Best family day trips from Indianapolis

Well-known as the home of sliced bread and the legendary Indy 500, today Indianapolis is a dynamic, modern city that lights up the American Midwest.

The city is littered with great attractions for tourists travelling with children, with plenty of family-friendly locations to explore. Get behind the wheel of a hire car in Indianapolis to see the best of the city on your own terms – and enjoy your American adventure.


The Newfields campus provides the perfect setting for an afternoon of fresh air and family fun. Wander through the blooming gardens, exploring the orchard, fountains and Lilly House –  a 1930s mansion with the most amazing vintage decor.

Here, you’ll find photo opportunities around every corner. Contemporary sculptures are woven into the landscape, and there are gorgeous views throughout the grounds of a 35-acre lake – perfect for a family picnic or a post-lunch walk. What’s more, Newfields has a full programme of fascinating events, including art exhibitions, dance showcases and film nights.

Lake Monroe

Just more than an hour’s drive from Indianapolis, past the small city of Bloomington, lies the largest inland lake in the state: Lake Monroe. This man-made lake was created in the 1960s, and covers more than 10,000 acres – or 5,000 football pitches – making it a weekend wonderland for locals.

At all times of year you can join fishers on the banks (even in winter) or get active with hikers and cyclists on the surrounding trails. Or why not push the boat out – literally – by going water-skiing, windsurfing and kayaking? Camping’s an option here, too. At the end of the day, pitch your tent and stay overnight at one of the local campgrounds. Watching the sun set then rise over Monroe’s rippling waters is a truly spectacular experience you’ll never forget.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The city’s biggest draw is probably the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – home of the annual Indy 500. To attend the major race, which happens every May Memorial Day, you’ll need to book well in advance. If you don’t manage to reserve a seat for this legendary sporting event, there’s still plenty to do here.

The on-site Speedway Museum is open to explore, with the cars of former winners proudly on display. You can also see the comically large trophy reserved for the winner of the Indy 500 which, fittingly, weighs 500 pounds. You can even tour the track. While the tour bus doesn’t travel match the speed and thrill of an Indy 500 car, it does give you some idea of the thrills a racing driver might have doing lap after lap of this vintage circuit.

Indiana Beach

Lake Shafer is home to Indiana Beach – a resort, water park and amusement park, all within two hours’ drive from Indianapolis. It’s well worth planning a day trip here – or even an extended break – as it’s the place to be for families looking for fun and adventure, and draws in crowds from across the Midwest.

You’ll find dozens of water slides and rollercoasters, running the gamut from family-friendly to adrenaline-junkies-only. Float along Action River in the comfort of a rubber ring or hurtle upside down on Zero G – whatever takes your fancy. For tiny tots, there are plenty of gentler rides to get excited about. At night, the giant gondola wheel illuminates the park – transfixing kids of all ages. There’s also live music here, providing you with mellow vibes and finger-drumming tunes for the drive home.

Conner Prairie

Around 30 minutes’ drive north of Indianapolis, Conner Prairie makes for a great day out with children in tow. This interactive living museum is based around the home of William Conner, an 18th-century trader, businessman, politician and founder of towns and counties. Conner Prairie perfect captures the realities of frontier life during the time of one of Indiana’s primary figures.

Actors dressed up in historical outfits bring the 18th and 19th centuries to life as you explore the area. From crafts to cooking, there’s plenty to take part in yourself, too. You can also take a tethered balloon ride, tuck into a hearthside supper and, at the farm, watch some working animals. To get hands-on, head for the Makesmith Workshop and try your hand at weaving, metal work or carpentry.

Whether you collect your hire car in the city or at Indianapolis Airport, this energised destination is packed with exciting things to do with your family.