Cultural arts, live music, nature, golf, museums, farmers' markets and antiques, eclectic restaurants, child and family-oriented activities, shopping and much more await you in Hamilton County, Ind.

In less than 2 hours of relatively traffic-free driving, you can easily enjoy an activity-packed weekend just north of Indianapolis. The county touts eight great towns, the largest of which are Carmel, Noblesville, and Fishers. Five other Hamilton County towns (Westfield, Cicero, Sheridan, Atlanta, and Arcadia) are worth visiting, too.

The Arts and Design District awaits you in Carmel. Nearly a dozen galleries along Main Street are filled with paintings, pottery, jewelry and sculptures for purchasing or perusing.

Free evening gallery walks are scheduled each second Saturday of the month year-round.

Located in the arts district is the Museum of Miniature Houses; whatever your age, you will want to visit this enchanting collection of miniature houses and other collections. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children. Visit http://www.museumofminiatures for hours.

Outdoor activities are plentiful during Carmel's warmer months. From May to October, visitors can saunter through the weekly Saturday morning farmers' market. Saturday evenings, you can enjoy free live music at Jazz on the Monon. Additionally, the Summer Family Concert Series at the Gazebo offers free Wednesday evening concerts.

Carmel has ample dining establishments. Matt the Miller's Tavern offers sumptuous full meals for less than $15, tasty flatbread sandwiches, appetizers, and beverages. Muldoon's is an Irish pub on Main Street with delicious, affordable meals and live music.

The Nickel Plate Railroad is the namesake of numerous Noblesville vacation spots. And the county seat of Hamilton is the place to be, especially along its historic square.

First Fridays are filled with many outdoor and indoor events most months of the year. The farmers' market offers local produce Saturday mornings from May to October. Jazz Squared is a wonderful way to unwind each second Friday from June to September in a relaxing outdoor venue.

Be sure to stop at The Hamilton on the square for meals and homemade desserts like a strawberry custard pie. Or enjoy a casual, inexpensive breakfast with generous portions at Rosie's Place.

There's family fun for all ages in Fishers. A trip to the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park will excite and interest children and adults. Child admission is $10; adults pay $15. Experience a ride in a hot air balloon. Visit the park's Prairietown 1836, a fictional but historically accurate town. Or enjoy special events like the Marsh Symphony on the Prairie. Check out

The Nickel Plate Bar and Grill will not disappoint. Be sure to sample the hobo stew.

Hamilton County has assorted places to stay. If you want to try a bed and breakfast, check into the Prairie Guest House,

Owners Karen and John will prepare breakfast to your liking, accommodating any special dietary needs. Two adults can enjoy a comfortable room for less than $125.