20 Best Things to Do in Marion, IN

Marion, IN
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Drawing up a list of the top 15 things to do in Marion shouldn’t be much of a bother, as this city is the seat of Grant County, Indiana.

As the county’s hub, the city of Marion offers plenty of points of interest, providing many exciting activities to visiting tourists.

Founded in 1831 along with the establishment of Grant County, Marion occupies some 15 square miles on the left bank of the scenic Mississinewa River.

This river, whose name means “falling water” to Miami Indians, has become one of the templates of Marion’s extensive park system.

A visit to this city opens the opportunity to enjoy a choice from its 15 parks that combine for an area of more than 200 acres.

Moreover, Marion is home to Indiana Wesleyan University, Indiana’s largest private university, and an economic multiplier contributing to Marion’s vibrancy.

Many other exciting discoveries surely can be expected in a tour of this city and its neighbors, as can be seen in the following 20 best things to do in Marion.

Visit Matter Park

This is not only Marion’s oldest and largest park but also the most nature-oriented due to its location on the banks of the Mississinewa River.

Matter Park spreads over 101 acres off North River Road and North Quarry Road, where you have access to several facilities.

The park provides baseball and softball fields, volleyball courts, a disc golf course, tennis courts, and playgrounds.

Other park features include picnic areas, grills, shelters, restrooms, a fishing pond, and a nature trail.

The park’s crown jewels are the 6.3-acre Gar­dens of Mat­ter Park and its extension the Mead­ow featuring an award-winning butterfly garden.

Matter Park hosts several special events, including concerts and dances, while its gardens hold plant sales and family-oriented events.

Enjoy the Waters at Splash House

A water park, Splash House is located at 2601 South Adams St. on the east side of Marion.

The attractions in this water-based playground include two racer slides, a “big flush” slide, a large wave pool, and a lazy river.

Kids can have their fun in a Splash House section with a play pad featuring big splash torrents from a large bucket on its top.

Splash House provides plenty of seats for its visitors who can also avail of the water park’s cabana rentals.

Parking is ample at this water park, where the entrance and restrooms are all wheelchair-accessible.

North of this park, you can also check out the Cardinal Greenway, the longest Indiana rail trail for bikers and runners.

Explore the Mis­sissinewa River­walk

You can cover a lot of ground exploring Marion via a walking tour of the Mis­sissinewa River­walk set up by public and private partnerships in the 1980s.

This trail runs for 2.25 miles starting from the south near the Wash­ing­ton Street Bridge and 1st Street and winds up at the Mat­ter Park fish­ing pond.

This route, which passes through Marion’s downtown area, is suitable for both physical workouts and recreation.

Besides access to Matter Park, the Mississinewa Riverwalk also unlocks entry to the 5-acre Willis Van Devanter Park with a shelter, gazebo, and fishing spot.

Near this park, you can view the Mis­sissinewa 1812 memorial commemorating the historic battle between federal troops and British-allied Indians.

See the Exhibits at Quilters Hall of Fame

Learn more about the craft of quilting with a visit to the historic Webster House at 926 Washington St.

This vintage 1900s home was the residence of Marie Webster, a well-known quilter nationally.

The Webster House, which was entered in the US National Registry of Historic Places in 1992 and as a National Historic Landmark in 1993, is now the home of the Quilters Hall of Fame.

This nonprofit organizes exhibits of quilts and promotes research and education on the craft of quilting.

It also honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the development of quilting.

Camp at Sports Lake

This campsite is located on the south flank of Country Road 400 South, just across the Walnut Creek/Club Run golf links, an area easily accessible from State Roads 22 and 35.

The Sports Lake Campground is the nearest full-service campground to exit 259 off of Interstate 69.

It features 160 campsites, with an 11-acre Sports Lake as their eye-pleasing backdrop.

The lake is well-stocked with fish and features a boat launch as well.

Developed with a spacious playground, this campsite is family-oriented and pet-friendly, and you can enjoy a minimum one-day stay here.

But you’re like to stay longer, as there are numerous attractions nearby, including the nearby public Walnut Creek/Club Run golf courses.

Play at Walnut Creek and Club Run

Golfers visiting Marion will have an amazing pick at playing either The Walnut Creek or Club Run golf courses adjacent to each other.

Both are located on the northern flank of Country Road 400 South, accessible from State Roads 22 and 35.

These courses delight golfers with their wide selection of tee-off areas, enabling enjoyment by players of different abilities.

More natural in their designs than most golf layouts in Indiana, these courses take pride in their staff, who has received the Indiana Hoosier Hospitality Award.

Walnut Creek opened in 1970 while Club Run debuted in 1998, and since then, they have earned a Golf Digest four-star rating.

Dine at the Vintage Hostess House

Set a memorable lunch date at the circa 1912 Hostess House at 723 West 4thStreet, which was listed on the US National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Dining here is open weekdays between 11:00 a.m. and 2 p.m., and the Hostess House also features a resale shop and a boutique.

Also called the J. Wood Wilson House and the Wilson-Vaughan House, you can pick from its restaurant’s menu entrees like Southern pork barbecue, Hoosier tenderloin, and Cranberry Turkey.

Then, you can settle at admiring this vintage dwelling’s Colonial/Georgian Revival architectural style.

You can also marvel at the décor of this splendid mansion, many of which were donations from families in the area.

Have a Photo-Op at Grant County’s Garfield Trails

If you’re a huge fan of the cartoon character Garfield, you can have a photo-op with its unique statue at 505 West 3rd Street in Marion.

This likeness of the fat cat Garfield, popularized by its creator Jim Davis, is among the 14 statues across Indiana that comprise Grant County’s Garfield Trails.

Fairmount south of Marion is Davis’ hometown and also features a contribution to the Garfield Trails.

Each of the Garfield statues in its various sites is about 5-foot tall and strikes different poses.

In Marion, Garfield’s pose explores the tagline “Paws for Thought,” while “Cool Cat” is the theme in Fairmount.

Go Golfing in a Historic Course

If you’re into golf, visit the Meshingomesia Golf & Social Club at 2225 Lagro Road for a chance to play in this historic golf course.

Established in the early 1900s, this former members-only course has been opened for the public to enjoy.

The Meshingomesia course plays its 18-hole layout at par 72 over 6,242 yards from the longest tees.

Its course rating is at 70.3, while its slope rating is 120 on Bent Grass.

After a round on the well-maintained Meshingomesia course, you can relax at its impressive clubhouse distinctive in its Mission-style architecture.

Meshingomesia Golf & Social Club provides a pro shop and a 19th Hole snack bar.

Follow the Wesleyan Wildcats

Visit the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) at 4201 South Washington St. for an opportunity to watch the games of its athletic teams.

Playing under the banner of the Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats, these teams compete in nine intercollegiate sports for men and ten sports for women, plus an entry in co-ed competitive cheer.

The Wildcats is a dominant participant in the competitions of the NCCAA and the Crossroads League.

The IWU players have also been the reigning Commissioners Cup champion for a record of eight consecutive years.

For nine straight years, the Wildcats ranked among the top 20 in the standings of the NAIA United States Sports Academy Directors' Cup.

Catch a Performance at the CSA Civic Theatre

Marion is home to the Community School of the Arts (CSA), turning out more than six performances each year at its Civic Theatre at 509 South Washington St. in downtown Marion.

Notably, this CSA stage is housed at the James Dean Performance Theatre, honoring the legendary American actor born in Marion.

CSA presents theatrical productions as a showcase of this non-profit’s more than 25 years in the art scene.

This school also struts its professionalism in the 200 classes it holds for dance, music, theatre, and visual arts in downtown Marion.

As a testimony to the expertise of CSA talents, the school draws students from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis.

Trace the James Dean Trail

Movie buffs curious about the legacy of legendary actor James Dean will be interested in visiting his Birth Site Memorial at 410 South McClure St. in Marion.

It was at the Seven Gables Apartment House that formerly occupied this site where the 1956-57 Golden Globe awardee James Dean was born on February 8, 1931.

Such was an amazing feat considering that Dean only appeared in three movies, among them the celebrated Rebel without a Cause.

To appreciate more about Dean’s legacy, visit the neighboring town of Fairmount, just 12 miles south of Fairmount, which elaborates more on the Grant County’s James Dean Trail.

The town has put up a James Dean Gallery featuring a collection of the actor’s rare memorabilia and portraits.

Fairmount also has James Dean Memorial Park displaying the bust of the actor sculpted by a Los Angeles-based artist, Kenneth Kendall.

Dine at Downtown’s Los Amores

Located at 428 Washington St., this restaurant serves an enticing selection of authentic Mexican dishes and select American cuisine.

This highly rated dining destination declares that it is not just a place to eat but also a venue for an experience you will enjoy.

Patrons of Los Amores hails the restaurant’s staff as super-friendly, providing customers with chips and salsa for free.

The food preparations are rendered swiftly and faster than most other sit-down restaurants.

Tip-off their staff of a companion celebrating his or her birthday lunch or dinner at Los Amores, and surely, the celebrant gets serenaded with a lively birthday song with guitar accompaniment.

Hunt for Antique’s at Jake’s

Searching for souvenir items in a trip to Marion will take you to Jake’s Antiques & Collectibles at 1440 West Winona Ave.

Voted as among the best shops to buy antiques, this retail outlet occupies over 30,000 square feet of commercial space with 50 vendors.

This shop has been selling vintage wares for nearly 30 years, and its friendly and knowledgeable staff will assist you in your purchase.

There are plenty of choices available at Jake’s Antiques & Collectibles, as it gets additional merchandise daily.

The store’s offerings include accessories, jewelry, cabinets, chairs, and many more.

Skate at Idyl Wyld Roller Palace

The roller skating experience can best be enjoyed in Marion at the long-running Idyl Wyld Roller Palace.

Located at 4013 South Meridian St., this skating rink is family-owned and has been in operation since 1937.

Here, you also have a chance to rub elbows with locals, as Idyl Wyld is a popular venue for parties and holiday celebrations.

Besides its skating rink, this recreational facility also features a big arcade with a wide selection of video games, Skee Ball, and pool tables.

Once you’ve worked an appetite after skating or playing in the arcade, the Idyl Wyld has a snack bar where a wide selection of snacks and drinks await.

Practice your Swing at Arbor Trace Golf Club

Embark on an unforgettable experience in Arbor Trace Golf Club, a family-owned and maintained 18-hole public golf course.

The club has four sets of tees for golfers of all skill levels, practice areas, chipping greens, putting greens, and GPS-equipped golf carts.

Lessons are available to players of all ages from head golf professional Doug Piper.

With its wooden sculpture of "Duffer Garfield" within the clubhouse, Arbor Trace also serves as the fifth station on the Grant County Garfield Trail.

Don't forget to swing by the fully equipped golf shop to check out items for sale.

Arbor Trace Golf Club offers a joyful, stress-free environment for your event or any other occasion.

View the Exhibits at Marion Public Library Museum

Discover the histories of Marion and Grant County through the Marion Public Library Museum's exhibits and artifacts.

The Museum is located in the ancient Carnegie Building, which, from 1902 until 1991, served as Marion Public Library.

Approximately 150,000 books and audiovisual resources are housed in the combined facility.

The most recent exhibit, the interactive Made in Marion, showcases the prosperous years in Grant County.

Pictures and uniforms are on display in the Patriotic Exhibit.

Other displays include a Marion-produced Crosley car, glass from nearby companies, old electric kitchen equipment, toys for kids, and vintage apparel.

Engage in Various Activities at Jigsaw Junction

Jigsaw Junction provides activities and entertainment for the whole family!

Their objective is to create real, enjoyable, difficult, and unforgettable experiences that inspire people to disconnect from technology and reconnect with one another.

The whole family will surely enjoy the variety of entertaining activities they have in store.

Engage in putting together jigsaw puzzles, fun family game evenings, or testing your problem-solving abilities in the complex escape rooms.

Jigsaw Junction has a wide selection of the newest games and puzzles, from simple to extremely difficult, in various styles, shapes, and themes to fit every interest.

Take a Dip at the Pool at Grant County Family YMCA

Grant County Family YMCA provides various programs for individuals of all ages and abilities that enrich children, elders, families, and communities.

These activities include camps, family outings, swimming, athletics, and recreation.

Grant County Family YMCA is more than just your neighborhood gym and wellness club with a pool.

They provide sessions in low-impact fitness, indoor cycling, and yoga.

The experienced instructors will ensure you get the most out of every session.

Additionally, the YMCA Homeschool PE program offers nearby homeschooled kids the chance to participate in social collaboration, character development, and fitness exercises.

Order Mexican Cuisine at Casa Brava Authentic Mexican Cuisine

Your go-to local spot for the greatest Mexican food is the family-friendly restaurant Casa Brava Authentic Mexican Cuisine.

Enjoy amazing cuisine, service, and environment at one of the finest Mexican restaurants in the country, as voted five years in a row.

Locally and family-owned, they provide everyday lunch, dinner, drink specials, and a complete bar with beer, tequila, margarita towers, and other alcoholic beverages.

They use only the finest ingredients and original recipes to provide the tastiest nachos, enchiladas, steak, seafood, chicken, and other dishes.

Casa Brava Authentic Mexican Cuisine is also available to host special celebrations and private functions.

Final Thoughts

Visiting Marion promises to be an exciting and memorable trip, as this city teems with an amazing selection of recreational possibilities.

The city’s riverside location has spawned well-developed parks with complete facilities for the entire family's enjoyment.

The rich history of Marion and the city’s more recent developments combine to offer points of interest and activities that appeal to all ages.

Further, Marion enjoys a convenient location in the east-central part of Indiana, making it easily accessible to visitors.

And with plenty of things to do in Marion, it should come as no surprise that many more tourists will be drawn to its fold.

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