Discover the Hoosier State's Romantic Side
If race cars and farms are all that spring to mind when you hear "Indiana," you're missing the trove of romantic excursions available for an escape. Strolling by the waterside, sunning in the sand and spending a night in a castle are just a few of the many options couples can enjoy when some alone time is in order. And there's something for every budget or time frame.
That's Amore: Indianapolis' Canal Walk
Nearly 5,000 miles separates Indianapolis and Venice, but the state capital's Central Canal can give you a taste of Old World romance in just a day away from the kids. Hit the 3-mile Canal Walk to stroll among the city's architecture, historic churches, fountains and old-time street lamps. Take a break by turning the reins over to one of the city's gondoliers as you enjoy a gondola ride down the canal. Old World Gondoliers (310 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis, IN) offers 30- and 60-minute rides. For an additional fee, reserve a private ride. Bring a glass of wine or a cocktail aboard to toast while enjoying the serenades and scenery. Public gondola rides are available only from May through August, but private rides extend through October. Finish off the day by sharing a flatbread pizza at the Fresco Italian Cafe (340 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis, IN), just a few steps from the gondola boarding point.
Hit the Beach: The Indiana Dunes
Though far from any ocean, Indiana is not without beaches. Lake Michigan provides about 15 miles of coastline in the Indiana Dunes perfect for a romantic getaway on any budget. Beach access is free with the exception of West Beach, which requires a small fee. Bring a picnic lunch, keeping in mind if your picnic basket includes champagne that Kemil Beach is one of the few to permit alcohol. Hike the trails, admire the dunes and, if you want to make a weekend out of it, rent a nearby cottage or book a few nights in nearby Chesterton's At Home in the Woods Bed & Breakfast (898 N. County Road 350 E, Chesterton, IN), which offers nature trails, private whirlpool baths and a giant hammock.
All Aboard: The Spirit of Jasper
The Spirit of Jasper Train Depot (201 Mill St., Jasper, IN) can provide romantic escape whether you have a few hours or a whole weekend away from the kids. The restored depot and train, meant to evoke the days of luxury rail travel, offer scenic rides and seasonal trips throughout the year. "Ride & Dine" excursions take you on an 18-mile journey during which you'll enjoy a German feast provided by Schnitzelbank (393 Third Ave., Jasper, IN), a local restaurant. Some excursions include gourmet chocolates and wine tasting. The train also has service to nearby French Lick, where you can enjoy a a few hours or a few days gambling at the casino or releasing stress at the West Baden Springs Hotel spas (8538 W. Baden Ave., West Baden Springs, IN). In the fall, you can travel on special rides to view the foliage.
The Royal Treatment: Clayshire Castle
You're the queen of your castle, so why not spend a romantic weekend in fitting accommodations? Clayshire Castle (8790 E. County Road 75 N, Bowling Green, IN) operates as a bed and breakfast that can transport you hundreds of years into the past. The 120-acre property offers five medieval-themed rooms and anachronistic electric fireplaces. Closets full of period costumes even allow you to dress the part. After breakfast, stroll the castle gardens, explore the hedge maze, relax in the outdoor cedar hot tub, arrange a massage or enjoy a good book together in the library—"Beowulf," perhaps? Reserve in advance, because the castle is open only on weekends and certain holidays. If you're feeling guilty for leaving the kids behind, arrange another stay with them, because children under 12 can stay in your room for free.
Seasons of Love: Brown County State Park
Indiana's winters are occasionally harsh, but the state's climate can actually enhance the romantic appeal of some spots. In Brown County—site of one of the country's oldest artist colonies—the entire area exhibits stunning foliage in the fall, and Brown County State Park (1810 State Road 46 East, Nashville, IN) provides a gorgeous backdrop for a drive or stroll. The season usually runs from late September through early November. When it gets even chillier, you can enjoy the park's annual Winter in the Woods festivities, including snowy hikes, fireside relaxation and bourbon-tasting events. Crank up the romance a notch by renting one of the secluded log cabins in the park. Shopping and dining in the area's biggest draw, the village of Nashville, are enchanting year-round.
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- Downtown Indy: Downtown Indy Cultural Districts
- Visit Indy: Gondola Rides
- Clayshire Castle: Guest Rooms
- The Tribune Star: Fit for a King
- Visit Dubois County: Spirit of Jasper Train & Depot
- Spirit of Jasper: Excursions
- Indiana Dunes: Beaches and Beyond
- At Home in the Woods Bed & Breakfast
- Brown County: Fall Foliage FAQs
- Brown County, Indiana
Michael Baker has worked as a full-time journalist since 2002 and currently serves as editor for several travel-industry trade publications in New York. He previously was a business reporter for "The Press of Atlantic City" in New Jersey and "The [Brazoria County] Facts" in Freeport, Texas. Baker holds a Master of Science in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.