Headed to Indy with the kids and looking for fun places to visit? Want to add some learning while you’re there? From massive, outdoor ways to blow off steam to lessons in Indiana geology, here are the best museums in Indianapolis for families!
- Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
- Indiana State Museum
- Newfields (Indianapolis Museum of Art)
- NCAA Hall of Champions
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Indianapolis, Indiana, several times. And while each visit was for a different reason, I loved adding in some culture and learning for my daughter. I mean, in my eyes, there’s no better way for kids to learn than through play and discovery, right? Here are the best museums in Indianapolis that your family will love and why you need to visit.
While the name may be confusing to pronounce if you haven’t heard it spoken (it’s like EYE tel jorg), its story is simple. The Eiteljorg is all about telling the stories of the peoples of North America. Focusing on both West and North American cultures, it’s beautiful both inside and out – and you’ll want to make sure you see both.
Its size is very manageable for younger kids (three floors), so you’ll want to dedicate about two hours to your visit. There are hands-on learning opportunities throughout the museum, but what the kids will really love is the lower level that was created for families. Kids can learn about totem poles by adorning one with modern icons and hop inside a stagecoach to understand North American travel progression.
If you have older children, no problem. My daughter is now a teenager and loved visiting. The upper levels were more to her liking as she’s an art lover, so keep that in mind.
Tip: On nice weather days, make sure to head outdoors to check out the sculptures.
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, you know how positively addicting is can be. I mean, who can resist lounging below Dale Chihuly art pieces while slowly rotating like a giant kaleidoscope? If you haven’t been, make it a must-see museum on your next visit to Indianapolis. Truly, even if I was visiting without my daughter, I’d still have a ball.
In a nutshell, it’s floor after floor of interactive exhibits that cater to kids of all ages. If you have smaller children, make sure they check out the Dinosaur Dig Site. School-aged kids will adore Treasures of the Earth. Not only a cool spot to learn about Egypt, Terra Cotta Warriors, and Caribbean shipwrecks, it’s a truly immersive experience. The coolest part? You’re on the case to solve the mysteries of all three.
Sports Legend Experience
New in 2018, Riley Children’s Health Sports Experience, a salute to all-things sport, is the spot to check out if you have a sports-loving family. Even if you don’t the massive, outdoor area is filled with sports experiences from basketball to race car driving to soccer. But, if you have mini golf lovers, definitely try one of the four, nine-hole courses. Two of the courses were designed by Pete and Alice Dye, Indiana natives. Each hole is a replica of a design from an actual golf course from around the world. When you visit, make sure to look for 12 bronze statues highlighting Indiana sports stars.
Tip: Plan on spending an entire day at Children’s Museum of Indianapolis if you’ve never visited. There’s SO much to see, do , and experience that you’ll be hard-pressed to tear kids away.
Indiana State Museum
For my teen, learning about the history of Indiana was really fun, especially when it involved the Indiana State Museum. It’s next door to the Eiteljorg in White River State Park, so both can be done in a day if you’re feeling ambitious. Inside it’s jam-packed with history from millions of years ago to present day (love the Color of Style temporary exhibit. If you want to check it out, you’ll have to go by July 28, 2019) and each of its dedicated sections are hands-on to let kids really delve into learning.
When you go, make sure to give yourself at least two hours or more. We were able to complete our visit in just under two hours, but we had to fast track.
Indianapolis Museum of Art
While it’s true name is Newfields, many know the museum as the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It’s focus is nature and the arts, both of which have always combined beautifully in my eyes. Each of its galleries is surrounded by water or woodland features, and there’s everything from large-scale exhibitions to understanding Japan’s seasons.
But here’s the rub, its exhibits are temporary or semi-permanent. So, my advice is to hop on the official website and see if there’s anything that stands out – then make sure you visit before it leaves. This spring, the Pop-Up Tea house has been super popular. It’s the first in the series of seasonal food and beverage options at the museum and it’s a way to bring smells and tastes you’d normally not find in the gallery, inside.
Tip: The museum is open no matter what the weather, so dress appropriately. You’ll want to spend time outside.
NCAA Hall of Champions
you don’t have to be basketball fan of intercollegiate sports to enjoy the Hall of Champions, trust me. Yes, its focus is on college sports and the history behind them, but the interactive displays help those of us that aren’t as knowledgeable on it to gain understanding.
We shot baskets on a small basketball court setting and testing our balance on the ski simulator at Play. True fans will adore the video highlights and artifacts. The museum is very affordable (at the time this post was written, it costs $5 for adults, $3 for children) and is a great place for kids to really blow off some steam.
Tip: NCAA Hall of Champions is a Blue Star Museum. It offers free museum admission to military member and their families from May 18th through Labor Day.
Where We Stayed
JW Marriot Indianapolis Downtown is definitely an ideal place to stay when visiting Indy. Not only is it close to three of the five museums listed above, it’s bang next to White river State Park, so we were able to walk to NCAA Hall of Champions, Eiteljorg, and Indiana State Museum. No matter which side of the hotel your room is on, the view is lovely. Super comfy beds, an indoor pool and gym, and Starbucks near the lobby.
We spent two nights on the top level with Executive Club access. If you’ve never upgraded, really consider it. It offers a lovely breakfast, snacks and drinks throughout the day, and appetizers around dinner. Add in the dessert table for a nighttime sweet treat and you can begin to see where it can save money for families budgeting in meals.
Disclosure: We were hosted by Visit Indy, JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown, and the museums listed above to make this article possible. All opinions are my own!