Pros: Nice, inexpensive family activities, a lot of opportunities to experience nature
Cons: It isn't as exciting as a big city
Lafayette is located in the eastern central portion of Indiana. It is about a two hour drive to Chicago, and a convenient hour from Indianapolis. A good portion of my childhood weekends were spent in Lafayette hotels, since my father had a construction job there and it was a two hour drive from our hometown. I lived in West Lafayette for four years during my time at Purdue University (2000-2004) and traveled to Lafayette at least a couple times a week for various activities. Since then, I have been back several times, and I really like this area. At first glance, Lafayette is similar to many other Indiana cities of the same size. However, it has some unique things to do and see that gives it a personality of its own.
Ten Fun Things to Do in Lafayette
1. Columbia Park - This is a great area for kids to blow off some steam, and a fun place to visit on a nice day. The park features playgrounds for children of different ages, picnic shelters, and a zoo that is absolutely free. The zoo isnt anything too elaborate, but you can see a large prairie dog mound and a nice walk through bird aviary. The park also offers small amusement park rides for children, such as a scrambler attraction and a train ride around the park. The rides cost a dollar or less. I think this park area is great, because it is one of the most inexpensive places a family can spend a day together.
2. Tropicanoe Cove - I made good use of this water park during the summers I stayed in the area to attend classes. This small waterpark has several slides, one with tubes and a few without. The slides here arent as thrilling as a Wet n Wild, but the lines arent as long either. There is a great childrens area, including a family pool and an interactive water playground. I spent the most time floating around on Cattail Crik, a lazy river that circles the park. A snack shop offers hot dogs and burgers, and a Dippin Dots stand is available. There are changing rooms for both men and women. Admission is charged by height, (over or under 48) but even adults only pay $5.00 on weekdays and $6.50 on weekends. There is a nice just watching option for adults who wont be going in the pool, who are only charged $2.00.
3. Tippecanoe Battlefield - History buffs (like me) will enjoy visiting this historic area, seven miles north of Lafayette. This is the site of the Battle of Tippecanoe, between settlers and Native Americans. The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The park offers hiking trails, a display of artifacts in a small museum, and a gift store.
4. Purdue University - Technically, Purdue is located in West Lafayette, but it is just across the bridge from downtown Laffayette. Obviously Im a bit prejudiced on the issue, but I think the campus is a must-see if you are in the area. On campus, you can run through the fountains, visit the numerous bars and restaurants, or visit the horticultural park for a more serene, natural experience. If you walk through the main floor of the Union, you can see a scale model of the entire campus to get the lay of the land. A variety of shows and musical presentations are offered at Elliot Hall of Music, and if you visit in December be sure not to miss the PMO Christmas Show.
5. Taste of Tippecanoe - Youll have to time your visit right for this one, as it is only held for one night. This year it is on June 18th, 2005. The Taste offers live bands, a beer garden, and dozens of local restaurants. The night ends with fireworks. Basically, this is like Taste of Chicago, but it isnt that hard to find a place to park and admission costs only $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for kids if you purchase your tickets in advance.
6. Downtown Area - Downtown Lafayette is a very nice area. The Pedestrian Bridge offers a great place to stroll across and enjoy the view of the beautiful capital building. During the day the bridge is full of roller bladders and people walking pets, and in the evening its a romantic place to go on a date. The downtown area offers dozens of stores and restaurants, and is a great place to take a stroll. Great choices to dine downtown are La Scala, an attractive Italian restaurant, and Bistro 501, which offers fabulous French food artistically arranged on your plate.
7. McCords - Although this is located downtown, it is one of my very favorite places to visit so it deserves its own category. McCords, a traditional soda fountain. You can have your fountain drink mixed with any type of flavoring you want. I usually go for either a chocolate or cherry diet coke. There is freshly made candy all year, but the big hit are the fresh handmade candy canes that come out December first every year. They are sold individually for a dollar, and people line up to purchase one, two, or thirty. There is also an inexpensive lunch menu, with a nice variety of healthy options such as fruits and vegetables. I just love the atmosphere of this place, and the service is always friendly.
8. Go Shopping! This is one of my favorite Lafayette activities! Tippecanoe Mall is a Simon mall that offers a large number of stores, and is anchored by L.S. Ayres, J.C. Penney, and Kohls. The mall is all on one level, and is easy to navigate. People from Chicago or New York are not likely to be impressed with this mall, but its pretty good as Indiana malls go. A very nice Applebees is located in the mall, with a variety of other restaurants in the area surrounding the parking lot.
9. Brunos - To be honest, I worked here during undergrad as a waitress. However, before I started working here I visited the restaurant once a week and loved it. This is a Swiss restaurant, specializing in Pizza. One room is decorated with swiss decor, paintings, and a cowbell, and the other is a sports room with an amazing collection of memorabilia. There is also a bar. This restaurant is very big with alumni, and sometimes there will be a two and a half hour wait to dine here after the game. After trying everything on the menu eight times, my favorites are the pizza, hot ham and cheese, and fried Bruno Dough dipped in garlic butter.
10. Wolf Park - This park is actually a research facility for gray wolves. During selected evenings, the park offers Howl Nights, where visitors can learn about the wolves and see them when they are the most active and noisy. The park is home to not only wolves, but also bison, red foxes, and a coyote. The wolves have divided themselves into packs even within the park, which is kind of interesting. If you want to familiarize yourself with the wolves before you visit, check out http://www.wolfpark.org/lops_pack.html.
There are more fun things to do in Lafayette, but those are ten of my favorites. I guess the main idea is even in the middle of nowhere in central Indiana, this city still offers plenty of fun things to do! Go Boilers!
*Want more info on the Purdue Campus? Check out ten things I love about Purdue University
*Best place to stay for your visit - Purdue Union Club Hotel