With all this country around us, it should come as no surprise that the Hoosier State is full of beautiful little picnic spots for you to enjoy your meal maybe freshly bought from one of Indiana's ten best farmer's markets in the quiet of Midwestern nature. Here are 14 of our best and prettiest!
White River State Park’s map covers a large area of attractions, nature, forestry, history, and culture collectively known as White River State Park. It's a pretty large area encompassing the Indiana State Museum, Victory Field, the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens, and the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn and Stage. Amongst all these attractions, there are green grass, trees, waterfront knolls, maybe even a picnic table or two for you to enjoy your meal break on your sightseeing day at the heart of Indiana's tourism.
For something a little quieter than the happening hubbub of Indianapolis's White River State Park, check out Shadyside Memorial Park north of the capital in the old factory town of Anderson. Right next to Broadway/Business 9, Shadyside looks small and quaint but hides treasures within her grounds. Picnic areas and tables dot the park amid the rentable shelters, activity center, even a baseball and softball diamond, and of course the locally famous stone archway that has stood over many an “I Do” on lovely Hoosier days. Need to walk off that sinfully delicious picnic you just had? Never fear … Shadyside is also on our 10 best list for hiking trails!
Surprise, Brown County gets yet another spot in one of Indiana's best. While picnicking is good any time of the day or season of the year, an unforgettable experience awaits you on a nippy fall evening, with a hearty beef stew bubbling over a fire in one of the park's stone shelters. Hot chocolate tops off this “primo” picnic at one of Indiana's most beloved and most visited spots. Picnic tables and standing grills dot the open expanses that interrupt the vast forests across the southern Indiana rolling hillsides.
You can do much more than picnic at Brookville Lake SRA, since most of the picnic spots are near marinas on the lake. Since it's right by the water, you can fish for your meal (provided you have appropriate licensing, of course), or if you're an avid hunter with field dressing skills, you can hunt in season for a variety of game that live in the designated hunting areas (again, make sure your hunting and fishing license is up to date). Summers by a lake are an Indiana institution, so make sure to visit Brookville Lake for a Hoosier picnic tradition.
Thanks to the Adena-Hopewell nation of Native Americans who occupied this area of the state since before the time of Jesus Christ (according to what clues have been interpreted), great earthworks bubble up out of the ground in the area now cordoned off and designated Mounds State Park. Recent theories regarding the ancient purpose and use of these mounds points more toward ceremony and astronomy, but it is also believed that the Adena-Hopewell practiced burying their dead in great mounds such as the ones within the park. If you do decide to take one of the several trails in the area and picnic near one of the mounds, remember that to share a meal with Native American peoples is an honor and a gesture of friendship, and take a moment as you eat to remember the Adena-Hopewell who gathered and lived there scores of generations ago.
The large pagoda-style shelter in this exquisite historic park is a beautiful picnic destination for those who prefer to rough it with a little refinement. George Kessler, accomplished German architect for whom Kessler Boulevard was named, designed Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens and opened it in 1916. Little has changed from that day to this. Heirloom and new varieties of plants and flowers bloom in a constant relay of color, providing a stunning backdrop for your basket lunch, as do the stone fountains, planters, and philosopher's benches accenting the living masterpiece. Make a day of it at Garfield Park: Tour the sunken gardens, pay the low admission price to tour the conservatory, even plan your picnic on a day when an event is happening so you can join in!
This one gets you closer to nature for a real “roughing it” feel. Set your basket down at any one of the primitive picnic sites consisting of a fire pit and maybe a sitting log or two, or a shelter house wired with electricity and modern bathrooms (some shelters are either/or, some a both). Certain shelter houses are lined with rows of picnic tables, perfect for a family reunion… but you're probably going to need a much bigger basket for that. The state park also features a saddle barn where you can book a guided trail ride (sadly, your own horse has to remain at home, but the park does have everything you need!) or perhaps a short pony ride for the kids.
No surprise, if we're telling you about Indiana's best picnic spots, Indiana Dunes is landing on the list. Right up next to Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is an attraction in and of itself, but the beach of Lake Michigan is a gemstone of picnic spots in the Hoosier State. Check the park rules to see what sorts of containers you are and aren't allowed to bring and where you are and aren't allowed to park and how you are and are not allowed to make your memories. If you're now second-guessing a trip to the beach for a picnic, don't let all the rules and regulations put you off because there's not a view like that one anywhere else in the state.
Another favorite of Hoosiers is Minnetrista, a cultural center, museum, botanical garden, event hub, and field trip hotspot. Not only does Minnestrista host a Muncie Christmas tradition with the Enchanted Luminaria Walk, it's also a prime location for some absolutely charming picnic spots in the warmer months. Visitor Services has already compiled a list of the best individual picnic hideaways on the grounds, including a place in the rose garden with the cultural center in full view as well as a secluded little spot that makes you feel like the only person on the face of the earth. Talk about a stress-relieving meal break!
Just shy of a hundred years old, Franke Park is a beloved northeast Indiana area for its combination of bustle and serenity. Day camps inspire and educate the park rangers, conservationists, and wildlife veterinarian of tomorrow, and the BMX (bicycle motocross for the uninitiated) gives area daredevils a space to get their adrenaline fix. The open expanses of the nature park, however, over the almost 330 acres of the park offer a tranquil escape surrounded by nature.
Also in Fort Wayne, Foster Park is a more refined version of your average picnicking park. With pavilions that include small kitchens and rows of picnic tables, Foster can host solo lunches or family reunions, whatever you need. In addition to trails and stunningly gorgeous scenery, especially along the St. Mary's River, Foster Park also boasts a reproduction of the log cabin in which Abraham Lincoln was born, back-dropped by lush green in the summer and fiery warm colors in the fall.
Undeniably a hauntingly beautiful park, Spring Mill State Park is the remnant of a bygone industrial settlement fueled by the always-flowing, never-freezing spring water that powered the mill … ergo, Spring Mill. Early 19th century buildings still stand in monochrome memory as nature begins to reclaim the area, and industry still battles ecology. The state park features shelters with several picnic tables as well as scattered picnic sites throughout the grounds where you can enjoy your picnic amid the buildings, shacks, stanchions, and stone walls around you. There are lots of things going on at this historic state park, so keep tabs on their calendar and their Facebook page to know when their classes, demonstrations, and even reenactments are scheduled.
For a piece of national history located in Indiana, check out the Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum. In 1811, future US President William Henry Harrison (from Indiana) met the legendary Native American leader Tecumseh in a bloody battle that is now memorialized with an 85-foot-tall monument at the entrance to the battlefield and park. The grounds encompass 96 acres with natural landscape that includes picnic areas, hiking and walking trails, and a picnic shelter that can be reserved for special occasions. The museum and nature center offer a little education about the area's geography and wildlife as well as history and anthropology. There is an admission price to get in, but history buffs will find the experience well worth the money.
The Hoosier National Forest, or “the Hoosier,” is a 200,000-acre forest spanning nine counties in southern Indiana. The entire forest is rife with secluded spots for picnicking (use your judgment when determining a safe and legal place), but the Hoosier's chapter of the United States Department of Agriculture's (yes, that is in fact the USDA) website has a special short-list of picnic places that are sure to satisfy your thirst for nature. Historic log cabins, wilderness primitive sites, and shelter houses are listed with descriptions and amenities. Most of these are first-come, first-served basis, though a few shelter houses are rentable. For the convenience of nature-lovers with disabilities, the website also lists the accessibility of each picnic area so you can plan your picnic visit with less stress.