Have you ever wondered what it might be like to hang out with orangutans or stare down some warriors made of terra cotta? This summer, you can do both in Indianapolis, an educational, fun and family friendly Midwest road trip destination. Here are our top five picks for a fun weekend in Indy with kids!
Meet the Warriors
The Indianapolis Children’s Museum, the largest children’s museum in the world and likely the most amazing, is hosting the Terra Cotta Warriors this summer and fall. For the first time in history, the Shaanxi provincial government is allowing this particular exhibit with eight of the Terra Cotta Warriors and it is not to be missed.
The army, made up of thousands of warriors sculpted from terra cotta, was buried for centuries, protecting an emperor’s tomb. This beautifully presented exhibit (on display until November 2, 2014) tells the astounding story of the tomb complex of China’s first emperor and the warriors are considered by many to be the Eighth Wonder of the World. We examined more than 100 ancient artifacts and enjoyed hands-on interactives that gave us the chance to pretend that we too were part of the archeological research team. My kids, ages 4 and 13, sculpted mini terra cotta warriors of their own, pieced together broken warriors, and looked the warriors themselves in the eyes.
Be sure to explore the other exhibits at the museum, including the thought-provoking Power of Children exhibit, which highlights the powerful stories of three extraordinary 20th-century children – Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White – and the Dinosphere, which will transport you back to the land of dinosaurs – over 65 million years ago.
Bike White River State Park
White River State Park is a sprawling 250 acre park located in downtown Indianapolis. The Indiana State Museum and IMAX Theater, the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions, the Medal of Honor Memorial, Victory Field (home of Indianapolis Indians’ baseball), Military Park, the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn Concert Series, and the Indiana Cross Country Arena are all located in the park. We chose to explore by bicycle, renting bikes from Wheel Fun Rentals. The 13-year-old boys opted to cruise around on choppers, while my 4-year-old daughter and I hopped on a surrey. From Wheel Fun Rentals, we zipped around the park then parked our wheels outside the Indianapolis Zoo.
Hang With the Orangutans
Organized around the concept of biomes – areas of the planet with similar climate, plants, and animals – the Indianapolis Zoo is the only institution accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the American Alliance of Museums as a zoo, an aquarium, and as a botanical garden. The recently inaugurated Simon Skjodt InternationalO Center is the new home to one of the largest groups of orangutans in any American zoo. We were able to literally stare into the eyes of these amazing animals, and we took the time to learn more about their plight as an endangered species thanks to the interactive exhibits and zoo staff on hand to answer questions.
Design Your Own Local Burger
Our number one dining pick in Indy is Punch Burger (137 East Ohio St.), where you can build your own gourmet burger. Punch Burger makes a point of using only local grass-fed Angus beef raised in Indiana. Give some of the more adventuresome combos a try! Bazbeaux Pizza (333 Massachusetts Ave.), located in the heart of the Mass Ave cultural district, is another family friendly Indy staple for some of the best pies in town.
Stay at a Luxe-But-Family-Friendly Hotel Downtown
We stayed at the J.W. Marriot, a 1,000+ room luxe hotel located in downtown Indy, walking distance to White River State Park. Sophisticated yet family friendly, we loved our room with a stunning view of the White River State Park. jwindy.com.