Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the largest Children’s museum in the world

The Children’s Museum was founded by Mrs. John Carey and three other women from Indianapolis in 1925. The early acquisitions, given by children from various ethnic groups, were housed in an old carriage house near 14th Street and Delaware. One year later the collections were moved to Garfield Park Shelter House and from there to the site of the old St. Clair Parry Mansion. After groundbreaking for a new building took place in 1973, the Museum opened to the public on October 2,1976 at its present location on the corner of 30th and North Meridian Street. Through the years it has continued to grow to what it is today, the largest Children’s Museum in the world.

The world’s largest water clock greets visitors as they enter the Welcome Center of the Museum, where four levels and 12 galleries of exhibits invite further exploration. Carousel Wishes and Dreams, a genuine 20th century carousel of carved wooden animals, is one of the main attractions. Still fully operational, the entire family will enjoy a musical ride on the old-fashioned carousel, one of only 175 that remain. Next on the agenda might be Story Avenue, a typical neighborhood street, where children can listen to and learn about African American traditions and culture through stories and song. Playscape is a special area for ages 5 and under, when accompanied by an adult, to play in the water or sand, plant flowers, or build with blocks.

All Aboard centers around a 35’ long, 55-ton steam engine designed by Ruben Wells in 1868. The steam engine was built specifically to push cargo up the steepest grade in the U.S., Indiana’s Madison Hill. There are 100 toy trains at the entrance to this fascinating display, and a train track through tunnels, signals, and lights. As you travel back in time to the 1890’s, the engine leaves the station accompanied by special lighting and sound effects. This is a must-see attraction for the kids and for the kid in all of us. Here, you can play at selling tickets, send Morse code, or take a ride in a tool car past the American Flyer or Blue Comet model trains, as you relive the history of the people who made the railroads famous across America.

Passport to the World provides interaction and education for children in visits to other countries while attending celebrations such as a Mexican Day of the Dead or watching a Malinese puppet show. Items from a collection of over 50,000 items of folk art and toys, donated by Frank and Theresa Caplan of Creative Playthings, are also on display and add to the learning experience. Passport to the World takes you on the Good Ship Discovery across the ocean to Imagination Island, for a time of let’s pretend. At the end of the journey, we may go to the 4th floor overlook to watch international performers in the Plaza.

Visitors can dig for fossils, explore the Paleontology Lab, and view some of the finest dinosaur artwork in the world in the Dinosphere exhibit. Real fossils from the Cretaceous era are displayed in natural settings of palmetto and palm settings, as well as the recent discovery of the 66 million year old Dracorex hogwartsia. The What If galleries answer the questions we might ask in exploring three separate environments: the underwater coral reef, the dinosaur age, and an Egyptian tomb. The 350-seat Lilly Theater offers three or four plays a year, as well as live magic, juggling, music, dance, and animal shows. Fifty slide projectors in the 150-seat SpaceQuest Planetarium bring the universe to life. In addition, the Children’s Museum provides a library for research, a hands-on biotech-learning center, and a science lab with a fresh-water pond, a backyard crawl through, and a 20’climbing wall. Further on, there is a construction site, with child-size dump trucks and bulldozers, a creek of moving water, and a dock shop to build and sail boats.

Special exhibits include the 43’ tower, Fireworks of Glass, the largest blown glass structure in the world, by artist Dale Chihuly. This permanent Museum structure weighs over 18,000 pounds, with more than 14 shapes and 4800 pieces of glass in the ceiling and the tower above it. Chihuly’s Fiori dei Bambini, a spectacular garden created with colorful mosaic glass, is on display through the first week of September 2007. For a unique online experience, visit the Dakabi quilt exhibit, a gift to the Museum from the author and children’s book illustrator, Jayoung Choi Cho. Originally from Korea, Jayoung composed her master’s thesis at the University of Arizona in a quilt of delightful stories and drawings relating to her heritage and her experiences while living in America.

It is estimated that more than a million people visit the Museum’s collections of over 100,000 artifacts and enjoy several thousand programs and special events each year. Staffed by some 400 people, mostly volunteers, the Children’s Museum provides education, social and cultural awareness, and a variety of entertainment to be enjoyed by visitors and residents alike.

Hours: Mar 5 — Sep 3, Sunday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sep 5 — Mar 4, Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mondays (except for January 1 & 15, February 19).
Extended/Special Hours: Family night, 1st Thursday of each month, 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission free. First Saturday of each month, open at 9:00 a.m. for members.

Admission: Adults (18-59), $12.50, Seniors (60+), $11.50, Youth (2-17), $7.50.
Free admission: Jan 1, 15, Feb 19, Apr 29 (Day of the Children), Christmas Eve from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Groups of 20 or more — save 20%. Student groups – $6.50 Adults, $4.00 youth.

Museum store and food court on premises. Handicap accessible. Parking garage.

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