7 Family-Friendly Adventures in Northern Indiana
By Derek Smith
Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission
Things to Do in Northern Indiana: 7 Family-Friendly Adventures
Getting away with the family is nice, but not always easy. Between kids’ little league games and dance lessons, not to mention parents’ work schedules, sometimes day trips close to home are the best, or only, fit. Luckily, there are countless of activities in northern Indiana for families to choose from. Here’s a look at just seven of the region’s top attractions for families this summer from the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission, northern Indiana’s official regional tourism organization.
Elkhart County 4-H Fair
July 19 – 27, 2013
Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds
Take one of the largest 4-H fairs in the country, toss in some classic rock and country music and you’ve got yourself a little piece of America not too far from your front door. This year, rockers Creedence Clearwater Revival and country contemporaries Hunter Hayes, Florida Georgia Line and Vince Gill will hit the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds, adding the perfect summer background for a day at the fair. This isn’t some back-of-the-parking-lot fair either. Nearly 250,000 people show up each year over the course of the nine-day event. They’re rewarded with great food, fun rides, a rodeo, a tractor pull, a demolition derby and more. Think your iPad-loving son wouldn’t enjoy a demolition derby? Think your daughter wouldn’t love a chance to see some farm animals somewhere other than the pages of her books?
Admission is $8; children 9 and under are free.
For more information, visit http://4hfair.org/.
For more information on the area, visit http://www.amishcountry.org/.
Through Labor Day
401 S Dixie Drive, North Webster
This family-friendly cruise on a paddlewheel boat takes about an hour and 15 minutes, but passengers aboard the Dixie Sternwheeler (see photo above) say they’re given memories that last much longer. The Dixie Sternwheeler cruises across Webster Lake each evening, providing passengers with a lovely view of the sunset on the water. And kids love hearing about the history of the boat directly from the Dixie Sternwheeler’s captain, who relishes the chance to share his knowledge and love of Indiana’s oldest paddlewheel.
Tickets are $7.
For more information, visit http://www.ridethedixie.com/.
For more information on the area, visit http://www.livewellinthemoment.com/.
Washington Park Zoo
Through Oct. 31, 2013
115 Lakeshore Drive, Michigan City
Ask any animal expert and he or she will tell you that northern Indiana is known for its tigers, alligators, bears and kangaroos, but you’ll have to visit the Washington Park Zoo to see them up close. You’ll be able to visit the aforementioned creatures and plenty of the 90 other species that call the zoo their home during a visit to the Washington Park Zoo, which is celebrating its 85th year of operation this summer. Nestled on a hilly sand dune near Lake Michigan, this 15-acre spot offers a great midday respite from the beach or a post-shopping reward for your kids’ good behavior.
Admission is $6.50 for adults 12– 61 years; $5.50 for 62 years and up; $5.50 for children 3 – 11; children 2 years and under are free.
For more information on the zoo, check out http://michigancityparks.com/index.php/zoo-home
For more information on the area, visit http://www.michigancitylaporte.com/.
Potawatomi Wildlife Park
Open year-round; trails open daily from sunrise to sunset.
16998 State Road 331, Tippecanoe
With more than five miles of hiking trails, your family will be able to take in the fauna, birds and wildlife of this 317-acre park, filled with woodlands, wetlands and ponds, as well as the Tippecanoe River. There are picnic areas and restrooms. Gazebos and canoes are available for rental. Mark Sept. 7 on your calendars now for the park’s Public Astronomy Viewing Night, which will offer advanced telescopes and astronomical experts to help put your children in touch with the celestial wonders that reside above them.
Admission is free, although contributions are welcome and go toward the operating expenses of the park.
For more information on the park, visit http://www.getintonature.com/.
For more information on the area, visit http://www.visitmarshallcounty.org/.
Seven Peaks Waterpark
Open through Sept. 2
1275 N Waverly Road, Porter
Maybe you enjoy relaxing in the quarter-mile lazy river. How about a 70-foot plunge into a pool of water? Wave pool? Water slides? Whatever your water-park preference – or if they all suit your thrill-seeking needs – the Seven Peaks Waterpark Duneland is one of the area’s largest water parks, offering a variety of H20-inspired attractions, designed to cool you off on those dog days of summer.
Admission is $14.95 for an all-day pass for adults and $11.95 for children; $8.95 after 4 p.m. and $6.95 after 6 p.m. Ages 2 and under and 65 and older are free. Spectator passes are available for $7.95
For more information, visit http://www.sevenpeaks.com/WaterParkDuneland/Home.aspx/.
For more information on the area, visit http://www.indianadunes.com.
Healthworks Kids Museum
111 W Jefferson Boulevard, South Bend
It’s one thing to teach your children about health and hygiene. It’s another to walk through it. The Healthworks Kids Museum in South Bend offers a hands-on approach to learning about the human body, all with a focus on health and safety. Think of it as a funhouse of health – yes, that’s stubble your son is using as footing for a rock-wall-like climb. Your kids won’t look at their bodies in the same way after a visit. Admission is $6. Children 2 and under are free.
For more information, visit http://www.healthworkskids.org/index.html.
For more information on the area, visit http://www.visitsouthbend.com/.
Cook’s Bison Ranch
Open tours through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Ranch owners ask that you call in advance to verify tours. The gift shop is open every day.
5645 E 600S, Wolcottville
Sure, you could pack up the car and head a few hundred miles west to see buffalo, or you can mesmerize your children just around the corner at Cook’s Bison Ranch, which is located on an 83-acre farm in the heart of northern Indiana Amish Country. Guests can take guided covered-wagon tours of the ranch. They also can participate in buffalo feedings and eat a bison meal.
On Saturday, June 15, the ranch will host its annual Calf Day celebration, which will feature tours, feedings, music, food, wagon rides, a demonstration on buffalo hair spinning, a demonstration on buffalo jerky, a petting zoo and more.
Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for children. Free admission on Calf Day, although a small parking fee may apply.
For more information on the ranch, visit http://www.cooksbisonranch.com/.
For more information on the area, visit http://www.backroads.org/.
The Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission is a partnership of seven northern Indiana convention and visitors bureaus in Porter, LaPorte, St. Joseph, Marshall, Elkhart, Kosciusko and LaGrange counties that works to promote tourism in the region. For more on travel offers, where to stay, and things to do in northern Indiana, visit http://www.northernindianagetaways.com/.