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A museum catered to children beats a regular museum any day. But with more than 130,000 indoor and outdoor exhibits, the world’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis can easily boast to be the best. Visitors of all ages will have a blast learning and playing in this massive, interactive and educational museum. With opportunities to explore a Dinosphere, brush up on pop culture, and test your sports skills in an outdoor sports legend experience, this museum is an absolute must-do for families in Indianapolis. Read on to discover more!
What is the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis?
With more than 130,000 exhibits, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is about much more than just play. Opportunities for learning, exploring – and yes, playing – are around every corner, both inside and out. Even better, it’s just as much fun for adults as it is for kids.
TravelingMom Tip: The museum remains closed due to the coronavirus, but it has a robust #athome program.
Calling all dinosaur lovers! Here are full-sized dinosaur skeletons and you can touch a real T-Rex bone and talk to an actual paleontologist. Check out specimens like Bucky, the teenaged T-Rex and Dracorex Hogwartsia. Yes, there is actually a dinosaur named for the Harry Potter world! Dracorex Hogwartsia means, “Dragon King of Hogwarts” and you can see a skeleton of this intriguing dinosaur here.
Fireworks of Glass
You can’t miss this exhibit; it rises 43 feet over all four stories, right in the center of the building. Created by artist Dale Chihuly, the glass sculpture contains more than 3,000 pieces of blown glass. Head down to the lowest level of the museum to get a chance to see the sculpture from beneath. Kids can also put together their own masterpieces using plastic pieces that look just like the glass ones.
This exhibit would thrill my three teenagers. From Batman to Barbie, this exhibit explores everything about pop culture. Create your own comic book cover – starring you! Check out music, toys and games and more.
Beyond Spaceship Earth
Ever wonder what life is like on the International Space Station? Wander through this immersive exhibit and you’ll see for yourself. Kids can check out how astronauts eat, sleep, work and play out in space in this interactive area. Actual artifacts from Astronaut David Wolf are on display.
Treasures of the Earth
This exhibit teaches kids about archaeology and how we study civilizations of the past. The area focuses on three archaeological sites: the Terra Cotta warriors of China, an Egyptian Pharoah’s tomb and Captain Kidd’s shipwreck. It’s not every day that you can build a replica of a Terra Cotta warrior or dig for artifacts. In a similar setup to the Dinosphere area, kids can watch and interact with real archaeologists at work in their lab.
Power of Children
This exhibit is best for older kids and teens (recommended for ages 8 and up), as it deals with some sensitive subjects. By far my favorite exhibit in the museum, it explores the lives of children who impacted many. Most of us either have learned or will learn about Anne Frank and her famous diary written while she and her family were in hiding during World War II. Here you can not only view a replica of her diary, but hear excerpts read aloud. Explore the hiding place where Anne’s family lived, and see actual artifacts from her era.
Sadly, I had not heard of Ruby Bridges before my visit to Indianapolis, but I learned much about her. Ruby attended one of the first desegregated schools in the south, in 1960. The process of desegregating schools wasn’t an easy one and Ruby’s story highlights the difficulties faced by these brave kids every day.
I do remember Ryan White, as I was a teenager myself in the 1980’s when we first heard of AIDS. Ryan was a hemophiliac who contracted AIDS from a contaminated blood treatment. He fought to be able to attend school during a time when society was terrified about this new disease that was not yet well understood.
The Power of Children teaches us much, not only about these specific kids in history, but about what one child can do to make a difference. Kids can then explore what they themselves can do to make a difference in their own communities.
Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience
When my kids were small, we chose to put them in soccer. Mainly because I had played soccer myself, and knew how the game worked. As they grew older, my oldest tried softball, and my middle daughter played middle and high school tennis. But by that age, she was competing against kids who had played the sport for years. What we really needed was the outdoor sports experience available at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.
The Sports Legends Experience highlights 12 different sports. This gives kids of all ages and skill levels the opportunity to try out any or all of them at their own pace and comfort level. Have a little one who loves football? The football experience offers a miniature grid-iron with goalposts of varying sizes so even younger kids can feel the thrill of kicking a field goal. Each sports area works that way, from basketball hoops of all different heights to a pedal car racetrack. Explore football, soccer, baseball, drag racing, fitness, basketball, golf, track racing, tennis, hockey, and more.
A short (1/3 of a mile) fitness track winds through the outdoor area and provides several fitness stations where kids can stretch and exercise different muscle groups. There is also a Tree of Sports which kids (and adults) can climb into and slide down out of.
What I Love about the Sports Legends Experience
I love that kids can try out a sport with no pressure and no competitiveness. Equipment is provided, so there’s no need to buy a tennis racket or baseball glove just to see what your kid thinks of the sport. Each area is staffed with ‘coaches’ who can help kids get started, teach some of the basics or get a short pick-up game going.
I visited during the morning when the Sports Legends Experience wasn’t very crowded, but I expect that crowd levels later in the day are probably much higher. With so much space and so many sports, I don’t see crowds being a huge problem, but there may be a wait for some equipment. These outdoor experiences also may close during inclement weather. This area is closed during the wintertime as well.
The Future at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is partnering with The Natural History Museum in London, the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands and the University of Manchester in the UK on an exciting new venture called Mission Jurassic. The $27.5 million project will focus on continued excavation of a Jurassic dig site in Wyoming with over 100 scientists from the three countries.
What this means for the Children’s Museum is a major expansion of the Dinosphere section, to include specimens from the Jurassic period. It will be exciting to see what types of educational opportunities this will bring to one of the best children’s museums worldwide.