Our Memorial Day Mini-Vacation: The Indianapolis Children’s Museum

How time flies. It’s already been a month since Memorial Day weekend, and I still haven’t blogged about (or even mentioned) the little mini-vacation we took. It was a really spontaneous thing, but it was such a fun little trip that it wouldn’t feel right to just skip over it… So for today’s post, I want to share the photos and story from our trip to see the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis.

Children's Museum Indianapolis (Sign)

We heard about this place through one of Joe’s co-workers, who has a son right around Lillian’s age and who gave it rave reviews as a really great, fun place to bring a toddler. Indianapolis is only about a three hour’s drive from Chicago, so we decided to go for it — and while we might’ve been able to make it a one-day thing, we decided to stay overnight to spread out the driving a little more. My mom joined us for the trip, and we ended up driving down on Saturday, staying in a motel Saturday night, visiting the museum on Sunday, and driving home Sunday evening.

Fair warning: there are lots of photos in this post! So many that I’m pretty sure it will be my most photo-filled blog post to date. I’ve even decided to break out the “read more” link feature for the first time ever, and put all the pictures and content after the jump. Too much picturey goodness to have it all on the home page!

So I’ll get started by diving straight into our museum visit. As soon as we pulled up outside, it was evident that this would be a fun, whimsical, kid-oriented place to be. Check out these gigantic dinosaurs trying to break in:

Dinosaurs Breaking Into Children's Museum Indianapolis

And these other dinosaurs breaking out on the other end:

Dinosaurs Breaking Out Of Children's Museum Indianapolis

As the outside of the building suggests, the Indianapolis Children’s museum has a fairly large and well-done dinosaur-themed section (featured later in this post), but one of our first stops upon arriving was to pay a visit to Mr. Bear’s Playhouse, an area of the museum offering special activities for children under five.

Mr. Bear's Playhouse

According to this page on the museum’s website, Mr. Bear’s Playhouse is actually a temporary space for the little ones while some re-modeling work is being done on the Playscape, the permanent version which is due to re-open this August. But we didn’t mind that it was temporary, and there were plenty of activities available.

For instance, there was a toddler-sized slide with toddler-sized staircase to get to the top — though this actually wasn’t much of a hit with Lillian, despite how much she loves going up and down the little slide they have at daycare. She went up the stairs once, looked down the slide, decided it was too high or something, and then climbed back down the stairs the way she came.

Toddler Slide At Indianapolis Children's Museum

But some of the other activities in Mr. Bear’s Playhouse were the bee’s knees. Like this large rug area with roads and an assortment of wooden cars and trucks to move around on it:

Toddler Playing With Toy Car

She had a good time pushing them back and forth, but also wanted to run off with them to other areas, so we had to keep encouraging her to put them back on the rug so they’d be there for other kids.

Aside from that, one of her favorite things to do was run in circles looking at the various animal-themed displays suspended in clear bubbles right at toddler height:

Bubble Display At The Indianapolis Children's Museum.

Bubble Display At The Indianapolis Children's Museum.

Bubble Display At The Indianapolis Children's Museum.

Once Lillian seemed to be getting tired of Mr. Bear’s Playhouse, we moved on to the “Dinosphere” area of the museum.

Dinosphere Entrance Sign

Having just burned out a bunch of energy running around the Playhouse area, Lillian spent the first few minutes of this exhibit riding in her stroller. My mom was even able to take this photo of all three of us with some dino fossils, in a nifty display area with the ceiling projected to look like the sky:

Whole Family In The Dinosphere

But before long Lillian was out and exploring again, because there were plenty of little things to be seen right at toddler level. Like this little hands-on fossil display:

Fossils At Toddler Level

There were also neat little nooks and crannies for the little ones to crawl into and see additional displays inside.

Dinosphere Crawling Cave

Lillian seemed a little apprehensive about going into the dark-ish tunnel, so I crawled inside to show her that it was okay. She peeked in, but couldn’t be convinced to come in any further than this:

Dinosphere - Peeking In To The Crawling Cave

On a side note, have I mentioned how much I love this parenthood thing? I can be like, “No, it’s okay, I’m not a crazy lady crawling into the fun cubbie-hole cave for no good age-appropriate reason. I’m here with my toddler, see?” It’s a pretty sweet deal, I have to say.

Moving on to other areas of the museum, there was this huge towering sculpture called “Fireworks Of Glass” that spanned several stories, and was made out of thousands of individual colorful blown glass shapes:

Blown Glass Tower, Top

Blown Glass Tower, Closeup, At The Indianapolis Children's Museum

Blown Glass Tower Base At The Indianapolis Children's Museum

The windows shown in the last photo above are actually looking into the ceiling of another room, where you can go in and see all those colorful shapes up above:

Ceiling With Blown Glass At The Indianapolis Children's Museum

That room was also full of fake plastic versions of the blown glass shapes for the kids to move around in various pegs in the wall:

Below The Blown Glass Tower At The Indianapolis Children's Museum

Fake Blown Glass At The Indianapolis Children's Museum

After that, we checked out the train section, which had some really elaborate miniature worlds with miniature trains driving around in them.

Model Train Display Detail

There was an entire wall covered in trains of different sizes and colors:

Model Train Display Case

And most fun of all, there was a set of miniature train tracks up above with trains continually going back and forth. Lillian enjoyed watching these go by.

Lillian Looking Up At Model Train

Model Train Going By Above

For the entire time we were at the museum, Lillian seemed to have plenty of energy, and always seemed excited to see what was next. There were times when she even insisted on helping to pull the stroller rather than riding in it.

Pulling The Stroller

But once we left the museum and got back to the car, it was a different story. This was the scene before we had even finished pulling out of the parking lot:

Asleep Two Minutes After Returning To Car

Too much excitement for one day! She enjoyed a nap for a good chunk of the ride home, which I’m sure made it go a lot faster for her.

And a few other highlights from our mini-vacation: the afternoon we arrived in Indianapolis, we originally thought we’d check out the zoo or go do some sightseeing or something, but it ended up being kind of ugly and rainy outside. So we decided to check out this place called “Monkey Joe’s” which was sort of like a Chuck E. Cheese, but with giant inflatable play structures:

Indoor Bouncy Castle Playground

Lillian enjoyed running around this wonderland of big colorful bouncy things. They had a special one for kids three and under where the parents were allowed (and even encouraged) to go in with their little little ones, so all of Lillian’s bouncing happened in there.

Indoor Bouncy Castle, Toddler & Mom

(“No, it’s okay, I’m not a crazy lady bouncing around in the fun bouncy castle for no good age-appropriate reason. I’m here with my toddler, see?”)

It was a lot of fun, but more tiring than you’d expect!

On the way down from Chicago to Indianapolis, we ate our lunch at a Cracker Barrel, which is something I’ve only ever done on vacation. And like every table at every Cracker Barrel ever, it had one of those strategy games with the golf tees, which also doubled as a toddler entertainment device.

Toddler Playing With Peg Game At Cracker Barrel

And since we don’t buy souvenirs or random toys too often, we decided to let Lillian pick out a toy from the gift shop. She chose this little pink plush unicorn, and gave it a little kiss on the way out of the store.

Toddler In Rocking Chair At Cracker Barrel

And that big Cracker Barrel front porch with all the rocking chairs for sale? For reasons I don’t entirely understand, this place was like Disney World to Lillian, to the point where I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that she enjoyed the Cracker Barrel porch more than any other destination on our trip. She wanted to dance to the banjo music, and sit in every single rocking chair one by one. When we finally picked her up to head back to the car, she cried as though we’d ripped out her little heart and stomped on it.

I guess that’s the traveling version of getting your child an expensive present, and they end up just wanting to play with the box!

And a few more random photos — Here’s one of Joe and Lillian at the Waffle House where we had breakfast the morning before going to the museum, in what I’m pretty sure was Lillian’s first Waffle House dining experience:

Joe and Lillian at the Waffle House

(It turns out she really likes Waffle House waffles!)

And here’s some windmills we passed on the way down:

Random Indiana Windmills

There’s like 15 miles of these along I-65, and you got to a point where you’re like, “Wow, we’ve been driving past windmills for a really long time.” So naturally my reaction is to take pictures of them.

Speaking of random things spotted along the highway, check out this awesomely ridiculous hot pink water tower with a smiley face:

Random Happy Hot Pink Water Tower

(Insert witty caption here.)

And here’s what Lillian did for good chunks of the road trip:

Toddler Reading In The Car

(We’re lucky to have such an easy traveler.)

All in all it was a fun couple of days, and we found ourselves heading back to Chicago all too soon.

Back To Chicago

And that concludes the excessively photo-filled story of our brief random Memorial Day trip to Indianapolis! I’m pretty sure this was at least three normal-sized posts worth of pictures, so that probably explains why it’s so belated. The next few posts should be a more normal size — stay tuned for some yard-related developments and other random bloggings I’ve been meaning to catch up on!


  1. That looked like so much fun!! Thank you for sharing all these wonderful pictures with us! Joe’s dad is so happy to see how much Joe enjoys being a daddy, and he smiles so much when he looks at Lillian’s pictures. It’s wonderful to see!

    I think it’s so awesome that she enjoys books and museums so much. She is such a bright little girl. Love you all!

    • Thanks, I’m glad you’re all enjoying these random bloggings and photos! She certainly does seem to enjoy books (we read a bunch to her every night) and seems curious and interested in the museums and pretty much everywhere else we’ve taken her. Thanks for reading and commenting, and love you all as well! :)

  2. Love the pictures (never too many) and the stories! You two are awesome parents. Kudos to Maureen, too, for her grandmother skills! And the banjo music and front porch rocking chair — it’s a Southern thing, probably an ethnic memory!

    ps. Crazy ladies have more fun! Especially Moms!

    • Hehe, it’s definitely more fun to be a little crazy! And that’s a really interesting idea about the ethnic memory of Southern things — we’ll have to see how much it continues as she grows up, but for now it seems like that would explain a lot! Glad you enjoyed the big batch of photos, and thanks as always for reading and commenting! :)

  3. That looked like a fun trip, bet you wished you could have napped the ride home (but good that you didn’t, since you were probably the driver)! And I’ll expand on mom’s comment; not only do crazy ladies have more fun, but their children do too! As to the “expensive toy and they play with the box” part, well you have discovered the secret to not having that be too bad: make sure the toy (or trip in this case) is something YOU want too, so it’s not wasted if the kid is not so interested.

    • Definitely agree about a little craziness being more fun for the kids too, and that does seem like a valuable lesson to learn about traveling with little ones. Luckily the children’s museum was fun and interesting for adults too — and it wasn’t even that Lillian didn’t find it interesting, just that nothing could compete with that Cracker Barrel porch, haha. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

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