Take A Northern Indiana Road Trip: Things To Do, Eat and See

Great adventures are often closer than you think. While a visit to Indianapolis is always a quick Cincinnati getaway, we wanted to experience what else Indiana had to offer.  A wish list that included a beach, plenty of parks and family-friendly attractions had us mapping out the perfect Northern Indiana road trip.  Our journey through northern Indiana led us through country roads, small towns, and fascinating destinations.  We were graciously hosted on this trip by the cities below, however, all opinions are my own.

Northern Indiana Road Trip Pin

North of Indianapolis you will find the charming town of Carmel, Indiana. After visiting last year, there was no question that a stop here was mandatory. This ever-growing portion of Indiana is booming with new local restaurants, trendy boutiques, and plenty of family-friendly adventures. We spent two beautiful days exploring even more of what Hamilton County as to offer.

What To Do

Monon Trail

Northern Indiana Road Trip

The Waterpark

One of the best ways to cool off during a hot summer day is with a visit to The Waterpark.  Relax in the lazy river,  zip down one of their many slides, or try your hand at surfing on a simulator.  Two great kid areas are bound to keep those little ones entertained. From a tame toddler pool to a more action-packed zone that is bound to burn off that pent up energy. This is the perfect addition to any summer itinerary or a great way to cool off during your trek up or down the Monon Trail.

Stuckey’s Farm Orchard and Cider Mill

Northern Indiana Road Trip

Conner Prairie

History comes to life as you step back into time with a visit to Conner Prairie. This interactive outdoor museum will take your family on an amazing journey back through time with a visit to 1836 Indiana.  Explore how times were like during the Civil War and even step into a four-story treehouse.  Encouraging guests to create is a key component of any visit. Whether you are building a windmill or learning about the effects of wind a visit to Conner Prairie is bound to be fun and educational.  We share tips and what to expect during your visit to Conner Prairie here.

Where To Stay

During our recent visit to Hamilton County, we stayed at the Renaissance Hotel in Carmel. The central location of this hotel was ideal as everything was within a few minute’s drive.  The rooms were spacious, clean, and modern. We enjoyed many of the amenities the hotel had, but the best was the indoor pool.

Where To Eat

Tina's Tea Room

Read about our last visit to Hamilton County to get a few more great ideas to add to your itinerary.

Indiana Dunes

Indiana Dunes

Chicago Option

While we didn’t venture to Chicago this trip it is a great option after visiting the Dunes. Chicago is less than an hour away. This great city is full of family-friendly adventures. Learn more about great things to do with your family in Chicago here.

South Bend

One family-friendly stop that you don’t want by-pass, but rather include in any trip to Northern Indiana is South Bend. Located only an hour east from the Indiana Dunes it is packed with unique attractions and experiences for the whole family.  We spent two nights in South Bend taking in all the sights.

What To Do

Potawatomi Zoo and Park

Family attractions in South Bend Indiana

Studebaker  National Museum

Northern Indiana Road Trip

University of Notre Dame

Northern Indiana Road Trip

Where To Stay

The Embassy Suites is quite honestly one of the nicest places we have had the opportunity to stay at. This brand new hotel gives families space that they so desperately desire and need. With a separate living room, kitchenette and tub I couldn’t imagine a better spot to bring my family. Breakfast is included every morning, with a custom-made omelet station and happy hour in the evenings! Let’s not forget the indoor pool that is a staple in my hotel wish list. The staff was excellent and I just can’t recommend them enough.

Where To Eat

The Lauber in South Bend, IN

Fort Wayne

We have fallen in love with this great family-oriented destination so much that we are already planning another trip back.  Fort Wayne is home to a wide variety of family-friendly attractions, parks, and restaurants. A two-night stay is what was planned, however, we should have stayed another night with so many great activities and a fun downtown scene to explore. This is a wonderful family stop along any northern Indiana road trip.

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

Fort Wayne Zoo

Science Central

Family attractions in Northern Indiana

Promenade Park

Promenade Park Fort Wayne

Botanical Conservatory

One of our favorite places that we visited was the Botanical Conservatory. These beautiful gardens surpass expectations and make for an educational and kid-friendly visit.  A discovery center full of fun interactive toys and books greets little ones.  Each garden is full of fascinating and fun surprises. Be sure to look for signs to guide you to popular plants like the chocolate tree.

Where To Stay

During our visit, we stayed at the newly opened Hampton Inn near the ballfield. We truly enjoyed how walkable the hotel was from so many great city sights. The waffles that we made every morning were my daughter’s favorite. The hotel is home to an amazing restaurant Burger Bar.  It gets busy, but it is busy for a reason. In the evening grab a cocktail on their rooftop bar! The hotel staff was exceptional, our room clean and beds comfy!

Where To Eat

Northern Indiana Road Trip


Anderson/ Madison County

Home to the largest ball of paint and historic Indian Mounds, Anderson County Indiana has quite a few unique and quirky attractions worth visiting.  Just northeast of Hamilton County, Indiana this was our final stop on our northern Indiana road trip.

Where to Go

World’s Largest Ball Of Paint

Unique Indiana Roadside Attraction

Mounds State Park

Mounds State Park

Where To Eat

There are plenty of great chain restaurants available, however, a local told us to head over to locally-owned Bobbers which did not disappoint. Get one of their famous (fried) tenderloin sandwiches and enjoy the lakeside view. Afterward, take the time to explore the nearby park and stroll along the lake.  Save time in your busy schedule to visit Good’s Candy Shop.  Homemade ice cream, confections, and candies make this the perfect ending to your trip,

Where To Stay

There are plenty of good hotel options in the area to choose from.  Check out the Anderson Madison County website for a complete listing.

Northern Indiana Road Trip Summary

Studebaker Museum in South Bend

There were a lot of stops during this road trip, which proved to wear on our daughter and us. The amount of luggage you have when traveling with a toddler is appalling, so loading, unloading every other day is exhausting. I recommend picking two cities to explore at most if you have a little one with you.

This brings me to my second point, each city has way more to discover then what we got to experience.  I could have easily spent an extra day or two at each location taking in the sights.  Get a game plan together before you visit so you don’t get overwhelmed with all the options.


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Northern Indian Road Trip

Northern Indiana Road Trip

Indiana Road Trip Itinerary

3 thoughts on “Take A Northern Indiana Road Trip: Things To Do, Eat and See”

  1. What a delightful article and very helpful travel ideas, even if you don’t have a two year old. Enjoyed it very much. Thanks

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