Middle America is sometimes called flyover country, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it on your next family vacation. In fact, many people rightly say that it is actually one of the best destinations in the country for families and one of my personal favorite cities to explore with kids is Indianapolis.
Indianapolis has a lot going for it, from sports to art, history and even a vibrant food scene. There are plenty of opportunities to get out into the great outdoors, enjoy some shopping or find fun and educational opportunities for the kids.
Visit the World’s Largest Children’s Museum
Yes, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the world’s largest museum devoted to kids; an entire day spent there is well worth the time and there’s no way your kids will get bored. This museum is nearly 500,000 square feet of awesomeness and children of all ages will find something to keep them occupied while learning all about geography, history and how things work in the world. There is a play area for young toddlers and plenty of zones that will keep children from elementary age up through adults entertained, all while secretly broadening their knowledge in ways you never thought possible.
Visit the Zoo
What child doesn’t love a zoo? The Indianapolis Zoo is a manageable size, meaning that kids will be able to see everything without getting too tired. The zoo has exhibits that focus on animals found in the deserts, plains, forests and oceans. The newest exhibit is the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center; home to one of the largest groups of orangutans in the country. One of the highlights of any visit to the Indianapolis Zoo is the Oceans exhibit, which features the nation’s largest shark touch pool and an outstanding dolphin theater with multiple shows throughout the day.
Enjoy the Indianapolis Central Canal
The Indianapolis Central Canal at White River State Park sits on the west side of Downtown Indianapolis, but seems a world away. The White River State Park is home to the Indianapolis Zoo and a number of the city’s museums, making it a great place to spend the day. The best way to see it all is to visit the Indianapolis Central Canal. You can walk its banks or rent a surrey to peddle around the park. The surreys have room for three or four riders and are a great way to get a little exercise while seeing the sights of the White River State Park and views of the Indianapolis skyline.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art and Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art both provide plenty of opportunities to discover world-class art, while having fun at the same time. The Indianapolis Museum of Art features a collection of more than 54,000 pieces of art spanning 5,000 years, but the real highlight for families is the museum’s outdoor space. The 100-acre Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park features several pieces of art in one of the nation’s largest museum art parks and is a lot of fun for kids to explore. Near the Indianapolis Central Canal is the Eiteljorg, a museum dedicated to art from the American West with a focus on Native Americans, one of the best in the nation.
Take a Cultural Walk
One of the fun things in Indianapolis is the city’s six cultural districts, which are connected via an eight-mile biking/walking trail. It’s probably not advisable to tackle all eight miles, especially if you have young children, but consider renting bikes and ride part of the trail. Even better, pick a couple of districts, like the Mass. Ave. district with its amazing toy store, and walk at your own leisure.
Enjoy a Game
If you or your children are into sports, Indianapolis is the city to dive into. Home to the Indiana Pacers and Indianapolis Colts, the city also has a Triple-A baseball team, the Indians, and of course there is the world famous Indianapolis 500. If you’re not in town for a game or race, don’t worry; try booking a tour of the massive Lucas Oil Stadium or the museum at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rhythm Discovery Center
Do your children like to make a lot of noise? The Rhythm Discovery Center in Downtown might be the place for them. This center features all things percussive and offers fun hands-on experiences for both kids and adults, all while learning about different percussion styles from around the world.
Which of these Indianapolis activities do you want to try first?