscommons.org
If you've seen Indianapolis' Children's Museum's Fireworks of Glass by Dale Chihuly, be sure to stop by the Columbus Visitors Center located at 506 5th St. to see Chihuly's large glass chandelier that visitors say looks like macaroni and cheese.
Columbus, Ind. also has lots of public art that can be touched and interacted with, and a state of the art playground, Freedom Field, that was designed with handicapped accessibility in mind. Visit www.columbus.in.us for more information.
For over 100 years, artists have been creating handmade works of art in Brown County, Ind. Now, the artists are inviting you to come Experience the Arts in Brown County and to get inspired and be creative. This summer, artists are teaching their forms of art to anyone who is willing to learn.
"If you have the desire to be creative, these artists will inspire and teach you to make something from the heart," said organizer Kathy Anderson. "With over 75 classes to choose from, selecting the classes you want to participate in will be your hardest decision, and you will definitely want to plan on spending more than a day."
Many of the classes are providing the supplies for the students, making it easy for them to just "show up and begin creating". A majority of the students will take home a finished product. Class schedules are flexible, offering half-day, full day and multi-day sessions. Traditional courses include: Painting & Drawing, Writing, Clay, Jewelry, Fiber Arts, Woodworking, Music and some lectures. A number of fun and interesting non-traditional categories include: Mixed Media, Folk Art, Culinary, Theater, Movement, Dance, Healing and Just for Kids. For complete details, a full listing of class courses and to register, visitwww.experiencebrowncounty.com or call 812-988-7140.
Hills O' Brown Vacation Rentals are located in the heart of Brown County, Ind. It is one of the largest rental management companies in Southern Indiana specializing in managing over 115 vacation homes, log cabins, guest suites and cottages in Brown, Bartholomew and Monroe counties. All of their rentals are fully furnished; most include hot tubs and seasonal fireplaces. The homes vary in size accommodating from 2-10 guests and are located in many locations including private, wooded acreage, in the heart of Nashville, Ind., or homes with scenic views. A family-friendly guest ranch complete with horseback riding and zip line adventures borders Brown County State Park comfortably sleeps 54 guests, and is ideal for a family reunion or gathering. Reservations and information about all homes are available online at www.browncountylogcabins.com.