"Summer has always symbolized freedom — from school, from shoes, from coats and heavy clothing, and even from work. There’s nothing better than summer vacation, whether it’s a one-day trip to a nearby park, the long Fourth of July weekend spent camping, or a fly-away vacation to a tropical destination. The founding fathers knew how to pick the right season for a good fireworks display. Now you can pick a great destination to celebrate the freshness, the fun, the frivolity and the freedom of summer.

One-day trip

Noblesville and Hamilton County

You don’t have to go far to find a variety of entertainment and activities. Noblesville in Hamilton County has something for everyone.

What to see:

Enjoy a self-guided walking tour of Noblesville’s historic square, featuring early 19th century architecture, antiques shops, galleries and a restored court house and jail, famous for former inmates John Dillinger and Charles Manson.

The square also features The Artist’s Vineyard, with rotating exhibits and wine tasting. Call 317-219-3481. Wine connoisseurs can visit with several area winemakers at a summer BBQ on Indiana’s newest wine trail, featuring a passport program with a wine glass reward for visiting all seven wineries.

Potter’s Bridge is the only remaining historical covered bridge in Hamilton County. Restored in 1999, it sits in a 66-acre park that includes trails, a playground and picnic areas. Call 317-896-5874.

Forest Park offers 150 acres of fun, such as a nine-hole golf course, miniature golf, a playground, an aquatic center with swimming pool, volleyball sand lots, tennis courts, horseshoe pits and more. Call 317-776-6350.

What to do:

Take a walk back in time at Conner Prairie in nearby Fishers. The 250-acre living history museum features costumed guides performing typical 19th century chores, farm animals and a variety of activities for families. The Indiana Festival is June 2-3. Summer day camps for kids are available June 11-Aug. 3. Mystery on the Prairie is June 9-10 (includes dinner). Symphony on the Prairie will perform 12 weekends throughout the summer, beginning June 23. Call 317-776-6000 or 317-639-4300.

For a different kind of concert under the stars, try Verizon Wireless Music Center. Call 317-776-8181. See pages 45 for our outdoor summer music lineup.

Catch a train ride from the Indiana Transportation Museum to four towns, where you can shop, walk or relax. Call 317-773-6000.

Where to eat:

Locally owned Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano, on the square in Noblesville, caters to casual diners, families and those seeking a dressier, more romantic evening by offering authentic Italian food, a good wine list and great ambiance. Call 317-774-9771.

If you’re looking for Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or Indian cuisine, try Asian Grill, also on the square. Call 317-773-9990.

Eat on the go: Four-course meals are served on the 1930s-style dinner train. Or, take the Pizza Train from Noblesville to Tipton or try the Hamiltonian Dinner Train for cocktails, stopping for dinner in Cicero. Call 317-773-6000.

Bloomington isn’t just for college students

What to see:

Cedar Bluff Nature Preserve features a 75-foot limestone bluff and other dramatic vistas, along with a canyon exhibiting interesting rock formations. Call The Nature Conservancy at 317-923-7547.

The Hoosier National Forest is a must-see, with 200,000 acres spread over nine counties, 230 miles of hiking, horseback riding and mountain bike trails, as well as camping adjacent to large lakes. Call 812-275-5987.

What to do:

Walk it off on the Bloomington Rail Trail. Its gravel surface is suitable for walking, running and most bicycles. The mostly tree-lined rail trail corridor offers a serene, enjoyable trail experience for all ages. Call 812-349-3700.

Where to eat:

For nutritious options mixed, the Cereal Barn & Peanut Butter Café provides a fun atmosphere for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacktime. More than 30 cereals plus hot oatmeal can be combined with more than 20 toppings. The peanut butter is ground daily for the best PB&Js around. Try the Funky Monkey: honey roasted peanut butter with chocolate chips and sliced banana. Call 812-323-7325.

Located on the downtown square, Roots Restaurant — Bloomington’s only all-vegetarian restaurant — features a variety of entrees made with fresh, locally grown produce and a great selection of juices and smoothies. Call 812-336-7668.

Wayne County offers something few places in Indiana can: altitude

What to see:

You can find the highest point in Indiana northwest of Bethel. The Pinnacle of Indiana reaches an elevation of 1,257 feet above sea level. Although officially on private property, the owner frequently grants permission to hikers reaching for the high point.

The All American Rose Garden in Miller Park boasts 110 varieties of all colors. Perfect for weddings or just strolling, the garden is a delight to all the senses. Call 765-962-1638.

What to do:

Antique Alley draws crowds from several states, all eager to find old treasures and bargains. The Annual Antique Fair is held June 2 (call 765-478-9070), or try the Historic National Road Sale Days May 30-June 3 (call 765-825-6295). If the kind of antiques you prefer come on four wheels, check out the Model T Ford’s 100th Anniversary Celebration and Swap Meet, July 21-26 (call 765-855-5248).

For more antiquing, be sure to stop in Centerville to tour Webb’s Antique Mall.

Where to eat:

Start the day with a sweet breakfast at the Cinnamon Spice Bakery. Call 765-855-3344.

Satisfy hungry appetites at Welliver’s in Hagerstown. Since 1946, the famous smorgasbord has served a diverse variety of dishes, homemade breads and desserts. Call 765-489-4131.

Long weekend in Indiana

Crawfordsville, Montgomery County, is close enough to visit in a day, but offers enough attractions to keep you around for a weekend.

What to see:

Several historical sites will educate and entertain you: Mid’Town Museum of Native Cultures in Waynetown; The Topkey Armor Museum; the Linden Railroad Museum with the oldest intact junction depot in Indiana; and the home of Lew Wallace (author of Ben-Hur).

What to do:

Pine Hills Nature Preserve in Shades State Park provides trails with views of sandstone rock formations, natural springs and waterfalls. A campground is available; backpack and canoe camping are also available. Trips ranging from three hours to overnight can be taken on Sugar Creek in canoes, kayaks or tubes.

Other canoe trips can be organized at Clements Canoes Outdoor Center in Waveland. Call 765-435-7285.

Lake Waveland offers a peaceful spot for fishing, boating, swimming and camping. Other activities include miniature golf, tennis, basketball and horseshoes. Call 765-435-2073.

Where to eat:

Elaine’s On Main is an authentic English tearoom that serves hearty entrees.

College Street Deli is a local favorite for its salads and sandwiches.

Where to stay:

The Davis House, an 1860s Italianate home-turned-bed and breakfast near downtown Crawfordsville.

Cabins & Candlelight, in Colfax: luxury cabins with stone fireplaces, over-sized whirlpool tubs, covered porches and enclosed decks. Call 800-864-6717.

Lawrence County

The terrain changes to rolling hills in Southern Indiana. Bedford, located 30 minutes south of Bloomington, is best known for its heritage of limestone quarries and carvings. Lawrence County’s topography features rugged terrain, caves and waterfalls, and is home to one of Indiana’s largest state parks, underground riverboat rides and unique handmade goods.

What to see:

Bedford’s Limestone Heritage Festival on July 4 offers the usual parades and midway rides, but also features sculpting contests and historical displays demonstrating the town’s limestone heritage.

Explore pioneer log homes, a village store and other buildings in Pioneer Village at Spring Mill State Park (Mitchell). Tour a working gristmill, purchase ground corn and watch weaving and blacksmith demonstrations that re-create pioneer trades in an 1800s settlement. Special events celebrate Independence Day beginning July 2 and Pioneer Heritage Days are Aug. 6-7.

What to do:

Visitors at Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell can rent mountain bikes or hike through the park’s trails, located in nature preserves featuring caves, overlooks and 300-year-old trees. The campground offers both electric and primitive sites for all types of campers.

Bluespring Caverns Park in Bedford features the nation’s longest navigable underground waterway within the depths of the limestone landscape. One of the few remaining natural limestone caves in the U.S., it highlights one of the state’s native resources. Guided boat rides take visitors on a tour through 20 miles of water-carved passages 100 feet below ground, where blindfish can be found. Call 812-279-9471.

Motorcycle and ATV trails run through almost 400 acres of hills, meadows, wooded terrain and scenic ponds in Lawrence County Recreational Park (Springville).

Where to eat:

Bedford’s Old Buggy Buffet features “down-home” cooking. Call 812-279-8150.

Featuring all-day breakfast, hearty traditional meals, lunch specials and “Memaw’s Homemade Pies,” FinMill’s Family Restaurant, the new family dining restaurant in Mitchell, is a tasty option.

To finish off lunch or just to treat yourself, try Hoover’s Candy Shop and Café in Bedford. Featuring a soda fountain and candy shop, Hoover’s serves sandwiches, fudge, chocolates, milkshakes and more.

Where to stay:

The Gardens Bed & Breakfast in Bedford is a cozy bed and breakfast with relaxing accommodations and goodies such as warm chocolate chip cookies in the evening and a full breakfast with hot coffee served in your room.

Spring Mill Inn (Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell) features country décor with modern amenities such as a unique indoor/outdoor pool, fireplace, great rooms and full-service dining.


Located on a scenic bend in the Ohio River at the southwest tip of Indiana, Evansville offers plenty to do throughout the summer — and if it’s not enough, St. Louis, Louisville and Nashville are just a short drive away.

What to see:

Angel Mounds State Historic Site is one of the best-preserved pre-contact Native American settlements in the United States. Some of the mounds have been excavated to reveal the substance of the Mississippians’ culture, who lived there from 1100 to 1450 C.E. with a population between 1,000 and 3,000. New archeological digs by IU in the past two summers have uncovered new information about the purpose and the contents of the Mounds. Call 812-856-3956.

Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve features over 200 acres of natural primeval forest within an urban setting. Trails and paths lead past virgin bottomland hardwood forests, wildlife observation areas and ponds. The forest is surrounded by a multipurpose park with a tennis complex, softball fields, batting cages, picnic areas and a nine-hole golf course. Call 812-479-0771.

Howell Wetlands is one of five urban wetland parks in Indiana. Twenty-three acres contain marshland, bald cypress slough, lowland hardwood forest and an upland meadow. Guided tours are available by reservation. Call 812-479-0771.

What to do:

Take a guided canoe trip on Pigeon Creek, the Wabash River or Hovey Lake with Canoe Evansville. Trips vary from two to five hours with a special overnight canoeing/camping adventure planned four times a season. All bookings must be reserved at least one week in advance. Call 812-479-0771, ext. 5.

Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden extends over 50 acres and contains more than 600 animals exhibited in their natural habitats. Paths lined with exotic plants and lush foliage wind throughout the forested zoo. Children’s bumper boats area and paddleboat rentals on Lake Victoria are available. Call 812-435-6143.

See the last operational, navigable Landing Ship Tank (LST 325) docked on the Ohio River at Evansville. The 325 was on Omaha Beach on D-Day and made 44 trips between there and England during the beginning days of the successful invasion. Some of the original crew are part of the volunteer groups that conduct the tours, do the upkeep and stand guard duty at night. A special D-Day re-enactment takes place June 2-3. Call 812-435-8678.

For rainy days, check out one of Evansville’s many museums, such as cMoe, the new interactive children’s museum; Evansville African American Museum, with exhibits that chronicle the history of Lincoln Gardens, the second public housing development initiated under President Roosevelt’s New Deal Program; Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science; Evansville Museum of Transportation; and Reitz Home Family Museum.

Where to eat:

Black Buggy Restaurant & General Store features an Amish buffet and bakery. After your meal, shop in the store for extra treats to take home. Call 812-473-0545.

Try some unique flavors: Korean at Jaya’s Authentic Foods, 812-422-6667; Tex Mex at Tumbleweed Southwest Mesquite Grill and Bar, 812-423-9590; or Mexican at Los Bravos, 812-464-3163.

Where to stay:

Make the most of the nightlife by staying at the Casino Aztar Hotel or Le Merigot Boutique Hotel at Casino Aztar. Call 800-342-5386.

Or try some rustic charm with modern conveniences like a two- or three-bedroom chalet in a wooded setting. Burdette Park Chalets also features Jacuzzi suites. Call 823-435-5602.

Northern Indiana lakes country: Steuben County

Just 160 miles north of Indianapolis lies a rustic get-away with 101 lakes, a beautiful state park, Northeast Indiana’s first winery and an outlet mall for those who prefer shopping over nature encounters.

What to see:

Pokagon State Park, on the shores of Lake James, is a picturesque 1,260-acre park that features hiking trails, beaches, boat rental, guided horse tours and more. An electric fantail l"


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