Editor’s Note: We’re doing a series of articles on family-friendly, budget-friendly getaways that require no more than a tank of gas when visiting from Champaign-Urbana. If you’d like to contribute, we’d love to have your review of a one-tank weekend getaway. Just email us (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also, check out this board on Pinterest with local getaway ideas from our friends all around the Midwest!
It doesn’t take much to entertain my family. We love to travel and we believe that anywhere you go can be an adventure. We have an infamous family story about the time we went to Columbus, Ohio, and my daughter told a waitress we were on vacation. The waitress said “You came to Columbus for vacation?” Well yes, but that’s a post for another day …
We went to Terre Haute, Indiana, over the Memorial Day weekend to get a change of scenery and have some easy, budget-friendly family fun. My husband had spent a bit of time there for work and thought it would be fun for the kids. And I have a dear friend who grew up there, so I’ve heard a lot from her about what she does when visiting family. Best of all — Terre Haute is less than a two-hour drive away from Champaign-Urbana – nap time! Short and sweet is best for our family of five these days.
Here’s what we did:
Children’s Museum: The Terre Haute Children’s Museum is located in Downtown Terre Haute. It is science- and technology-focused, with activities for all ages (even an area where the little ones can crawl around. Much appreciated). The museum is newer than the Orpheum and not as big as The Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal. It is doable in an afternoon — some might do it in two hours, others four. What we liked about it is that kids can learn and get moving all in one stroke. One of the features our kids loved the most was the Tree House, where kids can shoot balls to “pollinate” flowers. Then they can go down a slide to pick up the balls and send them back up to the tree house via pulley system. I realize this probably doesn’t make sense unless you go.
If you go: The Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, with various hours on each day. Cost is $7 to enter for anyone over 2. Children under 24 months are free. If you have a membership to the Orpheum, you may be able to get in free.
The Oakley Playground at Deming Park: This playground rocks. It is fun for all ages, literally; it has playground features never seen at most parks, and boasts to being accessible and safe for children with disabilities. We easily spent two hours there and could have stayed longer. The park that surronds Oakley Playground is a beautiful, old park, with an arboretum, plenty of picnic spots, a pond for fishing, a swimming pool, and a miniature train. The miniature train ride costs $1.25, and is scheduled for an overhaul in 2014.
If you go: The playground and park are free. Recommendation is bring food and drink and have a picnic!
Fowler Park: This park is almost 500 acres and has such a variety of fun outdoor stuff. There’s a lake where you can swim; trails; playgrounds; and camping. We went to see the Pioneer Village with 18 houses that date back to the 1840’s. There’s a lot kids can learn about “the good old days.” The houses weren’t open when we visited, but if you time your trip right, you can go in them; they are open the third Saturday of the month from May-September. They also have special events there. Another site to see was the covered bridge that was built in 1845, called Irishman’s Bridge. Legend has it that a baby was born on this bridge.
If you go: Bring swimsuits, hiking stuff, sunscreen, and a picnic. Free!
What We Missed: I was really disappointed we didn’t get to visit the Swope Art Museum, named one of “10 great places to see art in smaller cities” by USA Today. This is right around the corner from the Children’s Museum. Also near by is the 500 Museum of Wheels, which features memorabilia related to the Indianapolis 500 collected by a Terre Haute businessman. It has odd hours.
Where to Stay: We stayed at the Candlewood Suites in Downtown Terre Haute, which is right next door to the Children’s Museum. We like staying in Suites hotels, and it is pet-friendly; we brought our dog. We got a one-bedroom suite with a kitchenette for less than $120. They also have a reciprocal agreement for pool usage with the Hilton Garden Inn across the street. We took advantage of that! Guests also get a slight discount at the Museum.
Where to Eat: Since we were there on a Sunday and the Monday of Memorial Day Weekend, a lot of local joints were closed, so I don’t have a lot of good insight here. However, I’ve heard that no trip to Terre Haute is complete without a trip to Square Donuts. That’s right, the donuts are square. There is a location right down the street from The Children’s Museum. Other recommendations from friends and family: Moggers and Crossroads Cafe (close to the hotel/Children’s Museum).
One chain restaurant that we did eat at that we don’t have in Champaign-Urbana: Cheeseburger in Paradise. If you like burgers, this is a must. Very kid friendly, but a warning – TVs are EVERYWHERE. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.
Have you been to Terre Haute with your family? Favorite attractions?