8 great vacation spots in and around Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore and Indiana Dunes State Park, Northwest Indiana. The sandy Lake Michigan shoreline varies from dunes more than 125 feet high to short marram grass topped dunes. Fifteen miles of national lakeshore shoreline may be accessed from parking lots that are open from 7 a.m. to dusk. Bicyclists and hikers can enter at 6 a.m. The 40 space waterside lake view parking lot is the only one pulling night hours and it remains open until 11 p.m. All beach parking is free of charge with the exception of a user fee at West Beach from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend in which a fee of $6 per vehicle or $30 per bus is accessed. A fee of $1 is charged to walk-ins and bicyclists. The largest parking lot is West Beach and it rarely fills.
The Indiana Dunes State Park consists of 2,182 acres of primitive, beautiful, historic and unique Hoosier landscape. It lies at the north end of State Road 49 in Porter County, and includes more than three miles of beautiful beach along Lake Michigan’s southern shore.

Art and Culture
Indianapolis Museum of Art 100 acres, Art Institute of Chicago, Nashville, Ind., Arts Colony.

Amish  country – Discover the tools and trappings of yesteryear and relax as you view the documentary films, walk the oaken floorboards of the 138-year-old Amish homestead, and take a leisurely farm wagon ride around the 80-acre Amish Acres farm. You’ll learn the whys and ways of the Amish as your guide winds you through the 12 room white frame house, barn and inviting outbuildings. You’ll experience the sights and sounds of a working farm, alive with barnyard hens, livestock, gardens and apple orchard. The center point of Amish Acres restoration is the Stahly-Nissley-Kuhns farmstead, the only Amish farm listed in The National Register of Historic Places.

Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs – Looking for a way to travel cheap this summer? Here’s some ways you can enjoy the outdoors, make memories and still have cash left in your wallet when you get home.  Some examples:
$5 (Entrance Fee Only)
Take a hike and check out a playground.
Visit the nature center and stay for a fun program with the interpretive naturalist.
Pack towels and suits and take a swim at a beach (where available).
Bring your lawn chair and relax in a picnic area with a good book.
Take a trip back in time to Spring Mill’s Pioneer Village, Mounds’ Bronnenberg Home and Great Mound, Turkey Run’s Lusk Home or Lincoln’s Col. William Jones Home.
$10-$20 (Entrance Fee + Activity Fee)
Spend the day at one of our swimming pools.
Take a hike and enjoy a picnic lunch packed at home.
Take your kids fishing!
Take your little ones for a pony ride.
Go on a hayride.
$15-$25 (Entrance Fee + Activity Fee)
Rent a paddleboat or rowboat/canoe.
Take a horseback ride $13-$25/person.
Enjoy a meal at one of  seven state park inn restaurants.
$25-50 (Entrance Fee + Activity Fee)
Camp during the week (Sun-Wed) in a primitive or non-electric site.
Reserve a picnic shelter and have a family reunion.

Theme Parks
Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari, Santa Claus, Ind., is an all-inclusive theme park/water park for all ages. It offers families a great getaway with all sorts of perks, including free soft drinks, free parking, free use of inner tubes in the water park and free sunscreen. Discounts of $2 to $11 apply to the full-price, all-day rates of $42.95 for General Admission and $32.95 for Guests-under-54-inches and seniors (60+). Just bring any empty Pepsi can or Bunny Bread wrapper to the ticket booths for a discount on up to 8 admission tickets (per can or wrapper). Discounts vary depending on when you come to the parks.

Greatimes Fun Park, Indianapolis.  A 5-acre park complex with go-karts, miniature golf, bumper boats, a multi-level indoor play land for younger children and a two-story arcade. Free admissions, pay per game.

Adults Only – Indiana Wineries.
The age-old art of winemaking is transformed into a casual event with a relaxed Hoosier style. The 56 Indiana wineries in every part of the state offer a wonderful opportunity for a weekend excursion with family, friends or a loved one. Wineries offer close to home adventures with an educational flare. Tour the winery and cellar, enjoy a picnic overlooking the rolling hills and vineyards or relax around the tasting bar sampling different wines.

Free Chicago Summer Events
Taste of Chicago (June 24-July 3) Chicago’s tremendous array of culinary delights are located in one place at the 10-day lakefront festival where food choices range from ethnic to exotic to Chicago specialties.
15th Annual Chicago Summer Dance (July 7-Sept. 18). This 11-week admission free festival features one-hour dance lessons by professional instructors, followed by two hours of live music and dancing on a 4,900 square foot open-air dance floor in Grant Park.
Chicago Jazz Festival (Sept. 1-4) The longest running of the city’s lakefront music festivals. For the past 30 years, the Chicago Jazz Festival has been a Labor Day weekend tradition.

French Lick and West Baden
French Lick Resort, Spa and Casino and West Baden Springs Hotel, French Lick, Ind.  French Lick Resort is a $500 million historic restoration and casino development project that includes the West Baden Springs Hotel, French Lick Springs Hotel and the new French Lick Casino. This premier resort and casino destination in Southern Indiana features 686 guest rooms and suites; a 51,000-square-foot, single-level casino; 45 holes of golf, including the fully restored 1917-designed Donald Ross Course at French Lick and the new, 18-hole Pete Dye Course at French Lick; two full-service spas with a combined 36 treatment rooms totaling 42,000 square feet; meeting and event space totaling 115,000 square feet and an array of dining and entertainment options.

About Patricia King

Patricia King is a travel writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. A former reporter for several newspapers and wire services, she also writes about budget and best value travel and North American travel destinations topics in Indianapolis, across the country and around the world at Examiner.com. Feel free to drop her a line at latham7997-travelwriter@yahoo.com with suggestions for future stories. To get her stories delivered to your inbox, click the RSS feed or the “Subscribe” button above or follow her on Twitter.com/@savvytravelling.