Indiana has so many outdoor activities and attractions to visit throughout the year. No matter the season, you can always find something to do outside. Whether you love visiting farms or historic sites, National parks or art parks, there’s something for everyone.
Written by Ashley Toler and Stephanie Greenwald, Indy with Kids
Top Outdoor Attractions in Central Indiana
If you’re stuck in a rut and continue to visit the same places over and over, here’s inspiration for your next outing.
Indianapolis Cultural Trail
The eight mile urban trail encompasses the city, and with no clear starting point, it’s easy to start and stop wherever you like! Tons of options for traversing this trail — you can run, walk or ride through town. Don’t have a bike to ride the trail? No problem. Check out the Pacers Bikeshare Program for an affordable way to see the city. Take time to enjoy landscaping, downtown amenities and public art exhibits, including the Glick Peace walk, which includes twelve sculptural gardens created to honor the accomplishments of the featured luminaries.
With over 800 acres in Hamilton County, you’ll find multiple options to entertain the family. Challenge yourself on the trails via horseback, hiking on the ground, or attempting the 60 challenging treetop trails through the treetops. Take your shot at archery, cast your line on the lake to see what you catch, tube down the hill at the Koteewi Seasonal Slopes, or step back in time in the “Archaeology Adventure” area. There’s something for everyone. Don’t forget to stop in to the Nature Center to meet the residents.
The Indianapolis Art Center and Sculpture Garden is a sure bet for immersing yourself in nature and art. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped right in to a fairytale as you explore the twenty-seven sculptures in this creative collection. This free feature is open to the public from dawn to dusk. Pack a picnic, you’re going to want to stay a while.
With trailheads in Sheridan and Indianapolis you are sure to find some outdoor family fun along this 27.1 mile rail trail. The wide asphalt paths are perfect for runners, bikers and even cross-country skiers when snow covers the ground. Rent some bikes and stop at coffee shops, restaurants, parks and art districts.
Calling all adrenaline junkies! This is the spot for you. Enjoy swimming, cliff diving, ziplining, and the rope swing at White Rock Park in St. Paul. There are even opportunities for scuba diving!
Eagle Creek Park & the Treetop Adventure
Go ape zip line on the Northwest side of the city is an adventure like nothing else. Fly from tree to tree on zip-lines or Tarzan swings. Thrill seekers can enjoy the great outdoors from 40 feet off the ground. Not a fan of swinging from branch to branch like Tarzan, then soak in all the other offerings Eagle Creek has to offer; with more than 1400 acres of water and 3900 acres of forest you can fill an entire day fishing, boating, swimming, hiking and bird watching. They even have a dog park.
Crown Hill Cemetery
Did you know you can schedule a tour of the country’s third largest cemetery? Stroll the 555 acres of gentile hills, sculptures, and permanent residence to over 200,000 people. Learn the history and see what famous folks you can find. Don’t miss the Gothic gate off 34th St. built in 1885! It’s magnificent.
Located in Bicentennial Park in Richmond, Indiana, this place is a prehistoric delight for any little paleontologist! 445 million years ago, Indiana was covered with shallow sea and the abundant fossil remnants here give clues to what life was like then. Get hands-on and dig through the pile of rocks to find the perfect fossil, then compare it to the informational boards to identify your discovery. You may find the preserved impressions of brachiopods, cephalopods, or bryozoa during your hunt.
Clifty Falls State Park
It’s best to visit this park after a good rain. That’s when the 22 waterfalls featured here really shine. You can hike the path of the old railroad that had been planned to cut through the park. Notice the 600-foot-long tunnel that’s been excavated through the shale and limestone. The park is also a great location for fossil hunting and geocaching. Swimming, hiking, camping, and a staffed nature center also compliment the park.
Cataract Falls is the largest waterfall in Indiana by volume. The falls consist of an upper fall, measuring a 45 foot drop, and lower fall, measuring a 30 foot drop. The falls are separated by about one mile and are situated in the Lieber State Recreation Area. There’s also a gorge and covered bridge to explore.
Oh, honey! There are several options to tour this working honey farm, including getting up close and personal with working hives and their occupants. Grab a bottle of honey from the gift shop or see about bottling your own!
This is not your average playground and splash pad park. This park has none of the features of a traditional park and yet it’s one our favorites. The entire family will have a blast discovering the sixty acre park. Flat Fort Creek has lakes for fishing, treehouses for climbing, a creek to stomp in and some of the coolest off road bike paths around with various ramps and technical features. Flat Fork Creek Park has an incredible hill perfect for climbing and rolling down in the summer and sledding down in the winter.
This incredible nature area is located In the heart of Fishers. Cheeney Creek has a dirt path that will take you to a quiet fishing pond or follow the runners and bikers along the paved path. Make your way down to the creek and see what you discover under the tunnel. Pack a lunch and admire the tallest trees in Fishers.
Known as the “Little Smokies” for the breathtaking views similar to those of the Great Smoky Mountains, this is the largest state park in Indiana. It will have you experiencing a multitude of outdoorsy options including camping, swimming, hiking, and horseback riding. Nearby Valley Branch Retreat also boasts the longest, fastest and tallest ziplines in Indiana, with 15 different options to choose from. You can also take an ATV or a Hill Climb Buggy on an off-road tour, go mountain biking, paintballing, or play arrow tag here.
As the oldest state park in Indiana, McCormick’s Creek has a bit of everything! Located in Spencer, IN, in addition to a traditional variety of camping options, McCormicks Creek is also home to Wolf Cave, naturally occurring stone arches known as Twin Bridges, and a waterfall. Grab your hiking boots and take in these incredible sights!
Fort Harrison Park
The historical destination in Lawrence, IN has picnic shelters, playgrounds, a fishing pond, a creek perfect for stomping, a great sledding hill in the winter, a horse and pony barn where you can ride through the wooded trails and through the creek, Naturalists are available for tours and the wildlife viewing is immense. This is also a popular destination for outdoor family photos as the backdrops are stunning in any season.
Summit Lake State Park
This park in New Castle, IN offers picnic shelters, camping, hiking trails, naturalist services, and a beach along a lake that is perfect for fishing, swimming, canoeing, paddle-boarding, or row-boating. This park is a haven for birdwatchers, who love spotting the 250+ species of birds, including rare bald eagles, black terns, sandhill cranes, and ospreys, to name a few. In the winter enjoy cross country skiing and ice fishing.
Geist Park and Reservoir
Head to the Northeast to visit Geist Park and Geist Reservoir are just a few miles away from each other. Geist Park has excellent climbing and sliding playground equipment and a short trail along Fall Creek with plenty of opportunities to catch wildlife in action. Kayak and Boat rentals are available at Geist Reservoir. Plan for a day on the water, pull up to the docks and grab some food at one of the restaurants or park in the middle of the lake and watch the sunset. Head South to Daniels winery for outdoor, family friendly fare.
There is so much to explore at the EcoLab, and exploration is definitely encouraged at this outdoor nature park! Where else can you do beaver watching and birding, check out bee houses and bat houses, plus get hands-on learning, all for free?
Shades State Park
Formerly of the more ominous name, Shades of Death State Park, it is much more beautiful and peaceful than that suggests. The landscape here features shady ravines, sandstone cliffs, and trails for all, ranging from easy to rugged, to VERY rugged. They also have the coolest names, such as Devil’s Punchbowl and Lover’s Leap. Plan to walk through stream beds, climb over rocks and logs, and go up and down ladders. Dress accordingly!
One of the largest city parks outside of Indianapolis, this Bloomington park is packed with amenities. There are more than 55 acres of activities, including a splash pad, dog park, playground, skate park, plus pickleball, basketball, and bocce ball courts. The park contains over 350,000 square feet of native plant restoration, and focuses on being eco-friendly, with electric car-charging stations, a solar powered event pavilion, rainwater collection, and a community garden. Admission and amenities are free, accessible from 5 am to 11pm.
Griffin Bike Park
This 300-acre bike park in Terre Haute was designed to accommodate everyone. Riders of all backgrounds, ages, skills, and abilities are offered a wide range of riding opportunities, from exploring trails, lakes, and ecosystems to progressing their skills on a technical track. The progression-based park has beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert jump lines, as well as professional event space. There are more than 17 miles of single track trails, a pump track, dirt jumps, and water features, including a floating bridge trail and lake jump ramp.
Bluespring Caverns Park
Located in Bedford, Bluespring is one of the closest cave experiences to the city. The dark characteristics of this cave make it an ideal home to many rare, albino wildlife wonders. Try to spot one as you tour the cave via a boat on the longest subterranean river in the United States. Outside the cave, you can prospect for semiprecious stones using the mining sluice or explore a natural trail area that surrounds Indiana’s largest sinkhole.
Spend a morning or afternoon enjoying all of the hands-on activities at this unique urban farm park! From creating concoctions in the mud kitchen and art in the community barn, to harvesting produce grown on-site, you’re guaranteed to be entertained during your entire visit.
The Gardens at Newfields & Fairbanks Art Park
The Gardens at Newfields are truly breathtaking any time of year. They are composed of eight different featured gardens, half a million blooms, and a constantly evolving and masterfully orchestrated landscape, to keep you coming back for more. There is also a beer garden, cafe, and garden shop available here. Admittance is included in your Newfields admission, so check out the stunning works of art on your way out.
Located adjacent to Newfield’s property is the 100 Acres Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. This hidden gem is filled with hands-on and interactive sculptures out in nature, including the craziest basketball court you have ever seen, a swing set pavilion made from a single 100 foot tall Tulip tree, and a giant fiberglass skeleton, great for climbing on and leaping from bone to bone. The best part? Admission and parking for 100 acres is completely free.
Step inside the Garfield Park Conservatory and you’ll feel like your outdoors on a tropical island. With 10,000 square feet of tropical blooms, you won’t want to leave. Register for a Take and Explore themed kit, it’s filled with scavenger hunts, crafts, and activities to explore in the gardens. A peaceful stroll around the Sunken Garden outside the conservatory includes three acres of formal gardens, a children’s garden, pristine flower beds, and fountains.
We are surrounded by so much history every day. Take advantage of that by taking the kids to Conner Prairie, for a truly immersive and interactive experience in this innovative outdoor museum. The cast of characters here recreate 19th century life along the White River, and offer historically accurate experiences such as woodworking and metalworking. Did we mention you can ride in a hot air balloon here and explore a four-story treehouse here, too?
There is something for every sports enthusiast (and their family) here! Every skill level will enjoy shooting hoops, racing “Indy” cars, golfing, playing hockey, tennis, and so much more. Young and old will have hours of fun and friendly competition. Game on!
Do you have an animal lover in the family? Make their day by howling with the wolves at Wolf Park. Head to Battle Ground, IN to learn about conservation, wolf behavior, and why predators in the wild are so important to our ecosystem.
Dollie’s Lavender Farm
We have loved checking out all the U-Pick flower farms this season. We’ve made flower crowns, bountiful bouquets, and dried lavender and mint leaves for tea with all our goodies! Dollie’s Farm in Johnson County is a working lavender and fresh cut farm. You will find fields of fresh lavender, a variety of mint patches, and rows of beautiful buds, ready for you to cut and take home. Grab your flower bucket and shears, and you’re ready to go!
More fun stuff to do while out and about? Check out our Mural Scavenger Hunt!