Two preschoolers are in a heated discussion about which way we should go, to the left, or to the right. Both directions are unknown for us because it’s our first time at the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab at Marian University. For years I’ve heard about this fantastic outdoor nature park located near downtown Indianapolis, but it’s even better than I understood and is now one of our favorite outdoor adventure places!
The EcoLab is open to the public with free admission from dawn to dusk. Please do not bring bicycles. Dogs must be on a leash.
Hiking with Kids in Indianapolis
My kids are very young and hiking with kids hasn’t really been tops on our list of things to do, but today I’m thankful that we put together a playdate with our preschool friends — the sun is shining and even though we’re wearing coats, there are still leaves on the trees, insects and birds out an about and just enough mud on the ground to make it exciting.
The EcoLab is open to the public for exploration and it is also available for field trips, guided hikes, summer camps and more. The NMP EcoLab boasts native plants, birds, beavers, bugs, owls and even more wildlife.
The EcoLab at Marian University
During our visit, we came upon an outdoor classroom where local elementary school students were meeting to learn about and help with environmental restoration projects at the EcoLab. There were bridges to cross, fallen trees to climb over, paths to follow, a lake to explore and fungus to observe. Our kids were so happy to take the lead and make decisions about where we would go and what we could stop and look at. To say they were captivated and really living in this moment, would be an understatement.
Things to do and See at the EcoLab
There are so many things to see at the EcoLab, and there are even scheduled nature programs during certain times of the year. Check the calendar for bird watches, beaver educational events and more. More than likely you’ll visit when there’s nothing on the schedule and you’ll have free reign to take in the sights, sounds and smells of nature.
Look for signs that are full of fun facts and educational information about the wildlife and plant life within the EcoLab. You’ll come across labeled plants and trees throughout the nature park.
There’s a nature center that has equipment to borrow to enhance your adventures, but you’ll have to call about that. Instead, consider brining your own magnifying glass, binoculars, notebook and pencil.
Look for bee houses, bat houses, beaver dams and more! Let us know what you find, we went during a time of year that life seems to be going dormant.
Dress for the weather and bring water and snacks, but be sure to take your trash with you. Expect your shoes to get dirty during most of the year and you may need sunblock and other sun protection.
Where is the EcoLab at Marian?
The EcoLab is on Cold Spring Road between 30th and 38th street. Enter through the north entrance near the Allison Mansion. There is a parking lot with a few spaces down near the EcoLab but there is also a lot of parking available during most of the day in front of Marian Hall. A set of stairs will take you down to the EcoLab. We LOVE the view from this space!
If you love nature parks, you might want to check out the 100 Acres at Newfields, there’s no fee to explore.
3200 Cold Spring Rd