A January 2005 trip
to Indianapolis by leblanfo
Quote: I live in downtown Indianapolis and am amazed every day at the wonderful, exciting, fun activities found in my Midwestern home.
The Indianapolis Zoo is a fun time regardless of the season. Allow 2 to 3 hours to see all of the exhibits. The Africa Plains exhibit is closed during the winter, and the Dolphin Pavilion is currently under renovation. I enjoy the Waters exhibit, which I traditionally head to first. However, it's a good respite during a sudden rainstorm or if it gets too hot/cold outside.
The Children's Museum is also a great activity for a weekday with the kids. Bring a packed lunch, leave it in your car, and enjoy it at a picnic table outside to save money on lunch. Otherwise, be sure to check out Dinosphere, one of the premiere dino exhibits in the world and worth the price of admission alone!
For a break from the tourist traps, head to the Canal on the west side of downtown. Take a walk, go for a run, or rent a bike to enjoy the mile-long waterway to the White River.
Nuvo is the original independent newspaper, a good indie, underground look at events, especially music, in Indy. Also free on newsstands on Wednesdays, this is more focused on offbeat stuff.
Attraction | "Indianapolis Zoo (plus Christmas at the zoo!)"
My most recent visit was in late December 2004 for the Christmas at the Zoo holiday decorations. The zoo decorates the entire park with thousands upon thousands of Christmas lights and has special "reindeer" sightings and Santa visits. The event begins at 5pm throughout the month of December and run until 9pm, when the zoo closes. Though the plains exhibit was closed because of the cold, I had a fantastic time. Many of the animals, such as tigers, polar bears, walrus, and bears, are more active in the cold weather since it more closely matches their natural habitat. The lights add a romantic touch to the park, perfect for an evening stroll through the park. It can get cold, but there are several indoor exhibits to duck into when you get cold.
General Park Layout:
Expect to pay $5 to park, although I have been there several times without having to pay to park. It seems to be random chance. Entrance to the zoo costs $8 for adults/$6 for kids. The zoo is divided up into habitats: the Waters Building houses tropical fish, sharks, Amazonian species, a special Seahorse Exhibit, penguins, and a polar bear viewing area. This is my favorite exhibit. The penguins have a special tunnel beneath the exhibit so they can swim underneath your feet! Check out the seals and sea lions - if they come up to the glass, try to get them to follow your hand as they swim around. The Dolphins Pavilion is next door to this, as is the walrus exhibit (they are HUGE!), but the dolphins exhibit is currently under renovation.
The Forests contains eagles, bears, tigers, and several monkey species. The Plains, at the back of the park, is closed during cold weather but is home to African and Australian animals such as lions, zebras, giraffes, and kangaroos. The elephants have a fantastic new habitat... be sure to check it out. The Desert Biome has an incredible drop-dead-gorgeous snake exhibit, as well as a natural desert habitat. Finally, the Encounters has many familiar barnyard and household animals.
I highly recommend the zoo to any family or couple that wants to spend a few hours having a blast. Expect to spend at least 2 hours (for a family, 4 hours). Have fun!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 5, 2005
1200 W. Washington St
Indianapolis, Indiana 46222
Admission is a steep $11.50 for adults, $6.50 for children. The museum is free on Martin Luther King Day and from 5 to 8pm the first Thursday of the month (closed Mondays, except in summer).
The museum has five floors. The lobby contains the gift shop; fast-food court; the unique Water Clock, which tells time through a series of water-filled bubbles; and the museum's premiere multi-million dollar gallery, Dinosphere. The Dinosphere depicts the Cretaceous period through several dinosaur fossils, including a spectacular scene with two T. Rexes attacking a Triceratops. The sky projected onto the screen changes from dawn to dusk, and then to a thunderstorm. The storm, complete with rain sounds, thunder, and lighting, is so realistic that I put my program over my head and looked for cover! Overall, this is a spectacular exhibit well worth the admission price.
But there are still more galleries! The new galleries have lots of seating for the parents and lots of things for kids to bang on. Water was especially popular, so little kids just splashed each other. Below is a floor-by-floor gallery guide:
GROUND FLOOR: What If? is an older gallery but still pretty entertaining. Enter through the submarine into an underground world, progress into Dino-land, and then enter an Egyptian tomb. All Aboard features the steam engine built in 1868 for Madison, Indiana, as well as several model trains.
MAIN FLOOR: Dinosphere, the Info Zone, food court, and the gift shop comprise this floor.
SECOND FLOOR: The Mezzanine area contains several traveling exhibits and Passport to the World, an international gallery.
THIRD FLOOR: My old stomping grounds,Mysteries in History, is a look back at American history from the French fur trading posts found in the area in the 1700s to cabin life and to Main Street America at the turn of the century. While I loved this gallery, it doesn't have much for kids to bang or play on. It is also outdated.
FOURTH FLOOR: This is probably the most fun floor, as both main galleries are new. ScienceWorks has lots of things for kids to play on. I had fun climbing up into the cave (tight squeeze) and sliding down the slide. Also, they have live animal demonstrations with some truly interesting creatures. Carousel Dreams features the former Broad Ripple Park Carousel, which you can ride for $1. Try to get a jumper. But the best part is the old pastime stuff they brought up... the funhouse mirrors, Atari and Nintendo game systems, and playhouses.
The museum is appropriate for children of all ages. Be sure to allow several hours for the entire museum!
Children's Museum of Indianapolis
3000 N. Meridian Street
Attraction | "The Canal and White River State Park"
The Central Canal in downtown Indianapolis is one of my favorite things about the city. It is a shining example of how far Indianapolis has come as a world-class city. It originally began in 1836 to connect the Wabash and Erie Canals to the Ohio River but was never completed. At the time, only 8 miles of the canal in Indianapolis were dug and filled. The canal fell into disrepair until it was renovated in 1996, and it now stretches 10½ blocks from 11th Street to Washington Street, where it empties out into the White River.
My favorite part of the canal is at the beginning, just off 10th Street. A waterfall flows down into a large pool, and the hill around the canal is built up into levels for a perfect picnic spot. As you walk down the canal, you pass lots of condos and apartment buildings and some businesses. At any time, you can walk back up the stairs to reach city streets. During the summer months, paddleboats and bikes are available for rent near Ohio Street. The cost is between $12-25 an hour, depending on what you rent. It looks like so much fun! The canal winds around near the new Indiana State Museum and Medal of Honor Memorial. The Medal of Honor Memorial is on your right and is a touching and beautiful dedication to those who served our country. The landscaping in the summer is breathtaking—wildflowers and swaying grasses recreate the Indiana plains.
The canal finally cascades through a series of waterfalls down into the White River. While the canal walkway ends here, you can keep walking over the bridge and onto the riverwalk, which winds down behind the zoo and continues along the river. The canal walk is about a mile long, but the riverwalk extends several more miles.
The canal is beautiful, clean, well-landscaped, and fun for walkers, runners, bikers, and families. I would hesitate to venture out at night, though, only because there aren’t a lot of people out at night. Second, there isn’t much development yet along the canal. One food court is located at the government building off Ohio, and the Indiana History Center and Indiana State Museum both have cafes open. Otherwise, bring your own picnic or grab a bite to eat at the Bourbon Street Distillery (Vermont and Indiana).
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 10, 2005
White River State Park
Between 10th Street & Washington Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Attraction | "Batter Up! The Indianapolis Indians"
The Indians call Victory Field home, and it is one heck of a ballpark. Sports Illustrated called it the best minor league park in the U.S., evident in the brick walls, retro stylings, and old-time feel. The ballpark is part of White River State Park, on the corner of West and Maryland. Get to the game early to try to score a street parking spot, or park in the nearby WRSP garage.
By getting to the game early, you can enjoy the pre-game activities. For kids, there is face-painting, pitching games, and arcade games. Almost every night is a promotion night, so the first fans will often receive free popcorn, drinks, bobblehead dolls, a schedule magnet, or a T-shirt. Throwback Thursdays have cheap beer and retro uniforms worn by the team. Friday night games feature post-game fireworks. And check the website for ticket discounts and further promotions. Every game is fun!
Looking for a cheap family evening or a fun date? Grab lawn seats for $7 and bring a picnic dinner, cooler, and a blanket to stretch out on the lawn, just past the outfield. You'll have a great view of the game (especially the home runs), plus you can save on concession food while you enjoy the sunset over the city skyline.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 20, 2005
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204