During our weekend getaway to Indianapolis, Indiana we stayed downtown in the JW Marriott which was PERFECT because it was literally right across the street from the Indiana State Museum! PLUS we got lucky because the weekend we were in town it was not only the Harry Potter Wizards Unite Fan Festival around the Indiana State Museum but it was also fan appreciation day at the baseball stadium next door (fireworks every night!). It was a really great weekend to road trip to Indiana!
I love state museums in general because the quality is just on a Smithsonian level and so well done. What I specifically really loved about the Indiana State Museum is that it was SO incredibly kid friendly and VERY hands on! The grounds outside are absolutely gorgeous and a beautiful way to spend a day in Indianapolis!
Walk through an ice cave!
Exhibits in the Indiana State Museum aren’t just meant to be seen. They are meant to be experienced, touched, smelled, and interacted with! This ice cave is SO COOL (no pun intended!). Check out this video overview of a few of the things we were able to touch, see, and do! PLUS a sneak peek at the current A*MAZE*D exhibit! My 4 year old AND both of my boys (ages 10 & 12) were totally hooked on all of the exhibits in the museum! It was very engaging for all age levels.
In the R. B. Annis Naturalist Science Lab:
Being a science geek at heart I absolutely loved the Naturalist Lab room for SO many reasons! We actually found ourselves in the lab several times throughout the day. It’s a fabulous quiet place in the museum for kids to sit in bean bags, chairs, build towers, read books, open drawers, use the microscope, and touch things! In fact there’s a shelf full of buckets for kids to take out and play with plush birds, wood slices to build, books and more!
I loved these microscopes!!! They had huge screens to easily view your specimens under the microscope as well as a tray full of different items kids could grab and look at. Everything was very touch friendly!
While we were in the naturalist lab there was also a staff member present doing an experiment and science talk on convection. She didn’t miss a beat when my 4 year old was the only one who showed up and did a fantastic job keeping it at her level during the experiment!
My oldest son enjoyed using the wood slices and pieces to build a giant tower!
Mastodon Escape Room Game:
While we were visiting the Indiana State Museum we noticed that there was a Mastodon Escape game listed in the brochure that my boys and I showed up for. We had SO MUCH FUN! If you have older kids I definitely recommend checking out this game session!
They basically had a huge poster board with “locked” areas of their museum that you had to answer questions correctly for in order to open up new areas on the board. Although we had literally never been through the museum before we were still able to have fun and play the game! It would be an EPIC full museum event so I hope they expand that game out further!
As you can imagine there are SO many more exhibits than I can even mention here! You can view the exhibits list on their website but we marveled past skeletons, real artifacts from history such as Abraham Lincoln’s mallet, an iron lung, polio braces, cars and more. We watched a pendulum knock down dominoes, played “I Spy” among the natural habitat displays, and marveled at all of the amazing things we had never seen before displayed in the museum.
Our family road trips a lot and we have been to countless museums and attractions over the years. But as my boys get older it’s a little more difficult to engage both my older ones approaching teenage years AND my preschooler all at the same time. We stayed at the Indiana State Museum pretty much from open to close and my kids, all three of them, were completely engaged in different ways. It was fantastic! There were SO MANY exhibits and just about everything had somewhere you could touch, smell, etc.
Outdoors at the Indiana State Museum:
The Indiana State Museum grounds are very accessible to anyone downtown. It’s a great spot to walk around off of the river canal system. In the back of the museum campus, right off of the river canal front, there is not only a dog water and play area but there’s a sitting area next to an herb garden and a little free library! There’s plenty of space for the kids to run around the giant mastodon statues, and all around the building are unique pieces of art created from artists all over Indiana right into the museum walls!
At the end of the day we joined some of the museum staff outside to throw Atlatl spears! I couldn’t believe it! I thought it was just going to be a spear throwing demonstration but my kids and I got to throw spears! It was really cool!
And KUDOS to the staff making our visit extra awesome! My husband had to leave during our visit because my daughter started running a fever. He took her to a local clinic and found out she actually had strep. So the boys and I hung around the museum until almost close because they wanted to do the spear throwing so bad. When we went downstairs a sign was up saying that the spear throwing had been cancelled due to a private event. The museum staff heard my boys talking about their disappointment and came to let us know they’d still be willing to take us outside and do spear throwing with us! It just made the whole day perfect!
Sneak Peek into the A*MAZE*D Exhibit by Dave Phillips:
The A*MAZE*D exhibit by Dave Phillips was BY FAR one of the coolest traveling exhibits we’ve ever attended and found ourselves up there several times during our stay. It was AWESOME! As you saw earlier my oldest son loves architectural design and the cardboard maze in this new exhibit in the Indiana State Museum is totally something I see my son creating.
It was WAY AWESOME and the largest cardboard maze we’d ever been in! Under this 14 foot tower you’ll need to weave through four tunnels and explore between 5 foot high walls to find four stamping stations in this maze! There’s even an observation deck that you can stand on and peer down into the maze!
The cardboard maze wasn’t the only cool thing in this exhibit. There were color pattern mazes, mazes on tables, mazes on walls, mazes made of pencils, measuring tape and even puzzle pieces! Mazes mazes mazes! It REALLY showed up just hot cool (and creative!) mazes and puzzles can be on a life-sized scale!
If you are within driving distance of Indianapolis I HIGHLY recommend not only visiting during the A*MAZE*D exhibit which is in town until January 5, 2020 (and included with admission!) but just go visit the Indiana State Museum. It’s REALLY awesome and you’ll be glad you went!
While you’re in town try to schedule a tour exploring the underground catacombs, and don’t forget the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is also nearby! Driving further south in Indiana? Check out the Indiana Cave Trail!