About an hour southeast of Carmel, IN you will find Columbus, IN–a small town with some fun activities for you and your kids. The drive is easy and well worth the activities we explored while we were there! For reference in your planning–I had three kids with me on this trip ages 4, 2, and 5 months. I was able to take a stroller with me every place we went with no issues, and navigated the trip as a solo adult. We left Carmel at 9am and were home by 4pm.
Play at The Commons Playground
300 Washington St, Columbus, IN
This free indoor playground was the highlight of the trip. Between the 3-story climber, slides, tunnels, etc my kids easily played here for 2 hours without getting bored. I was even able to find a spot on the side to lay out a blanket and let my 5 month old play while still being able to easily see my older two (ages 4 and 2) play at the park. Playing at this park was easy, fun, and enjoyable for everyone! My recommendation would be elementary aged and younger. You can bring food to the park, there is a little picnic area off the play area with tables and a bathroom nearby for hand-washing.
Street parking near The Commons can be hit or miss. We had better luck parking in the Jackson Street Parking Garage for the entire time we were in Columbus. 3-5 hours is $2. The garage can be found at the corner of 4th Street and Jackson Street in Downtown Columbus, less than a 2 min walk to the playground.
Monday – Thursday 10:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Friday – Saturday 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM
Sunday 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Lunch at Bucceto’s Pizza
318 Washington St. Columbus, IN
We stopped at Bucceto’s for lunch after playing. The restaurant is located in the same Commons building as the playground, meaning you can walk indoors through a common area to get to it! This was clutch because the weather was cold the day we went. Bucceto’s is a sister restaurant to Puccini’s that we know and love here in the Indy area. Menu is relatively the same, and my kids are big fans.
Other local lunch options in the area include Upland Brewing and Zwanzigs.
Dessert at the famous Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor
329 Washington St. Columbus, IN
After lunch, we walked across the street (~2 min walk) to the famous Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor. It’s 1900 style ice cream and fountain soda parlor that looks frozen in time. It was fun for the kids to experience a little bit of history while they enjoyed their hand-dipped ice cream! Heads up–each “scoop” of ice cream could fill an entire bowl! Each of my boys got one scoop and neither could finish it all.
Other local attractions:
There are a few other local attractions for families in Columbus that we didn’t have a chance to visit during this trip. The KidsCommons museum is right across the street from the playground and I’ve heard it is a lot of fun for kids of all ages. There is an entry fee for this attraction.
If the weather is good, Mill Race Park and Freedom Field Park look like great places to play outdoors and explore nature near the downtown area.
On the car ride to and from Columbus, you will pass the Indiana Premium Outlets in Edinburgh. We made a quick stop into the Nike outlet on the way home which was a fun way to end the trip!