Overnight Trippin': Indianapolis

Anietra Hamper
The Central Canal

Indianapolis is a vibrant city that is both fun and convenient to visit, especially for families. It is home to the largest children's museum in the world, dozens of monuments and attractions, and public green space from which to enjoy the downtown skyline.

Indianapolis is less than a three-hour drive from Central Ohio, making for an easy overnight adventure. It's an affordable option for a quick getaway.

The state capital is best known for the famed Indianapolis 500, the largest single-day sporting event in the world, with more than 300,000 spectators. This year's race, the 101st, takes place May 28. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is open year-round for IndyCar aficionados who want to catch a glimpse behind the scenes.

First-time visitors with children will want to start with some of the museums and attractions specifically geared toward families.

This sample two-day itinerary can be adapted to suit individual interests and budgets.

Day 1

Depart for Indianapolis in the morning and arrive in time for an authentic farm-to-table dining experience.

Lunch at the Loft Restaurant and Dairy Bar

9101 Moore Road., Zionsville, Indiana; 317-733-1700; traderspointcreamery.com

Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays (brunch). The restaurant also serves dinner.

Adults can choose from soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees made from organic local ingredients. Kid-friendly selections include the signature macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese and chocolate milk. The restaurant is part of Traders Point Creamery, a grass-fed dairy farm.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis; 317-334-4000; childrensmuseum.org

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Cost: Admission ranges from $12 to $35, with some $5 and free days throughout the year. Children younger than 2 are admitted free. Discounts are available through new online plan-ahead pricing.

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the largest such facility in the world, with five floors of immersive areas exploring the arts, science and humanities. Popular exhibits include: the newCircus—Starring YOU!where families can go into the Big Top, meet performers, walk a virtual reality tightrope and learn about the history of the circus;Dinosphere, which includes a mummified dinosaur;Take Me There: China, an exploration of the ancient Asian culture; andBeyond Spaceship Earth, which launches participants into the world of space exploration.

The museum is both parent- and kid-friendly. A concierge on Level 1 can assist with emergency diaper and safety pin needs and also help with hotel and restaurant reservations. There is a private nursing area in the Playscape exhibit and numerous family restrooms. Coat check, locker and stroller rentals are available.

The facility is a whopping 472,900 square feet and gets more than 1.2 million annual visitors. Check the museum website for suggestions on must-see spots and tips for various age groups.

Parking is free. Expect to spend at least three hours, though it would be easy to spend a full day here.

Indianapolis Museum of Art

4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis; 317-923-1331; imamuseum.org

Hours: 11 a.m.to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays.

Cost: Admission is $18 for adults, $10 for children ages 6-17 and free for ages 5 and younger. Some areas are free to visit, including the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, the Five Brushstrokessculpture, the café and store. Household members of the Wexner Center for the Arts get free admission through the Museum Alliance Reciprocal Program.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art is very family-friendly, as evidenced by the art and nature park, which includes woods and wetlands. The outdoor space has life-size, quirky art installations that kids can climb, including Funky Bones, which was featured in John Green'sThe Fault in Our Stars young adult novel and blockbuster movie.

The museum has regular exhibits that cover African-American, Asian, European and contemporary artwork as well as special events throughout the year suchChemistry of ColorandAudubon: Drawn to Nature.

It's easy to spend several hours here inside and outside in the gardens. An artist-designed miniature golf course operates May 28 to Sept. 3.

The museum offers free loaner strollers, a nursing mother's room, healthy and kid-friendly food in the café and daily family activities.

Dinner at Bru Burger Bar

410 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis; 317-635-4278;bruburgerbar.com/indianapolis

Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays

Burgers are the name of the game at this eatery, though salads are available for the health-conscious. There is a children's menu.

Stay Overnight

There are 26 hotels in the downtown area, or for an added treat travelers can stay at theCrowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown(123 W. Louisiana St., Indianapolis 46225) on the site of the world's first Union Station. Twenty-six Pullman train cars on their original tracks have been converted into family accommodations.

Day 2


Start the day at one of the 300 restaurants within walking distance of downtown Indianapolis before tackling the second day of sightseeing.

White River State Park

801 W. Washington St., Indianapolis; 317-233-2434; inwhiteriver.com

Hours: 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily

White River State Park is a 250-acre urban green space that's home to the Central Canal, which is packed with Italian-imported gondolas, paddleboats and kayaks. Visitors can rent bikes, surreys or boats to explore the area.

Surrounding the park are seven family-friendly venues, including the Indianapolis Zoo, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indiana State Museum, Victory Field (home to the Indianapolis Indians minor league baseball team) and a concert area. Walk through the park on your way to one or several of the venues.

Indianapolis Zoo

1200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis; 317-630-2001; indianapoliszoo.com

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays through Sundays (May 26 to Sept. 4)

Admission: Varies by day and season. Prices are $9.95 to $24.95 for adults and $7.70 to $18.95 for children ages 2-12. Children younger than 2 are admitted free. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium members get a $2 discount on up to four tickets by showing their membership card.

The Indianapolis Zoo features exhibits such as the nation's largest shark touch tank, a 360-degree dolphin dome and the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center. The 64-acre venue has more than 1,600 animals.

AButterfly Kaleidoscope exhibit, open through Sept. 10, includes hundreds of colorful butterflies from 40 different species in an indoor tropical paradise. Memorial Day weekend kicks off theMagnificent Macaws exhibit, where 60 birds will join the zoo's flock and take part in public presentations.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

500 W. Washington St., Indianapolis; 317-636-9378; eiteljorg.org

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $13 for adults, $7 for children ages 5-17 and free for ages 4 and younger. Discounts are available for members of the Ohio History Connection through the Time Travelers reciprocity program.

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art features a new exhibit,Dogs: Faithful and True, which explores canines' contributions as companions, workers and heroes in Native American and Western cultures. There are regular exhibits throughout the museum, but children will especially enjoy family-specific activities such as raising a totem pole and snuggling on a bearskin rug in the Native American Galleries.

Strollers are available free of charge at the main desk, and there is a family restroom at the entrance. A café offers snacks and meals; there is a children's menu.

Late Lunch at the Indianapolis Colts Grille

110 W. Washington St., Indianapolis; 317-631-2007; coltsgrille.g3restaurants.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

The Colts-themed establishment pays homage to the hometown NFL champs and serves up appetizers, burgers, steaks and plenty of kid-friendly food. Swing by nearby Lucas Oil Stadium where the team plays and snap a picture on your way out of town.

For more information and trip planning resources, go to visitindy.com.