Pokagon State Park Road Trip from Indy
Pokagon State Park is one of our favorite places to visit….in the winter! I’m sure it’s gorgeous in the summer and spring and fall — the beautiful lake, the wooded areas, the indoor swimming pool, hot tub, and sauna for guests at the Inn. We purchase an annual Indiana State Park Pass, so we visit a lot of parks several times during the year!
A trip to Pokagon from Indianapolis is best when done as an overnight or weekend trip but depending on the age of your children, a day trip from Indy is worthwhile too. Depending on the weather and traffic, it should be just about a three-hour road trip from Indianapolis, but we’ve hit major snowstorms and had the drive quickly extend several hours. Your drive will take you through Fort Wayne, another one of our favorite Indiana cities. Consider a stop along the way at Ivanhoe’s for ice cream.
Pokagon State Park Toboggan Run
Every other year, we make the drive to Angola, Indiana to spend the weekend with our friends and their kids. One of the highlights of the trip for our families is the ¼ mile toboggan run. The track is refrigerated so it operates whether there is snow or not, from Thanksgiving through February.
We’ve spent hours speeding down the track at 30-40 miles an hour aboard a large sled that seats up to four adults and children. The rental fee is $13 per hour and if the lines aren’t too bad and you have some adults or kids who are great at carrying the sled, you could get several rides in during the hour. We’ve found that the best time to go is first thing in the morning or late at night, in the morning, you should plan on getting there at least 30 minutes before opening to stand in line. A driver’s license or state ID is required as a deposit, which will allow you to rent up to 4 toboggans. Pokagon is a state park so if you do not have an annual pass, there will be a $7 per car fee for in0state vehicles.
The rental shop does run out of sleds occasionally but don’t worry, just get on the waiting list and you’ll be sliding down the hill soon enough! Hours of operation vary and are extended during the holidays so be sure to check the schedule or call (260.833.2012) to confirm. Lulu and I spent some time in the warming center which has a view of the track, benches and tables, HEAT, and concessions.
Lake James at Pokagon State Park
Check with the DNR staff for safety conditions before you traverse the frozen lake. One of our annual traditions is to have a snowball fight on the lake. When the lake is frozen solid, we let the kids play around near the shore, building snow houses, rolling snowballs, and making snow angels. We watched ice fishermen, snowmobiles, and ice skaters. When the conditions are right, the lake in front of the Potawatomi Inn is cleared and guests bring their own ice skates to skate on the lake.
Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park
A DNR-operated inn is a great place for families to stay. We’ve always stayed with a group and had the absolute best time. All day long the kids are dragging us between the craft room (wooden and ceramic items available for sale) where the kids are painting things, the arcade and game room, and the swimming pool. We’ve heard great things about the nature center that’s right outside of the Inn, but we haven’t made our way there yet. If you’re looking for a place to go skiing or snowboarding, this isn’t it, but the winter sports available at Potawatomi Inn are so much fun for all ages.
Food and Dining at the Potawatomi Inn
There are also food options at the Potawatomi Inn. The restaurant offers a wonderful breakfast buffet. The buffet is offered during other times, but I cannot vouch for it. There’s another smaller restaurant that offers counter service, where they sell pizza, salads, hot dogs and ice cream.
One day we drove into Angola and ate at the Applebee’s, there were all of the typical chain restaurants and fast food places. Of course, bringing your own food is an option, but there were no microwaves or refrigerators in the rooms at the Inn.
The Best Age for the Toboggan Run at Pokagon
All of our children have been toboggan riders since they were very young. Lulu went for the first time when she was 20 months old. This year, Quinn was 2 1/2 years old and she refused to stop riding, even though the temperatures were in the single digits!
The four-person sleds are either 30 pounds or 60 pounds. I can carry a sled by myself (but it’s heavy and awkward feeling), but I cannot do that and manage a 2-year-old at the same time. Because we have six in our family and everyone wants to ride, my husband and I rent one 30-pound toboggan and take turns riding. The adult and one child sitting out will stand on the bridge to take photos of the group coming down and then we use the minivan to run the toboggan back up the hill. If you decide that going on a toboggan isn’t really your thing or your kids are too young, check out this snow tubing place close to Indianapolis.
450 Ln 100 Lake James