What to Do at Newfields with Kids | Hands-On Activities in the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Written by Sara Keller

The beauty of artistic expression and the beauty of nature come together seamlessly at one amazing cultural campus in Indianapolis. Newfields is a must-see destination for Circle City locals and visitors alike. Step inside the Indianapolis Museum of Art to explore galleries of historic and culturally significant works by artists from around the world. Head outside to envelop yourself in the ever-changing colors and floral displays of the curated gardens. The Lilly House provides a window into the past, while across the river, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park provides a cost-free natural escape in the middle of the city.

Wondering what it’s like to visit Newfields with kids? It’s true that you may not be able to enjoy a contemplative stroll through the galleries with active children in tow. However, there is value in immersing your kids in the arts from a young age. Through art, children can metaphorically travel through time and around the globe or delve into the minds and hearts of people they’ve never met, expanding their own minds along the way. There is plenty here to catch the attention of young patrons and Newfields has provided plenty of interactive opportunities to get visitors to engage in a hands-on way.

Colorful tulips bloom outside the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Navigating a museum full of priceless art with kids can be stressful – unless you know where to go and what to do! The Indianapolis Museum of Art has several kid-friendly activities and spaces you’ll want to check out. They are spaced throughout the galleries though, so you might consider bringing sketchbooks and pencils for your kids if you want some time to look at the art pieces in between the “fun stuff.” Encourage your littles to copy a piece that inspires them or try to imitate the style of an artist they enjoy. It might buy you a few minutes to look and reflect!

Hands-On Activities

If you’re visiting with kids under 5, head straight to Star Studio on the first floor of galleries. Here you’ll find fun, hands-on opportunities to create, often in ways that blend both art and nature. Kids can also step inside a hallway with a rotating seasonal scene projected onto it and watch as flowers bloom beneath their feet or their shoes leave footprints in fallen snow.

A boy in a sweatshirt and a girl in a butterfly costume play with magnetic shapes on a wall in the Star Studio at Newfields.

Several other galleries contain mini invitations for play and creativity. In the Contemporary Gallery, currently located on the first level near the iconic LOVE statue, kids and adults alike can engross themselves in piecing together their own collage art. Tucked into the back of the African Art gallery, guests can experiment with beadwork and sewing to make a pouch. The Japanese and Korean Art Gallery has a station outfitted with the accouterments of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. A video guides visitors through each step of the experience, using real pots, cups, and utensils.

The Design Gallery is full of bold, modern pieces that really catch kids’ attention. Young children and babies enjoy the touch-and-feel wall highlighting a variety of the art materials used throughout the space. Adults will get a kick out of pointing out technology from the past – a first-generation iPod is on display, along with a Mac PC. In the Design Lab inside this gallery, kids can use tablets to design a unique chair inspired by items from the museum’s collection.

Children use beads and paper to create pouches in the African Art Gallery at Newfields.

Immersive Art

Ready for a moment of peace and relaxation? Your best bet is to enter the Clowes Pavilion and encourage your kids to find a comfy spot on one of the couches or chairs. Then, look up. The ceiling of the darkened room displays looping videos of outdoor environments, pouring paints, blooming flowers, and more, all set to a reflective soundtrack.

Finally, the LUME gallery caused a big stir when it first opened in 2021 with a program featuring the work of Vincent Van Goh. It has since hosted a show of Monet’s work and currently features Salvador Dali. This exhibit fills the entire fourth floor of the museum and is a truly immersive experience. Dozens of high-quality projectors display gorgeous pieces of art onto the space’s white walls and floors, allowing you to feel as though you’ve stepped into the paintings. Kids will certainly be entranced by the LUME, but be aware that the full show lasts approximately an hour and there is a separate admission fee for this experience.

A boy looks up while reclining on a lounge chair in the Clowes Pavilion at Newfields.

The Gardens at Newfields

One of the best, most relaxing ways to explore Newfields with kids is to simply head outside. Many of the formal gardens at Newfields were designed by the Olmstead Brothers firm, which is perhaps most famous as the landscape group behind Central Park in New York City, as well as San Diego’s Balboa Park, North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate, and more.

While there are gorgeous sights and surprises around every turn in the gardens, a few features tend to be favorites with kids. Near the entrance, you’ll find the big blue snail. He’s the sole remnant of a whimsical installation of years past that brought a menagerie of colorful creatures to Newfields. Today, the snail continues to delight children, though a sign warns that he is a wild snail and should not be ridden. He does occasionally migrate around the Gardens, so don’t be alarmed if you find he’s disappeared from his normal post.

An oversized blue resin snail sits amongst pumpkins during the harvest season in the Gardens at Newfields.

The Four Seasons Garden features a small circular pool with fountains positioned around the perimeter, sending streams of water arching into the pool. Kids can easily and safely play in the fountains, but they will get wet! In the grassy area beyond this garden is a European Weeping Beech tree with branches that create a fort-like hideaway. Since the Beer Garden terrace is located adjacent to the Four Seasons Garden, this is also a perfect place to grab food and beverages and hang out while the kids play.

The Elder Greenhouse, near the Lilly House, is worth stopping in year-round. You never know what you’ll find blooming. From succulents and cacti, to orchids and other tropical flowers, to citrus trees, this small space houses some incredible species.

My family loves to pack a picnic and can easily enjoy an entire afternoon in the Gardens. There’s plenty of open green space to spread a blanket, most of which is shaded by the huge trees throughout the grounds. Bring bubbles, sketchbooks, reading material, a ball or frisbee, and prepare to relax.

Two children splash in a fountain in the Four Seasons Garden at Newfields.

The Lilly House

Learn about the former residents of what is now Newfields when you step inside this gorgeous historic home. While the house was built in 1907, the main floor is decorated to emulate the 1930s style of the Lilly family’s decor. A walk through the home can be completed in 15 minutes or less, but families with babies or toddlers should be warned that strollers are not allowed and must be left outside the door.

If you have toddlers or preschoolers with you, consider skipping the main level and entering the house from the lower level. Follow the driveway around the right side of the Lilly House to the garage entrance. Here, you’ll find a fabulous play table with a diagram of the Newfields grounds, a variety of abstract wooden blocks and felt pieces, and laminated idea cards intended to spark inspiration for your own garden design. There’s seating and reading material for adults here, as well as bathrooms, which may be needed since this space can keep kids engaged for a long time!

A toddler plays with colorful blocks in the Lilly House at Newfields.

Newfields Throughout the Seasons

The calendar at Newfields is always packed with special events, classes, seminars, performances, and more. Kids specifically can attend summer camp, Cereal Cinema, an annual Nutcracker Sweets show, and drop-in art opportunities. But in addition to these offerings, each season at Newfields has a featured event for which it is most known.

Visit Newfields in spring to experience Spring Blooms. This season is the most beautiful time in the Gardens. Each year, hundreds of thousands of bulbs planted throughout the grounds begin to bloom in brilliant color. Snap amazing photos of your family amongst the flowers and visit multiple times, as the display changes when new species begin to show off. Spring Blooms is included in regular admission.

Summer is known for the popular Summer Nights film series. Snag tickets early when they go on sale in late April or early May — popular selections will sell out! While some choices are geared toward adults, there are always a few kid-friendly picks on the list. Pack a picnic, bring blankets and bug spray, and enjoy a movie under the stars.

Glowing carved pumpkins and twinkling fairy lights hang from a large tree at Harvest Nights at Newfields.

Autumn brings a chill to the air and Harvest Nights to Newfields. This experience is billed as “Spooky, not Scary,” and is a great way to get even young or sensitive kids in on the Halloween fun. The Pumpkin Path of Peril is perhaps the most iconic feature of the event at this point, but the ghostly light projection show on the Lilly House is spectacular as well.

Winterlights has become a beloved tradition for many Indianapolis families. Gather your loved ones for a magical evening on the grounds, viewing millions of exquisite twinkling lights. The Lilly House lawn is illuminated by lights that dance to favorite holiday tunes. The Los Posadas pinata is a fun recent addition to the event, and the Snowflake Bridge is so beautiful, that you’ll want to walk across many times!

Admission at Newfields

General admission at Newfields is $20 for adults, $18 for ages 55+, $13 for youth ages 6-17, and ages 5 and under are always free. If you plan to visit LUME, be sure you purchase a designated ticket for this exhibit. LUME tickets include same-day general admission to Newfields.

Discounts and Free Admission Days

Wondering if Newfields offers any free museum days or discounts on admission? You’re in luck! The museum has several programs and promotional days that allow guests to visit at no cost.

On the first Thursday of every month, admission is free all day at Newfields. Advance tickets are required, so be sure to reserve yours ahead of time. Other free days at Newfields include the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day and International Museum Day, which is held at the end of May.

A man and two children use paper scraps and washi tape to create collage art in the Contemporary Gallery at Newfields.

Newfields is also a part of the Blue Star Program, so active-duty military members with ID receive free admission for themselves and their immediate family, year-round. If you happen to have an account with Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, or US Trust, you’ll want to take advantage of Museums on Us weekends. These promotional days are offered on the first full Saturday-Sunday weekend of each month. Account holders can present a valid credit or debit card and photo ID to receive free admission for one person.

Access Pass holders can purchase general admission to Newfields for just $2 per person, and often can attend special events for the same price. For more information about Newfields’ Community Access programs and to see if you qualify for discounts or even free memberships, visit the museum’s website.

The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park is a FREE natural escape next door to Newfields.

Discover these exciting children’s museums around Indiana!


4000 Michigan Road

Visit What to Do at Newfields with Kids | Hands-On Activities in the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Upcoming Events

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top