My friend Karen has visited White Rock Park in Indiana several times this summer and I asked her to share some tips for families visiting for the first time. I really want to go there and I think many of you will want to add this destination to your summer bucket list after you see her pictures as well.
I have to admit that my visit to Fort Wayne, Indiana really surprised me. I had no idea that the downtown had so much to offer. Growing up, we would visit my cousins who lived about 30 minutes from downtown Fort Wayne, but we typically only visited the mall which left me with an impression from 30+ years ago that there wasn’t much to do there. Well Fort Wayne, you got the last laugh and my apology.
I discovered Oldenburg, Indiana on a whim. My boys and I were traveling back from Indy and my curiosity won. Known as the Village of the Spires, Oldenburg’s German heritage and charm makes it a great daytrip getaway located about an hour from Cincinnati.
Northwestern Indiana was the meeting point to pick up my boys who were visiting family in Michigan. It was a 2 hour drive for them and around 4 hours for me. It was also a great excuse to visit a city that we had never explored before.
So what is there to do around Valparaiso?
For my first visit to Wilstem Ranch I tried an adventure on their ATV tour that gave me more confidence that I could drive an ATV sucessfully over challenging torerain. For my second adventure at Wilstem Ranch, I discovered another reason that I HAD to go back.
An opportunity to encounter an elephant up close.
I love finding unique experiences and places. When I found out that Sleeping Bear Retreat in French Lick, Indiana had tepees to sleep in, I was really excited to share this adventure with my family.
We discovered the affordable adventures that South Bend, Indiana has to offer almost on accident when we needed a meeting place for a kid exchange with relatives from Michigan. South Bend seemed like a good meeting point because it was a few hours from both of us. I decided that my husband and I should make the most of it and explore for a bit while we were kidless for a few hours.
So why is Rudolph Campground and R.V. Park so popular?
Santa Claus, Indiana is a popular destination for families. The big draw to the area is Holiday World, which is an affordable, family friendly theme park that offers great rides with a great value. With each admission you can enjoy unlimited free soft drinks and sunscreen.
So what does Bloomington, Indiana have to offer?
I discovered that Bloomington offers more than I expected. Of course there is a lot of activity surrounded around the University of Indiana, but I think that only enhances your experience.
During my visit to Bloomington, I visited Oliver Winery the first evening. The grounds are absolutely gorgeous! I can see why this is a popular location for special events. The wine selection is also wonderful which gives plenty of options for every pallet. What started as a hobby for a former Indiana law professor in the 1960’s has grown into one of the largest wineries in the eastern United States.
The following day our group discovered downtown.
We started our downtown tour with lunch at Uptown Cafe. Uptown Cafe has been local favorite since it opened in 1976. The owner, Michael Cassidy fell in love with Louisiana style cooking and the menu and atmosphere reflect his love of New Orleans.
I opted for the Cajun Meatloaf that’s an Uptown Classic. (Char-grilled and served on a toasted brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.)
After lunch we walked to the Monroe County Courthouse, Pictura Gallery, and Bloomington Antique Mall. There are lots of unique shops on Morton Street that are worth checking out. If you love vintage items, you might want to allow more time to spend inside the Antique Mall. If you love architecture, you will really enjoy the detail of the courthouse.
After our walking tour I wandered solo for hours downtown discovering the Indiana University at my own pace. I didn’t use a map so I relied on random strangers to point me in the direction of interesting things. The campus of Indiana University is really beautiful. The free art museum on campus was definitely an additional SCORE!
I also loved this sculpture.
For dinner, we ate at a farm to table restaurant downtown called FARMbloomington. This restaurant has a very eclectic atmosphere and takes pride in creating “crowd pleasing recipes for every budget and taste using local foods with global flavors.”
After our meal we watched the performing arts group “Hudsucker Posse” outside in the back parking lot.
FARMbloomington also had another eclectic gem in the lower level called The Root Cellar Lounge. This speakeasy style bar has little seating nooks that create a cozy atmosphere for enjoying a drink.
The “Root Cellar” bar beneath Farm Bloomington is an eclectic speakeasy with several unique seating areas. #visitbtown #tmsbloomington A video posted by adventuremom (@adventuremom) on
The following day I had to try a Pineapple Dole Whip from the Chocolate Moose which is a beloved local favorite place to get a sweet treat.
All of the locations that I mentioned above were walkable from our stay at the Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Bloomington. The hotel is also right next to the Monroe County Convention Center.
I really enjoyed discovering Bloomington for the 1st time during my visit. You can find even more things to do in Bloomington from their website.
The USS LST 325 made a brief visit for a few days to Cincinnati, Ohio for public tours. I first observed the transport ship from afar on the Ohio River in Evansville, Indiana, a few years ago. The ship resides in Evansville most of the time. We were really excited to get the opportunity to tour the inside while it was in Cincy.
LST stands for Landing Ship, Tank and this ship was the largest one ever designed to drop off transport on a hostile beach. What’s even more amazing is that the LST is still operable today.
You start the tour on the lower level.
One of the first things we noticed was the Greek writing as we entered the ship.
The USS LST 325 was sold to the Greek Navy after it was no longer needed in the war. Years later, a group of retired U.S. Veterans acquired the LST when they found out that is was going to be scrapped. One of the conditions was that the Greek writing and art had to stay. You will notice those signs and symbols along your tour throughout the ship.
The Upper Level was really interesting because we were able to observe the guns upclose and get an idea of how huge the ship really is.
The LST 325 had 54 volunteers helping in a variety of ways. Make sure that you talk to them and ask lots of questions because they know so much about the ship. It’s also great to know that money used for the tours helps keep the ship in operation. It was definitely worth the $20 for the two of us to walk on such a historical ship.
The Jeep on display was actually used in the show MASH.
My husband and I each have grandparents who fought in WW2. One of my husband’s grandfathers was even stationed on a ship just like this one in the war and his job was to work the gun on the upper deck. It was really interesting to get a sense of perspective for what his grandfather’s position would have been like. I can only imagine how scary it would be in battle.
The LST 325 Memorial resides in Evansville, Indiana most of the year so you’ll want to check the calendar for details so that you can see it for yourself.
You can find out more about the USS LST 325 from the website.