The Indianapolis Children's Museum (http://www.childrensmuseum.org/catalog/home.asp) is generally regarded as one of the finest childrens museums anywhere in the world and has, in fact, won the distinction of being the best several times. Its reputation is well deserved and, better yet, it never rests on its laurels, but continues to improve.
Some basics first:
Location: 3000 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Indiana. Several blocks north of the main downtown area (Circle Center), but easy to find for out-of-town visitors as Meridian is a major street.
Hours: The museum has summer hours from March 1st through Labor Day, opening from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST (visitors to our area should note we do not observe Daylight Savings Time, hence the use of Eastern Standard Time), seven days a week. The winter hours are from Labor Day through the end of February, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, six days a week (closed Mondays). Additionally, the museum is closed: Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas Days.
Prices: The museum has available both single day passes and annual memberships. Single day passes for an adult are $11.50; children (ages 2-17) are $6.50 and seniors (60+ years) are $10.50. Memberships are available in a number of configurations, from single adult to family and grandparent options. They range from $35 to $90 per year. Visitors should note there is an antique carousel that offers rides for $1.00 each.
Amenities: parking is on-site or just across the street and is free; there is a food court on the museums ground floor level; restrooms are located on each level; drinking fountains available near the Welcome Center and on Level 3; most areas are handicap accessible; museum maps are provided upon entry; services include coat check, first aid and hearing impaired service. The museum is also part of Project Safe Place (a program designed to help at-risk children). Gift shop on site.
Now for the meaty part:
Let me start by saying that I dont have kids. I dont even want kids. But I love going to the Childrens Museum. Sometimes, we take guests and their children, but sometimes I will grab another adult friend and well just go and have our own day of fun. I think there is quite literally something for everyone at this place. I suggest arriving early when the doors open because the main parking lot can fill up fast. You can also get to your favorite areas before the crowds do that way. When you come in you find yourself in an entry hall that is open, airy and filled with light. Everything is clearly marked, from the museum store (gift shop) to the food court and the ticket window. Once you buy your tickets (the only bad part of the day because they are a bit expensive) take a minute before entering the exhibits to watch the mammoth water clock. Its a visually stunning display and an intellectually interesting one as well. If you arrive around the top of the hour, there is usually an employee explaining how the water clock works. If you arent familiar with these, stay and listen the talk is informative without being too technical or boring. Employees here are well trained in giving narratives that have a wide range of appeal.
After you enter into the exhibits area prepare to lose yourself for the next several hours (the only way youll notice the passing of time will be by the growling in your stomach when you realize its lunch time)! I have several favorite exhibits that I never miss and are part of the permanent collection. The temporary exhibits are usually excellent as well and range from nearly purely entertaining to deeply thought provoking. I suggest you either go to the lower level and plan to work your way up or head to the uppermost level and work your way down.
Personally, I head for the upper level right off because my very favorite permanent exhibit is up there the Dow Science Works, dedicated to the natural and physical sciences. This exhibit is proof that hands-on activities can change a persons perceptions the only subjects in school I didnt love were biology and physics, the very heart of this exhibit. Kids (and adults) can watch the Rube Goldberg-inspired motion machine with fascination. (for more about this type of machine see this website: http://www.rube-goldberg.com/). Moving on, visitors can see and study a replica of an Indiana freshwater pond and see a scale model of our local Fall Creek Watershed. A child sized underground crawl area lets children get a look at animals and insects that live underground. (Dont worry the animals arent alive and the children are separated by Plexiglas. Adults may go with timid children, but Id recommend it be a small adult)! Children can also dig in a fossil bed and charts are provided to help them identify what they find. Another popular aspect of ScienceWorks is the rock-climbing wall. Sign up before you enter the Science Works as its really popular! Theres also a child-sized construction with site, with child-size cranes and hoists and blocks and even boulders. Those so inclined can even build an 6-foot arch out of numbered blocks; I never understood the concept of the keystone until doing this activity! Before leaving, children should make sure to stop in and make a boat from materials provided to sail along the watercourse. Boats can be sailed and, at various points, children can also control such factors as wind speed, water depth and even the course of the 30-foot long river.
My other favorite exhibit is What if...?, located on level 1. This gallery has three different interactive displays. The children of Marion County chose those displays. The museum asked them If you could explore anything, what would it be? Their answers shaped the three galleries: an underwater coral reef, a dinosaur dig and an Egyptian Mummys tomb. Of the three, the coral reef is my least favorite, but its a big hit with most kids- and I can see the appeal. Aside from displays that range from preserved sea life to a miniature exploratory submarine, there is an area where kids can put on fish costumes and then stand in front of a blue screen on appear on TV. The dinosaur dig is great. There are several distinct activities for kids to do. They can look at an actual model of a dig and do some archeology. They can build their own dinosaurs, using pre-shaped foam blocks and a large wooden template. Very popular are the computer simulations that let you create your won species of dinosaur. (Its been suggested I stay far from the field of genetic engineering as my creation was eaten by other dinos in about fifteen seconds)! My favorite part of What if...? is the Egyptian Mummys tomb though. You go through a series of chambers designed to look like an Egyptian tomb (its not particularly scary, but small or worry-prone children might benefit from holding an adults hand, at least at first). In each chamber you are given more information about daily life in Ancient Egypt, from grooming practices to death rituals. Its presented like a mystery visitors have to figure out who the mummy was. Her identity is revealed at the end. And yes, the mummy is there and she is real. This is not as hands-on as the other sections of What if...? and some younger children may lose interest.
Some of the other permanent exhibits that I have spent a lot of time exploring include: All Aboard (a display on the Age of Steam that focuses on a 35 foot long steam engine called the Reuben Wells; when it was decommissioned it was driven into its present location at the museum and the room was built around it; suitable for all ages); the Info Zone (the museums library; suitable for all ages); Passport to the World (highlights various cultures around the world; there are often demonstrations of various crafts as well, from wooden shoe carving to mariachi music; suitable for 6 and up, in my opinion); Mysteries in History (exploring the past and the different ways in which the past can be uncovered; suitable for 6-8 years and up, in my opinion); Paleo Prep Lab (visitors can watch Paleontologists prepare specimens; talks are also given; suitable to 8 and up or the absolute dinosaur fanatics out there); Playscape (area with a number of activities for preschoolers, from a sand dome to a water table; for children 5 years and younger); Carousel wishes and dreams (a general play area with a variety of activities and toys; the highlight is the restored carousel rides are $1.00 each); the Space Quest Planetarium (shows programs relating to astronomy Ive only been once and its the only thing at the museum I cant recommend I was bored and thought the presentation was silly. It may have changed but I admit Ive never wanted to waste my time going back; many places have planetariums after all).
There are a few permanent exhibits I havent visited too much: the new Puppet exhibit (I havent been there since it opened); Story Avenue; the Biotech center and the Lilly Theater.
Dinosphere, located in the old CineDome, is scheduled to open sometime in June of 2004.
There are also always a number of temporary exhibits at the museum that are always well put together and well worth the visit. The museums program on children in the Holocaust was very well done; on a lighter note, their exhibit on Charles Schultzs timeless Peanuts was an absolute joy to experience. Other subjects have ranged from outer space to even more dinosaurs (Sue, the T. Rex, visited us for a while).
The museums website is very informative and helpful as well.
While there may not be as much to do in our city as there are in some others, the Childrens Museum is certainly a wonderful way to spend the day.
Read all 6 Reviews
Write a Review
Best Suited For: Families
Best Time to Travel Here: Anytime