Explore 30 acres of fun at world’s largest museum for kids

Featuring more than 3,200 pieces of blown glass, Fireworks of Glass by Dale Chihuly can be viewed from all sides.

The magnitude of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is epitomized in a 43-foot sculpture by noted glass artist Dale Chihuly. It’s his largest permanent installation of blown glass, so magnificent that visitors are encouraged to view it from all angles, even through it, from below, like a kaleidoscope.

Founded in 1925, the downtown attraction pitches itself as the world’s largest museum for kids, with 481,000 square feet of space containing a dozen major galleries that range from dinosaurs to outer space. We didn’t measure it, but we can tell you the place is immense, and it’s certainly worth planning a visit to Indianapolis. It would be easy to spend all day and more here and still feel like you’ve missed something, as we did when we visited with Rosie and Max. We have to say it was the best children’s museum we’ve ever seen.

As you enter you can’t miss the huge model dinosaurs that greet your arrival. They foreshadow one of the museum’s signature exhibits – Dinosphere – where you’ll meet Bucky, said to be the sixth-most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found, and Dracorex Hogwartsia, a recently discovered species that has a spiky skull and was named after the dragon in the Harry Potter series.

Here’s a sampling of what you can do at some of the museum’s inside exhibits:

Learn to sketch a Dracorex at one of the many interactive exhibits.

• See full-sized dinosaur skeletons, touch a T-rex, dig for bones and view one of the largest juvenile dinosaur fossil collections in the world at Dinosphere. In addition to Bucky and Dracorex, you’ll meet Leonardo, a mummified dinosaur found in Montana in 2002.

• Be moved by The Power of Children exhibit, a tribute to three young folks who’ve touched our hearts. Step into the bedroom of Ryan White, the brave young boy who died in 1990 after contracting AIDS through a blood transfusion. Pay tribute to Anne Frank, who told stories of the Holocaust through her diary, and Ruby Bridges, a first-grader who became one of the first black students to integrate into the white school system in New Orleans.

• Experience what it means to be an astronaut in Beyond Spaceship Earth. It’s an immersive exhibit that relates the story of NASA’s Project Mercury program, which propelled the first Americans into space.

• Take a ride for a dollar on the Broad Ripple Carousel, a 1917-vintage ride that was reclaimed from an old Indianapolis amusement park. The ride contains 42 original animals and a 1919 Wurlitzer band organ. Also on the museum’s fifth floor are games, puzzles, a tree house and a maze of mirrors.

One of the attractions that separates the Indy museum from other children’s museums we’ve visited is the indoor/outdoor attraction known as Sports Legends Experience. It’s a ginormous play space for children and adults that combines physical fitness with an appreciation of sports history. In the 15 exhibits you can participate in many popular sports.

Here’s a sampling of what you can do outside through early November:

Swing for the fences at Wiese Field within the Sports Legends Experience.

• Climb the 25-foot Tree of Sports sculpture (or take the elevator), and chat with someone on the ground using talk tubes. See a panoramic view of the sports fields, then zoom down one of three slides to get back to ground level.

• Swing for the fences at Wiese Field, a miniature ballpark with modified equipment the museum provides. Anybody can go up to bat. Just enter the dugout and get ready to hit one deep. You can run the bases, throw to a pitching tutor and pose for a photo after you’re done.

• Pedal around a miniature race track, and speed along a short drag road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pedal Car Racetrack Experience and Church Brothers Collision Repair Drag Strip, which pays homage to Indiana’s strong history of auto racing.

• Throw a football around at the Indianapolis Colts Gridiron Experience. We thought it was really fun for two more reasons: You can try to split the uprights at a field goal kicking game – there are distances for both the young ones and adults. And you can try to hit a receiver in stride around permanent cutouts; or try “laying out” for a pass as you dive into a cushioned pile.

• Sample other live-action sports, including soccer, tennis, golf, hockey and track-and-field.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is open daily. See the museum’s admissions page for more information, as the hours and admission pricing are variable.

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