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23 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Indianapolis

Grab the squad and head on out!
23 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Indianapolis

Before you get all sad that summer is over, just remember that the fun doesn't just stop because fall candles are suddenly popping up everywhere and stores are already setting up Halloween and Christmas displays.

And just because you might not be able to travel to the most exotic places in the world, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have the time of your life right here in Indiana.

This list is for those who seek some adventure without the excessive preparation. There are so many spectacular spots to go to in Indiana and they happen to be within three hours of Indianapolis. You can explore a cave, walk through a Japanese garden, see Indiana's attempt at utopia or chill by the lake. It's all up to you!

If you're looking to escape the city for a day or a weekend, there is a getaway destination for everyone. Just round up your friends, put someone on snack duty, another on music and drive to your next adventure!

Cataract Falls

Time from Indianapolis:  1 hour

Where: Owen County

Any time is a good time to go chase waterfalls. Cataract Falls is the biggest waterfall in Indiana and has a drop of 86 feet. No matter what the weather is like, the water will always be cold. But if you're brave enough to dip a toe in, that's on you! Head here for a peaceful afternoon as you walk through the forest-scape and eventually land at the waterfall where you can sit and enjoy the view.

Fruit Hills Winery and Orchard

Time from Indianapolis: 3 hours

Where: Bristol

There are other ways to enjoy a glass of wine outside of your home and in sweatpants on the couch. Head to this winery with a group of best friends as you walk around the vineyard, taste the local wine and relax as you overlook the rolling hills. You will have to pay a tasting fee of $5, but that allows you to come back as many times as you want within the calendar year.


Parke County Covered Bridges

Time from Indianapolis: 1.5 hours

Where: Parke County

Did you know that Parke County has 31 covered bridges? There's even a festival dedicated to it in the fall that's happening this year in October. But you can visit the county at any time and take a self-guided tour to see the bridges. Some are closed off to vehicle traffic, but there are still over 20 open to pedestrians. So head on over there if you ever want to feel like you've traveled back in time.


West Baden Springs Hotel

Time from Indianapolis: 2 hours

Where: West Baden Springs

This luxury hotel was once called the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and it's easy to see why. Be prepared to be treated like royalty if you're staying for a weekend, if you're there for the spa services or if you're there to have afternoon tea in the atrium. Basically, live out your fantasy of being Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries and you're bound to have the best time ever!


Indiana Zipline Tours

Time from Indianapolis: 1 hour

Where: Crawfordsville

Soar through a forest spontaneously. Yes, you can make that happen. Spend a day living life on the edge as you experience what it's like to fly with 8 ziplines. If you're tired from that excitement, there's also the option of playing on their adult jungle gym that has suspended tree platforms and a swinging bridge. You can even go rock climbing, take short hikes, and the best part of all? There's a night zipline package too that involves glowsticks! 


Jordan Hall Greenhouse

Time from Indianapolis: 1.5 hours

Where: Indiana University Bloomington

The hidden gem of IU's campus is this greenhouse. It's open seven days a week and there's no admission fee. So walk around while you stop and smell the flowers and you'll immediately feel like you're in a tropical jungle. This is the ideal spot for an Instagram photo shoot, so bring along a friend who's willing to be your photographer and creative director.


New Harmony

Time from Indianapolis: 3 hours

Where: New Harmony

Take a stroll through this charming town that once was a social experiment to try and create a utopian community. Take an afternoon to explore the small town that has kept most of the buildings from the first settlement. But the highlight of New Harmony has to be the labyrinth that is open and free to the public. For those looking for a challenge, head into the maze as you try to make your way to the small temple in the middle. For those who can't be bothered, there is a direct way to the center using the gates.


Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Time from Indianapolis: 2.5 hours

Where: Porter

Summer is over, but that doesn't mean you still can't enjoy the beach and the shoreline of Lake Michigan! Take the time to enjoy the last bit of warm weather before we head into fall. Lay on the beach, play some volleyball, go paddleboarding, or go hiking on the rugged dunes. 

Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center

Time from Indianapolis: 1.5 hours

Where: Bloomington

Spend a peaceful afternoon taking in the beautiful artwork and statues on the grounds of the cultural center. There are guided tours available that go through the significance of the place. Events are always going on here and you might be lucky enough to experience a meditation and teaching event.


Bluespring Caverns

Time from Indianapolis: 1.5 hours

Where: Bedford

An hour-long boat tour will allow you to learn and experience the expansive cave system. There's an inherent thrill that comes with just being underground, but don't be too scared off by the darkness! There are lamps that will illuminate passages as you make your way through. Pay attention and you might be able to spot a blind cavefish or a blind crayfish!


Gabis Arboretum 

Time from Indianapolis: 2.5 hours

Where: Valparaiso

No agenda, no planning — just explore. Take your time as you walk on this 300-acre land full of woodlands, wetlands, prairies, gardens, and hiking. Sometimes, you just need a beautiful backdrop as you catch up with friends and enjoy each other's company. Even if you're not a kid, make sure to head to the Railway Garden to see a fantastic scale model train. 



Time from Indianapolis: 1 hour

Where: Columbus

Zaharakos is an ice cream parlor and a museum! It's been open since 1900 and supposedly serves some of the best ice cream in Indiana. And there's only one way to find out if that claim is true! Order a milkshake, a scoop of ice cream, or a sundae as you take in the beautiful interior. After you're done, head on upstairs to the museum to learn about ice cream, soda fountains, and syrup.


Hoosier National Forest

Time from Indianapolis: 2.5 hours

Where: Bedford

Indiana is more than just corn fields! See for yourself when you walk through this local treasure. There are rolling hills, back-country trails, and beaches for you to relax. If you want a great view, don't skip out on the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower located right in the forest. And if you just want to drive while listening to some good music, the forest offers a ton of scenic drive routes!

Holiday World

Time from Indianapolis3 hours

Where: Santa Claus

Christmas Boulevard? Santa Claus? Yes, this theme park has rides based on the Fourth of July, Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, but that doesn't mean you can't ride and enjoy them at any time! This is where you take your friend who is obsessed with holidays. Buy funnel cake, share some fries, and wait in line for some insane roller coasters. 


Brown County State Park

Time from Indianapolis: 1 hour

Where: Nashville, IN

A visit to Nashville isn't exclusive to country music and cowboys. Pack up the car with picnic items, a Bluetooth speaker and some games for a relaxing day out away from the city. The state park is home to several hikes and picnic areas that are perfect for hanging out with your squad.

Shiojiri Niwa Japanese Garden

Time from Indianapolis: 2.5 hours

Where: Mishawaka

This garden has become a popular spot for photo shoots and it's easy to see why! Everywhere you go is the perfect backdrop. Head here with a friend or even by yourself if you want to spend some time alone in a peaceful garden. The hidden gem of this garden has to be the teahouse pavilion. Make sure you go see it!

Turkey Run State Park

Time from Indianapolis: 1.5 hours

Where: Marshall

Before it gets too cold, why not go camping for a weekend? This state park is the spot for you, your friends, and your SO to take a break from social media. Walk through the ravines, the sandstone gorges and go canoeing. If you hate getting into the water outside, there's also an Olympic-sized pool. Cuddle up by the campfire at night and have a contest to see who is the master at making s'mores.


Time from Indianapolis: 3 hours

Where: Shipshewana

Shipshewana is home to a large Amish community and lots of fun activities and attractions. You can take a buggy tour and visit the Menno Hof museum to learn the history and lifestyle of the Amish. But the one thing you can't miss is the flea market with hundreds of goods being sold. If you go on a Wednesday, you can even witness a live auction!

Patoka Lake

Time from Indianapolis: 2.5 hours

Where: Birdseye

Drinking on a boat with the sun shining on your face? Get it in while you can before it's too cold. Hang out with your friends on the lake in a floatie or sit on the beach to enjoy the sun. And if you feel the chill in the air already, go hiking or biking to warm up!

Conner Prairie

Time from Indianapolis: 30 minutes

Where: Fishers

This is the museum to end all museums. There is a 4-story treehouse, a huge gondola balloon, and a barn where you can get up close and personal with some animals. The demographic leans more to young children, but that doesn't mean adults can't have fun here too. The 1836 Prairietown is especially fun with actors walking around in costumes!


Whitewater Valley Railroad

Time from Indianapolis: 1.5 hours

Where: Connersville

All board! Take an afternoon on the weekend to ride the train! The trains are authentic to the time they were used for this history-filled canal route. There are regular and special themed trains (Polar Express train ride!) running all the time from April-December. Hop on, enjoy the ride, and appreciate the view. 

Wolf Park

Time from Indianapolis: 1.5 hours

Where: Battle Ground

Ever wanted to hang out with wolves? Now's your chance. The Wolf Park is an education and research facility that wants to teach visitors the importance of wolves in the ecosystem. You can take a guided tour and see wolves, coyotes, foxes, and even bison! 


Indiana Beach

Time from Indianapolis: 1.5 hours

Where: Monticello

Mourn the end of summer by having one last hurrah on the boardwalk. If you're over the crowds, go there at night! It calms down then when all the kids have gone home, you can ride the Ferris wheel or see the water illuminated by the bright and colorful lights of the amusement park. Reminisce with friends over the best memories you made this summer over a slushee and some fries. 

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