Inspired By Nature is a 50-minute drive from C-U, just a few miles from where you can get your hot, fluffy roll fix (Google maps has you take exit 8, the same one a person might use to get a fireworks fix). Nothing about the name signals the fact that its main feature is a large, indoor sand play area, but that’s exactly what you’ll find when you visit.
It would seem, however, that the owners don’t want to be stuffed into the kiddie destination box. Memberships are available for single adults, and the business hosts retreats for grown-ups as well as advertising the use of their sand area for exercise/volleyball. They offer an entire line of products — lotions, oil rollers, sugar scrubs, fragrance mists, etc. — that carry the “Inspired By Nature” label.
They also sell a small but nice variety of other brands of products, from additional bath/spa items to wineglasses, purses, décor, and more. Near the entrance is a closet-sized snack shop which carries some familiar favorites (my son made a beeline for the Cheez-its) as well as coffee and tea, which it appears you can purchase and brew in their Keurig. Beach-y music plays softly from a speaker near the gift shop.
Inspired By Nature certainly is welcoming to little ones, however. The sand area is large, padded, and stocked with an endless array of toys. In fact, one of their rules is to leave your own toys at home. They also encourage kids to search for tiny shells they’ve hidden in the sand (finders, keepers!).
The sand is powdery soft and slightly damp, especially the further you dig. In case you’re wondering, you’ll have to go about six inches down to reach the bottom; I checked. Making a sand castle is possible, although probably not as easy as if you were on a wet shoreline.
There is one small but nicely stocked bathroom; however, they discourage you from washing up there. Instead, they provide wipes on all of the tables in the super quaint seating area (pass the time playing checkers with smooth, light and dark-colored stones or reading one of their magazines in an Adirondack chair).
If I could wave my magic wand and change anything, it would be the location. It is on the square in downtown Covington — a cute area to be sure, but the building lacks natural light. I’m also not sure if it was my imagination, but I thought I picked up a whiff of mold. Again, this could be due to the age of the building. Neither of these things would keep me from going back.
Bottom line: This is a very cool, ambitious business idea, and I hope it goes over. The trek to and from Covington is usually a pleasant one; with a little creative driving you even hit the Sidney Dairy Barn on the way home. I was also glad to see my son, who has little use for playgrounds, happily connect with the sand. Had we brought lunch, he could have stayed for hours.
There may be a few kinks in the design. For example, I can’t see the math working out in favor of purchasing a monthly or yearly membership but I hope we can support the business long enough to see them straightened out.
Address: 314 N. 4th Street, Covington, Ind.
Hours: As of 2017, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Closed Sunday and Monday. ALL HOURS ARE EASTERN STANDARD TIME.
Cost: $7 per person who uses the sand area. Only children under 1 are allowed a free parent/supervisor tagalong. There is a playgroup on Friday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon (again, that is Indiana time) during which the cost is only $5 for children under 5, and parents can enter the sand for free.