|Indiana Department of Natural Resources||http://www.in.gov/dnr/|
|Kentucky State Parks||http://kentucky.gov/Portal/Category/rec_parks|
|Michigan Department of Natural Resources||http://www.michigan.gov/dnr|
|Ohio Department of Natural Resources||http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/|
For those who just cannot bear to leave Purdue for more than 12 hours or so, there are still several attractive options. Of the places discussed above, the Wabash Reservoirs, Turkey Run, and Shades are close enough so that a day of swimming (only at the reservoirs), hiking, and picnicking followed by a return to Lafayette is feasible. Indiana Dunes and Warren Dunes are a bit farther, but the beaches are very nice. A little closer is Indiana Beach (Lake Shafer), about 45 minutes away, in Monticello. In addition to the beach, there is an old amusement park. There is a half-mile-long boardwalk, specialty shops, restaurants, night clubs, and a daily water ski show. A few words of warning, don't go if you can't stand tourist traps and don't expect much of a “beach”. To get there, take 43 North to Reynolds, then 24 East towards Monticello. As you pass several car dealerships, you'll see the sign telling you to turn left for Indiana Beach. Before you get to the entrance to the Beach, you'll pass Lake Shafer Cove Marina. You can rent water-skiing boats there by the hour. Figure on four people per boat. This is a lot of fun, but you'll probably find that one hour is not enough time to get your fill. One of the nicer small beaches in that area is on Lake Freeman at the Twin Lakes Marina. It is located off 421 south of Monticello. For more info, check out http://www.indianabeach.com/.
Conner Prairie is for those of you who enjoy the “living history” approach to history. The village was restored by the Eli Lilly Foundation, donated to Earlham College (Purdue turned it down!), and appears as it might have in the early 1800's. The “inhabitants” of the 25-building village perform their usual chores as you walk through the village. They are dressed as people of that era dressed, talk like people of the 1800's talked, and fill their days by making pottery, quilts, candles, and all kinds of home-baked pies and goodies. There's even an old schoolmarm who'll make you sit in her one-room schoolhouse and recite your lessons if you happen to walk by when she's ringing the bell to call students to class.
The place is open April to December, Wednesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm. It takes a little over an hour to get to the village, which is located northeast of Indianapolis just south of Noblesville. To get there, hop on I-65 south to Indy. Take the belt I-465 east and watch for the exit for Noblesville, which is the Allisonville Road exit. Conner Prairie is north 7 miles (on the left). The street address is 13400 Allisonville Road and the phone is (317) 776-6000. For additional information, visit http://www.connerprairie.org/.
Parke County is renowned for its Covered Bridge Festival, a week-long fall event featuring the county's 30 or so still functional covered bridges. Last year some 400,000 visitors drove through bridges on the four marked routes during the colorful fall festival, usually held in mid-October. The town square at Rockville is the center of activities and the starting place for the tours. Numerous shanties and tents fill the square that week. Merchants offer locally grown produce, jams and jellies, and artwork. It's a good place to pick up some Indian corn and pumpkins.
Rockville is located just South of Turkey Run on route 41. Take route 231 South to Crawfordsville, then route 47 to Turkey Run and the 41 intersection. An alternative way to get there is to take route 25 South from Lafayette to Odell, then route 28 West to Attica, then route 41 straight South to Rockville. Driving time is about an hour and 30 minutes.
Write the Tourist Information Center, Rockville, IN 47872 for information on the festival. To avoid all the tourists, try to go during the week of the festival instead of on the two weekends. Of course, going the week before or after the festival allows you to avoid the crowds, too, at the expense of missing the festivities in the town square. The covered bridges will be there whenever you want to visit. Photographers might want to try them even in the winter. For additional information, visit http://coveredbridges.com/.
Living in West Lafayette does have some advantages. You are only an hour from Indianapolis and 2 1/2 hours from Chicago. Most bands that go on tour come to either or both of these cities. In Indy, Deer Creek Music Center gets the most shows. Take I-65 South to I-465 East to I-69 North to exit 10 (State Road 238). Really big concerts sometimes go to the Hoosierdome (football stadium). Whatever show is there probably goes through ticket master so check out http://www.ticketmaster.com/
One of the largest aviation museums in the world is located about 3 hours from Lafayette near Dayton, Ohio. The museum is part of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base located on the east side of the city. Among the many exhibits are a Wright Brothers' plane, several space capsules from the Mercury and Apollo missions, an IMAX theater, and lots of military aircraft. It takes about 4 hours to go through the museum. It is impressive. For directions and more information see http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/.
If you have more time to spend in Dayton, try to visit Carillon Park, located south of the business district on Patterson/Dixie Highway (just off Route 25). This city park contains several restored buildings which were important to early Dayton, such as the Wright Brothers' Cycle Shop, Dayton's first building (a tavern!), an old schoolhouse, a water-powered grist mill, and the famous Carillon Bells. Guides take you through the park (open until 8:30 pm); the tour takes about 2 hours.
And the best thing is: both of these attractions are free! Dayton is easily reached by traveling on I-65 to Indy, then taking I-70 to Dayton. Suggestion: make a weekend trip; combine sightseeing in Dayton with a trip to King's Island (see amusement park description).
If you really want some action and can venture further than Columbian Park, there are several large amusement parks in neighboring states.
Located 4+ hours from WL, 30 minutes north of Cincinnati, Ohio on I-71 at the King's Island exit. The park is open daily (10am to 10pm) from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, and weekends starting in late April and ending around mid-October. It is a $30 million complex with 5 theme areas surrounding a 33-story replica of the Eiffel Tower. Go during the week if you can; the lines on weekends are very bad. For information, call 1-513-241-5600. The best ride in the park is backwards on “The Racer” (two roller coasters running in parallel - one forwards, and one backwards) in the last seat (with your hands in the air, of course). The ride lasts about three minutes. Another large attraction, “The Beast,” is one-and-three-quarter miles long, making it one of the world's largest roller coasters. The ride lasts 3 minutes and 40 seconds, including a 135-foot drop at a 45 degree angle.
Claims to be the world's largest ride park. It has 57 rides including at least 5 roller coasters, including the (at present) world's tallest and fastest. Currently, their most popular ride is “The Raptor” which is an inverted roller coaster (your legs hang free from the bottom). Cedar Point is in Sandusky, Ohio, midway between Toledo and Cleveland, and is open mid-May through Labor Day, 10 am to 10 pm. For information, call 1-419-626-0830.
Midway between Chicago and Milwaukee. Great America is relatively new and clean and has 37 rides, 4 live shows, 28 restaurants, and other miscellaneous attractions. It's open on weekends, May through mid-October, and daily (10am to 8pm) Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
Near St. Louis and is the largest place. There are more than 100 rides, shows, and special attractions at this park, which is 30 miles southwest of the St. Louis riverfront at the intersection of I-44 and Allenton Six Flags Road. Tickets are available at one-day and weekend rates.
For a break after spring finals, Holland, Michigan offers the world- famous Tulip Festival the second week in May. A week long, it offers a wide range of activities, including organ recitals at Hope College, two wooden shoe factories, parades every day, hundreds of Klompen dancers (authentic girls in authentic costumes performing authentic Dutch dances), street scrubbing, and band concerts. On Saturday there is a huge parade featuring about 50 bands and, of course, there are tulips lining all the streets. It takes about 3 hours to get to Holland. Campers will probably want to spend the night at the state park located 6 miles northwest of Holland on the beach of Lake Michigan.