Those living in the Indianapolis area are fortunate to have tons of great destinations within easy driving distance. We've rounded up a few of the best so you can start planning your summer vacation!
FRENCH LICK, IN
(2 hours, 5 minutes)
Step back in time by booking a room at one of two historic hotels at the French Lick Resort (www.frenchlick.com). The French Lick Springs Hotel offers eight eateries, a bowling alley and organized children's activities. The more upscale West Baden Springs Hotel boasts seven additional restaurants, an awe-inspiring atrium and a Saturday afternoon tea service. Visitors can also explore five miles of hiking trails or sign up for horse/pony rides at the onsite stable.
If your kids love the water, set aside time for Big Splash Adventure Indoor Water Park & Resort (www.bigsplashadventure.com), with its pirate-themed tube slides, body slides and lazy river. Day passes are limited but can be reserved in advance. For drier fun, board the French Lick Scenic Railway (www.frenchlickscenicrailway.org) to enjoy a 20 mile round-trip journey through southern Indiana.
SPENCER COUNTY, IN
(3 hours, 2 minutes)
While this area is best known for Holiday World & Splashin' Safari (www.holidayworld.com), Santa Claus's holiday-themed amusement park, there are plenty of additional reasons to visit. Those wishing to remain in the Christmas spirit can pick up some gourmet candy canes at Santa's Candy Castle (www.santascandycastle.com) or write a letter to the big guy at the Santa Claus Museum & Village (www.santaclausmuseum.org).
For a more educational experience, the Lincoln Boyhood Home National Memorial (www.nps.gov/libo/) commemorates the 14 years Abraham Lincoln spent in Indiana. Visitors can watch a short film about Lincoln's youth and tour a simulated 1820's homestead. The journey into history continues at Lincoln Pioneer Village (www.lincolnpioneervillage.com) in Rockport.
ST. LOUIS, MO
(3 hours, 41 minutes)
The 630 foot tall Gateway Arch (www.gatewayarch.com) is probably the city's most famous spot. In addition to snapping a photo out front, families can go underneath the arch to view two different films, tour the Museum of Westward Expansion or travel by tram to the top of the arch for dramatic views.
Quirky City Museum (www.citymuseum.org), another St. Louis must-do, offers tons of places for kids to explore, including a multi-storied cave, "Skateless Park," art studio and more. Top off your trip by getting up close and personal with penguins and hippos at the St. Louis Zoo (www.stlzoo.com). Admission is free, but parking costs $15.00 during peak season.
SEVIER COUNTY, TN
(5 hours, 53 minutes)
If you haven't visited the Pigeon Forge/Sevierville/Gatlinburg region lately, make this your year! Tom Adkinson, representative of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, clued us in to what's new in the area.
A family-friendly roller coaster called "FireCatcher Express" will join Dollywood's (www.dollywood.com) already impressive lineup of attractions this season. Fun-seekers should also check out the mile-long, self-controlled Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster (www.smokymountainalpinecoaster.com). When it comes to excitement, though, it's tough to top the natural wonders at Great Smoky Mountains National Park (www.nps.gov/grsm). Visitors can enter the park via Gatlinburg or nearby Townsend.
The new Island in Pigeon Forge (www.islandinpigeonforge.com) complex offers calmer forms of entertainment including shopping and dining. The Island is home to the popular Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, and Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville will be opening there this summer.
Finally, no Sevier County vacation would be complete without some great food! For "down home" cuisine including free apple fritters with every order, head to Sevierville's Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant & Farmhouse Grill (www.applewoodfarmhouserestaurant.com).
Ready to hit the road yet? Wherever your travels take you this summer, we hope you have a fabulous time!
Drive times are calculated from Indianapolis using GoogleMaps. Some listed attractions operate seasonally, so call ahead to avoid disappointment.