Looking for new adventures and bolder structures for your kids to play on and explore outdoors? You don’t have to venture far to find the best outdoor fun in Indianapolis. There are several great choices in the heart of downtown and within a few miles of the city. Indianapolis offers rich and diverse outdoor play spaces that are sure to ignite exploring within your family. From outdoor sports experiences and stepping back in time, to parks and exploring the Seven Wonders, there are many ways to enjoy a unique play space outdoors. We’ve put together 20 must-dos get your family started on a great outdoor adventure.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience
Immerse yourself in this premium sports experience and you will find all of the best things that Indianapolis has to offer in athletics. 7.5 massive acres of sports sampling — let your kids try their hands (and feed) at basketball, hockey, baseball, tennis, and so much more. The Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience lets kids try all of the hottest sports and you don’t have to spend a penny on equipment! Trained coaches help kids build their skills and there’s equipment for all ages, sizes, and abilities. You’ll find toddler-sized goals and accessories and adaptive equipment.
The area is decorated with branding from all of your favorite local sports teams including the Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The kids will spend hours here playing and learning to do their favorite activities. The centerpiece is a stunning treehouse with a built-in slide and play place for the little ones. Definitely a must-do on your next trip to The Children’s Museum!
Walk Through Wonders of the World
A little hidden gem, just outside of the museum’s main entrance is the Sculpture Garden, within the Anne Frank Peace Park. This space offers a great opportunity for kids to climb on miniature replicas of the seven great wonders of the world–the Great Wall of China, Egypt’s Pyramids, and Greece’s Parthenon. This unique outdoor play space provides kids with a great learning experience through its walk-through plaques located at each of the seven structures. Your family can travel the world without ever leaving the garden or the city. Truly a unique experience while visiting The Children’s Museum.
Conner Prairie is one of those play spaces packed with lots of outdoor unique play experiences. Situated within 800 acres, Conner Prairie offers visitors a chance to step back in time and learn about Indiana’s history through hands-on and engaging play. As you enter the outdoor portion of the museum take a 1859 Balloon Voyage and soar 370 feet above the museum. Take a journey like never before into an 1816 Indian camp, where you’ll encounter fur traders, learn frontier skills, and be immersed in hands-on knowledge of early America. Step back in time to Prairietown, where the year is 1836, and immerse in the antique buildings that made up everyday life in Indiana. In Prairietown you’ll be able to interact with “locals,” play “old-time games,” and learn how everyday food, tools, and household chores were done. Feel and learn about wool through their outdoor animal encounters.
Explore the trees in the Treetop outpost, with 4 levels of fun outdoor play. The outpost features hands-on nature play, nature art and books, musical instruments, sandboxes, teepee building, and more. A new all-inclusive playground featuring an agricultural theme will include large ramps for wheelchair access, a large tractor slide, and a barn. Lastly, cool off at the River Crossing splash pad, featuring a Civil War-themed area where kids can board the Alice Dean Steamboat and set sail along the river.
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Indianapolis in any season, Garfield Park Conservatory and Gardens greets everyone with its picturesque water fountains and colorful blooms. The conservatory features unique flowers and greenery that can be viewed all year long. Located behind the conservancy is the Children’s Garden featuring flowers from each letter of the alphabet, the five senses garden with its beautiful colors and aromatic flowers, and the rainbow garden. Garfield Park also includes a large playground near a beautiful pagoda and a smaller playground near shelters.
Holliday Park is an outdoor destination that has something for everyone. This 94-acre city park boasts a nature center to explore, playgrounds, hiking trails, gardens, and ruins. The nature center features hands-on activities of environmental history, feeding stations, a sound system to hear birds, and a white river water table. The playground outside is sure to excite kids and parents with its large rock climbing wall, 20-foot slide tower, and its many tunnels and bridges to explore. Use one of the trails to hike from the Nature Center to the Playground and creek stomp in the White River or one of the many other creeks that run through the park. One of the most unique and identifiable features of this outdoor park is its Ruins. Located centrally within the park, the ruins make for a fun and different outdoor play space and splash pad to explore.
The Fishers AgriPark is a beautiful mashup of nature-based learning and hands-on farming. The City Of Fishers has done a spectacular job of offering a unique, urban farming experience. When you visit the Agripark expect to see a nature-based playground with Montessori-style elements. In addition, you will find mud kitchens, a barn, and U-pick farming–with the free fresh produce available seasonally.
Nestled along the west side of Newfields Gardens is the interactive 100 Acres Park, boasting fun climbing structures, wetlands, and greenery. 100 Acres is one of the largest museum art parks in the country and no doubt this unique outdoor art museum will continue to grow with new additions. There’s a red and blue basketball court to get kids active on the field. A giant “funky bones” skeleton makes for a fun and interactive place to climb and jump. The bright yellow benches are great for climbing on. One of our favorites is the giant 100-foot long poplar tree showcasing swings for kids and parents. There is also a concession kiosk that sells syrup made from the tree. Truly an amazing place to explore the outdoors all year long.
One of the most educational outdoor play places in the heart of Indianapolis, the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab has many outdoor learning opportunities for kids and adults. This hands-on space educates about environmental restoration projects such as planting trees, flowers and exploring the native wetlands. During the year, the EcoLab has scheduled nature programs and educational events. This is a great natural space for everyone to enjoy and learn something new.
Saxony Beach (CLOSED FOR SUMMER 2023)
A great outdoor outing for the summer season is Saxony Beach. Pack up those sand buckets and beach bags and enjoy fun in the sun and sand. The 20-acre man-made beach has a swimming area, lots of sand for sandcastles, and paddle-board and kayak rentals.
Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Course is located inside Eagle Creek Park. This adventure park features treetop courses and challenges to keep everyone entertained and on their toes. You’ll navigate each section to get closer and within nature’s forest canopy. At the end of the climbing, ride the zipline down to the solid ground. The adventure park is suitable for older kids ages 10 and up, and adults.
Let the wild ones run free at the Indianapolis Zoo! Open year-round, this is a perfect place to play and engage your children in learning. From the plains of Africa to the thick rainforests; you will find countless animals and multiple types of exhibits. The zoo also hosts fun events throughout the year such as ZooBoo, Christmas at the Zoo, and xZOOberance for extra fun.
White River State Park is located in downtown Indianapolis, very close to the Indianapolis Zoo and NCAA Hall of Fame, and offers a variety of events and activities for kids. From the canal walk–where you can engage in interactive art and playgrounds–to the urban farmers market in the summertime, you’ll find a wide variety of things to do. Boat rentals are available, as well as bikes for a unique family outing and a different way to explore the city.
Located along the Monon trail, Midtown plaza has added new family outdoor adventures for everyone to enjoy. The new playground features a bright blue-tiered climbing tree with protective netting, a large slide, and lots of green climbing hills. Next to the playground area is a sports area for all ages to enjoy, there’s a large shuffleboard court, two ping pong tables, a bocce ball court, and red spinning chairs. Take the Monon Trail and explore further along the arts district and check out trendy sculptures and art along the way.
The Strawtown Koteewi Native American Village is a distinctive hands-on learning experience located on the north side of Noblesville. You will find dig spaces where you can learn about Native American history, as well as life-size replicas of different housing structures that you would have found in this historic village. These houses are family-friendly and kids are encouraged to play and explore these beautiful replicas.
Coxhall Gardens is a beautiful flower garden to explore with your kids. They have biking trails, a prairie, fishing, a playground, and hiking trails! They are known for their beautiful gardens that feature thousands of flowers in the summertime, and the stunning backdrop they provide.
Surf‘s up! The waterpark in Carmel at the Monon Community Center is a premium swimming experience fit for the entire family! You will find a surfing simulator, lazy river, water slides, and several large swimming areas, including a large children’s section. Make a splash and play all summer long.
Tiny Tot Playspace has been a favorite with my kids. It has three house-like structures, each with a different theme. One house is market & café-themed, with an adorable seating area for pretend play and a market for buying fruits and veggies. The second structure is house-themed, complete with a mailbox, steps to go into the house, and little windows to peek out. The third bright red structure is a fire station equipped with a pretend fire truck! This fire station even has a cute Dalmatian puppy to greet kids as they play. This adorable tiny tots’ playground is wheelchair friendly with its rubber flooring and toys easily accessible on the outside of the structures.
Have an adventurous kid who loves nature? This is a great nature-based playground is surrounded by trees and features the only outdoor park zipline. Kids can zipline from one side of the park to the next. All the structures of the park are made to resemble tree logs and nature. There are numerous rock climbing structures, rope nets to climb on, and lots of great obstacles for kids to conquer. There are large logs on the ground used for balancing or jumping on and off. For smaller kids, there are wooden insect spring rides that move back and forth and smaller round tree-like structures for climbing or sitting on. A great hidden gem located near the Jill Perelman pavilion.
Indiana has a large selection of state parks, but there’s something very special about Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. It’s conveniently located in the Lawrence area of Indianapolis, and provides so many different types of outdoor activities–horseback riding, golfing, playgrounds, hiking, and fishing are just a few of the things that you could find to do there with your kids.
Birdies in Westfield is a fun place to play with your kids. They have year-round mini golf, with fun features and interactive elements that will keep your kids engaged while having fun. In addition, they have a nice outdoor restaurant where you can grab a bite to eat, as well as gas-heated fireplaces for the cooler months. We love going there to play!
Dollies Lavender field is not only a flower farm but also offers some unique play structures for kids and adults to play on. There are large swings made of old doors that we all loved swinging and relaxing on. In the middle of the field, there was a nice pergola that provided shade from the sun and was equipped with lots of fun games in the area as well that appealed to all ages and abilities, such as twister on the grass, large Jenga, and large dominos.
Outdoor playtime is a critical part of each child’s development, and has so many benefits for parents too! Skip, hop, and jump into your next adventure playing outside around Indianapolis.