State Park Inns Promise Winter Fun and Value
Cozy inns nestled in several of Indiana’s state parks are great places to get away and escape the winter doldrums. Each inn offers a unique roster of events and attractions to keep things lively throughout the winter months. And an off-season special rate of two nights for the price of one Sunday through Thursday makes the inns a great value to boot.
In Lawrence County at Spring Mill Inn in Spring Mill State Park, the restored 1800s-era Pioneer Village comes to life in December for Christmas in the Village. Father Christmas makes his rounds by candlelight, and visitors can shop for gifts at the Mercantile. Pioneer Village also offers hearth-cooking classes during the holiday season.
Spring Mill Inn has an indoor pool, a game room with a fireplace and a comfy gathering spot around a massive fireplace in the lodge-inspired main lobby. A gift shop showcases items handcrafted in Indiana such as cutting boards, trivets, walking sticks, Amish-made rugs and cornmeal from the authentic working gristmill in Pioneer Village. Guests can also participate in various one-day craft workshops.
The inn’s full-service restaurant puts on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but make your reservations early, advises Tonya Chastain, group sales director, because “those do sell out quickly.”
Snow turns the park into a winter wonderland where hiking trails remain open year round and benches along the lake offer an excellent vantage point for bird and wildlife watching.
“Spring Mill Inn is a great getaway, especially in the winter, because it’s so peaceful and quiet. We are sitting in the middle of a big woods,” Chastain says. “Come on out and sit by the fire.”
Also on the grounds is the recently remodeled Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom Memorial, home of the Unsinkable Molly Brown space capsule and other artifacts honoring America’s second man in space. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; admission is free.
At Canyon Inn in McCormick’s Creek State Park in Owen County, getaway weekends for card players – both euchre and bridge – and for those interested in arts and crafts, such as photography and quilting, are popular attractions. The dates that sell out quickest, however, are the wine- and beer-tasting stays. These all-inclusive getaway packages feature wine and beer tasting, along with tips on pairing beverages with foods, a four-course meal, a night’s stay at the inn and breakfast the next morning.
“This year’s brewmasters’ weekend will be in January with Bloomington Brewing Company – or BBC, as it’s affectionately known around here,” says Jane Klausmeier, special events coordinator. “It will be a beer tasting and beer pairing with a meal, just like wine tasting. People just seem to love these events. Guests can check in at 4 p.m. and mingle for a while, and then come to the Oak Room and have appetizers and taste the products and then sit down and have the meal. It’s all over and done by 10 or 10:30, and folks go off to their rooms.”
Canyon Inn also serves a Christmas buffet and hosts a New Year’s Eve party, complete with dinner, a deejay and dancing, balloons and party hats, a night’s stay and breakfast on New Year’s Day.
Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park is a favorite among families, thanks to its 12,000-square-foot indoor water park. The aquatic center features a zero-entry pool, which means its edge gradually slopes into the water like a natural beach. You’ll also find a water slide, water channel, fountains, water volleyball and basketball, and a whirlpool with a waterfall.
Other winter activities and events include mountain biking; the Reindeer Romp, an 8K race that takes off from the Nature Center; square dancing; a traditional Christmas feast; and a New Year’s Eve family celebration and game night. Its annual winter hike is slated for January.
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“We also do different last-minute things on the weekends, so there’s always something to do,” says Missy Meyers, assistant general manager at Abe Martin Lodge.
In fact, all of the state park inns offer off-season specials, holiday celebrations and various types of winter fun. For example, Potawatomi Inn in Steuben County’s Pokagon State Park lays out a huge spread for Christmas in its historic dining room, and the park is home to Toboggan Run, a quarter-mile refrigerated sled track that’s a major attraction for winter guests. Breakfast with Santa is a big hit at Fort Harrison State Park Inn, just nine miles from downtown Indianapolis. Clifty Inn, at Clifty Falls State Park in Jefferson County, has a Holiday with the Birds event, as well as a mid-winter picnic and bonfire. And Parke County’s Turkey Run Inn hosts a winter wonderland trail walk weekend in January.