Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Indianapolis | Midwest Living

Top 10 Things to Do with Kids in Indianapolis

A top-notch children's museum, a zoo, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other kid-friendly destinations will keep your family busy during a weekend getaway in Indianapolis.

1) The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis There’s a Dinosaur Dig excavation site. A brilliant Chihuly-inspired Fireworks of Glass display. Hands-on science experiments galore. A full-size indoor carousel. And a brand-new Playscape section specifically geared toward babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Plenty to play with, for sure, but the world’s largest children’s museum doesn’t shy away from sending out some meaningful messages, too. For instance, the touching Power of Children: Making a Difference highlights the lives of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White. (317) 334-3322;

Photo courtesy of Lavengood Photography

2) Indianapolis Zoo Pet a shark, race a cheetah (NASCAR driver Tony Stewart narrates the feature), hand-feed a giraffe, and stand just inches away from a majestic Amur tiger. Garden geeks and green thumbs will enjoy wandering through the glorious White River Gardens, included in the price of admission. The flashy International Orangutan Center opens in 2014 with a beacon of light fixture the primates are going to activate.  (317) 630-2001;

Photo courtesy of

3) White River State Park Block off an entire day to explore this sprawling 250-acre park and its museums. The Indiana State Museum’s exterior offers a Where’s Waldo-like hunt for limestone blocks representing the state’s 92 counties, and the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center’s 3-D You Are There exhibit takes you back to earlier decades with misty projections of historical photographs you can walk through. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art provides a moving look at Wild West culture, as well as classy gift shop souvenirs like pottery, paintings and turquoise jewelry. Sports fans will want to shoot some hoops at the NCAA Hall of Champions and take in a game at Victory Field, home to Indianapolis Indians Triple-A baseball. Tired of walking? Rent a Segway or a pedal boat to cruise the canal for some outstanding photo ops of the downtown skyline. (317) 233-2434;

4) Conner Prairie This living-history museum is a standard stop for school field trips, but new storytelling has freshened up visits for both kids and adults. The homespun costumed interpreters are still on hand to immerse guests in 1836 pioneer life at the Prairietown area, but now you can also check out a rustic nature path, a Civil War-theme play area and a 1859 hot-air balloon ride. The raw and sometimes emotionally harrowing Follow the North Star program immerses you in the role of a runaway slave as bounty hunters track your every move through the fields. (317) 776-6006; (Photo courtesy of Conner Prairie)

Photo courtesy of Lavengood Photography

5) Indianapolis Motor Speedway When in Indy, you simply must go to the site of the legendary Indianapolis 500. Check out the 75 or so race cars within the Hall of Fame Museum; see the faces of past Indy 500 winners on the Borg-Warner trophy; and take a lap by bus around the storied racetrack. When standing on the hallowed “yard of bricks,” it’s up to you if you want to kiss them like the racing champions do. (317) 492-8500;

Hall of Fame Museum photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

6) Indianapolis Museum of Art Art museums don’t often rank high on most kids’ to-do lists, but this one should. Yes, there are several floors of gorgeous galleries and a well-vetted gift shop, but the IMA also gives antsy kids something to do during seasonal Art in the Park activities and at the Indianapolis Star Family Studio. Afterward, let little ones loose in the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park: 100 Acres, where they can play with a dozen large-scale sculptures and installations. Snap a requisite touristy photo in front of the Robert Indiana Love sculpture on your way in or out. (317) 923-1331; (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Museum of Art)

Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art

7) Thr3e Wise Men Picnic-table seating, terry-cloth hand towels instead of napkins, and buckets of free popcorn make this restaurant in the Broad Ripple district a great dinner option for families. Parents sip pints of brewed-on-site craft beer, while kids color or mold balls of pizza dough. The shortish menu lists hot sub sandwiches, calzones, breadsticks, blue cheese-and-bacon-loaded kettle chips and tasty thin-crust pizzas (we’re partial to the Basil Bunny Bruschetta). (317) 255-5151;

8) Imax Theater On the second floor of the Indiana State Museum in White River State Park, this six-story movie screen is the biggest in Indiana. The sound and pictures are so lifelike, they may be a little too intense for some youngsters. But if you’re in the mood for a memorable 3-D film experience, this theater is the best in town. (317) 233-4629; (Photo courtesy of Imax Theater)

9) Rhythm! Discovery Center This family-friendly museum features a stunning collection of instruments from around the world, many availble for playing. Don't expect this interactive museum to encourage kids to just rush around mindlessly pulling levers and pushing buttons; here, signs helpfully guide visitors of all ages in how to make the most of each exhibit. (317) 275-9030;  

10) Mug N Bun The kids will think it’s fun to pull up, park and flash your headlights for carhop service at this classic Hoosier drive-in, but the outdoor picnic area is also a decent place to sit when the weather’s nice. Load up on traditional diner fare like burgers, fries, hot dogs and onion rings washed down with a milkshake or a frosty mug of the secret-recipe root beer (the stuff’s so popular, you can buy gallons and half-gallons to-go). (317) 244-5669;


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