One tank or less | Road trips from Chicago
Whether your family’s looking for a new urban adventure or one that gets you back in touch with nature, you don’t have to spend a fortune on gas to get there.
Indianapolis (180 miles from Chicago)
Indy is polishing itself up to host the 2012 Super Bowl, making this summer a perfect time to take advantage of some fresh improvements. The city is putting $50 million into its Cultural Trail to connect six main cultural districts via an eight-mile bike path. Public art installments are also planned along the trail (for maps, go to indyculturaltrail.org). For a unique vantage point of the downtown waterfront, take a (serenaded! In Italian!) gondola ride through White River State Park (board at 337 W 11th St, 317-340-2489; rides start at $30).
Don’t miss a visit to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (3000 N Meridian St, 317-334-3322, childrensmuseum.org; $16.50, ages 2–17 $11.50), which—at nearly 473,000 square feet—is the largest children’s museum in the world and houses its own planetarium and carousel. Give yourself at least one full day here to explore exhibit after amazing exhibit (many designed with kids up to age 12 in mind, a nice change from most children’s museums, which tend to skew younger). Highlights include the new “National Geographic Treasures of the Earth” (opening June 11), where visitors can see recreations of world-famous archaeological sites, and “Barbie: The Fashion Experience,” where you can play dress-up with dolls and see collections of vintage Kens and Barbies.
The NCAA Hall of Champions (700 W Washington St, 317-916-4255, ncaahallofchampions.org; $5, ages 6–18 $3, 5 and under free) is a must for college-sports fans. Check out interactive exhibits on every NCAA sport from baseball to wrestling, and test your skills shooting baskets, kicking soccer balls and fielding speeding tennis balls. The new Rhythm Discovery Center (110 W Washington St, 317-275-9030, rhythmdiscoverycenter.org; $8, kids $5) gives visitors a chance to make some noise on an impressive collection of world instruments.
Book one of 26 original Pullman train-car sleeping rooms at the Crowne Plaza Union Station (123 W Louisiana St, 877-227-6963, about $145/night), which is right downtown. They’re named for famous personalities from the early 1900s heyday of rail travel (think Charlie Chaplin and Jean Harlow), and decorated in period style. Nearby, a branch of the local mini-chain Café Patachou (225 W Washington St, 317-632-0765) serves fresh and crowd-pleasing cinnamon-sugar toast at breakfast, plus tasty salads and sandwiches.