There are few things quite as sweet as making memories through family outings. You arrive at your destination, eager for this trip that will go down in the books as the best day ever, with you front and center as Parent of the Year. You walk in the door of your destination only to have your hopes crushed as you spot all breakable items, see the beloved sign, “DON’T TOUCH!” posted every five feet.
Rest assured, Indy parents, this doesn’t have to describe your day! There are places that welcome kids of all ages to explore their facilities with ALL of their senses. Some even outright encourage it! Most of us are well acquainted with Indy jewels like The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and Conner Prairie which pretty much beg your children to touch, smell, and lick everything in sight (deep breaths, Mom and Dad, it builds their immune system). But there’s so much more our city has to offer. Here are ten kid-friendly places that welcome children to explore with more than just their eyes.
At this percussion museum, let your kids bang a gong, play in a drum circle, try out a drum set in a sound-proof room, and much more. Your kids will have a blast making as much noise as possible without a grown up telling them to hush.
Let your little ones visit the Holliday Park Nature Center, Habitat Hall and play with the water table, dress up like a ladybug, climb through a tunnel, find a queen bee in a hive, observe the forest from a second floor lookout, and explore other interactive exhibits. If the weather’s nice, take time to walk a trail, play on our family’s favorite Indy playground, or check out the Ruins.
In this children’s store for toys and books, come in and browse the many options while your child plays with the train table, assembles a puzzle, or puts on a puppet show. Or snuggle up with them in a comfy chair to share a story together. It’s a perfect shopping experience for the whole family!
If your kids are ages 10-18, sign them up for the Earn-A-Bike Program. For only $25, your child gets to work alongside professionals to learn bike mechanics and safety. Over 7 weeks, your child will pick parts out of the shop to use in assembling their own bike that they get to keep, along with a helmet and lock!
There are many interesting shops, galleries, and restaurants along this unique stretch in Carmel, but in my opinion, nothing beats family fun like interactions with the life-like statues scattered throughout. Go on a silly photo extravaganza, challenging your children to creatively pose with their new “friends.” There will be guaranteed laughter!
This indoor “jungle” gives opportunity to spot a tree frog, count the fish in small ponds, walk under a waterfall, learn to identify a variety of exotic plants, and watch different creepy crawlies behind glass. Also take advantage of the Conservatory’s many reasonably-priced special events throughout the year.
Horses aren’t the only animals you’ll find at this ranch. For only $2/person, you can have an up-close and personal experience petting and feeding goats, chickens, ducks, ponies, and more!
This museum has two floors of interactive exhibits about all things related to college sports. The second floor, called Play, is based around competing through virtual and hands-on simulators, including skiing. You can even play in a retro gym!
At our favorite bad-weather destination, you’ll find huge play structures for both tots and bigger kids, basketball courts, hopscotch, rock climbing, and a quiet area for those who need less stimulation. And it’s indoors and free! So go have fun chillin’ and relaxing all cool, letting your kids explore freely. Maybe you’ll even fit in a more-than-two-sentence adult conversation! There are also a lot of other fun, free indoor playgrounds for kids near Indy.
This outdoor haven is a manageable system of trails and nature exploration. It’s great for most ages! Kids (and their adults) can wander around and see so many things.
The Indianapolis Public Library has the most amazing children’s section. There’s a green screen room, computers for kids, reading pods, children’s toys and of course, books. Kids can enjoy this space and really explore far and wide.
If the Luckey Climber wasn’t invitation enough for kids to become fully immersed in this children’s play area, then don’t miss the children’s life skills play area where they can sort and play with 100’s of items in a play kitchen area and grocery store. There’s also an arts and crafts area, a giant light brite wall, train tables, LEGO areas, an interactive digital play space and a giant play area with the Imagination Playground building set.
Goldfish Swim School is now open in three locations across the city; Greenwood, Fishers & Carmel. Several times each week there’s a family swim time where kids and their adults can swim around the pool and play. Goldfish has a huge collection of foam pool toys like boats, airplanes, slides, kick boards and more. For $5, guests can take advantage of the 90 degree water year-round and have a splashing good time.
I’ve always wanted to try all of the gymnastics equipment out, but I’ve never been a gymnast. Indy Stars Gymnastics has an open gym time that welcomes anyone. My kids love jumping in to the giant pit of foam squares, racing along the trampoline runway, tiptoeing along the really high balance beam and swinging on the bars. Nothing seems to be off limits at this fun gym.
Who says that art is off limits? Guest are encouraged to swing on, climb on, lay upon and do cartwheels on the art exhibits throughout the 100 Acres art park at Newfields. There’s no admission fee and the rules are simple, be respectful and have fun!
Every day is a new day and a new sensory adventure at the early childhood space at the Indiana State Museum. Firefly Landing was designed for kids age 18 months to five years and the ever changing stations offer activities with paint, play-doh, fake snow, light tables, building blocks and other creative outlets.
Each month, the Home Depot opens their doors to kids for a few hours of organized chaos. There are kids with hammers and other tools. These free workshops allow kids to create a fun toy or gift and learn building skills.
Courtney Bell is a homeschooling mom to her eight children, six by birth and two through foster care adoption. Along with managing a full household, she also has the privilege to teach private voice lessons in her living room. She lives within walking distance of the Children’s Museum in the mid-north side, hoping to see racial and economic barriers come down in the inner-city context. She’s wife to her best friend, Bill, a business information consultant and a pastor. Courtney and Bill blog about the wildness, fun, and glory of raising their gaggle at parentingwithbellson.com.