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Family Vacations In Indiana: A Huffington Post Travel Guide

08/12/2011 01:51 pm ET | Updated Oct 12, 2011

Family vacations in Indiana can be rewarding experiences or absolute disasters — it all depends on pre-trip homework. To make planning easier, we've done all the preparation. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on traveling with children, here are recommended attractions for those planning Indiana family vacations.

University of Notre Dame and South Bend


A trip to Indiana isn't complete without a visit to the University of Notre Dame to see its spectacular golden dome. The dome overlooks the university's 1,250-acre campus of ivy-covered walls. Features include St. Mary's Lake, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and the legendary football stadium, which sits beside the Hesburg Library. Check out the the mural of Touchdown Jesus on the side of the library. While in South Bend, visit the Studebaker National Museum, the South Bend Museum of Art and the South Bend Chocolate Company.

Address: 100 Eck Center, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Phone: 574-631-6000
Hours: Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Price: Free

Children's Museum of Indianapolis


One of the largest children's museums in the world, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis offers five levels of hands-on exhibits and "playscapes" for children and families to learn about science, health, animals, pop culture and the world. In particular, the Dinosphere, SciencePort, Biotech Learning Center and the Carousel of Wishes and Dreams are not to be missed.

Address: 3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208-4716
Phone: 800-820-6214 or 317-334-3322
Hours: Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Labor Day; open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Labor Day through February; closed Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Price: Tickets range from $11.50 to $16.50

Conner Prairie Interactive History Park


An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, Conner Prairie Interactive History Park is a living history museum that allows families to interact with costumed interpreters of different periods in time and step back into their worlds. Outdoor exhibits include a Lenape Indian camp and an authentic 1836 Indiana village. Special events are conducted year-round to enhance the learning experience.

Address: 13400 Allisonville Road Fishers, IN 46038
Phone: 317-776-6006 or 800-966-1836
Hours:Both indoor and outdoor areas of the museum are open Tuesday through Sunday from May through October. During November, the indoor museum is open Thursday through Sunday. In December, the indoor museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Hours vary.
Price: Adults, $14; seniors, $13; children (ages 2 to 12), $9. Members and children younger than 2, free. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Dunes rising as high as 125 feet and sandy beaches extending 15 miles along Lake Michigan are the biggest draws of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Hiking, biking and horseback riding — as well as wildlife-watching opportunities through the lakeshore's intricate system of bogs, marshland, woods and flatlands — keep families coming back every season.

Address: 1100 N Mineral Springs Rd Porter, IN 46304
Phone: 219- 926-7561
Hours: Open year-round: Summer hours from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Winter hours from Labor Day weekend to Memorial Day weekend, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day
Price: Admission and parking are free, except at West Beach, which charges $6 per car Memorial Day through Labor Day. Walk-ins and bicyclists pay $1.

Holiday World and Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana


At Holiday World and Splashin' Safari, the whole family will want to try to tame the Wildebeest, the world's longest water coaster with a third of a mile of twists, turns and drops. Younger ones can ride the Freedom Train through Mother Goose Land and climb Holidog's Treehouse. If they're tall enough, children can ride the Raging Rapids, the Pilgrims Plunge and the Scarecrow Scrambler.

Address: 452 East Christmas Blvd Santa Claus, IN 47579
Phone: 877-GO-FAMILY (877-463-2645) or 812-937-4401
Hours: Holiday World and Splashin' Safari are open daily in the summer. Hours vary. See the website for more details.
Price: Adults, $42.95; guests shorter than 54 inches or seniors, $32.95; children 2 and younger, free.

The Indy 500


On Memorial Day weekend, Indianapolis is the scene of the "greatest spectacle in racing," as it has been for the past 100 years. The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race is the main event and the largest single-day sporting event in the world. It is preceded every year by the time trials and a month-long festival, culminating in a world-class parade that highlights all of the race car drivers, celebrities, civic groups and honorees the day before the race. If you can't make it in May, a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a good idea any time, as there is also a museum commemorating the race's historic moments.

Address: 4790 West 16th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222
Phone: 317-492-8500
Hours: IMS Hall of Fame Museum, March through October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November through February from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Extended hours during May. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Price: Prices for tickets to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway vary widely and must be applied for online. IMS Hall of Fame Museum tickets: Adults $5; children 6 to 15 years old $3; children under 6 free

White River State Park


The 250-acre White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis offers family-friendly attractions including the Indianapolis Zoo, the White River Gardens, the Indiana State Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the NCAA Hall of Champions Museum, an IMAX theater and the Indianapolis Indians' Victory Field. The 64-acre Indianapolis Zoo features 250 species of animals in their natural habitats and simulates a trip around the world. Families won't want to miss the butterfly house at the White River Gardens, and kids of all ages will enjoy paddle boating on the canal that runs through the state park.

Address: 801 West Washington Street Indianapolis, IN 46204
Phone: 317- 233-2434
Hours: Each of the individual attractions within the park sets its own hours. The Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Indiana State Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The NCAA Hall of Champions Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
Price: Admission is charged at the individual attractions, ranging from $7 to $16.

Have you been to Indiana? What are your favorite attractions?

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