Family-Friendly Places to Visit this Summer in Southern Indiana

School’s out and summer is here. With plenty of free time on their hands, it’s easy for kids to overindulge in social media, YouTube, or gaming. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting kids’ screen time and encouraging healthy habits. Too much screen time can negatively impact a child’s physical and mental health. So what can they do instead? To cure a case of I’m-so-bored and keep kids active this summer, here’s a list of family-friendly places to visit, activities and events to help achieve a healthy screen time balance and create lasting memories.  

Explore nature

Head to the lake

You don’t need a boat to enjoy the lake! There are beaches along Lake Monroe, Lake Lemon, and Patoka Lake perfect for a day or afternoon. Bring a picnic lunch and plenty of sunscreen.

Go for a hike

Southern Indiana offers visitors beautiful, intriguing forests, rich with interesting features to explore, including creeks, caves, waterfalls, and fire towers. Here are just a few to consider:

There are many family-friendly places to visit in the Hoosier National Forest.
  • McCormick’s Creek (near Spencer): Climb down the stairs to see the waterfall or hike Trail 3 to Wolf Cave, now reopened after the 2023 tornado damage.
  • Clifty Falls State Park (near Madison): Explore Clifty Creek’s stony bed and experience the park’s ever-changing waterfalls.
  • Hoosier National Forest (near Bloomington, Bedford and French Lick): This expansive forest covers 204,000 acres and offers a wide mix of rolling hills, back-country trails and is home to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, the only Wilderness in Indiana.
  • Morgan-Monroe State Forest (near Bloomington/Martinsville): Hike the Tree Identification Trail or see glacial boulders along the stream beds. 
  • Brown County State Park (near Bloomington/Nashville): This park is nicknamed the “Little Smokies” because of the rugged hills that remind visitors of the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • Ferdinand State Forest (near Jasper): Hike along the trails and beautiful lakes, or have lunch in one of the picnic areas.

And remember, you don’t have to go far to turn an ordinary walk into a getaway. Places like Jackson Creek Park and the Lower Cascades Park in Bloomington, or the Riverwalk in Jasper have natural areas with streams to explore, rocks to jump, and even a waterfall at Cascades.

Chill out in a cave

If you’re up for a big adventure, check out Marengo Cave. Offering trail tours, camping, cave exploring and more, keep your kids engaged and learning about this U.S. National Natural Landmark.

Family-friendly places to visit outdoors

Ride a horse

Give your child or grandchild a lasting memory by connecting through a graceful, beautiful animal. Brown County State Park, McCormick’s Creek,  Stables at French Lick Resort, and various local stables offer short and sweet pony rides or longer trail rides for older riders.  

Wilstem Wildlife in Paoli lets families see different kinds of animals and create lasting summer memories.
Meet animals at the Wilstem Wildlife Park in Paoli, Indiana. Image source: Wilstem.com

Meet animals

Wilstem Wildlife Park in Paoli features a wide range of animals, including elephants, kangaroos, giraffes, and sloths and provides a memorable and educational experience for kids and adults alike.

Swim in a local pool

You know them, you love them. Outdoor pools in your town are the place to be on hot summer days. Don’t forget to bring your own snacks to save on concessions. Visit the John Lowery Municipal Pool in Bedford, Bryan Park Pool or IU Outdoor Pool in Bloomington, or the Bloomfield Pool.

One family-friendly place to visit in Bloomington on a hot day is the spray pad at Switchyard Park.
Cool off at the Switchyard Plaza Spray Pad in Bloomington. Image source: Switchyardpark.com.

Stay cool at a splash pad

Hitting the park on a hot day can be brutal — but not when it’s a splash pad park! Adults can join in the fun and cool off, too. Splash pads offer a great alternative to pools for kids that haven’t learned to swim yet. Check out Karst Farm Park Splash Pad or Switchyard Plaza Spray Pad in Bloomington, and  Central Green in Jasper.

Play miniature golf

Test your skills at mini-golf this summer. There’s a great course near Ellettsville, Hoosier Putt Hole.  

Escape the rain or heat indoors

A large indoor waterpark with slides and palm trees.
Play indoors at the Big Splash water park in French Lick. Image source: BigSplashAdventure.com

Head to an indoor water park

Bad weather can’t stop the fun here! You can enjoy Big Splash water park in French Lick or the Abe Martin Lodge Water Park in Nashville. Just be sure to call ahead to make sure the day pass is available.

Enjoy your local library

Libraries hold reading programs with prizes over the summer to encourage kids to read — and adults can get in on the fun, too. Find your next book and check out their schedule of upcoming free events.

Go roller skating

Get ready to feel nostalgic. Head over to Western Skateland in Bloomington on $2 Tuesdays or Jasper Skate Palace in Jasper.  

Hang out at the mall

Shopping isn’t required to have fun at the mall. Many malls have activities for kids, including College Mall in Bloomington, which has a free play area as well as a small arcade, rides and games throughout the mall. It’s perfect for getting out of the house for an hour or two.

Climb at The Commons

The James A. Henderson Playground in The Commons building in Columbus, Indiana, is a free, indoor space for kids to let out some energy. There’s a two-story climber for older kids, as well as an infant/toddler area, slides and tunnels. And while you’re in Columbus, don’t forget to check out other family-friendly places to visit, including Zaharakos ice cream parlor right across the street.  

Bowling is an excellent activity to keep kids active this summer.
Play for free at participating bowling centers through the Kids Bowl Free program.

Go bowling

Head to your local bowling alley to enjoy this time-tested activity. You can sign up for two free games at participating bowling centers through the Kids Bowl Free program, including Classic Bowling Lanes and IMU Bowling & Billiards in Bloomington and Eastown Recreation Center in Jasper.

Play a game of laser tag

Kids and adults enjoy the excitement playing laser tag at Laserlite in Bloomington and Shotz in French Lick. Test your aim and play parents versus kids to show them who’s still got it. 

Spark curiosity at a museum

The Koch Family Children’s Museum provides opportunities for kids to learn and explore with their families.
Create, explore and discover through play at the Koch Family Children’s Museum of Evansville. Image source: cmoekids.org.

Visit a children’s museum

When you’re up for a big adventure, take the kids to one of the amazing children’s museums in southern or central Indiana, including Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Koch Family Children’s Museum of Evansville or Kidscommons in Columbus. There is so much to do, it can be hard to see it all, so plan ahead and make sure to visit your must-see items first.

Explore a children’s science museum

The WonderLab in Bloomington provides a fantastic opportunity for hands-on exploration and learning about science, health and technology. You can plan your trip ahead and see a live a presentation.

Make a big impression at an attraction

Take a trip to Holiday World

Rollercoasters, water slides and entertainment galore, Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari is a theme park action-packed with activities, thrills, and adventure.

Urban Air is a trampoline park with many activities for kids.
Kids and kids-at-heart jump, climb and fly at Urban Air. Image source: UrbanAir.com.

Let them loose at Urban Air

A trampoline park in Bloomington near Ellettsville, Urban Air is a kid’s dream come true. Let your kids have a blast jumping on trampolines, flying high on the Sky Rider, climbing to new heights on ropes courses, and practicing ninja warrior skills. 

Family-friendly summer events

Summer goes by quickly, so mark your calendars for these events you don’t want to miss.

The Strawberry Shortcake Festival is a family-friendly event at Switchyard Park in Bloomington, Indiana.

Summer is short, so enjoy each day to its fullest! With plenty of free events, family-friendly places to visit, and the great outdoors ready and waiting for you to explore, you can help your kids find a healthy balance of screen time powered by our Fast Fiber Internet, and everything else that makes life wonderful.

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