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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Ohio History Center: Peer into state's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

Delve into Buckeye State’s past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum
Ohio History Center

Thousands of vehicles travel daily along I-71 north of downtown, past the brutish, rectangular building near the Ohio State Fairgrounds. For many years we’ve done the same, occasionally peeking at the statue of a soldier, which peers at us outside the building’s eastern flank, while attempting to dodge the countless semis and other vehicles that flood this busy highway.

That building, of course, is the Ohio History Center, the heart and soul of the Ohio History Connection, the record keeper of the Buckeye State’s past. If you take the time to wind off the highway and make your way into the 1970-era building, you’ll find a well-curated trove of Ohio history and other relics of the past.

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

Ohio’s historical reserve contains an impressive collection of historical artifacts as well as rotating displays that make the past come to life.

Many people associate the center with Ohio Village, a recreated 19th-century community populated by guides dressed in period clothing. Ohio Village sparkles during the winter holidays with Dickensian-era performers, then closes for the winter and early spring. This year it opens May 25.

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

But there are still plenty of things to see and do right now at the history center, which boasts more than 60,000 square feet of exhibit space. Historical displays are the center’s bread and butter. We enjoyed viewing ancient artifacts and the history of Native American culture, as well as displays that showed Ohio’s endangered species.

The center often has special guided presentations, such as Medical Marvels and Mishaps, which examines three centuries of medical techniques and tools.

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

The rotating special exhibits also are worth the trip. An example is Ohio — Champion of Sports, now on display through September 2020. It’s an interactive look at sporting heroes who hailed from or played a majority of their careers in the Buckeye State. For example, we saw a vivid description of Buster Douglas’ shocking 1990 defeat of Mike Tyson for the world heavyweight boxing championship, told by none other than Buster himself.

The displays represent both professional and amateur sports, from a racing suit worn by IndyCar champ Bobby Rahal, to LeBron James’ rookie jersey, to a display that surprisingly identifies the basketball team from Hiram College as the only college in the country to win a team Olympic gold medal, in 1904. There are several interactive displays, including those that urge patrons to shoot baskets or record their wildest victory dance.

Ohio History Center: Delve into Buckeye State's past and shoot some hoops at diverse museum

The sports exhibit winds through space occupied by the entity’s regular exhibits. They include the 1950s display, which includes old toys, a bomb shelter hatch, an Airstream trailer hitched to a 1957 Chevrolet Bellaire, and a prefabricated Lustron house which was manufactured in Columbus after World War II.

Don’t forget to take the elevator to the third-floor library, which houses a huge collection of books, manuscripts, government records, newspapers, maps and photos. You can even use Geneaology.com for free to look up information on your relatives.

The Ohio History Center is located at 800 E. 17th Ave., Columbus. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The library and archives are open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Learn more at ohiohistory.org.


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Embrace this hare-raising experience


Pat Barron wants you to think of rabbits as companion animals, just like cats and dogs.

As a volunteer at the Ohio House Rabbit Rescue in Columbus, Barron spends a lot of time introducing humans to rabbits in the hopes that she’ll pair a hare with a forever home.

“We think they make great family pets,” says Barron about the 35 spayed and neutered rabbits that are currently up for adoption at the rescue. “They’re quiet, litter trained and you don’t have to walk them.”

Each year in Ohio hundreds of unwanted pet rabbits are surrendered to animal shelters or released into the wild. The Ohio House Rabbit Rescue seeks a better alternative for these abandoned rabbits – one that includes unconditional love, a proper diet and regular veterinary care.

More than 100 rabbits are adopted annually through the program at a cost of $40 per bunny.

“We’re the only adoption center just for rabbits in Ohio,” Barron says. “Other places, like the Humane Society, have dogs, cats and some bunnies, but we have by far the most rabbits in the state.”

The rescue opened in 2013 in a 4,000 square-foot-space that’s overseen by a volunteer staff. It includes an intake area, treatment room and lots of play space.

Each bunny has its own 4-by-4-foot pen containing a cardboard shelter, litter pan, toys and food. The staff is happy to tell you about rabbit ownership and match you to the rabbit that best fits your personality and home environment.

“We want you to talk to the rabbits,” says Barron to me and my daughter, Rosie, during a Saturday visit. “Your voice is a signal to them that you’re not going to hurt them.”

Barron hops over a side of an enclosure. Like a magician, she lifts the cardboard box, revealing a black rabbit with bright eyes and twitching whiskers.

“Hi, Ebony! How are you, sweetheart?”

Visitors are taught how to socialize the rabbits so they’re more adoptable. Volunteer opportunities exist, too, including the position of “bunny socializer” – people who simply spend time with the rabbits, talking to them and petting them.

Barron teaches us the proper technique for petting bunnies. We start at their foreheads and stroke backward, focusing our attention on their ears.

“Don’t pet their noses or their behinds,” Barron says. “They don’t like that.

We also learn that they don’t like it when people make cartoony rabbit sounds, wave their hands in front of their faces, try to feed them hay or play with their toys.

“Good bunny,” Rosie says to a gentle, brown rabbit named Cupid.  “You’re such a good boy.”

Ohio House Rabbit Rescue is located at 5485 N. High St., Columbus. Public visiting hours are 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday; and noon-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment by calling (614) 263-8557.

Visitors who wish to interact with the rabbits should be at least 8 years old.

Learn even more about bunny ownership at the Midwest BunFest in October.



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Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program


Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing programSometimes family adventures can be found in your own front yard. Or, thanks to the Little Free Library, they can be found in the front yards of your neighbors, here and all over the world.

You may have seen a Little Free Library in your neck of the woods. They come in all shapes and sizes, but most look like a tiny house on a stick, perched in someone’s front yard. Open a front door to the box, and you’re treated to free books.

Founded in 2009 by Todd Bol in Hudson, Wisc., the Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy and encourages community participation through sharing books. Its motto: “Take a book, return a book.”

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing programToday there are more than 65,000 registered Little Free Library book-sharing boxes in all 50 states and more than 80 countries worldwide.

We made an adventure out of little libraries in our neighborhood in the hopes that we could trade out some old, favorite books for new ones that were more age-appropriate for our kids.

We selected seven books and visited seven libraries that we found on the Little Free Library world map.

You can do this, too, no matter where you live. Use the search bar above the map to find book-exchange boxes near you.

The best part about this literary adventure is that it doesn’t require a library card, and you won’t incur late fees!

Learn more: littlefreelibrary.org.


Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program

Little Free Library: Give and take through worldwide, book-sharing program


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Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Find world's largest collection of comics right here in Columbus

Find world’s largest collection of comics right here in Columbus


Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Find world's largest collection of comics right here in ColumbusAs a teen, I delighted in snatching the comics from the Sunday paper before my older brother. I’d read through Garfield, Bloom County, and For Better or For Worse before settling on my favorite, Calvin and Hobbes.

The adventures of 6-year-old Calvin and his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, seemed to jump off the page thanks to the brilliance of Bill Watterson. The Chagrin Falls native didn’t confine his characters to rows of squares but let them roam in his allotted space.

I recently got to relive my joy for this beloved comic strip while touring the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum in Columbus with my 10-year-old daughter.

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Find world's largest collection of comics right here in ColumbusThe 30,000 square-foot facility, located on the Ohio State University campus, houses the world’s largest collection of materials related to cartoons and comics, including editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic books and graphic novels – my daughter’s favorite.

The library and museum came to be in 1977 with the founding gift of artwork and papers of Ohio State alumnus Milton Caniff, who created the comic strips Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon. The museum is named after the Ohio cartoonist Billy Ireland.

Its primary mission is to develop a comprehensive research collection documenting American printed cartoon art and provide people access to these resources.

Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum: Find world's largest collection of comics right here in ColumbusAlmost everything in the archives is available upon request in the Reading Room. The museum has two galleries for exhibits, which change twice a year, and a permanent exhibit called the Treasures gallery.

The archives hold the largest collection of Japanese comics outside of Japan, some of the earliest cosplay costumes, and almost all of the original art from Calvin and Hobbes, which ran daily from 1985 to 1995.

I look forward to unraveling what’s inside this gem of a destination. In the words of Bill Watterson, “The best presents don’t come in boxes.”

The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is located at 1813 N. High St., inside Sullivant Hall on the Ohio State University campus. Learn more at cartoons.osu.edu.

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The Seasoned Farmhouse: Build skills, confidence at recreational cooking school

Boost skills, confidence at recreational cooking school


In this fast-paced world where heads of lettuce are sold pre-shredded in plastic bags, it’s nice to slow down and crack an egg once in a while.

I recently did just that and more with my daughter, Rosie, thanks to a Christmas gift from my husband. It had us measuring and mixing ingredients to make cookies during a cooking class at the Seasoned Farmhouse in the Columbus neighborhood of Clintonville.

The recreational cooking school offers classes that help home cooks boost their skills and confidence with hands-on instruction.

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Tricia Wheeler, who graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York City, opened the school in 2013. She and other local chefs can teach you how to make everything from pies and cakes to soups and salads to a five-course French meal.

Rosie and I took a daughter-and-mommy baking class over winter break. We made six types of cookies in two hours and got to take the goods home to share.

Wheeler said she found inspiration for the class from a box of child-sized aprons that she bought.

“I chose this age group because my daughter, Kensington, is 10,” Wheeler told our group of a dozen girls and their moms. “I picked age-appropriate recipes in the hopes that your girls will make these cookies on their own at home, too.”

Wheeler and her helpers created six stations for participants to use over two hours. It was amazing what we could accomplish when we put our minds to it.

We made sugar-cookie bars, chocolate chip cookies, no-bake caramel sea-salt cookies, pretzel toffee, Nutter Butter acorns, and polar bear marshmallows that we dipped into hot chocolate with homemade whipped cream.

When done, each girl received a basket that she filled to the brim with the group’s cookie creations. Since then, we’ve duplicated several of the recipes at home.

Most classes are geared toward adults, but kids’ classes occasionally are offered, such as a Valentine’s Day candy-making class. Otherwise adult classes are open to teen-agers with an adult chaperone.

Classes typically accommodate a dozen students and last up to three hours. Currently advertised hands-on classes cost from $65 to $150.

Classes fill up quickly. Learn about classes before they’re posted online by subscribing to Seasoned Farmhouse’s e-newsletter by clicking the “Be the First to Know” tab at the lefthand-side of the website at www.theseasonedfarmhouse.com.

The Seasoned Farmhouse is located at 3674 N. High St. Call 614-230-6281 to learn more.

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Sew to Speak: Find funky fabrics, learn sewing basics

Find funky fabrics, learn sewing basics


I loved to sew clothes for my toys when I was a little girl. Most of their fashions involved discarded socks. I could create three matching garments from one knee-high: a hat from the toe, a vest from the middle section and a tight pair of pants from the top. I swear I invented stretchy pants in the 1970s.

So, surprise, for Christmas my 8-year-old daughter received a sewing machine. The gift sat in a box for weeks as I read the manual, trying to decipher how to wind the bobbin and thread the machine. Meanwhile, Rosie pleaded, “I want to sew now!”

A friend told us about a local fabric store called Sew to Speak, which sells sewing supplies and offers lessons to children. One class, called “Kids Sewing 101,” is available for children ages 8 and up for $35. Participants learn how to operate a sewing machine and construct a pillowcase.

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  • Find funky fabrics, learn sewing basics
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We opted for a class called “Kids Plus One.” In the 2-hour lesson, Rosie and I learned how to operate our new sewing machine and make our own pillowcases.

The store is a destination in itself, especially if you’re into sewing. The fabric choices alone are enough to turn a wannabe like myself into a fashionista. I fell in love with a print of a little dog nipping at the heels of galloping horses. It appeared straight from the pages of an old children’s book. I used this print and another of horseshoes for my two-sided pillowcase.

Our instructor, Jamie Hevener, guided us with utmost patience and enthusiasm. I enjoyed constructing something I would normally buy without thought from scratch.

We learned how to use a simple pattern, properly cut fabrics with the grain of the material and use our machine to do basic stitching.

We’re quite proud of our handmade pillowcases and our newfound ability to use our machine. Look out, New York Fashion Week, here we come!

Sew to Speak is located at 4610 N. High St., Columbus. For more information, visit sewtospeakshoppe.com or call 614-267-3011.

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The Works: Head to Newark for interesting, inexpensive, interactive science museum

Head to Newark for interesting, inexpensive, interactive science museum


The Works is an interactive science museum in Newark that proved to us worthy of a 40-minute drive east of Columbus for a hearty dose of mental fun.

The museum offered the right amount of entertaining activities that challenged our kids’ knowledge of history, art and technology at a fair price. We spent less than $30 for our family of four to play for several hours.

We started our adventure in the Main Gallery, where we explored an exhibit called “Lines of Sight” that illustrates the connection between art and mathematics through hands-on displays. It was neat to see how a drawing on a flat piece of paper can appear three-dimensional.

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  • Head to Newark for interesting, inexpensive, interactive science museum
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We then motored to the main section of the museum on the first floor where there are lots of interactive stations called “labs.”  Each lab focuses on a particular topic like motion, sound, electricity and light and gives children and adults an opportunity to experiment.

We dug our hands into bins full of wheels and colorful plastic parts to create cars that we then raced down a ramp. It was fun to see that some illogical-looking contraptions outperformed others that seemed to make more sense.

Upstairs, visitors will find a boatload of history and see the remnants of this old building that during the 1800s was used to build steam engines. Exhibits highlight history and economic developments in Newark and Licking counties from the Paleo-Indians to modern times. The kids enjoyed typing on manual typewriters and calling each other on rotary phones. It was funny to observe them trying to figure out the rotary dial.

We also saw blobs of molten glass blown and transformed into colorful works of art in the Glass Studio. Visitors can watch demos or pop into the open studio the third Saturday of the month to fuse glass into sun catchers or jewelry.

Cost is $5 for children, $9 for adults and $7 for seniors. Children ages 2 and under get in free.

The Works is located at 55 S. First St., Newark. For more information, call 740-349-9277 or visit www.attheworks.org.

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