Blake is a frequent Indiana State Park visitor and stays in state park inns several times per year.
Indiana has seven State Park Inns that are located at, you guessed it, state parks. From Fort Harrison to Spring Mill, you can find lodging and one golf resort at some gorgeous parks with diverse options for rooms and amenities.
Tips for Booking the Room
As with most things, those who plan ahead have more opportunities to save money. The State Park Inn's can get booked up early during certain times of the year. For example, Brown County's Abe Martin Lodge room availability gets slimmer the closer you get to the "peak season." This is the time of year when the trees put on a beautiful display of color, and there's a lot more going on in the nearby tourist town of Nashville.
Go in the "Off Season"
I recommend intentionally avoiding the busy times of the year, including the week leading to Christmas through New Year's Day, though winter can be a beautiful time to visit. Think warm fireplace, snow-covered rocks next to a gently flowing stream. You can usually find discounts for times that are less busy.
Winter specials can include buying one night and getting the second free, while "Spring Into Savings" or "Summer Savings" can often get you a second day at half price. Make sure you go to the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) website to find the booking information about the yearly specials. Third party booking sites may not include these discounts.
Planning Your Stay
Sunday through Thursday
As mentioned earlier, discounts are available. And those usually mean Sunday through Thursday. If you want to stay for an entire week and you like to camp, consider camping a couple of days before your stay in the Inn. That way, you can start out "roughing it" and end your trip clean and well-rested.
Going Big Can Be Cheaper
Consider renting a cabin or a suite if you have a larger group of people. Family cabins can offer the comforts of home, including multiple rooms for privacy and kitchens. Suites usually have more floor space for extra sleepers using inflatable beds or other options you figure out.
Get the Most of Limited Time
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With check-in at 4:00 p.m. and check-out at 11:00 a.m., you're really only getting 19 hours. However, each day you add gives you 24 full hours of additional time. So not only do you get a discount for staying multiple days at certain times of the year, but you also get more time.
Plan to show up a little early on your arrival day and ask to stay a little later on your departure day. All you have to do is ask; sometimes, the staff will let you have a little more time. This is not always possible, but it's worth asking. If you're like our family, it's a good idea to plan to be there early anyway, since we don't always leave on time anyway.
Eat Sparingly at the Inn Restaurant
Food is usually your second biggest expense at a State Park Inn, but it can easily become more expensive than the room if you're not careful. A family of four could expect to easily spend $50.00 to $70.00 per meal if we eat at the inn's restaurant. The inn's restaurant isn't the only choice, but if you are going to eat their food, consider getting a large-portion item as carry-out to avoid wasting time. Some inns offer big pizzas that can feed the whole family for under $20.00, for example.
Check your room or with the inn to see if a microwave and refrigerator are included. If so, you can easily cook spaghetti ahead of time and heat it up in the microwave for a cheap meal. This is just an example. A cooler could be used for at least one day if there's not a refrigerator. Most inns have ice available.
Cook and Reheat On Site
You can consider grilling out at a fire using roasting forks if there's no microwave. State park inns may have firewood available for you to use as a guest. Also, you'll usually find grills for charcoal grilling.
If you would rather stay in the room, you may be able to take a small crock pot to cook or warm up some food. Just make sure you check the rules about what you're allowed to use for cooking safely in your room. Don't forget to pack utensils needed for cooking!
Go Outside the Park to Eat Once or Twice
Eating outside the park is another way to save a little money and have some variety. Getting a big pizza, Mexican or Chinese food, and saving the leftovers for lunch the next day can be economical. Just make sure that you don't drive into town over and over for every meal. This will end up costing you gas money depending on how far it is to drive.
Small Crock for Reheating Convenience
Gas Use Strategy
Driving around a large state park like Brown County can cost you in gas. Consider using trails that are close to the Inn, at least some of the time. Try to combine activities that you'll need to drive to do. For example, maybe you'll be going into town to buy a toothbrush and goggles. While you're there, pick up some food and do some other touristy sightseeing instead of making multiple trips.
Filling the Tank
I typically like to fill up the gas tank before leaving to go and come home, but it could be strategic to check gas prices at various places on the route before blindly filling up. You could also eat at a restaurant at a strategic stop that allows a bathroom break and a chance to stretch your legs as well.
Indiana state parks typically have small or large towns close by with charm and activities, but looking inside the park for some entertainment is still a good idea. Use this list to help plan your activities.
Possible Inexpensive In-Park Activities
- Swimming (both indoor and outdoor, by the season)
- Pioneer, Native American, or historical sites
- Board games
- Guided tours
- Playgrounds and sports fields
- Nature centers, bird watching, tree identification
- Kayaking, canoeing, creek stomping
Free In-Room Activity Ideas Other Than Using a Phone
- Board and card games
- Stream movies or TV using public Wi-Fi to your own device (Chromecast)
- Bring a video game to hook up to the TV
- Read, draw, color, do crossword puzzles, etc.
- Take a nap, shower, or just relax!
Convenient and Versatile Chromecast with Remote
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Blake Flannery