Family Friendly destinations, experiences and activities
The Monon Trail invites families of all ages to spend time outdoors to create a memorable biking adventure. The trail has plenty of family-friendly stops as it makes its way through Hamilton County, Indiana. With endless possibilities to explore it is easy to see why this is a local favorite. Hop on the nearest bike and let’s take a spin to discover great family-friendly stops along the Monon Trail in Hamilton County. We were hosted by Hamilton County Tourism to bring your family this great weekend getaway idea. As always all opinions are my own.
What Is The Monon Trail
Once an abandoned railroad, the Monon Trail is now a paved trail that welcomes runners, bikers and those seeking a leisurely stroll. The Monon Trail runs from Indianapolis, Indiana and to Sheridan, Indiana connecting to the towns of Carmel and Westfield. Open year-round from dawn to dusk the Monon Trail is even paved during periods of snow. The trail is roughly 27 miles long with plenty of attractions, trailheads, and amenities along the way. With a good chunk of the Monon Trail running through Hamilton County, we opted to stay in Carmel and hit the nearest trailhead.
First Things First; Grab A Bike
Many travelers often times opt to leave their bikes at home. With plenty of great bike shares and rental options available, bringing your own bike is not a necessity. We rented our bikes, helmets and a trailer for our daughter from The Carmel Cyclery. The Carmel Cyclery has all your biking needs and is located right next to a trailhead. There is a restroom located inside along with a bike repair shop if your own bike ends up needing work. A cheaper option for those not needing a trailer is renting bikes from the Zagster Bike Share. With trips under an hour being free then minimal fees afterward it is the perfect way to explore the Monon Trail.
Trailhead Locations in Hamilton County
There are quite a few great spots that offer free parking and easy access to the Monon Trail. The trailheads at 96th street and Rohrer Road both have a free parking lot, restrooms and water. Free parking can be found in the Carmel City Hall lot with easy access to the trail. We were able to park our car at The Carmel Cyclery and hop on the trailhead right next to it. For utilizing the Bike Share I recommend picking a rideshare station near the Carmel Arts District and find parking near there. Throughout the trail, you will also find some great bike work stations in the event your bike needs a little TLC.
Family-Friendly Stops Along The Monon Trail
The Waterpark at the Monon Community Center
A great way to beat the heat during your adventure on the Monon Trail is by cooling off at the Waterpark. A path will guide you there from the trail with plenty of bike racks for you to lock your bike up. Take a break by lounging in the lazy river while two great kids’ areas are bound to keep little ones entertained. Try your hand at surfing or zip down a waterslide before hitting the concessions stand to fuel up. Admission is affordable but be warned the park does get busy.
Museum of Miniature Houses
Take a peek into the world of miniatures with a visit to the Miniature Museum. Very few museums are devoted solely to the fine art of miniatures and is home to thousands of miniatures. From houses to rooms every detail is accounted for. If your children enjoy making models this might a perfect family-friendly stop along the Monon Trail!
Take a path less traveled by venture off to explore Carmel’s, Central Park. Bike past scenic marshes and fields until you arrive at the most amazing playground and splash pad. This is a great stop if you are looking to cool off without the commitment of a waterpark. Entry is free, water is available and restrooms are on-site, sound like the ideal stop to me! The playground is geared at all children, from a toddler area to tunnels there is plenty of entertainment to be had.
Carmel Arts and Design District
We can’t get enough of this eccentric and lively district of Carmel. Ever-growing and expanding, new restaurants, boutiques, and attractions are finding their way to this charming part of town. A small splash pad tempts little ones, while a scavenger hunt to find 17-life-sized sculptures will keep everyone entertained. Check to see if any local events are going on such as Porchfest.
The Center of Performing Arts
We always love a great show, however, if you are biking through on a Saturday be sure to stop by the Farmer’s Market which is located right next to the Center of Performing Arts. Live music, local wares and plenty of delicious food vendors will keep tummies full and families happy.
The Japanese Gardens near City Hall
This peaceful and tranquil spot is ideal for meditation or simply pausing to enjoy a beautiful day. The pond does have a few resident ducks who seem to be fed quite regularly which my daughter adored. The park is small but does have benches and picnic tables available.
Carmel Fire Museum
This volunteer-run museum is every firetruck enthusiasts dream come true. The museum is home to many antique firetrucks, gear, and hands-on experiences for visitors of all ages. Kids will particularity enjoy the fire truck ride-ons that they can take for a spin. The museum does not keep regular hours. Be sure to call to schedule a time or to check hours of operation.
Playground at Terrace Clay
Playgrounds are a great way to break up your ride. If you have a little one in a trailer you want to make sure they get the opportunity to burn off some of that pent up energy. This is the perfect spot to do that. This outdoor shopping mall is not only home to great stores and restaurants but a fun playground. There is a dog park nearby as well.
This is the only park you will need for all your sports needs. With soccer and ball fields as far as the eye can see it is no wonder this is where the Colts have their training camp.
Family-Friendly Spots to Eat at Along the Monon Trail
Hitting the trail early means a good breakfast is in store and Bub’s Cafe is just the place. Serving up classics that are bound to give you the energy needed for a day of adventure. From omelets to pancakes you can’t go wrong with anything from Bub’s. Which brings me to my next stop.
Home of the famous Big Ugly Challenge, Bubs Burgers is a great spot to feed your hungry clan. Burgers and ice cream are the favorites at this hangout, but there are other classic options as well. Located right in the heart of the Arts and Design District this is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike.
Books N Brews
Near the Center of Performing Arts, you will find a great spot to keep kids entertained during lunch. Books N Brews not only has a huge selection of board games to keep a family occupied but also shelves and shelves of books. Grill cheese is one of the few things they are known for here along with their refreshing beers.
Right off the Monon Trail is a great spot to grab a local brew, a bite to eat and is family-friendly. Think food court meets brewery as you choose which of the many vendors you would like to grab a bite to eat from, while servers bring your drinks. Highchairs and kid menu options are available. A rooftop area overlooks the Monon Trail which will often call to you as your pedal by.
With great shopping comes great restaurants. Favorites such as Cafe Patachou, Pies & Pints and Cold Stone Creamery are always crowd-pleasers. Check out the complete list of dining and shopping options here.
Where To Stay In Hamilton County, Indiana
There are plenty of great lodging options in Hamilton County. This trip we stayed at the Renaissance Inn, which was strategically located near everything in Carmel including the Monon Trail. The hotel has a variety of room layouts from a king with a pull out sofa to the standard double queen. A restaurant and bar are located inside, however, our favorite feature is always the indoor swimming pool! With friendly staff, sparkling clean rooms and a modern feel we would recommend this hotel to all travelers!
A Few Tips For Hitting The Monon Trail
- Bring water bottles. There are plenty of water fountains to be able to fill up along the way.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen.
- Plan out your route with little ones in tow. Make a game plan of what you want to do and what you would like to do. We ended up spending more time at a few stops than anticipated because we were having fun!
- Be aware of others on the trail and use proper etiquette such as letting others know when which side you will be passing.
- Fall is one of the best times to enjoy the Monon Trail. The crisp air and fall foliage makes any ride picture perfect.
- Stay safe on the trail by ensuring all personal possessions are in a secure spot, resist the urge to look at your phone and be observant of your surroundings.
Family-Friendly Stops Along The Monon Trail