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The Best Summer Road Trip Destinations Within Four Hours of Indy

When you live in Indy, you probably feel like everything you need is right at your fingertips, so there’s no need to travel very far for some real excitement. Indianapolis is, after all, a big tourist destination in its own right.

But what if you’ve “been there, done that” all over Indy and just want to go someplace new? Whether you’re looking for a night away with your one true love or someplace to visit for a long weekend with the kids, we’ve got the details on some fun, interesting excursions you can take within four hours of the city. 

So, pack the car with plenty of snacks, get your traveling music ready, power up your GPS and buckle up the kids — there are some fascinating destinations ahead:

Santa Claus, Indiana

Want to take the whole idea of Christmas in July to an entirely new level? Head to Santa Claus — the town where Christmas is the only season, all year long!

You can stay at Santa’s Lodge, Santa’s Lakeside Cottages or the Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort (if you want to stick to the theme), stroll down Reindeer Trail or do some (very) early holiday shopping in Kringle Plaza. 

Some of the other attractions you don’t want to miss while you’re there include:

  • A visit with Santa Claus at the Santa Claus Christmas Store, where it’s never too early to decorate for the holidays or sip hot cocoa with Mrs. Claus
  • A tour of the Santa Claus Museum & Village, where you can learn all about the history of the town, see vintage holiday displays and send a letter (early) to Santa
  • Fun in the sun at the Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, where you find water rides and carnival-type rides that are designed to thrill and entertain the whole family

You can also visit Santa’s Candy Castle or help guide some stray reindeer back to their homes at the Lost Reindeer Adventure. This is a delightful trip for kids, kids at heart and anybody who thinks that it’s never too early to start counting the days down to Christmas.

Columbus, Ohio

Why not go a little out of the norm and totally out of the state on your next trip? Columbus, the capital city of Ohio, is only about three hours away from Indy, and it’s got tons of interesting, entertaining places to visit. 

If somebody in your family is a Buckeye’s fan, you’ll naturally want to take a look at the Ohio State University campus, but make sure you leave time to visit:

  • German Village, so-named for the heavy influence left behind from generations of German immigrants, where the cobblestone streets, coffee shops and breweries will transport both your mind and spirit to Europe almost instantly
  • The Book Loft, where the bibliophiles in your family can lose themselves in a 32-room mansion filled to the brim with books on every conceivable subject 
  • The Center of Science and Industry (COSI), which is a particular favorite of families because it has phenomenal interactive exhibits, a planetarium show and tons of exhibits for all ages
  • Legoland Discovery Center, where everybody (and we mean everybody) is instantly a kid again in a land of limitless Legos

Finally, leave a little time in your schedule to head over to the North Market. One of the largest, oldest and most well-developed farmers’ markets in the nation, North Market is open every Saturday and Sunday from June to October. 

Chicago, Illinois

Admittedly, Chicago is absolutely huge, so it’s hard to pin down the absolute top things to do while you’re there for just a day or two. However, since it’s not even three hours away from Indianapolis, you can probably visit again and again until you’ve seen everything your heart desires.

What’s high on our list of things to do when we visit? Check out:

  • The Congress Plaza: Billed as Chicago’s most-haunted hotel, The Congress reminds a lot of folks of The Overlook (featured in “The Shining ”) with its winding halls, gold ballroom and ghostly feel.
  • Chinatown: It may be one of the city’s smallest neighborhoods, but Chinatown has rich cultural traditions, a thriving restaurant scene where you can find truly authentic cuisine and tons of shopping that will delight you.
  • The Magnificent Mile: Grab your credit cards because this is a shopaholic’s dream, with scads of high-end retailers like Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and more — and it’s also a top spot for celebrity-spotting, especially with the equally high-end restaurants and bars along the way.
  • Wrigleyville: Home to historic Wrigley Field, the second oldest ballpark in the country, you can’t help catching a little Cubs fever while you’re here. Take an official Wrigley Field Tour for over a century’s worth of Chicago baseball history, explore Gallagher Way like a local, or snag a game-day perch on rooftop bleachers at Wrigley Rooftops.

And, of course, Chicago also has a lot of history to explore. There are guided tours that will take you on architectural cruises, let you walk the same halls that were once visited by Al Capone and other Prohibition-era mobsters, or explore the city by helicopter. Whether you’re a high-energy sort who loves adventure or a more introspective soul, there’s always something here to do.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Not even two hours from Indy, Cincinnati is a perfect getaway destination — whether you’re looking for a destination filled with family fun or a romantic weekend for two. 

Cinci is home to some of the most interesting specialty museums in the country, including the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the American Sign Museum and the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum — and these are all top-notch destinations for travelers. Other spots on our “must-see” list in the area include:

  • The Museum of Natural History & Science, where you can imagine what it would be like to walk on the moon or walk with the dinosaurs as you wander the exhibits
  • Findlay Market, which is nearly as old as the city and filled to the brim with amazing local vendors and unique cuisine 
  • Coney Island Amusement Park, located right on the banks of Ohio and home to carnival rides, waterparks, a rollercoaster, and an ever-changing array of special events and festivals

Cinci is also known for its food, so don’t forget to find a spot to sample the chili before you go, or maybe head over to Fat Ben’s Bakery to pick up some treats before you head home. 

Personally, Indy will always have our heart when it comes to things to do and places to see, but there’s definitely nothing wrong with exploring the world a little!

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