Carmel residents searching for a fun day trip for the whole family are in luck. Our area features a wide range of exciting and relaxing activities for all ages, so whether you’re looking for a day outdoor exploring nature, a visit to a museum, or anything in between, you’re sure to find a day trip that fits your budget and desired driving time. Crème de la Crème of Carmel, IN put together this list of easy day trips you just have to try.

1. Marengo Cave

A picture taken while on a guided tour in the Marengo Cave near Carmel, IN

Marengo Cave tour” by Bart Everson is licensed through CC BY 2.0

You can get to Marengo Cave in less than three hours from Carmel, making it easy to plan an adventure for the family. If your kids are inspired by the natural world, Marengo Cave is a must-visit on your list of potential day trips. Enjoy guided tours of the caverns, mining for gem stones, and more on a visit.

Discovered in 1883, the cave system today is a popular spot. Better yet, you can easily find a walking tour option that suits your family’s needs and desires. The Crystal Palace tour is an easygoing option, winding through rooms filled with formations and past flow stone deposits for around 40 minutes, making it a great choice if you’re looking for a relaxed walk. The Dripstone Trail tour takes about an hour. This mile-long tour treats you to totem pole stalagmites, delicate soda straws, and Penny Ceiling for a truly breathtaking experience.

No matter which tour you choose, you’ll get to see some awe-inspiring stalactites, stalagmites, and other rock formations. Kids under 3 years old can go on either tour for free. Tickets for kids aged 4 to 12 years cost $10.95 for the Crystal Palace tour and $12.95 for the Dripstone Trail tour, while tickets for anyone aged 13 and older are $18.95 and $21.95, respectively.

If you’d like to do both tours, you can also go for a combo ticket to save. Combo tickets cost $16.95 for kids between the ages of 4 and 12 years, and $28.95 for visitors 13 and up. Kids under the age of 3 still enter for free.

2. Brown County State Park

You can reach Brown County State Park in just about an hour from Carmel, which is great news if your family loves the outdoors. This picturesque state park is particularly beautiful when the autumn leaves create a gorgeous backdrop, but you can find something to do here any time of year you’re in the mood for a relaxing day out and about. Brown County State Park sits close to the creative, peaceful town of Nashville, so you can expand your adventure to the neighboring areas, too.

Whether you want to go hiking, biking, or swimming, there’s something for everyone at this state park. Check out the rare yellowwood tree on Trail 5, or have fun at the Water Park pool at Abe Martin Lodge. Searching for a great place for a family hike? You’ll find a variety of trails to explore here, ranging from easy walks to more rugged challenges. Non-commercial vehicles with Indiana license plates can make use of a $7 daily entrance fee for state parks, though license fees may apply for things like fishing, boating, and horseback riding.

3. Patoka Lake

Just because we live in a landlocked state doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some summertime refreshment! Plan a relaxing getaway to Patoka Lake. Located less than a three-hour drive from Carmel, the lake certainly fits the bill if you’re looking for a tranquil day out.

Whether you want to take a boat trip to explore all this reservoir has to offer or just let the kids take a dip in the water, Patoka Lake makes finding an escape from the bustle of daily life easier than ever. The 8,800-acre lake is a freshwater habit for jellyfish, and offers a nesting site for bald eagles. You can also find osprey and river otters here, making this an amazing place to visit if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature.

Spend a day at the beach swimming, or enjoy some fishing or hiking. With both moderate and rugged trails available, you’re sure to find the perfect experience for your family. You can also join scheduled interpreter-conducted walks or hikes that last from 30 minutes to three hours to learn about the reservoir’s nature and history. Located near historic towns, including West Baden, French Lick, and Jasper, Patoka Lake offers an amazing place to plan a day trip. You can enter following the same rates and fees structure as Brown County State Park and other Indiana state parks.

4. Koteewi Aerial Park

Do you have kiddos looking for a fun challenge? Koteewi Aerial Park is less than a half-hour away from Carmel. The aerial challenge park offers a series of obstacle courses, but with a twist — they’re up in the trees.

Ideal for children ages 7 and older, the courses here let climbers go at their own pace, ensuring that kids (and the adults with them) get a fun challenge that still matches their individual comfort and skill level. It’s a great way to build family bonds while enjoying time outside. General admission for three hours starts at $44.95 for kids ages 7 to 15 and $49.95 for anyone 16 and older, but you can also enjoy savings if you plan to stay longer by going for an all-day pass or season pass.

5. Muncie

Drive over to Muncie for a fun-filled day. The drive lasts around an hour from Carmel, and once you arrive in Muncie, you’ll have plenty to do. The city is home to Ball State University as well as museums and more.

If you’re visiting Muncie with kids, you have to check out Muncie Children’s Museum. Designed to make learning fun, this kid-friendly attraction features an outdoor learning center, make-believe theater, book nook, and beyond. Admission costs just $6 for everyone, so make sure you visit this museum with the kids while you’re in town.

That wraps up Crème de la Crème of Carmel’s list of amazing day trips to try with your family! Did we miss your favorite place to visit for the day? Let us know so we can add your area recommendation to our list.