Indianapolis may be overlooked in favor of its larger Midwestern neighbors, but those that dismiss it are making a mistake. This capital city of the Hoosier State is far from quiet and boring. In fact, it is the opposite. It offers outdoor adventures, amazing bike trails, and history lessons different than anything you may have seen before. The city may be famous for its race cars, but dig deeper and you will find there’s a lot more to Indianapolis, Indiana, than meets the eye.
5 Not to Miss Family Experiences in Indianapolis
We recently took a quick road trip from Chicago to explore Indianapolis and its closest suburbs to the north in Hamilton County, Indiana. The trip offered many new experiences we had not expected, and we learned a lot about the history of the area and ourselves along the way. We look forward to returning sooner than later to explore these sites again!
1. Koteewi Aerial Adventure Park
Located just north of Indianapolis in the suburb of Noblesville, is one of the greatest adventures a family can have together. Imagine 2.5 hours of climbing like a tight rope walker above the trees and soaring through the air on your own self-guided adventure. Once the staff “shows you the ropes” you head off at your own pace, suspended over bridges, scaling wooden ladders, and flying across various zip lines. There are several courses of varying difficulty offered and children will never complain of boredom. In fact, they will probably ask to come back the next day.
2. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
One of the city’s star attractions is the Children’s Museum. They know what kids want and they serve it up in spades. As visitors approach the building, giant dinosaurs (over two stories tall) can be seen, setting the mood for the visit. Children of all ages will find something that appeals to them. The Dinosphere exhibit shows off life-size skeletons. There’s also an area for fossil digging, and kids can even ask questions of the paleontologists working in the lab. In the Take Me There: China exhibit, children can get a feeling of life in China, from recreated teahouses, shops and bedrooms to learning about calligraphy with native speakers. There’s also a playscape, an amazing Chihuly glass sculpture and exhibit, and storybook area. As I said, children will not be disappointed by this gem of a museum.
3. Monon Trail
Indianapolis is a cyclist’s dream, which means it offers plenty of trails for all levels of riders. One of the best for families is the Monon Trail which stretches 18 miles from downtown Indianapolis to the northern suburb of Westfield. Along the way, families can explore cute neighborhoods, stop for a treat, or have a picnic in the park. You can find bikes to rent downtown via the Pacers bike share program or in Carmel and Westfield via Zagster.
4. Conner Prairie
Conner Prairie is something you don’t find everywhere. It’s a 1400 acre interactive, living history museum. Open year round, kids can learn about life in 1800s Indiana through hands-on experiences, like tossing a tomahawk, walking on stilts, or helping a local craftsman. This village is like going back in time and seeing what life was like when the pioneers settled this area, which can be a big eye-opener for a lot of kids.
5. White River State Park
Every family visiting Indianapolis needs to make time to visit White River State Park. Home to the Indianapolis Zoo, Indiana State Museum, White River Gardens, an IMAX theater, and the Indianapolis Indians baseball stadium, the park can entertain families for hours. Whether you want to stroll through the park, take a bike ride, ride a gondola or a Segway, nothing beats a day exploring Indiana’s history and the heart of the city.
TravelingMom tip: If you stop at Koteewi and work up an appetite, head to Rosie’s Place in Noblesville. All day breakfast and locally sourced cuisine, it’s a charming place to stop for a bite right in the town square. The spicy breakfast burrito and the pork tenderloin benny were exquisite.
If you’re looking for a dinner place, we found a cute restaurant in Fishers (near Conner Prairie) called Pure Eatery. Fabulous sandwiches, wraps, and salads, and creative kids’ meals. If you need an ice cream stop, check out Handel’s Ice Cream just down the road. The line was 30 people deep, but I can assure you, the ice cream was worth the wait.
Downtown, we would recommend Bru Burger Bar, but go early because the lines can get long, or Yard House. Both have decent contemporary American menus.
Indianapolis certainly surprised us. There was plenty to explore and we learned a lot about the city and its history. These are 5 not-to- miss family experiences in Indianapolis, but I’m sure there are plenty of other exciting destinations yet to be discovered.