Conner Prairie is a living history museum in Hamilton County, Indiana that recreates 19th-century life along the White River. Come see for yourself what life was like in the 1800s in Indiana. Immerse yourself in the culture, traditions, and lifestyles of the past. If you have never been, or it’s been a few years, you will want at least three hours to see and do everything Conner Prairie has to offer.
You’ll know you have arrived at Conner Prairie when you notice the hot air balloon set behind the main entrance. Whether the balloon is in the air or on the ground awaiting its next voyage you can’t miss its bright green and white pattern (new for 2021).
Once you are in the front doors, get your tickets and your sticker—save money when you buy advance tickets online—then you are free to roam the 800+ acres. Don’t forget to make a quick stop at the restrooms and fill up your water bottles—there’s so much you’re going to want to see!
Within the main building, just past the entrance and gift shop, you’ll find indoor activities which offer education and fun for all ages. You will see the Makesmith Workshop, Create. Connect., and the Discovery Station.
The Makesmith Workshop has activities suitable for a variety of age groups. The theme changes seasonally but past themes include metalworking and carpentry. In Summer 2021, they are focused on creating things with textiles. The space is set up for three different skill levels. The easiest one uses a board with holes and teaches kids how to sew with a plastic needle and yarn. The more experienced child can learn to knit on a round knitting loom using a hook needle and yarn. The most challenging one is using an actual loom and weaving the yarn over and under many, many times.
The Create. Connect. area is full of hands-on STEM focused activities. Learn about physics with simple machines. Build a windmill and see how much wind it can make use of. Fly an airplane into a wind tunnel and see how the shape of the wings affects it. Create a brand new invention or harness electricity to a real, working radio. The Create. Connect. play space is a great way to discover how science, technology, engineering, and math have helped shape our state.
Discovery Station is a wonderland of make-believe. Pretend play with a garden of veggies, shop at the market, or put the baby dolls to bed. Dress up like a forest critter then climb the treehouse. Build a fort and create the perfect hiding spot. Grab a book and curl up in the hive. Babies have their own safe space to play too. Discovery Station also has a great craft corner; tables and chairs provide ample workspace for the day’s selected crafts. They also have coloring pages or themed projects to cut and glue.
1859 Balloon Voyage
Once you’ve made your way through the main building you’ll see the 1859 Balloon Voyage and the Café Commons just past the outdoor information desk. Covered tables and chairs provide plenty of shaded seating options for your brought-from-home lunch or snack from the café. Kids meals are about $6 and include entrees like hot dogs, pizza, or a sandwich and includes a side and drink. They also serve ice cream!
The 1859 Balloon Voyage celebrates the first airmail delivery in the United States, made right here in Indiana. The 1859 Balloon Voyage is one of only four tethered balloon experiences in the country. There is an additional cost if you want to grab an aerial view of Hamilton County, 377 feet above the ground, but it is something everyone should experience at least once.
While the balloon is ascending and descending passengers have to hold on to the guardrail, but once in the air, you are free to roam around. There is a guardrail and a net to keep passengers safe. The 1859 Balloon Voyage is wheelchair accessible too! No reason to wait for warm weather months; the views in fall are magnificent as well. Conner Prairie is upgrading their balloon voyage with enhanced features and promises to provide a whole new experience to riders in the summer of 2021.
Estridge Family Park
To the North of the covered waiting area of the 1859 Balloon Voyage, you’ll find a cute playground and a few private buildings for special events. The Estridge Family Park is a farm-themed playset for children of all abilities. They can swing, make music, climb up or make their way to the bottom on the roller slide, landing on the soft, flat rubbery ground. Further out you’ll see the expansive lawn where the annual Symphony on the Prairie shows are held throughout the warm weather months.
Lenape Indian Camp
Along the back of the 1859 Balloon Voyage area, you will find the Lenape Indian Camp just past the big red barn. Learn about the Lenape (or Delaware) Indians, their language, and their culture. Conner Prairie offers take and make crafts for $5 in a couple of places within the park. Here at the Lenape Indian Camp, you can make a coil clay pot just like the Indians did years ago (crafts usually change monthly). You’ll also find beading and weaving activities.
Step inside a wigwam and explore the canoes. Speak with the fur trader at the trading post; ask about the different items and animal pelts available.
To the South of the 1859 Balloon Voyage, you can choose between two different paths. Head to the right to visit the William Conner House and Animal Encounters. To the left, you’ll happen upon the 1836 Prairietown.
William Conner House
The William Conner House is a beautifully preserved piece of Indiana history. Step through the front door and experience what life may have been like for the Conner family. Discover how they lived, how they ate, how they dressed, and how they slept. See how they changed Indiana’s history.
Step out the back door and take in the view. Often, you will find kids rolling down the hill towards the cornfield below. Staff is always on hand to answer any questions or to give you a tour of the house.
Animal Encounters will get you up close and personal with the prairie’s historical breeds of livestock. Learn about their importance and the important role we play in preserving them. Feed the animals, gush over the babies, brush the sheep. See how and why they shear the sheep, feel the freshly shorn wool, and watch staff spin the wool into yarn.
Daily you can find staff holding a storytime just outside the barn. **As of press time the Animal Encounter experience has been moved to the Golden Eagle Inn which is on the East end of Prairietown.
1836 Prairietown is such a cool experience; plan on spending an hour or more here. This historically accurate, yet fictional town is dripping with authenticity. The town’s folk will stay in their costumed characters and interact with guests as though they were actually in 1836.
Many of the townspeople have transplanted from other areas of the country and have brought with them different views on religion, politics, and traditions. For example:
- Doc Campbell started Prairietown and is fairly influential in the area. He has money and land so many residents resent him. Ask him why he married Mrs. Campbell (it’s rumored to be for her money).
- Visit Mr. Curtis at his blacksmith shop and watch him forge iron. He’s new to Indiana so ask him about his old life in New York.
- Visit the Barker Brothers Shop and watch them spin clay on a historically accurate, self-propelled, potter’s wheel.
- The Whitakers own the local store and are more than happy to have help sweeping the floor or loading parcels onto the buggy. It’s interesting to learn about the money used in 1836.
- The Golden Eagle Inn is run by Mrs. Zimmerman. She lives there with her family but will happily take your money if you need a bed for the night. Note that you’re likely to share said bed if other travelers need to rest too.
Head to the back of the Inn and you’ll find the kitchen. Learn how to make a “cupcake” (and why it’s called a cupcake) and ask about the spices and herbs they use. Ask if they’ve ever gotten to enjoy chocolate or vanilla; things we use in our everyday lives.
You can also take a seat in the one-room schoolhouse, see how the town’s residents live in actual houses rescued and restored from around the state. Play a game of checkers or ring toss, read about the herbs and spices that were used for different remedies. Pump water to help the garden grow.
Most of the establishments are accessible to everyone but if an attraction is not wheelchair friendly the staff (polo shirts) or townspeople (costumes) will bring the exhibit out to you. Modern restrooms are available in Prairietown; just past the Curtis House, in a log cabin.
Take the road past Doc Campbell’s house and hook a right to get to the huge Treetop Outpost. Here you will find new and amazing ways to learn and play in nature. The treehouse itself is four levels of fun!
On the ground level there is a cozy library full of outdoor and animal themed books. Grab a seat on authentic, repurposed Busch Stadium seating and take a moment to relax.
The second level is accessible via the suspension bridge or the wheelchair friendly ramp. Here you will find a knot tying station, a microscope to see details of leaves, bugs and rocks, and also maps full of information on plants, birds, and wildlife native to Indiana.
The third floor is the perfect spot to snap an Insta-worthy photo along the mirrored wall. This is also a great spot to check out the features surrounding the outpost.
The top floor has telescopes and a list of clues to do a seek and find. The kids will burn some energy running up the stairs to get clues, then coming down to find the object they could see from the sky!
Fort Hoosier is next to the treehouse and is another great area to explore and play. Climb the cargo net, explore the tunnels, scale a wall, and more.
At the base of the treehouse and Fort Hoosier you can build your own fort, dig for artifacts, paint pottery, and even play musical instruments.
Guides are stationed throughout the Treetop Outpost to help answer any questions. They have interactive activities like identifying bird calls and scavenger hunt cards to keep the kids busy. And, they are more than willing to answer any questions guests have.
There is a take and make project at the Treetop Workshop as well. This summer the project is basket weaving and it’s only $5! Here you will also find scavenger hunt lists and Adventure Backpacks, with guidebooks and binoculars, that you can borrow to take on a hike.
The hiking trail is just over a mile and explores the prairie as it used to look. You will have plenty of opportunities to stop and discover new things; with helpful signs to document what you’re looking at (or what you’re looking for). Take the nature trail to the river lookout and catch a beautiful view of the White River. This nature trail is fairly rugged. You’ll want to wear appropriate footwear and unfortunately, it isn’t wheelchair or stroller-friendly.
1863 Civil War Journey
If you stay straight along the road from the Campbell House you can see a covered bridge leading you to 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana. In this part of Conner Prairie, you are transported to Dupont, Indiana in July 1863. At that time, Confederate soldiers crossed the Ohio River and raided the small, Southern Indiana town.
What you see and experience next is the day after the raid. You’ll encounter a smoldering storage shed. You’ll find soldiers willing to talk about their experience, and villagers trying to cope with what happened the day before, and worried about what the future holds.
Visit the one-room schoolhouse that’s been converted into the Quartermaster Station. Stop at the Field Hospital and learn more about the different tools used to treat soldiers needing medical attention. Discover where the phrase “bite the bullet” came from.
Inside the Porter Family Home you can watch digital screen presentations that look and sound so life-like. Next to their house you can undergo a one-of-kind experience—The Raid. The room gets very dark and folks sensitive to flashing lights and loud sounds may not like this (there is an easy to find exit if you need to make a break for the door before the presentation ends).
In the Dry Goods Store you’ll find another 3D presentation. This one takes you through the raid as a memory of the shopkeeper. Again, bright lights, loud noises, and gunshots may be too much for some guests.
Dupont residents can be found around town making supplies for the wounded soldiers, using black walnuts to dye fabric, and making food in ways appropriate to the time. As always, they are more than happy to share their experiences with you.
Kids will have fun creating their own battle plan and getting their marching orders while participating in military drills. Conner Prairie staff can be found around town with educational carts full of fun stuff to learn like different animal tracks.
River Crossing Play Area
A favorite spot for the little ones at Conner Prairie is the River Crossing Play Area. Next to the Dry Goods Store you will find the Depot Store and the River Crossing is attached to the back. You can enter through the front of the Depot Store or at the side of the building to the left.
Inside the River Crossing Play Area you’ll find a big climbing structure, a huge train table full of accessories and trains, a reading nook, and a toddler-sized fishing boat where kids can “fish.” Complimentary swim diapers and two rest rooms are inside as well.
Make your way outside for the water play features. Climb up and steer the steamboat, ride the waves on a spring-loaded rowboat, shoot water from the cannons, play in the pretend town, and float boats on the huge, multilevel water table. There is a separate area for babies to crawl around in. A good portion of this outdoor area is under a huge shade and parents have plenty of benches to sit back and watch their littles play. Most days the staff have sidewalk chalk and bubbles available for play.
If your main priority is the River Crossing Play Area you can hop on a free tram ride for quicker access. Tram rides pick up just outside the Café Commons and drop off next the back entrance of the Depot Store. Rides are free and run every 30 minutes. The tram is also handy if you want to start from the back of the park and make your way to the front entrance—helpful for those visitors wanting a little less mileage on their pedometers.
Accessibility at Conner Prairie
Conner Prairie is proud of its inclusion and accessibility throughout the park. They offer a quiet places map, which shows places around the grounds where guests can decompress and take a quiet break when needed. These spaces also have sensory kits which include weighted blankets and toys.
All of the exhibits are marked with info about noises or lights, and the staff has been trained in sensory-friendly practices to make Conner Prairie fun for everyone. Wheelchairs are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have a wheelchair assistant or deaf interpreter, their admission is half price.
The third Sunday of each month Conner Prairie offers Sensory Friendly hours with free admission. During the hours of 10am-Noon the noisy exhibits are dimmed or turned off.
Conner Prairie Hours & Admission
Conner Prairie is fully open:
May through October
Attractions are open to guests Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Special hours are sometimes available for attractions, check the website for details.
November through April
The outdoor grounds are technically closed, (sometimes if good weather is forecasted they will open some outdoor features). But all the indoor attractions are open for guests to enjoy Thursday-Sunday, 10 am-4 pm.
If you want to avoid crowds and still have an awesome day, go when it’s raining! Staff and costumed characters will still be out tending to their chores. You’ll likely get some one-on-one time with staff and they’ll get to teach you some really cool things that don’t usually happen when the park is at capacity.
Current Admission Prices (2021*)
Adult 13+ = $18
Seniors 65+ = $17
Youth 2-12yrs = $13
Under 2yrs = free**
* purchase tickets online as they are an additional $2 each at the door.
**”Blue Star” families get free admission for the 2021 season,
Membership is available and Conner Prairie is a part of the Smithsonian Affiliate Membership Program, which provides discounts & admission to many other member museums across the country..
Field Trips, Summer Camps, & More
In addition to all the fun, interactive exhibits Conner Prairie offers; it is a spectacular facility for schools. You will often find classes on field trips during the school year and kids at summer camp throughout the summer.
They offer special Play Trips for kiddos in preschool-first grade with age appropriate curriculum. Check with your preschool and schedule a field trip specially made for your little ones.
Homeschool & Preschool at Conner Prairie
Homeschool Groups in the area can also take advantage of Conner Prairie’s discounted admission rates during their specific “homeschool on the prairie days.” April 9, August 24, and September 15 are the 2021 homeschool days. Conner Prairie is home to its very own preschool as well. They run year-round and focus on play-based learning. Three-five year olds can choose from two- or three-day a week programs.
Conner Prairie offers a variety of special events throughout the year. A few are geared more towards adults, like History on Tap & Chautauqua. They also have events for the whole family with dance, art, cooking, and music as some of the themes you’ll find on their events calendar this year.
Conner Prairie also hosts the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s annual Symphony on the Prairie concerts every summer. You can also find historical events like baseball games and balloon festivals too!
Fall Events at Conner Prairie
In the fall the Apple Store is open and fully stocked with all the fall goodies like pumpkin donuts and apple cider slushies. The Apple Store is accessible from the parking lot so it’s super easy to pick up fall treats without going into the park.
Also in the fall, you can find the annual Headless Horseman Festival. It usually starts the first weekend of October and closes with the outdoor grounds on October 31. The corn maze, haunted hayride, food trucks, and entertainment make for fantastic fall family fun.
Merry Prairie Holiday typically runs Thursday-Sunday during December. Walkthrough expansive light displays, warm yourself by an open fire, sled down a 150-foot hill, visit with Santa, and so much more.
Conner Prairie is always adding new events to its calendar. Whether it be a historically themed cooking class or a fun festival for the whole family there is a lot to do outside their normal operating hours.
Immerse yourself in Indiana’s history for a day at Conner Prairie. You’ll find plenty of things for a variety of age groups. Little ones love the animals and the water table while older kids love participating in military drills and scavenger hunts. Step into the story, with a day of family fun at one of Indy With Kids’ Best Outdoor Places to Visit.
13400 Allisonville Road