(Written by Indianapolis native, Erika Hanes)
Growing up right outside Indianapolis, Indiana made for a very creative, engaging, and exciting childhood. I was both lucky enough to live in a city that had so much to offer, and to have parents who wanted to show me everything I could possibly see. This “On the Go” is greatly inspired by my own childhood memories; it is a testament to Indianapolis that some of my favorite things to do as a child are still around decades later.
1. The Children’s MuseumBy far, the Children’s Museum was my favorite place to visit. As a kid, I was fascinated by the giant multi-colored water clock right at the front entrance. The water clock is exactly what it sounds like – a clock that functions by the momentum generated from water filling and refilling different sized beakers, spools of glass, and pipes. Every hour on the hour, it refills with lots of pomp and flair, and is sure to impress any child.
Children can take part in many different adventures, such as pretending to be archaeologists and digging up dinosaur fossils, or putting together an Egyptian sarcophagus. There are also educational theatre experiences where kids can learn about the cosmos or sea creatures in an IMAX theatre. The museum always has interesting featured exhibits so you can come to see the staples of the museum, and also see the featured attractions. A few years ago I went to see the “Super Hero” exhibit, which was a collection of vintage super hero action figures and costumes from movies. If your child is hands-on, inquisitive, and loves to interact with puzzles or challenges, you absolutely have to stop by the Children’s Museum.
2. Conner Prairie
Technically this is just outside of Indianapolis but Conner Prairie is the place to be for visits to the past. In the summer, kids can explore “Prairie Town” to learn what it was like to live on the old frontier. Prairie volunteers dress up in frontier clothing and show children how to spin wool, wash clothes on a washing board, churn butter, and make pottery on a spinning wheel. Each area of the 1,400 acre park is dedicated to some aspect of Indiana’s history, from the Civil War to the Native American tribes that originally called the area home.
In the fall, Conner Prairie has its fall festival where visitors can bob for apples, hike through trails, and ride the haunted hayride through the apple orchard to catch a glimpse of the notorious Headless Horseman. I have such fond memories of riding the hayride, scaring my little cousins with the threat of the Horseman coming to get them. I don’t recommend that for younger children, but older children will enjoy it.
3. Indianapolis Zoo
The Indy Zoo is fantastic. It’s incredibly large, well-organized, and affordable. It has over 2,000 animals but you can still see everything in a day. Kids will love the dolphin shows or the elephants’ bath time. They’ll also enjoy a train that goes around the entire park and takes you closer to certain animals than you would normally be able to get just by walking around.
On the other side of the zoo is the botanic gardens, which is huge, gorgeous, and totally worth the walk around on a nice day. Whenever I’ve been there, the staff has always been really friendly and helpful. There is also a petting zoo, so kids can feed goats and pet cows. The polar bear exhibit has a glass wall where kids can put their hands up to the polar bears’ paws and see how big they are. I have fond memories of doing that with my mom, so I highly recommend this location for that reason.
4. Indianapolis Indians
Baseball is always a good time. Tickets to see the Indianapolis Indians are usually pretty affordable and the stadium is in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. You can also get tickets to sit on the lawn in the outfield, which is the perfect place to be in the summer because of the fireworks. You can bring coolers and blankets if you’d like if you don’t want to purchase stadium food.
5. Monon TrailIf you’re an active family, taking a summer or early fall bike ride down the Monon Trail is a must. The great thing about the Monon is that is runs from Noblesville, Indiana (North of Indianapolis) down through the very south end of Indianapolis, so you can hop on it from lots of different locations around the Indy area. This is even good for a morning stroll to start your day, if biking all day isn’t your thing. Depending on where you are on the trail, there are plenty of places to stop and grab a bite to eat or to see a historic part of town, such as in Noblesville or Carmel.
6. The Nutcracker
Located on Butler University campus, Clowes Memorial Hall houses some of the best ballets in the country. Every Christmas, my parents took me to see “The Nutcracker” and it’s still one of my favorite things to do, even as an adult. If you have kids who can sit through a long show and are interested in dance, or would be amazed at big, dramatic costumes, you have to do this at Christmas time.
What are your favorite things to do in Indianapolis with your kids? We’d love to hear your family’s favorites! And if you’re looking for things to do without your kids, we have 6 kid-free things to do in Indianapolis, too!
– Written by Erika Hanes, Jane of all trades, Master of PR and Advertising from DePaul University, craft beer and heavy metal gumshoe, traveler, and life-long boat rocker.
Whenever you need a sitter or a suitcase, Little Peanut on the Go helps you stay organized with packing lists and to-do lists, plus emergency contacts and care instructions to share with your kids’ caregivers. The app is available for both iOS and Android.
Note: The Little Peanut on the Go website only links to products and services we like and use in real life. We did not receive compensation for this article, all opinions are our own.