Indianapolis is a traveling family’s playground. With ample activities for the entire clan, this Midwest destination is a summer must for families living in the region or road tripping across the country.
Safe, affordable and easily navigable, the “Crossroads of America” offers a bevy of family-friendly museums, activities, hotels and restaurants to cater to every age group and interest. Whether you are a traveling couple with a young child, or a multigenerational family seeking a convenient spot to convene for a family vacay, Indianapolis is the place to be.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest of its kind in the world. You could easily spend several days exploring the 500,000 square feet of indoor space and the additional 7.5 acres of outdoor activities. Every exhibit offers hours of learning, play and interactive activities. One of the most popular exhibits is the continuously expanding Dinosphere, which boasts real dinosaur bones, on-staff paleontologists and interesting finds like mummified dinos and a T-rex skull with a preserved tumor!
3000 North Meridian Street
The Dallara IndyCar Factory
Indianapolis is, of course, known as the home of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500, one of the most important races in NASCAR. Race enthusiasts young and old will love a visit to the Dallara IndyCar Factory, with its 23,000 square feet of exhibits. Learn all about the engineering and tech behind racing, then put your skills to the test in the race car simulator and zip around the famous 2.5-mile track. Factory tours are hosted four times daily, giving guests the inside scoop on how IndyCars are designed and produced.
1201 North Main Street, Speedway
Newfield’s is the new iteration of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Don’t shrug it off your itinerary just because you think your child might not be enthralled by an art museum. Newfield’s takes the typical art museum experience and elevates it to a completely new level. Beyond art, it offers more than 100 acres of woods and gardens, with restaurants and event space too. You surely do not have to worry about being stuck in a “stuffy” art museum.
4000 North Michigan Road
Right downtown, the Indianapolis Artsgarden is a seven-story hub for local arts and entertainment. The visitor’s center provides more than 250 free public performances and visual art exhibitions focused on regional artists. Whether you stop by to catch a performance or learn a little more about the area’s art, you’ll find that the knowledgeable staff is more than happy to provide guidance for your artistic exploration of the city. If you’re visiting during the holiday season, check out the Mistletoe Music Festival, an annual event featuring holiday tunes from school bands and choirs.
110 West Washington Street
The Indianapolis Zoo
The Indianapolis Zoo is home to over 60 acres of animal attractions, including more than 1,000 animals and nearly 50,000 plants! Other highlights include an aquarium and rides. Before your visit, see if there are any new attractions, like the MISTery Park, constructed as a South American rainforest with its own resident sloths. The best part? The sloths live completely out in the open, sans fences or glass, so they can interact with visitors. Deserts Dome is another new attraction, the most notable addition being the black mamba.
1200 West Washington Street
This fascinating museum attempts to tell a comprehensive story of North American natives through both art and culture. Peruse the collection of Western and Native American art and artifacts, curated to preserve the country’s diverse and complex histories. Particularly worth a look is the contemporary Native American art collection, deemed as one of the best of its kind on the planet. The Eiteljorg Museum is not only unique in the Midwest, but also the country: it is one of two museums east of the Mississippi that blends both Native American and American Western cultures.
500 West Washington Street
White River State Park
Far from a simple park, White River State Park is the crème de la crème of state parks in Indiana. This 250-acre downtown space is not only home to lush lawns, traversable trails and wonderful waterways, but it also provides many cultural and educational attractions. Within the park’s boundaries you’ll find the Indianapolis Zoo and the Eiteljorg Museum, but there’s still more to explore. Check out the Indianapolis Indians baseball team at Victory Field, the state’s largest IMAX theater, the NCAA Hall of Champions Museum and the Indiana State Museum.
801 West Washington Street
Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
Brush up on your knowledge of one of the United States’ lesser-known leaders, President Benjamin Harrison, while exploring his family’s 19th century home. A tour of the gorgeous 10,000-square-foot Italianate Victorian structure showcases many of Harrison’s own belongings, from furnishings to decor. The home’s ballroom hosts special exhibits that rotate throughout the year. Fun fact: the country’s 23rd president (1889-1893) was the first and only president born in Indiana.
1230 North Delaware Street
Indianapolis Art Center
The Indianapolis Art Center got its start during the Great Depression, when it was part of the Works Progress Administration program to assist regional artists. Now, it’s an unforgettable spot where your family can channel their own artistic skills. The nearly 10-acre campus provides artists of all ages and skill levels with hundreds of art classes throughout the year. Seeking inspiration? Roam the galleries, home to upwards of 50 exhibitions. If you visit on the right days, you might even get a chance to attend the center’s Broad Ripple Art Fair.
820 East 67th Street
Conner Prairie Living History Museum
Conner Prairie Living History Museum also offers seemingly endless ways to explore, learn and have fun. The wide-open spaces of this mostly outdoor museum are home to several different re-created towns and camps. Visitors can get hands-on with Indiana history, seeing how residents might have lived in the 1800s, during the Civil War or as part of a Native American tribe. The top-notch actors dressed in period clothing are more than eager to chat with children and show off their historic skills, from blacksmithing to pottery.
13400 Allisonville Road, Fishers
Rhythm Discovery Center
If your kids love a good drum session (especially when it includes pulling out all your pots and pans and banging on them with a wooden spoon), take them to a museum where they can make as much noise as they want. Here, at the world’s foremost drum and percussion museum, get your hands on some cool instruments and explore the history and culture surrounding percussion. Whatever your age, the center invites you to come find your rhythm.
Claypool Court Building, 110 West Washington Street, A
The Museum of Miniature Houses
For those with a fascination for doll houses, the Museum of Miniature Houses is an absolute delight. As one of the few museums in the United States devoted to fine scale miniatures, this place turns the wonderful world of doll houses into a fine art. The collection includes room boxes, miniature houses and individual miniatures. Typically, miniatures are reduced to a 1:12 or 1/4” scale, and all are historically accurate, designed to look exactly like a life-sized version, just impressively smaller.
111 E Main Street, Carmel