When my kids were little, one of our favorite places to visit was our local children’s museum. As they got older though, we stopped going as much and it’s been years now since our last visit. It’s a fun place and they do a good job of engaging kids, especially little ones.
We’ve been to a few other children’s museums over the years. But although I’d heard good things about the one in Indianapolis, we never made it down that way. I’m not sure why since it’s only about a 4-hour drive.
That’s a decision that I’m now greatly regretting…
It’s hard to explain the difference between the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and other children’s museums in words. I think the best way is to say that many of the ones we’d seen before focus on play, with an educational focus. On the other hand, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is a museum first, that then focuses on how to bring the subject to life for kids of all ages. And even for adults.
I was invited down and hosted for two days by the Children’s Museum. I never expected to find enough to do for two full days, but I honestly could have spent even more time there. And although I do wish I’d had the kids with me, I had a blast exploring on my own.
There are four floors of exhibits, along with their new Sports Legends Experience that also includes 7.5 acres of outdoor space. Several of the exhibits are temporary. Right now there’s a Star Trek exhibit that ends in April. I wish we’d known about it earlier because Ron would absolutely love to explore everything in there. During my time at the museum, I spent time in every exhibit, except for the Paw Patrol one. My kids were too old when Paw Patrol became a thing, so it’s not a show I’m familiar with.
From the crowds I saw in and around that exhibit however, I have the feeling that anyone with toddlers and preschoolers is probably way too familiar with it. 🙂
That’s one great thing about this museum though. They have something for all age groups, up to and including adults. My teens would love the Star Trek stuff, along with their Pop Culture exhibit. And everybody loves dinosaurs, so exploring Dinosphere is a must-do. Not only can you watch real paleontologists at work and talk to them, but you can see full-sized dinosaur skeletons. And even learn about the Dracorex Hogwartsia – a new dinosaur species named by museum staff for the Harry Potter books.
Whether your kids are into trains, art and sculpture, science, sports, space or archeology, there’s something for them at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. There’s also the Playscape section for little ones ages 5 and under. Most of the museum is wheelchair accessible (except for a very few parts of some exhibits). There are ramps and elevators to get between floors. They offer some special tools for kids with sensory issues, including fidget toy kits and noise-reducing headphones upon request.
My favorite exhibit (other than Star Trek, which is just plain cool) is the one called the Power of Children. It’s definitely powerful, and probably not for the littlest kids. At least not without some parental explanation. This exhibit focuses on three children who made a difference in the world, in very different ways. It explains the stories of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White. Anne, Ruby and Ryan faced some incredible challenges and not all of their stories have a happy ending. That can be difficult to face, not only for kids.
It’s one thing to hear the story of Anne Frank and to read her diary. It’s another to see up close what a real Star of David badge that the Jews were forced to wear in Nazi controlled countries during WWII looks like. Or to be confronted with the reality of a ‘whites only’ drinking fountain like the type that existed all over the south not that too many years ago. You can see the graffiti scribbled on Ryan White’s locker after he was diagnosed with AIDS. These stories truly come to life and make us remember that kids often have to face some very adult challenges.
Along with the stories and artifacts from the lives of these three incredible people, the exhibit challenges kids to look at ways that they can make a difference themselves. Not even just kids – how you or I can make a difference in our own neighborhoods and communities.
I’m going to write more about the Children’s Museum on TravelingMom, and I’ll give more of the scoop there like what I thought of the food court and the shows I watched. I also plan to write here separately about the Sports Legends Experience section of the museum.
So do I think that the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is worth a visit? Absolutely. Especially if you have kids with a wide range of ages. I know it can be difficult to find activities that toddlers, school-aged kids and teens can all enjoy together. But this definitely fits the bill there.
And did I mention the carousel? And the chocolate slide? Or the 43-foot high Dale Chihuly blown glass sculpture? 🙂
Do I think my teens would like it? Yes. Probably not all parts of it. But there’s certainly enough that would interest them to make it worth visiting.
What are the challenges with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis? The biggest one for me is the cost. It’s not cheap. Especially for larger families. They do offer a cheaper rate for children, and kids 2 and under are free. You can also save some money by buying ahead online. If you’re at all local to the area, a membership would be a good option to explore. Once you’ve visited a couple of times you will have most likely essentially paid for a membership anyway. Parking is free, but you do have to also factor in costs for food and souvenirs.
I think the other challenge is just that with four levels, it can be difficult to manage kids if everyone wants to go in different directions at once. I’d be perfectly fine with my teenagers wandering around on their own. But if you’ve got smaller ones who all want to see and do different things, it could be difficult.
Overall though, I think it’s absolutely worth a visit. And you’ll likely have a hard time getting your kids to leave. 🙂