By: Lochmandy Motors

As the weather warms in the greater South Bend/Elkhart area, it’s time to start thinking about how to maximize your time outdoors with one-day trips and take advantage of all the family fun that this region of the Midwest has to offer.

From miles and miles of beaches to one of the top amusement parks in the world, there so much to do around here without having to spend more than three hours in a car.

Summer will be here before you know it and you’ll want to be prepared. Want help deciding?  Check out this list of destinations all within a three-hour drive of South Bend and Elkhart.

Cedar Point

A three-hour drive from the South Bend/Elkhart area, Cedar Point is considered the Roller Coaster Capital of the World. There are rides for all ages, from a 400-foot-tall roller coaster to a carousel. Of course, there’s much more than rides at Cedar Point. The resort destination also consists of a water park, its own beach, campgrounds, a petting zoo, and much more. Opening day for the park is May 11, and season passes are available.

Lake Michigan

A vital part of growing up in northern Indiana is taking day-long trips to the freshwater beaches of Lake Michigan. There are a number of well-known beaches such as Silver Beach and Indiana Dunes State Park that are less than an hour drive away. Each beach offers something different. Silver Beach has more shops and restaurants, a playground and other kid-friendly activities, while the Indiana Dunes features dunes to climbed and a clay pit to explore.

Potato Creek State Park

There are not many better ways to spend a weekend afternoon than with a hike through Potato Creek State Park. The park is located about a 20-minute drive south of South Bend and offers several trails. There’s also ample camping grounds, picnic areas, and a lake, so pack some lunch and make a day out of your trip to Potato Creek.

Ann Arbor, Mich.

Ann Arbor has a lot more to it than the University of Michigan (though the campus is beautiful and very fun to explore too). Kids will love the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum, which encourages visitors to get interactive with exhibits. There are several other museums, botanical gardens, nature centers and a planetarium to check out as well. You can also visit the Michigan Theater for a play or musical or go canoeing in Argo Park.

Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve

Take a tour through a buffalo herd at the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve in Fremont, about an hour east of Elkhart. Calving season begins in early May, and about 40 to 50 bison mothers are expected to give birth to 35-pound, fluffy buffalo calves. Tours go out on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Deep River Water Park

Opening on May 24, Deep River Water Park in Crown Point is about an hour and fifteen minutes away from the South Bend/Elkhart area. The water park consists of a wave pool, more than a dozen slides, two lazy rivers, and several food/dessert options. A season pass is just $89.95 or day passes are available (prices vary). If you want to have an area where you and your family can get out of the sun, the Deep River Waterpark also rents out cabanas.

Area minor league ballparks

In the Michiana area, we are lucky enough to be within a short drive of several minor league ballparks. The most obvious choice is the South Bend Cubs, which play at Four Winds Field in downtown South Bend. But there’s also the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Lansing Lugnuts, the West Michigan Whitecaps (in Grand Rapids, Mich.), the Gary RailCats, the Indianapolis Indians, and the Toledo Mud Hens. Each are within a three hour drive and offers you and your family an inexpensive opportunity to see a new and exciting ballpark.

Fort Custer State Park in Augusta, Mich.

Want to explore a state park but looking for someplace new? Fort Custer State Park is about 90 minutes away from Michiana in Augusta, Mich. This 3,033-square-acre park is home to more than 25 miles trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. There are three lakes with space for swimming, fishing, paddle-boating and canoe rides (rentals are available). If you want to make a weekend trip out of this visit, there are also plenty of camping spaces available too.

Chicago Museum Tour

This is not outdoors, but the Chicago Museums are an excellent way to take an educational trip without having to travel too far. Better yet, there’s a CityPASS that you can purchase to visit five different Chicago Museums/attractions over a nine-day period and skip many of the lines. The attractions include the Shedd Aquarium, the Skydeck, the Field Museum, and the Adler Planetarium and the Art Institute of Chicago. Depending on traffic, Chicago is about a two-hour drive from the South Bend/Elkhart area.

Toledo, Ohio

Located just under three hours from South Bend/Elkhart, Toledo is home to many attractions that make for a great day trip. The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium is home to more than 720 different species of animals and is highly rated. Art lovers will love exploring the six buildings that make up the Toledo Museum of Art. If you want to spend time outdoors, take a canal boat ride at the Providence Metropark. There are several other museums, parks and shops to visit, but don’t skip lunch or dinner at Tony Packo’s Cafe (yes, the very same from M*A*S*H).

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