Indiana winters hang on, leaving us longing for sunshine. You’d think spring would offer relief, but it isn’t much better with rainy days set to repeat. I always look forward to late spring and summer when the sun comes out, the windows open, and we can get outside.
Here are a few of our family’s favorite things to do Hamilton County during the summer. We spend a good amount of time in our own yard, but it’s also nice to take advantage of the great local activities.
I should first give a couple remarks to explain my list. We live in Noblesville, and most of what we do takes place in Noblesville and Fishers, so my list leans heavy on the eastern-half of the county. Also, my wife and I have a two-year-old daughter. Our list doesn’t include things I’d do with older kids (like everything at Koteewi Park or rafting down the White River).
I love this family-owned and family-friendly place. Like gardening, there’s something special about picking your own fruit. It makes it taste better. You worked for it. You know where it comes from. We start with strawberries in late May and then hit up the blueberries a couple of times. I taste-test just a couple while I pick them, but we try to pick a big supply so we have fresh berries all summer. To make a day of it, use the afternoon to make jam or preserves with your haul. Spencer Farm also has a shop selling local products and pre-picked items from the farm. If you’ve been here, you know why it stays busy and is special to so many people. If you’ve not been, this should be at the top of your list for things to do this summer.
Conner Prairie is a gem in Hamilton County. It’s a rare space bringing together the preservation and promotion of history, nature, and education. It’s a living history museum, so some aspects will always be the same but they do a great job rotating in various exhibits and programs. During the summer, they offer multiple camps for kids. Since our daughter is only two, she doesn’t yet understand a lot of the educational pieces, but she loves the animals and the outdoor spaces to play in. Come learn about their heritage breed animals and make sure you pet the cute baby goats jumping around. And while I’ll recommend free local concerts in #9 below, don’t miss out on Symphony on the Prairie. I recommend buying a membership (or asking for it as a Christmas gift) because you’ll want to come back soon once you visit.
3. Farmers’ Markets
Farmers’ Markets start in spring and continue through fall, but summer is when they really take off as the weather warms up and the veggies and fruits ripen. Every town now has a farmers’ market, usually on Saturday morning. These markets are a great public gathering space to see and meet others from your local community, not to mention support local business and eat local. Yes, the prices will be higher than your grocery store, but quality food produced by smaller businesses costs money. It’s worth it. Grab some coffee, show up, get a cinnamon roll or egg roll to snack on, say hi to your neighbors, taste some samples, and pick up a few things for lunch or dinner. You won’t regret it.
4. Local Parks
Local parks are open during any season, but don’t miss out during the summer. (I feel like local parks and libraries are two of the most neglected assets in our community. And they’re free!) Study after study shows both adults and kids need to get outdoors and enjoy nature more. We need the break from our screens and a chance to slow down. Fresh-air, the sight of blossoming flowers, and stretching out our legs on a good walk will refresh you more than you imagine. The more a park feels like you’re in nature the better. If you can’t view a house or office, you’re in a good place. A few of our favorites are Forest Park, Potter’s Bridge, Strawtown Koteewi Park (where I took the image at the top), Morse Park (especially for sunsets), Ritchey Woods, and Cyntheanne Park.
5. Outdoor Movies
This might be hard if you have small kids with early bedtimes. But if it’s possible, take advantage of the movies in the park offered at various spots throughout Hamilton County. You could watch a movie at your own house on that comfy couch with your fridge feet away, but it’s just not as fun as doing it outdoors with a bunch of people. Movies in the park is the modern-day drive-in theater. It’s partly about seeing an entertaining movie, but it’s even more about the experience with others.
6. Splash Pads
All kids love splash pads (and water parks), so long as it’s warm enough and they’re not getting knocked to the ground too often. Adults like them too, but we have to act like we’re #adulting, so I go with my daughter and join her in the fun and just say I’m doing it for her. There are several local splash pads, usually at a local park (so you can knock out two from my list in one visit), so try a few. Don’t miss seeing the joy of your kid splashing in the cool water during summer’s heat, and don’t feel bad about having fun yourself if you do it with them.
7. Ice cream…and People Watching
Ice cream should be a summer food group. But eat it fast, before it melts. You can (and I do!) eat ice cream year-round, but it’s even better when you grab it to-go and enjoy it outside. As the weather cranks up, the ice cream—or gelato or custard or whatever version you enjoy—cools you down. Eating ice cream is a social experience, not to mention it usually takes two hands (either one for the cone and one for the napkin, or one for the bowl and one for the spoon). That means enjoying ice cream keeps the smartphone in our pockets and gives us time to talk to one another. Hit up Graeter’s, Alexander’s, Handel’s, Bub’s, even Culver’s (go for the Oreo-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Concrete). Part of the fun eating outside is the entertaining people-watching. Which leads to our next summer activity.
8. Enjoy Your Local Downtown or Square
Whether it’s downtown Fishers, the historic Noblesville Square, or the Carmel Arts District, Hamilton County has great downtown spots. Like the Farmer’s Market, these provide good places to meet your neighbors and connect with people from your own community. Walk around and enjoy the warm weather. Avoid another chain-restaurant and pop into a local place. Browse the local businesses. Get some caffeine. Enjoy that ice cream while people-watching (just remember to look away when they realize you’re watching them).
9. Free Concerts
You could pay for concerts at the large venues like Deer Creek (I mean Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center), but there are a lot of free concerts offered all summer long. Enjoy concerts on the lawn and concerts on the square. Invite friends, have a picnic, grab some grub at the food trucks, and toss a Frisbee or football around.
Fall in Hamilton County is the best time for local festivals, but there are still local events and festivals during summer worth checking out. These are fun, community-friendly ways to participate in what’s happening locally. Each city has their own festivals, so check out visithamiltoncounty.com to see what’s happening. July 4this a great time to check out Spark!Fishers, CarmelFest, Lights Over Morse, or the Noblesville Parade.
Which of these are your favorite things to do? What would you add to the list? We’re always looking for new things to try, so let me know what we’re missing out on.