As soon as the tour guide started her lecture, I knew it was a bad idea. I pictured the hot and frustrated meltdown that was quickly approaching, my son yelling at the top of his lungs, and the constant whining I’d have to endure for the next hour. Clearly this attraction we’d signed up for was not a good fit for young kids. If only we’d known ahead of time about what to expect. But it was too late to duck out now.
Traveling with kids is never easy and not knowing about a destination makes it even harder. I’d so much rather have an insider’s guide, especially from another mom, to give me an idea about what to expect! Indianapolis offers dozens of attractions for visitors but to help you plan the best trip for your kids, I’ve put together my best tips for the family attractions in Indy that we love. All of these are kid tested and approved by my own two boys and will make sure you avoid any unpleasant surprises as you visit the Circle City with your family!
My Picks: Family Attractions in Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
You can’t schedule a visit to Indy and not take advantage of this world-class attraction. And when I say world-class, I really do mean it. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest children’s museum in the world and offers hours and hours of hands-on exhibits and discovery for kids of all ages. Experience dinosaurs, trains, theater, space, and more, plus take your little ones to Playscape, an area just for kids five and younger. Your family can easily spend an entire day here and it’s easy to see why it’s a top attraction in the city.
For even more tips, check out Things to Know Before You Go: A Guide to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
The Eiteljorg Museum
Indianapolis has several outstanding museums and many are located downtown in the urban White River State Park. My personal favorite is the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art. This unique museum houses a huge collection of Western and Native American art, making it a great learning experience for the whole family. A hands-on children’s area in the basement lets kids explore more about the culture of native tribes and the experiences of early western settlers. The museum is located on the Canal Walk which makes for a beautiful stroll during nice weather.
Tip: The cafe in the museum is also quite good for lunch.
Located on just northeast of the city, Conner Prairie is a living history museum devoted to bringing history to life for families. It’s one of only two Indiana museums that are part of the coveted Smithsonian Affiliate program. The beautiful campus is on the original homestead of the Conner family and visitors can experience two different time periods in historically recreated villages, complete with actors who portray townspeople and interact and teach guests about their way of life. My boys will spend hours running up and down the stairs of the 4-story Treetop Outpost and love to stop at the many hands-on activities and demonstrations throughout the village. The outside attractions are seasonal but the inside exhibits and young children’s play area are open year-round. Check their website before you go for pricing and hours.
Tip: There’s an interactive water area (open seasonally) near the Civil War Journey so pack a change of clothes for hot days.
Visiting a local park is one the best ways to experience a city and Indianapolis has many to choose from. Holliday Park, with its hiking trails, nature center, and ruins display, is a perfect place for families to unwind, and kids can burn off some energy on the giant playground. Tarkington Park, just a mile from the Children’s Museum, has a brand new playground and splash park with a unique design that will have your kids climbing and rolling down the many hills. And finally, Garfield Park, just south of downtown Indianapolis, is a city favorite with plenty of wide-open space and hiking trails plus a conservatory and gardens that make for a fun visit year-round.
Tip: Holliday Park and Garfield Park both have lots of shade but Tarkington Park is mostly full sun so pack the sunscreen.
Indianapolis Museum of Art
The Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) is both sophisticated and family-friendly. My kids spent time creating light sculptures and artists portraits in the Children’s Studio area as well as touring the beautiful grounds and gardens. During the summer the museum offers mini-golf with holes designed by artists from all over the country. Located right next to the museum is the FREE Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park: 100 Acres area. This outdoor nature park is filled with trails and interactive art exhibits.
Tip: there are limited restrooms in the park so make sure you plan ahead.
Tip: Check the IMA’s calendar for various kid events and films throughout the year.
More Amazing Family Attractions in Indianapolis
Indianapolis does sports in a big way. You can grab tickets to a local game or event almost any time of year. Check out what’s happening when you’re in town at Visit Indy’s calendar. All of the teams are great but the Indiana Fever (WNBA), Indianapolis Indians (minor league baseball), and Indy Elven (soccer) are particularly family-friendly.
The zoo is open year round and one admission price gets you in to both. Lots to see and do here including a dolphin show and touch-a-shark exhibit. Pricing is variable so try and buy your tickets ahead of time online to save a bit of money.
Explore the history of Indiana both geologically and culturally. Plenty of hands on exhibits for kids, plus there’s a large IMAX theater that shows a mix of educational and popular movies. Free admission if you have a ASTC Passport Membership.
A public-art-lined urban trail connecting various downtown neighborhoods. Rent bikes from the Pacers Bike Share program to see more of the city and explore some neighborhoods. Well protected from traffic, it’s a great place for kids to ride bikes, just watch the pedestrian traffic along Washington Street.
So there you have it, some insider tips and suggestions for your visit to Indianapolis. As you can see, there’s a lot to do and you probably won’t be able to fit it all in. But you will have some insider knowledge to help you plan the trip that best fits your family. No meltdowns or unexpected lecture tours for you! Want even more ideas and an itinerary for exploring downtown, check out my post about Downtown Indianapolis with Kids.
Have you visited Indianapolis? What’s your favorite attraction in the Circle City? Feel free to leave a question about your upcoming trip in the comments!
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