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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Merry-Go-Round Museum: There’s motion in this Sandusky menagerie

There’s motion in this Sandusky menagerie

Merry-Go-Round Museum: There’s motion in this Sandusky menagerie

Think of a merry-go-round, and the image of horses leaps to mind. But organizers at the Merry-Go-Round Museum, along the shores of Lake Erie, want you to know there are more to carousel critters than just painted ponies.

The museum, which opened in 1990 near Cedar Point in Sandusky, displays a mixed breed of figures and provides an opportunity to ride one aboard a restored 1939 Allan Herschell carousel, the main attraction of the museum.

Besides horses, visitors will find a rabbit, camel, goat, chicken, dragon and a menacing wolf. All are masterfully carved from wooden boards and painted in realistic detail. Some come from France, built around the turn of the 20th century.

Merry-Go-Round Museum: There’s motion in this Sandusky menagerie

The museum also offers an opportunity to see and chat with a carver at work. During a recent visit, I learned that non-horse figures are called menagerie pieces. Some of the old ones are on loan from private collections. Others were recently carved or restored and soon will be installed on working carousels throughout the country. Just 200 original wooden carousels are still in operation across the United States today.

The first thing you’ll notice, though, is the building that houses the museum. Built in 1927 as a post office, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks in part to its unique, round shape.

It became a carousel museum in 1990, two years after the Postal Service issued four commemorative carousel stamps. Sales of the stamps drew thousands of people to the odd duck of a building. Carousel enthusiasts put two and two together and decided what better place to house a round ride than a round building in the center of town.

The Merry-Go-Round Museum is located at 301 Jackson St., Sandusky. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for seniors ages 60 and up; and $4 for children ages 4-14. For more information, call 419-626-6111 or visit www.merrygoroundmuseum.org.


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Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits


Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

During our recent visit to Cincinnati, we made sure we crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky and scheduled a visit to the Newport Aquarium, billed as one of the top aquariums in the country.

We were glad we did. After spending a few hours making our way through the winding subterranean seascape, we felt it was perhaps the best aquarium we’ve ever visited.

As its name suggests, the aquarium is located in Newport, just across the Newport Southbank Bridge from Cincinnati. This is the “Purple People Bridge,” so named because it’s pedestrian-only and (you guessed it) is lighted purple at night. Of course, there are plenty of other bridges to drive across from Cincinnati to Kentucky if you prefer, the closest being highway I-471, known as the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge.

Parking was readily available (and affordable) outside the aquarium. The attraction is part of Newport on the Levee, a shopping and dining attraction that has lots of restaurants and stores, a movie theater, a bowling alley and even a “fish spa” called Garra.

Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

Why did we like Newport Aquarium so much? Let’s start out with what you can see – more than 65 exhibits containing hundreds of aquatic species in 1 million gallons of salt and fresh water. The aquarium felt almost like a museum, albeit a crowded one.

We liked the clever reuse of the shark tank, allowing visitors to first go through it via a long tunnel, then ending the aquarium’s circuitous trek by walking over the open tank on a daredevilish bridge (that was fully netted).

Maybe it was the opportunity to see things we hadn’t seen before – like a white alligator that apparently gets along with turtles, and a giant Pacific octopus, which has the ability to camouflage itself and change its shape.

Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

We also enjoyed the huge arapaima, one of the world’s largest freshwater fishes, which trolls the Amazon River. Visitors also can view seahorses in a large tank and go eye-to-eye with a penguin swimming under water.

Rosie and Max got a thrill by interacting with some of the sea life. They were able to touch a sea anemone, a horseshoe crab and a baby shark, then pop their heads through a porthole to see stingrays swimming around them.

It was these collective experiences that made Newport Aquarium memorable.

We did find that the passageways were sometimes a bit narrow for all the people there. This is one popular attraction, so if you can, try to visit during the week. There’s plenty of opportunity – Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year. We’re already looking forward to our next visit.

The Newport Aquarium is located at One Aquarium Way, Newport, Ky. Learn more at www.newportaquarium.com.


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Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Wallow in 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired fun at Easton Town Center


Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town CenterThis weekend we assembled a portable grill, one of those projects that looks easy but quickly can go down the wrong path with one incorrectly attached part.

We had to put together the frame, attach the grills, assemble and affix the hood, then tack on wheels and a fire extinguisher. Some of the parts looked like they weren’t engineered for any kind of commercial use, let alone a barbecue on wheels.

Fortunately, Lego master builder Maxx Davidson guided our every move as we snapped the pieces together. This was no ordinary grill, after all. Just a few square inches in size, the grill was the project of the day at the brand-new Legoland Discovery Center at Easton Town Center, a $10 million destination attraction that’s sure to interlock its place as an Easton favorite.

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town CenterA first for Ohio and the second largest in the nation, the Discovery Center is billed as the ultimate indoor Lego playground. There are 10 themed rooms, including the Creative Workshop where Davidson presides; two amusement park-like rides; a 4-D cinema with wind, rain and snow effects; a space to build and test your own Lego creations; and the mega-impressive Miniland, which features recreations of Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati landmarks.

And there’s plenty of room to roam. The Discovery Center is housed in the former All-Star Cafe, which covers 36,000 square feet on two stories inside Easton Station.

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center“This place is not just fun for kids – it’s fun for families,” says Davidson, an Ashland, Ohio, native who earlier this year ousted 2,000 other applicants to earn the title of Master Builder. “Parents can play with kids no matter what generation they are. You kind of bond over this fun toy.”

That’s exactly what we did for two hours in the newfangled, colorful space. In the end, the intrigue of the rides won our kids’ attention over digging their hands into tubs of plastic bricks. They rode in a self-propelled chariot and used laser guns to battle trolls and skeletons in order to save a princess while on Kingdom Quest. They gleefully pedaled their feet to raise and lower a car on the slow, spinning Merlin’s Apprentice.

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town CenterWe adults were more awed by the detail that went into the exhibits, especially in Miniland. Be sure to check out recreations of Columbus’ North Market, Cincinnati’s Union Terminal and Cleveland’s A Christmas Story House, complete with little Ralphie in a bunny suit on the front porch.

Legoland Discovery Center officially opens Sept. 28. Admission rates range from $20 for a day pass to $60 for an annual pass. Adults must be accompanied by a child age 17 or younger to visit.

The space includes a snack shop, where meals can be assembled in Lego boxes, and rentable party rooms. Learn more.


Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

Legoland Discovery Center: Explore 35,000 square feet of plastic brick-inspired goodness at Easton Town Center

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Kids welcome on ‘Bring Your Shorty’ days


16-Bit Bar+Arcade: Kids welcome summer SundaysNow here’s something we hope you’ll really like. Every Sunday, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, is a “Shorty Summer Vacation” at 16-Bit Bar+Arcade in downtown Columbus.

That means kids are allowed at what our daughter calls the “barcade,” which is normally reserved for the 21-and-older crowd. The bar and arcade offers craft beers, old-school cocktails and free play on more than 40 classic video games, including Donkey Kong, Frogger, Asteroids, Pac-Man and Dig Dug. There are a couple of pinball machines, which cost 50 cents per play.

16-Bit was designed for adult customers wanting to relive games of their youth while having a couple of brews. But during regularly scheduled “Bring Your Shorty Days,” kids are welcome from noon-5 p.m. In addition to games, youngsters can sip a cherry, grape or lime Slush Puppie.

16-Bit Bar+Arcade: Kids welcome summer SundaysWe had a good time on a recent Shorty Day. Mike sampled a couple of local craft beers, while I tried some hard cider. It was fun trying to remember how to play the classic games. Mike was a bit rusty at Asteroids, a game he used to master. I was similarly flailing around on Dig Dug. I think with a few repeat visits, we could raise our mastery of the games to 1980s levels. Our kids had a blast playing a Terminator-themed shooting game.

No food items are sold at 16-Bit, but you’re welcome to bring your own or order a pizza from nearby Mikey’s Late Night Slice.

There also are 16-Bit locations in Cleveland and Cincinnati. To learn more about all the locations, visit www.16-bitbar.com.


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16-Bit Bar+Arcade: Kids welcome summer Sundays

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Search for pixie portals while discovering downtown Dublin’s quaint shops


Be it beer, wine, doughnuts or chocolate, we’re suckers for organized trails. So when I recently learned of a fairy trail in downtown Dublin, my daughter, Rosie, and I made plans to check it out.

The Irish Fairy Door Trail was created in 2016 by the Dublin Convention & Visitors Bureau as a fun way to highlight the independent businesses in downtown Dublin. Trail guides are available online or can be picked up in person at the Dublin Visitor & Information Center at 9 S. High St. The center is open daily from 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Eight small, glitter-encrusted doors have been hidden inside an equal number of businesses in the historic downtown area. It’s up to participants to find them and take note of the fairy’s name that’s been attached to each. Jot down the names of the fairies found at six of the eight participating stores on your passport to earn an Irish Fairy Door Trail T-shirt. Completed passports can be slipped into a box inside the visitor’s center.

The real prize, Rosie and I discovered, was spending time together exploring the unique stores. I drank coconut-flavored coffee and devoured sea-salt caramels at Winans of Dublin. Rosie found a shamrock-spotted rubber duck at Ha’Penny Bridge Imports of Ireland and a comfortable seat in a giant Teddy bear at the Dublin Toy Emporium.

Here is the full list of participating stores at the time of our adventure:

Learn more about Dublin’s Irish Fairy Door Trail.

Also check out Dublin’s new Celtic Cocktail Trail, and Dublin’s Art in Public Places Tour.



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Ten Pin Alley: Hilliard entertainment center offers bowling, laser tag, arcade, bocce ball

Hilliard entertainment center offers bowling, laser tag, arcade, bocce ball


Rosie and Max tightly grip their blue laser-tag blasters as they zip through a two-story labyrinth that’s decked out like Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” complete with a giant octopus strung from the ceiling.

Black lights illuminate our kids’ way as they pursue their temporary enemy: The red team. The battle elicits laughter and high-fives, and the ultimate, “Let’s do it again!”

  • Ten Pin Alley
  • Hilliard entertainment center offers bowling, laser tag, arcade, bocce ball
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The game, dubbed Steampunk H20, is just one option for fun at Ten Pin Alley in Hilliard. The bowling alley and entertainment center spans 37,000 square feet, the result of a recent $5 million renovation and expansion. Other options include dozens of arcade games and bocce ball.

“Most people bowl less than five miles from where they live,” said Andy Beougher, director of sales and marketing of the independently owned Ten Pin Alley. “We wanted to be a destination.”

Food options include appetizers, hand-tossed pizzas and burgers, which can be enjoyed at your table as you bowl or eaten in the large dining area with a big bar. Garage doors open to an expansive outdoor patio.

Spare touches include original artwork and oddities, such as chandeliers and a decades-old neon sign that reads Ten Pin Bowl in a secluded eight-lane alley that can be reserved for private parties.

Another striking element is that Ten Pin donates 2 percent of its sales to several local charities through its Heart & Bowl philanthropic program.

Ten Pin Alley is located at 5499 Ten Pin Alley. Learn more at www.tenpinalley.com.

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