White River State Park is the star attraction in Indianapolis. The park offers days and days of opportunities to play, all within a 15-minute walk. Even the walk is playful and attractive; you’ll find colorful art throughout on the trails, in the middle of the canal, on walls and in green spaces.
Many of the attractions at White River State Park are free things to do with kids in Indianapolis. Here are our favorite places to play as a family:
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This museum has a fantastic collection of Native American and Western Art. In addition to the art exhibits, the Western Family Experience was created especially for children to explore the diversity of Western families. My kids love this area the best because of the dress-up clothes. Special exhibits are on site throughout the year and the museum has been exploring ways to actively engage children in those exhibits. Visit after lunch to avoid the field trip crowds.
This museum is a favorite field trip destination of Indiana students — with the focus on the birth of the Earth, popular culture and how Indiana fits into the history of this planet, we love the many different types of special exhibits but the natural history area is a favorite for my girls. They really like being able to touch items from the collection. The 3D IMAX films are switched out often and include a mix of education and current popular movies.
Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens
The zoo and gardens feature five biomes that provide animals a habitat with the plants and animals and climate similar to their environment in the wild. The biomes at the zoo include the Forest, the Ocean, the Desert, the Plains and a special Encounters biome which currently houses the Flights of Fancy: A Brilliance of Birds exhibit.
This is the home of the Indianapolis Indians, Indy’s very own minor league baseball team. You can catch an afternoon game or an evening game on different days throughout the week and the money saving deals available can’t be beat! Our family generally chooses to sit on the lawn with a packed picnic so the kids have space to stretch their legs and aren’t chained to a seat. Friday nights are great because there are fireworks at the end of the game.
This is a 27 panel grouping of glass walls that bear the names of all recipients of the Medal of Honor from 15 different conflicts. The simple but beautiful structure is a great place for meditation and focus on our country’s heroes.
This unique museum has a number of interactive, kid-friendly exhibits that celebrate the student athlete. There are many artifacts on level one but level two is where my kids find the most fun. They love the virtual reality sports simulators and playing basketball in the gym.
Where to Eat at White River State Park
When you are ready for some nourishment, head into the cafe at the Eiteljorg for some western fare, or Osteria Pronto for Italian food at the JW Marriott or cafeteria style meals at the State Museum. My kids love the choices and variety at the Market Place Café in the State Museum.
Take a Segway tour, rent a bike or a surrey. In the canal, rent a paddle boat, a kayak or hire a gondola. After you’ve exhausted all of the fun at White River State Park (although, I doubt you will), stop into the Visitor Center for some advice, some brochures about other area attractions or conversation with an Indy area expert.
These activities are best for older children but there are spaces for younger kids to sit on the paddle boats and surrey bikes. Segway riders must be 14 years or older and keep in mind that you will be standing in one position for the entire tour, our knees and shins were in a bit of pain after our tour.