holcomb star viewing with kids
Our family just had a wonderful evening out enjoying a night of astronomy and planet gazing right here in Indianapolis at the Holcomb Observatory and Planetarium. I had no idea we had such a cool planetarium with an observation deck and telescope locally. As a family of 7 with children ranging from ages 15-2 years of age, we sometimes have to pick an activity geared toward the younger ones or the older ones. This was one outing EVERYONE of all ages could engage in and enjoy. We will definitely be back for more!
holcomb indy with kidsOn public tour nights, doors open at 7pm. The planetarium show begins at 7:30pm and telescope viewing times are 8:30-9:30pm. The Holcomb Observation and Planetarium is on the campus of Butler University. We had no problem finding the building by using our cell phone’s gps. There is plenty of free parking in a parking lot directly in front of the building.
As we entered the building I was impressed to see many pictures of planets, the moon and other celestial objects circling the atrium. Each picture had a little description of what they were. To be honest, my kids didn’t read too much of the info, but even my 2 year old enjoyed the really cool pictures. I found that if I read a brief synopsis of the coolest tidbit, they would listen. Later we learned that most of the pictures were actually taken with the telescope we would later tour.
Once everyone arrived for the tour we were directed down some stairs into the planetarium. For those of you familiar with the planetarium located in The Children’s Museum of holcomb planetarium show indy with kidsIndianapolis, it is about the same size, however there are older wooden seats that are more like benches rather than individual seats. As we sat and waited for everyone to come in there were various pictures with some facts about them being displayed on the planetarium ceiling. My kids began reading the facts and mini quizzes and were having a blast trying to guess the answers. This was really well done and the right combination of educational and fun to keep them engaged.

Once the theater was filled, a student in the astronomy and physics department began a presentation on Saturn. It was fascinating and had great pictures. He went into detail explaining the Solar System and Saturn’s relationship within it. There were a lot of facts and information, but everything was presented in a way that anyone could understand it, but without it being too basic. It really grabbed everyone’s attention from adults, to teens, to school aged, to toddler.

After the presentation there was a more typical planetarium show. All the lights were dimmed as we watched stars appear on the ceiling. We learned about various constellations and how to find them in the night sky. After a couple brief stories about how the constellation became known the lights came on and we were invited back to the atrium.
holcomb telescope with kidsThere is no handicap accessibility or stroller accessibility up to the large telescope and observatory. My husband decided to stay down stairs with our 2 year old as I climbed the stairs with our 4 sons.
As we reached the observatory we were greeted by another student and a LARGE telescope. We learned that it is one of the oldest steel telescopes in the country! My kids favorite part in the observatory was making the ceiling move. The entire ceiling is a giant metal dome. It has a large section that can open to see out of. Since you want to see various sections of the sky, the whole thing can spin around. The kids in the tour each took turns pressing a magic button that spun the giantholcomb indianapolis with kids domed ceiling around. As you can imagine it was quiet impressive to see and hear the massive gears rotating the ceiling. My kids took multiple turns looking through the telescope and asking the two students questions about space.

All in all it was a GREAT night out for everyone. My kids have already asked when we can go again. As the year goes on, they focus on different planets and constellations as they begin to appear the the sky. We are looking forward to going back to learn about Jupiter next.

holcomb telescope indy with kidsIf you plan to visit, here is what you’ll need to know:
Cost $3.00/children, $5.00/adults CASH ONLY
Doors open at 7:00 PM (When Daylight Savings Time begins, these times will shift)
Planetarium show at 7:30 PM
Telescope Viewing at 8:30 to 9:30 PM (weather permitting)
Offered year round on MOST Friday and Saturdays closed on July 4, and 5.
Up-to-date closing and other info can be found on their website.
Large telescope and observatory is NOT ADA accessible, but planetarium has a chair lift.
No reservations required for public tours on Fridays and Saturdays
They do offer programs for scouts, simply call to discuss

Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium
4600 Sunset Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 940-8333

 

Article and photos by Nicole Orr for Indy with Kids

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4600 Sunset Ave.
Indianapolis
Indiana

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