By Emily Harrington
I struggled to fit this article into one of the two trip categories on Chambanamoms.com, “One-Tank Road Trip” or “Day Trip.” Both are completely accurate depending on your efficiency and morning enthusiasm.
We ultimately decided to stay in a hotel on Friday so we could have a somewhat leisurely morning instead of an undoubtedly hectic one. (This way we could also add a trip to the Beef House Restaurant for dinner.) Just knowing we would wake up minutes away from the museum was a relief. On the other hand, our son had never stayed in a hotel and was not having the Pack ’n Play. He rotated between giggling and yelling at the top of his lungs for a good 30 minutes before we reluctantly pulled him in bed with us. We were in constant fear of waking the other overnighters on our floor. Once he was in our bed he just wanted to jump. Moral of the story—you may have a better night sleep in the comfort of your own home. Whichever way you choose, plan on at least a two-hour drive from the Champaign-Urbana area.
We drove through a sketchy area of town before we arrived at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis at 3000 N. Meridian St. It almost seemed out of place since there is nothing else commercial surrounding the sprawling facility. It wasn’t at all in a downtown environment like I expected. When we arrived at 10:30 a.m. the parking garage was already packed! The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
We went into the welcome center of the museum via a skyway and were greeted by costumed staff who told us about the special live events that were taking place throughout the day. Then we paid the cashier our admission fee. Kids younger than 2 are free (score!), kids ages 2-17 are $18.50, adults ages18-59 are $21.50 and seniors are $20.50. I know this seems hefty. But, the good thing is there are not a lot of hidden fees. Everything we came across was included in admission except for the $1 carousel ride. However, the first destinations you pass after you are admitted are the extensive food court and souvenir shop. The souvenir shop had a few train tables setup if your kiddos need a sensory break; maybe stop in on your way out.
At 11 a.m. we were able to catch a live show in the main atrium—Bucky Lives. The show was a nice introduction to a main theme throughout the museum—dinosaurs. Bucky was a huge T. rex puppet who left many of the younger kids crying. He didn’t keep our son’s attention for too long, but created a nice transition into the Dinosphere. Here you immersed yourself in the Cretaceous Period, 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs last roamed the earth. Dinosphere features T. rex, Gorgosaurus and Triceratops fossils set in realistic environments with dynamic lighting and sound effects.
The great thing about museums designed for kids is the encouraged interaction. Everything seems to move, make noise or light up. Your kids will be encouraged to touch and play with most everything they come across. Every exhibit is designed with different ages in mind, too. There are areas more appropriate for toddlers and there are areas more appropriate for older kids. These age-specific activities are clearly labeled. Overall, I think kids ages walking to 12 will equally enjoy this museum.
At ScienceWorks my son used a wheelbarrow to move and dump rocks on a construction site; behind him older kids climbed a rock wall.
At Playscape he participated in a music class and threw balls in a river carved into faux rock. The Playscape was definitely his favorite place and designed for toddlers. The area is designed with the philosophy that play is a child’s work.
At Take Me There: China he made his own music with ancient bells and created panda sounds; in front of him older kids took a trip on China’s transportation system.
At Inside Hollywood Film & TV! You’re On the Set he sat on a pretend TV set while we filmed him; next to him older kids shot scenes of themselves on a movie set using a green screen. Editor’s Note: As of March 2016, this exhibit is closed.
There are many exhibits sure to touch the varying interests in your family. We got through a lot but not all of what this place had to offer. It will definitely take you most of the day to cover the five levels or 472,900 square feet. Even with the size—we never felt overwhelmed. I also never felt crowded or like I was competing for space with other visitors even though the parking lot was packed.
The museum features engaged and helpful staff and is clean and organized. I would really like to come back in the warmer months. The landscaping looks impressive with rooftop gardens and outside sculptures of the Seven Wonders of the World. Their future exhibits look completely worth the trip, too!
The museum is a great place (for kids and parents) to visit on just one tank of gas and in less than 24 hours. I’m grateful such a renowned place is so close to home.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.