The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the world’s largest children’s museum. With exhibits aimed at kids of all ages, it’s a must-do for families. Explore what’s new – and what’s coming – at this awesome fun learning spot.
What is the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis?
With over 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. I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of days to see for myself. What did I discover? That the Children’s Museum is fun for adults as well as kids.
The museum is located in downtown Indianapolis on Meridian Street, on over seven acres of land. The building houses eleven galleries of exhibits over four stories. Added in 2018, the outdoor Sports Legends Experience also provides twelve different sports experiences.
Actual escape pod prop from Star Trek Beyond on display at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Photo credit: Deb Steenhagen / TravelingMom with Daughters
The museum offers both permanent and temporary exhibits, aimed at all ages. My husband is a huge Star Trek fan, so I was thrilled to be able to catch their Star Trek exhibit before it moved on elsewhere. Don’t worry, there is still plenty for Trekkies to see, with their “The Future is Here — How Sci-Fi Becomes Reality” show hosted by George Takei. The show’s theater also features several Star Trek props and costumes as well, including an escape pod that was shown on screen in Star Trek Beyond in 2016.
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 as it rises forty-three feet over all four stories, right in the center of the building. Created by artist Dale Chihuly, the glass sculpture contains over three thousand 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.
Playscape and Paw Patrol
The Playscape exhibit is specifically only for kids aged five and under. There is plenty to see, do and explore for crawlers and toddlers alike. The exhibit entrance is staffed, so you can feel comfortable letting your little ones roam without worry that they’ll escape.
Through the end of July 2019, your little ones can also get up close with Lilly, Marshall and their friends from Paw Patrol. This exhibit is free with regular museum admission.
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 eight 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 experience now available at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.
The Sports Legends Experience highlights twelve 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.
What’s New in 2019
Exciting things are coming to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis in 2019 and beyond. On July 18th, the Hot Wheels: Race to Win exhibit opens. Kids will learn about how race cars are designed and built and can race real Hot Wheels cars. This exhibit will be at the museum until July 28th.
June will bring the opening of two exhibits focused on Greece. Take Me There: Greece explores modern Greek food, language, and culture. In Treasures of Ancient Greece kids will discover what life was like in ancient times through mythology, arts, technology and more. The Treasures of Ancient Greece exhibit does require an extra ticket beyond the usual museum admission fee and will only be available until January 5, 2020.
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 an upcoming 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.