Warm fires and warm feelings await at Indiana’s seven State Park Inns

By Frank Oliver/DNR -- State park inns in Indiana in 2010.

By Nick Werner, DNR staff

The drive from Harrison, Ohio, to Pokagon State Park in the northeast corner of Indiana lasted almost four hours for the Markarian family.

Angela and Alan Markarian and their three sons had become interested in Pokagon after seeing videos of its historic toboggan run on Facebook. So, they planned an overnight trip two days after Christmas, while the kids were still on a holiday break. 

The trajectory was almost due north, a detail demonstrated by the change in scenery. 

The Markarians left their home outside Cincinnati with a green lawn in their rearview mirror. Pokagon greeted them with almost 8 inches of snow. The park is situated on the shore of Lake James, which was frozen and snowcapped, adding to a sense of northern tranquility. 

While Mother Nature helped make the trip memorable, the park’s Potawatomi Inn astonished the Markarians, especially Angela. 

“It was like we were in a Hallmark movie,” she said. 

Potawatomi Inn is one of seven in the system of state park lodges. Each is a perfect destination for a traditional holiday getaway with the family. With cheerful staffs, rustic ambiences, home-style dining and natural surroundings, State Park Inns evoke a sense of nostalgia and create an environment for making long-lasting, meaningful memories with loved ones. 

Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day, or just looking for a getaway, State Park Inns are the perfect winter destination. 

During winter, State Park Inns offer a two-for-one winter special. Stay two consecutive nights, and only pay for one, Sunday through Thursday only (some blackout dates apply). Combined, the seven charming inns offer more than 600 rooms, ranging from cozy queens to apartment-sized suites.

Potawatomi Inn opened in 1927, two years after the park opened. It offers 138 guest rooms.

Angela was most surprised by the inn’s cozy lounge areas, with their huge stone fireplaces and comfortable leather furniture. In many hotels, common areas are vacant as occupants retreat to their rooms to spend their stay in private. 

Not so at Potawatomi.

The Markarians saw families fresh off the toboggan run warming their toes by the fire, scarves still draped around their necks. They saw children playing board games, and adults mingling over coffee. Kinship flowed from the lounge like a breeze off Lake James. You would have struggled to find someone staring at his or her smartphone. 

It was as if Bing Crosby himself arranged the scene. 

By Frank Oliver/DNR — The inn at Clifty Falls State Park near Madison in August of 2009.

When it comes to winter recreation, Pokagon is best known for its refrigerated toboggan run. The dual-track facility drops 90 feet over a quarter-mile. Snow or no snow, the run is open on weekends after Thanksgiving and through February. Thirteen bucks gets you and as many as three friends the use of a park toboggan for one hour. 

One ride lasts 25 to 30 seconds. The highest speed ever recorded is 42 mph.  

The toboggan run ends near the inn. 

The Markarians rode the toboggan three times, drank hot chocolate in the toboggan run warming station, and then retreated to the inn to swim in the indoor pool. 

Each inn has its own unique features. 

Abe Martin Lodge at Brown County State Park is home to a 12,000-square-foot indoor aquatic center. So pack your swimsuit. The aquatic center features a zero-entry pool, water slide, water channel, fountains, water volleyball and basketball, and a whirlpool.

Admission to the aquatic center is free for lodge guests. Day passes are also available for non-guests, subject to availability, for $15 per person.

Built in 1939 from Indiana limestone, Spring Mill Inn in Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell offers 73 rooms, an indoor pool and old-fashioned cooking at Millstone Dining Room. 

Lori’s Ton ‘O’ Fun Daycare at abe martin lodge aquatic center at Brown County State Park.

The park’s restored 1800’s Pioneer Village comes alive during the holiday season with “Christmas in the Village.” Heritage interpreters bake cookies and make decorations as they prepare to celebrate a late-1800s Christmas. During the evening hours, local musicians fill the air with seasonal songs. Visitors can also enjoy wassail and cookies in the tavern.

The Markarians hope to return to Potawatomi Inn soon. The destination may even become a tradition. 

No matter which state park inn you choose, you’ll be greeted with holiday cheer, a warm fire and all the ingredients necessary for making memories with loved ones. 

Indiana State Parks Inns

  • Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park, Nashville. 
  • Clifty Inn, Clifty Falls State Park, Madison.  
  • Fort Harrison Inn, Fort Harrison State Park, Indianapolis. 
  • Canyon Inn, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Spencer. 
  • Potawatomi Inn, Pokagaon State Park, Angola
  • Spring Mill Inn, Spring Mill State Park, Mitchell
  • Turkey Run Inn, Turkey Run State Park, Marshall

For more information, visit IndianaInns.com

Save money with a Holiday Gift Pack

Whether the loved ones on your shopping list enjoy camping outdoors or sleeping in the comfort of an inn, Indiana’s State Parks has you covered with a State Park Holiday Gift Pack.

The gift pack comes in two price options. The $99 option includes a 2019 resident Annual Entrance Permit, a one-year subscription to Outdoor Indiana magazine, and one of two $65 gift card options. Choose between a $65 State Park Camp gift card or a $65 Inns gift card. 

A $134 upgraded gift pack includes all that too, but the gift card is worth $100 instead of $65.

Buy the pack at InnsGifts.com beginning Oct. 15.

Orders ship within three to five business days. Orders received by Dec. 10 will ship by Dec. 18. The offer is available through Dec. 31.

Indiana has 32 state parks and reservoirs throughout the state. The entrance permit grants gate entrance for all of 2019 for all state parks and reservoirs beginning Jan. 1.

The Inns gift card can be used at any of seven state park lodging facilities, as well as at the award-winning Pete Dye-designed golf course at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis. The inns gift card can be used for lodging, meals in the dining rooms, or gift card purchases.

The camping gift card can be used at any state park or reservoir campground, as well as at the following DNR Division of Forestry properties: Greene-Sullivan State Forest, Covered Bridge Retreat, and Deam Lake and Starve Hollow state recreation areas. The gift card can be used toward cabins (excluding inns-operated cabins), campsites, cottages, group camps, recreation buildings, rent-a-camp cabins, shelters, and youth & rally camps.

In addition to camping, the camp gift card also may be used to pay for daily or annual entrance fees, lake permits, horse tags, and many other items sold by a state park property, except for those operations run by private concessionaires.