Why I love Indianapolis. 9 Family Adventures in a town loaded with family fun.

I love Indianapolis.  Sure, there’s a little bit of nostalgia involved.  Memories of being in high school and driving on the biggest freeway I’d ever seen–the 465.  Driving north from Greenwood I grew a little nervous as we approached the big city.  Years earlier I’d tried to convince my grandma that Indianapolis was home not only to the Price is Right and the Tonight show but also the Statue of Liberty!  By high school I was not quite as confused, but I was still green.

Indy is not the big city.

But Indy is a GREAT city.

I’ve previously written on going home (Read that Indy-centered post HERE).  But Indianapolis is great whether you’re going home or whether you were born and raised in New York or California and are just going for the first time.  It’s a small, navigable city with so much to offer–especially for families.

Canal Walk

The Indy Canal Walk is the cultural corridor of the city. Walk along and pop into the museums, get a cup of coffee, just stroll along while the kids run and play.

Why Indy?  Here’s are 8 Family friendly ways to enjoy Indy:

  1. The Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  This place rocks.  Visit their website to help plan your trip…. but honestly the website does not begin to do this place justice.  The place is a half a million square feet.  It’s the largest children’s museum in the world.  And it’s totally experiential.  It begins before you even walk though the front door as you pass by a 50 foot tall, 75 foot long brachiosaurs.  In the Dinosphere Theater kids are taken back to the Cretaceous period though an overwhelming sound and light display.  Do your kids like Dinosaur Train?  That’s not even a fair comparison.  Dinosphere blows that out of the water.    And you’re just getting started.
  2. The Indianapolis Zoo.  When we’re traveling and my wife suggests going to a zoo, I know she has the kids in mind.  But deep down I’m thinking, “really, the zoo?  Aren’t the giraffes here the same as the giraffes at the zoo at home?”  The animals may be the same, but at the Indianapolis Zoo the experience is different.   For years I head people talk about how great the San Diego Zoo is.  Ok, the San Diego Zoo is great.  But it’s not as great as Indy.  And in our travels we’ve been to lots of other zoos.  But none of them are as great as the Indy Zoo either.  The Indy Zoo is actually a part of the greater White River State Park.  It’s a zoo.  It’s an aquarium.  And it’s a botanical garden.  There are all kinds of special zoo experiences, including a family overnight!  My favorite exhibit will always be the polar bears.  But one of the coolest features of this zoo is how certain animals actually inner-mingle.
  3. Catch an Indianapolis Indians Minor League Baseball Game at Victory Field.  We love going to ball games and minor league games are great because they are so affordable for families.  Victory Field is among the nicest–if not the nicest–minor league ballparks in the country.  It’s downtown and would be a great way to spend an evening after walking around all day at the zoo, which is right across the river.  Sit out on the outfield lawn and buy your kids some Cracker Jacks!
  4. The Indianapolis Colts!  Go to a game a Lucas Oil Stadium and watch Peyton Manning work his magic!  Ok, NFL games are a little expensive.  So you may not want to break the bank to take your toddlers to a game here.  But there’s an electric feeling in any sports arena when the home team is competing at a top-of-the-league level.  Besides, Indy is a sports town.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  5. Did I mention Indy is a sports town?  So go to an Indiana Pacers game at Conseco Fieldhouse.  Conseco is a great arena and worth checking out.  The Pacers have been down in recent years, but Indiana is still Basketball Meca.
  6. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the downtown area.  Need to get off your feet for a while?  Kids love horses and at Monument Circle there are always horse-drawn carriages lined up ready to take you on a stroll.  We love these types of things–horse-drawn carriages, trolleys, etc–because they help give you a survey course of a city and then decide where you want to explore on foot later.
  7. When you’re doing all of these things you’re never more than a stones throw away from the Indianapolis Canal Walk.  They call it the cultural corridor of Indy–and for good reason.  This is where you’ll find all the morning and evening joggers.  Little studio lining the water.  There are great places for kids to run and climb.  If your feet are a little tired from walking the rest of the city, you can rent a little boat to float down the canal or see it from a slighted elevated position on a segway.  White River State Park, the Lawn at White River State Park, Victory Field, the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Museum, and the NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions are all along the canal!
  8. Conner Prairie is stuck in the 1860’s but it’s well worth a visit!  200 acres just outside of Indy in Fishers, Indiana is set aside and when you walk onto the prairie good luck getting anyone to talk to you in 21st century lingo.  As far as they are concerned in the mid-19th Century and they’re working the land of William Conner.  It’s a living history which will be a breath of fresh air for your kids who may be accustomed to learning through text books and static museums.  Also way worth checking out is the Symphony on the Prairie.  The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and other special acts participate in a musical series each summer.  Bring a picnic basket and a blanket and get ready for a night listening to good music in the relaxed open air.
  9. The Indianapolis Museum of Art.  My wife and I both love art.  But we usually don’t take our kids anywhere near art museums!  But the IMA is great for kids and it all starts in 100 acres.  No, not Winnie’s the Pooh’s 100 Acre Wood.  The Indianapolis Museum of Art is surrounded by 100 acres of wetlands, meadows, and a 35 acre lake.  These 100 acres comprise one of the largest museum art parks in the country, and the only one to feature the ongoing commission of site-specific artworks.
Childrens Museum

At the Children's Museum... during construction... before the head was attached!

There are lots of adventures for family fun.  And hopefully you can get some alone time for mom and dad too.  (My parents are just an hour from Indy, but I don’t think they’d want me to give out their phone number!).  If you’re looking for a babysitter in Indy (or anywhere else actually) check out SitterCity, a great service we love to help us get a little adult-only time when we’re traveling.
In Indy that sitter time would probably lead us back to the IMA to peruse the works there.  Then to Broad Ripple Village to check out some of the local art galleries and then do some bar hopping.
Hopefully there’d be a dinner at St. Elmo’s.  It’s a darn good steakhouse.  There’s a Ruth’s Chris just a few doors down but you can eat at Ruth’s Chris in lots of places.  You can only eat at St. Elmo’s in Indy.  And St. Elmo’s is so quintessential Indy.
And Indy is a quintessential all-American family town.


Do you love Indy?  What I’d miss?  Share your comments below or on our FACEBOOK PAGE.  While you’re there, be sure to “like” us.  And follow us on Twitter HERE.

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