A Weekend Getaway for Art, Culture, and Adventure in Hamilton County, Indiana
on Oct 06, 2023, Updated Oct 26, 2023
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Hamilton County, Indiana is a great spot if you’re looking for a unique family-friendly weekend getaway full of art, culture, and outdoor adventure. Also full of delicious restaurants and lots of opportunities for family fun, Hamilton County will be a getaway you won’t forget!
Many thanks to Visit Hamilton County for sponsoring this portion of our Indiana Getaway. All opinions are mine.
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What You Need to Know about Hamilton County
We visited Hamilton County on a long weekend after also visiting nearby Hendricks County. There are so many things to do in the greater Indianapolis area that you could turn a visit into a long fall break, spring break, or summer vacation if you’re looking for more than a weekend getaway. Here are just a few of the fun things you can do when you visit Hamilton County.
Where is Hamilton County, Indiana?
Hamilton County is a northern suburb of Indianapolis, centrally located in Indiana off two major interstates, I-70 and I-74. It’s a relatively close and convenient destination from many Midwestern cities including:
- Indianapolis, Indiana – 30 minutes
- Cincinnati, Ohio – 2 hour drive
- Louisville, Kentucky – 2 hour drive
- Chicago, Illinois – 3 1/2 hour drive
- St. Louis, Missouri – 4 hour drive
- Davenport, Iowa – 4 1/2 – 5 hour drive
- Nashville, Tennessee – 4 1/2 hour drive
We love promoting Midwest destinations and Hamilton County checks all the boxes. It’s within a five hour drive of our home in eastern Iowa. It has a lot of great food, there are fun things to do while also learning – hello art and culture – and there are enough adventurous activities to keep the kids happy!
What Family-Friendly Events are in Hamilton County Indiana?
Hamilton County has a lot of family-friendly events and festivals throughout the year. Here are a few events you might like to attend:
- Indiana Peony Festival – held in May to celebrate Indiana’s state flower – the peony
- Tenderloin Tuesday Trail – try a new tenderloin each Tuesday in July! To get through the whole list you might have to eat several a day.
- Carmel International Arts Festival – two day art extravaganza the last weekend in September
- Russel Farms Country Fall Festival – weekends from the end of September through Halloween
- Headless Horseman Festival – during October at Conner Prairie
- Carmel Christkindlmarkt – running November 18 – December 24
What Towns are in Hamilton County?
Several towns make up Hamilton County, and we explored three of them. The neat thing about these three cities in Hamilton County is that each of them has been designated as a Statewide Cultural District by the Indiana Arts Commission – Carmel Arts & Design District, Nickel Plate District in Fishers and the Noblesville Cultural Arts District. If you like art, Hamilton County is certainly someplace you need to explore!
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Carmel is the largest city in Hamilton County. It’s just north of Indianapolis and is the famous for its roundabouts and for being home to the Carmel Arts and Design District. You’ll find lots of upscale shopping, public art, and dining options in the Carmel city center.
If you’re wondering how to pronounce Carmel, it’s CAR-MUHL like the candy – only two syllables. It’s not CAR-MEL as in California.
Fishers is home to Conner’s Prairie. We spent so long at Conner’s Prairie that we sadly didn’t have time to explore anything else in town! We had wanted to see their art and restaurants in the Nickel Plate District as well though. Next time!
Noblesville is the county seat of Hamilton County. It features a historic downtown area with a beautiful courthouse, lots of public art, and many delicious restaurants too. It’s also home to the Strawtown Koteewi Park.
Hamilton County is Home to the “Capital of Roundabouts”
You’ll notice roundabouts throughout Hamilton County, but with over 100 roundabouts in Carmel alone, this Indiana town is known as the “Capital of Roundabouts.” Many of the roundabouts also feature fun art sculptures – so make sure to check them out when you visit!
Brush up on your roundabout driving skills before you go! They aren’t messing around with their roundabouts. I was actually glad we had driven recently on roundabouts in England – I felt like I knew what I was doing!
Fun fact – Roundabouts are touted for being safer than stoplights and better at keeping traffic moving. I enjoyed driving on Carmel’s roundabouts a lot. I was also very thankful for the many signs which helped make navigating them a little bit easier.
What’s the best time of year to visit Hamilton County?
I don’t know that there’s a bad time to visit Hamilton County. But choosing the best time depends on what you want to do! I’d love to go to all of the festivals listed above, but I think you’ll probably find the best weather in late spring or fall. Midwest winters tend to be cold, and midwest summers are hot and humid. My favorite time to be in most anywhere in the Midwest is in the fall.
Where to Stay in Hamilton County
There are lots of great places to stay in Hamilton County, including hotels, vacation rental homes, bed and breakfasts and more. If you’re looking for a few options, here are some hotels we recommend:
Staybridge Suites Indianapolis-Carmel, an IHG Hotels – we stayed here and it is a very nice, family friendly option with free breakfast, outdoor pool, and more.
Modern Condo in the Heart of Carmel – if you’re looking for a location close to the Carmel City center, take a look at this VRBO option!
Hotel Carmichael, Autograph Collection – if you’re looking for a boutique hotel for a romantic getaway, check out the Hotel Carmichael in the Autograph Collection by Marriott.
Things to do in Hamilton County with Teens
Now that you know a little about the county, here’s our suggestion for a fun two day getaway to Hamilton County with teens or tweens!
- Day 1 – Spend the morning and early afternoon in Fisher at Conner Prairie
- Head to Carmel in the afternoon to see the art, eat dinner, get ice cream, and take a walk or a bike ride on the Monon Trail
- Day 2 – Breakfast at Caffe Buondi in Carmel
- Head to Noblesville to explore Strawtown Koteewi Park
- Late lunch + coffee and a walk around the cute downtown area
If you have more time, make sure to get out to Fisher to check out their art district as well.
Visit Conner Prairie in Fishers
Conner Prairie is Indianas’s living history museum. Similar to Living History Farms in Des Moines, it gives visitors of all ages the chance to see what life was once like in central Indiana. When you visit the Conner Prairie living history museum, it’s like taking a step back in time. Some of the things you can do at Conner Prairie include:
- visit historical buildings
- engage with knowledgable staff members dressed in period clothing
- participate in hands-on activities that bring history to life
- take a tethered hot air balloon ride in the 1859 Balloon Voyage
- learn how to walk on homemade stilts
- pet heritage breed animals including goats and rabbits
- watch potters and blacksmiths at work
- experience Civil War era reenactments
Make sure you dedicate enough time when you visit. We spent the better part of five hours at Conner Prairie and enjoyed every minute!
Conner Prairie is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am -5 pm.
Explore the Carmel Arts & Design District
Another thing we really enjoyed doing in Hamilton County was wandering around the Carmel Arts & Design District. Featuring galleries, public art, lots of restaurants, and boutique stores that support many local artists, this arts and you can spend hours walking around this design district.
We enjoyed wandering the streets, posing with many of the sculptures, and watching the making walkers, joggers, and bikers. Make sure to pop in the stores, treat yourself to something sweet, and then hop on a bike and explore the city’s well-maintained bike trails for yourself.
Stroll Along the Monon Trail
The Monon Trail is a former railroad route that connects Hamilton County to Indianapolis. It’s open all year round from dawn to dusk and features more than 25 miles of trails, perfect for biking, jogging, or walking.
The Monon Trail goes right through the center of the Carmel Arts District and we really enjoyed walking the trail for a while after dinner and watching all of the bikers with their dogs and kids.
Ready to travel? Use these helpful links to book your stay!
- Book your plane ticket with Expedia or Kayak
- Find a reasonably priced rental car or an RVShare rental for the perfect road trip
- Get your Harvest Hosts membership so you can camp at farms, wineries, breweries and more!
- We love using Hotels.com or Vrbo for the perfect home away from home
- Save on tickets to attractions, sightseeing tours, and more with TripAdvisor, CityPASS, Big Bus Tours, and Viator
- Don’t leave home without travel insurance to protect your trip!
- Check out our favorite 21 Time and Money Saving Travel Apps
- Get a National Park Pass to keep or gift
Find Adventure at Strawtown Koteewi Park
Strawtown Koteewi Park offers lots of options for active outdoor adventure including hiking, horseback riding, an aerial adventure park, and archery center! With over 800 acres to explore, your teens will love Koteewi Park!
Sara and I had a great time at Koteewi Aerial Adventure. I’m usually the person on the ground taking pictures, but I actually did most of the course with her this time and it was a lot of fun! Make sure to take bug spray along. I came home with a lot of bug bites. It was totally worth it though. Don’t skip this fun park!
Take a Walk around Noblesville
Noblesville is the county seat of Hamilton County and is situated along the White River. It features a historic downtown area, outdoor recreational spaces like Morse Reservoir, and cultural attractions like the historic courthouse square. We ate a late lunch in Noblesville and went on a little mural hunt. We also enjoyed watching people tube on the White River from the bridge.
Delicious Restaurants in Hamilton County
We were not disappointed with the restaurant options in Hamilton County. The only thing we lacked was time to try more! If you’re wondering where to eat in Hamilton County, these six restaurants will be great choices!
Bazbeaux is a delicious pizzeria in Carmel, known for its creative pizza and salad options. We loved the outdoor patio which is right on the Monon Trail. It was a lot of fun watching all the walkers and bikers as we ate! Bazbeaux has three locations in the greater Indianapolis area.
Known as Indiana’s best burger in a family setting, Bubs in Carmel also has a really delicious ice cream counter which is what we were after when we stopped there. We did not eat one their self proclaimed “Big Ugly” burgers, but I am intrigued and plan to eat one on the next trip.
Another must visit Carmel restaurant, Caffe Buondi is a charming Italian cafe serving breakfast and lunch. They have a beautiful selection of pastries, frittatas, paninis, and coffee. This cozy cafe provides a taste of Italy with its espresso drinks and freshly baked goods. Whether you’re looking for a cappuccino or an afternoon cocktail, you won’t regret choosing Caffe Buondi!
Grindstone Public House
You’ll find Grindstone Public House, in Noblesville’s historic district. They’re on the Tuesday Tenderloin Trail so we had to try one, even though we weren’t there on a Tuesday. This gastropub sources locally as much as possible and their food was really good! I’d definitely return to the Grindstone Public House with my husband for a more upscale evening meal.
Also located in Nobleville’s historic district is Noble Coffee. They serve a wide variety of coffee drinks, hot and cold, and the right kind of boba tea – my teen approved. Yes, we had to ask about the boba / bubble tea. Apparently popping boba peals are the right kind and tapioca boba pearls are the wrong kind. IYKYK – I’m not a boba tea fan but my teen is. And their coffee was really good so you need to get one from the locally owned and operated Noble Coffee.
Cafe on the Common at Conner Prairie
We had planned to head into Fisher to eat lunch, but we were having so much fun at Conner Prairie that we didn’t want to leave. Instead, we ate at Conner Prairie’s Cafe on the Common which was actually really great. Offering fresh soups and salads, and the popular Mrs. Conner’s Chicken Salad Sandwich, we did not go hungry.
Now you know how to spend a fun weekend in Hamilton County, Indiana, what to do for active family fun and where to stay also! Have you been? I’d love to hear what you loved most!!
Many thanks to Hamilton County for inviting my teen and me to visit! I can’t wait to return. Head to their website to request your free travel guide!