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Leaf Watching in Indy


Fall ColorThe air has shifted from humid to crisp and it won’t be long until reds, oranges, and yellows paint the parks and outdoor spaces in and around the city. While I am always sad to see summer fade into the rearview, there is something comforting about fall weather. Bring on the sweatshirts, bonfires, and beauty of the seasonal transition.

The time will come to hunker down for winter, but until then I plan on being outdoors as much as humanly possible. This is a great time of year for festivals and events, but I personally like the peace that accompanies a walk in the woods. If you share my passion here are a few recommendations for soaking in fall color in Indy.

Fort Harrison State Park

Fort Harrison State Park

Located 15 minutes east of downtown, Fort Harrison is the closest state park to Indy. “The Fort” offers the usual state park amenities, from shelters and playgrounds to horseback riding and fishing. The golf course is my favorite in the city, but that’s for another article. For enjoying fall color you can opt for the ease of the paved Harrison Trace Trail that makes an undulating loop through the park. Mountain bikers get their thrills on some of the Midwest's best single track. Hikers will enjoy the Fall Creek Trail with its elevated boardwalks and views of the waterway.

TIP: Reward your workout with a craft beer from nearby Triton Brewery.

Eagle Creek Park

Eagle CreekEagle Creek, located on the city's northwest side, is one of the largest municipal parks in the U.S. The reservoir offers opportunities to enjoy fall color from a kayak, canoe, or sailboat (available for rent). With Go Ape you’ll be surrounded by fall foliage while navigating a ropes course and zip lining through the canopy. An expansive trail system also offers hikers miles of exploration that cut through a renowned bird sanctuary and offer spectacular lake views.

TIP: When your hike is over head to Rick's Cafe Boatyard for a meal overlooking the water.

Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres 

100 AcresLooking for more than a walk in the woods? Make your hunt for color an artful experience at Newfields' outdoor oasis that combines lakeside scenery with site-specific artworks. The work that you’ll encounter at 100 Acres is intended to work with the woodlands and wetlands that they occupy. Take a swing on Chop Stick, climb and hop your way around Funky Bones

TIP: Park at Butler University and ride your bike along the Canal Towpath to access the park.

Conner Prairie

Conner PrairieThe beauty of Conner Prairie is that it combines the enlightening aspects of a museum with a park setting. You can choose to maximize either aspect depending on your mood. Tour Prairie Town or the Civil War Journey and learn about the past. Or, stroll the nature walk, take a ride in the Balloon Voyage, and simply enjoy the view. For a fall family outing with a bit of everything, it’s hard to beat the beauty of Conner Prairie.

TIP: Get a carmel apple from the The Apple Store and thank me later. 

Holliday Park

Holliday ParkThere are so many reasons to adore Holliday Park. First, the ruins. These ancient looking statues once adorned a building in New York City, but were acquired thanks to the vision of aspirational locals who developed the park. Second, the playground and nature center. I clump these together because kids adore and will be endlessly amused by both. Third, the trails. Hikers looking for fall color will be dazzled as they explore a well-maintained and expansive trail system.   

TIP: Drive south down nearby Meridian Street to gawk at the historic homes flanked by towering trees. 

Crown Hill Cemetery

Crown Hill CemeteryThe fall season is a slow buildup to Halloween. In that spirit, why not take in the color of the season from a cemetery? The nations third largest cemetery, Crown Hill, is actually quite breathtaking (get it?) this time of year. With scheduled guided walking tours available, you’ll take in the beauty of the season while learning about local notables including President Benjamin Harrison, Colonial Eli Lilly, and infamous bank robber John Dillinger.

TIP: Famed poet James Whitcomb Riley’s tomb sits atop the highest point in Indy and offers picturesque views.

Southwestway Park

Southwestway ParkI live Indy's northside and made the mistake of sleeping on Southwestway Park because I preceived it as too far away. What a mistake. I urge you to journey to the southside and check out the city's second largest park (behind only Eagle Creek). The presence of the White River defines this park experience and amplifies the beauty of the trees clinging to the river's banks. Hikers descend from the parking area down to leaf-speckled expanses of shoreline showcasing the best of fall color.

TIP: Pack your bike because some claim the park's mountian biking trails are the best in Indy.

Broad Ripple Park

Broad Ripple ParkThe storied history of Broad Ripple Park dates back to 1906 when the White City Amusement Park opened. Over the last century the park has evolved and while you won't find any ferris wheels or carousels (the original is restored and on display at the Children's Museum) the park is still known as a welcoming place for all ages. Broad Ripple Park is ideal for families with playgrounds, ball fields, and year-round programming. The tall tree canopy lights up in the fall and is a wonderful place for a leisurely stroll to soak in the colors of the season.

TIP: Explore Broad Ripple Village for shopping and dining in one of the city's great neighborhoods. 

More Ideas for Fall Color in (and around) Indy

Brown County•    Ride, run, walk, skate or dance your way along the Monon Trail
•    Enjoy flowers in the conservatory and hang in the formal gardens at Garfield Park
•    Road trip to Brown County State Park (pictured) or Turkey Run/Shades State Parks

We are on the clock so get out and enjoy fall before old man winter settles in!




Craft beer drinker. Sports fanatic. Outdoor enthusiast.
FOLLOW: @Indyjrob


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