Indiana Tour 2012: Summer Fun + Ways to Save
Monday, May 21, 2012
Summer is here once again and that means it’s time to start planning three months worth of activities. Do you have anything fun planned? Here’s a list of places we plan to hit up this year (along with some ideas for saving money). A few are repeats from last summer (because we love them so much), a few are places we’ve never been and a couple are places we just didn’t make it to last year.
I’ll also be hosting some great giveaways so you can visit these great places for FREE…so make sure to check back often. And, make sure to follow my fellow bloggers, Indianapolis with Kids, BasilMomma, In Good Cents, and Family Fun in the City for more great ideas. Follow this link throughout the summer to see what they’re giving away.
• Vintage Indiana – Hubby and I went for the first time last year and really enjoyed the day. It was a great opportunity to try tons of Indiana wines (there are more than 200 varieties) and we even found a new favorite in Brown County Winery’s Autumn White. This year’s event will take place June 2 from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. While you’re sampling some amazing wines, you’ll be experiencing a day full of entertainment, learning opportunities and samplings of delicious food from some of Indiana’s top culinary experts.
To Save: Admission is $25 at the gate, but advance tickets are available for $22 online or at area Marsh stores.
• Connor Prairie – We visited Connor Prairie for the first time last summer and fell in love. We have since purchased a membership and can count it as one of our favorite destinations. There are so many things to see and do at Connor Prairie, that it never gets old. We are particularly fond of the Animal Encounters Barn, where you can pet sheep, goats and cows.
Prairie Town is going to be even more enjoyable after the June 9 grand re-opening. They have been sprucing up the town with paint, rearranging, new buildings and new adventures for guests of all ages. Visitors will have an opportunity to help with odd jobs throughout the town where they can earn money to spend in the store. There will also be adventure guidebooks, achievement cards and seek-and-find books that will encourage more interaction with the townspeople and provide a unique experience with each visit to Prairietown.
And let’s not forget the 1859 Balloon Voyage. We had the pleasure of going up in the balloon at our last visit and it was really cool. The view was spectacular and the entire family enjoyed the ride.
To save: Admission is $14 for adults and $9 for children 2-12. Balloon rides are $15 a person and do not include general admission. You can find a BOGO coupon in the Entertainment Book, or head online to Visit Indy for a $2 off admission coupon. You can also pick up a $5 discount Balloon Voyage coupon from Ricker’s BP stores. (See the list of participating stores HERE.) Finally, don’t forget to pack some snacks, drinks and/or a lunch to save even more.
• The Indianapolis Children’s Museum is another one of my favorite destinations in Indianapolis. It’s nationally recognized for its size and variety of activities for children of all ages…and with 472,900-square feet on five floors and more than 100,000 artifacts, there really is so much to do and see while you’re there. Being a family of boys, we love the train exhibit as well as the dinosphere, but we’re really excited for this summer’s new Hot Wheels for Real exhibit, which will feature rarely seen collectible Hot Wheels cars and amazing life-size versions of iconic favorites of Hot Wheels cars. Children and families can also work together in the Speedshop to customize a car with decals, wheel covers, and more, and test drive Hot Wheels cars on table- and wall-mounted track layouts.
To Save: Adult admission is $16.50 and children over 2-17 are $11.50. There are a variety of ways to save at the Children’s Museum. The museum’s website often offers coupons and you can get group rates, discounts for AAA members and coupons in Reach Magazine. Parking is free and you can bring your own snacks, lunch and drinks to save even more.
• Rhythm Discovery Center – This is a great destination for the dog days of summer when you just don’t feel like being outside. Located at the intersections of Illinois and Washington Streets, the Rhythm! Discovery Center is one of my favorite places to take the kids. Each room is filled with an assortment of percussion instruments and artifacts from a range of time periods and places around the world. Each time we go, we’re captured by a new set of instruments we didn’t play with the time before. But, invariably we always make our way to the two sound-proofed rooms where my oldest likes to jam out on the drums and harmonize with the glockenspiel. Next door, my youngest finds amusement with all the hand-held instruments ranging from rattles and maracas to cow bells, cabasas and a slew of other instruments I never knew existed. It’s a great opportunity to introduce music and one of the few places that engages both my 4-year-old and my 1-year-old.
To Save: There’s really no reason to go out of your way for a coupon to this local gem because adult admission is only $8 and kids 5 and under are free. Plus, family memberships are only $50. So, it’s definitely a place you can go to again and again, especially if you’d like to view one of their many live performances or presentations.
Places we Missed Last Year
• The Ft. Wayne Children’s Zoo has been on my agenda for a couple years, but this year I’m going to make it happen. I have heard nothing but good things about this zoo, which is geared toward children, providing views of the animals that are accessible by even the smallest of visitor. That means you don’t have to get the kids out of the stroller at every exhibit, because everything is at their level. While you’re there, you can feed giraffes, get nose-to-nose with lions, stroll through a mob of kangaroos and so much more. There’s also a ride in every corner of the zoo, from the Treetop Safari sky ride, to an Australian Log Ride.
To Save: Adult admission is $13, children are $8.50 and two and under are free. While there aren’t a whole lot of options for scoring discounted tickets, they do offer select deals throughout the season, so make sure to check out their website or follow their facebook page to stay updated. You can also get a 50% discount on your admission if you are a member at any of these zoos.
• Train Rides at the Indiana Transportation Museum – This is another one that’s been on my agenda for a while. I have no idea what to expect, but I can imagine that my train loving boys will be over the moon for this experience. Located in Noblesville’s Forest Park, the Indiana Transportation Museum is an easy drive from just about anywhere in Indy. Here’s what their website says: “The Indiana Transportation Museum is an operating museum that gives visitors the chance to see how trains operate and to ride trains similar to those that most Americans used to travel long distances before interstate highways and jet planes.” Museum admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children 2-12. Train fare varies according to the trip. Click here to see a schedule.
• The Indiana Dunes – We attempted a trip to the Dunes last summer and it ended disastrously. My oldest son was having a difficult summer, which didn’t lend itself well to traveling. Then as luck would have it, I got struck by a horrible virus. We spent one miserable day and headed home the next morning. So, we’re going to give it another try this summer. Listed as USAToday’s “one great place to hike” in Indiana, the park also offers more than 70 miles of hiking and biking trails that will take you through a landscape of rolling dunes, oak barrens and native prairies. In addition to the beautiful scenery, I’m looking forward to playing in the waves and building sand castles with my boys!
This time, we’re aiming to stay at a place called Inspiration Wood, which is a newly constructed retreat-type property on 60-acres of beautiful land. Sounds tranquil, doesn’t it?! I am most attracted to the cottage-style accommodations that will give us a little space and allow my hyperactive 4-year-old some room to stretch.
On the drive north, we’ll try to hit up Taltree Arboretum & Gardens, a destination we missed last year. Located south of U.S. 30 between Merrillville and Valparaiso, Taltree is my idea of relaxation and a great place to just let the kids run free. This “museum for trees” is the perfect place to decompress, enjoy and explore nature. While this might seem more suited for the adults in your family, the little ones will love exploring the vast gardens, prairies, woodlands and wetlands. We’re most interested in seeing the Railway Garden, a 2.5-acre outdoor model railway garden that will engage visitors of all ages.
• Symphony on the Prairie – Oh, I’ve wanted to do this for as long as I’ve lived in Indiana…but we’ve never quite made it. Now that we have a date night worked into the monthly budget, I’m definitely going to make this happen. On select dates throughout the summer, you can enjoy a beautiful outdoor concert on the prairie. Bring a bottle of wine, a picnic basket and kick back. I can’t imagine a more relaxing way to spend the evening. Click here to see this year’s schedule.
To Save: Single tickets are $27 at the gate, or you can purchase tickets in advance for $22. Children ages 2-12 are $13 or $11 in advance.
• Columbus Municipal Airport – Thanks to the Indiana Insider blog for bringing this to my attention. Apparently you can see planes of all shapes and sizes up close, from large military cargo planes to small prop planes. While you’re there, you can also see a F-4 Phantom jet and visit the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum, which is located next to the airport and focuses on military aviation history. Admission is free. To round out the visit, you can have breakfast or lunch Hanger 5 Restaurant, where you can oversee the entire terminal.
• Garfield Park – I can’t believe I didn’t know about this little retreat right on the near south side of Indy. Thanks to Indianapolis with Kids for calling it to my attention. With more than 136 acres, you can imagine the vastness of their offerings, which includes programming for the whole family. Some upcoming events include a conservatory scavenger hunt, nature crafts and a summer concert series.
There is a 10,000 square foot conservatory with plants from the world’s tropics. Plus, they change the educational displays and seasonal shows throughout periodically, making it a great place to visit all year long. The sunken gardens offer a peaceful retreat among the vast display of flowers. There is also a large formal turf area used throughout the warmer months for wedding ceremonies and an ongoing summer concert series known as Music in the Garden. There are 3 main floral displays that change each year in the Sunken Garden: spring tulips which generally peak in mid-April, summer annuals that peak June-August and fall mums that flower in September and October.
To Save: No need to look for a coupons. Admission to the sunken gardens is free, the conservatory is $1.
• Crawfordsville, Ind. seems like a bit of a drive from my southside home, but Google maps says it’s only about an hour, so we just might make it this summer. This small town has a handful of attractions that I know my boys would love. It will be a great destination for those days when we just don’t feel like being outside.
The Rotary Jail was the first built and only still functional rotating jail. The jail opened in 1882 and used a hand crank to turn the circular cellblock. The jailer could then bring one of sixteen pie-shaped cells to the opening, allowing one prisoner in or out. The idea was to maintain social order by minimizing the direct contact between the inmates and the jailor. The jail closed in 1973. The building has since been converted to a museum and art gallery under the care of the Montgomery County Cultural Foundation and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The museum is open Wednesday through Saturdays from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm. Admission is $3 for adults and free for kids 12 and under.
The Ropkey Armor Museum is a free destination featuring an extensive collection of military vehicles. To be honest, I’m pretty interested in this one. For the past two summers we’ve gone to the Indiana National Guard Car-Bike-Truck Show where they have several vehicles on display. It’s so interesting to check them all out…I can only imagine how neat it will be to see the vehicles our grandparents’ generation used. Plus, we won’t have to battle the July heat to enjoy this indoor display. The museum is open Monday – Friday from 10:30AM – 4:30PM or by appointment.
• Brown County Zipline and ATV tours – If you missed the zipline in Super Bowl Village, or if you just can’t wait to do it again, this is for you. Explore Brown County at Valley Branch Retreat offers the longest, fastest and tallest zips in Indiana. The 13 zip line tour incorporates a mix of trees and poles, with both ground and elevated take-offs and landings.
To be honest, while it looks really cool, the zipline isn’t really what I’m interested in. In fact, my husband and I are really excited about the ATV tours, where you can explore old stagecoach roads, pioneer home sites, campgrounds and an 1800s graveyard. They offer 1, 2 and 3 hour adventures for $70-180.