On a rainy afternoon in Indianapolis I had a chance to visit one of the most impressive museums I’ve ever been to.  Some background and “behind the scenes” scoop might be important here:  Every visit to a new city almost always includes an invite to a museum of some sort.  In my travels I’ve discovered there’s a museum for everything – banjos, shoes, baseball bats, trains and PEZ dispensers.  (Okay, I totally thought I was just making that last one up and holy crap – turns out there IS a museum for PEZ dispensers!)

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is truly one of the neatest places in America.  I consider myself a professional cynic. (Although “professional” usually indicates being paid for something. So, let’s call it a quirk.)  It’s incredibly rare that I leave a place without a few notes on what could be better. Imagine how frustrating it was walking out of this place without a single suggestion on what they could improve upon.

Not only have they thought of everything – they’ve thought of everything else.  Each section of the building is designed to appeal to all age groups.  The word “children” on the museum marquis is a bit misleading. Sure, kids will love it – but adults will, too.  In fact, it’s one of the few museums I’ve been to that truly appeals to all age groups.

While on a private tour with Chris Carron, the museum’s Director of Collections – he emphasized over and over the importance of interaction and finding ways to get families involved in exhibits and displays.  The idea being that taking a kid to a children’s museum shouldn’t be a drag or a means of babysitting for an afternoon.  There’s no reason why any adult should be bored or busy texting on their phone while visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

The first exhibit we saw was Dinosphere. Every kid loves to see dinosaurs.  But what was beyond impressive was the “everything else” that I referenced earlier.  In addition to seeing these awesome displays – you can walk around the corner and witness crews using tools to clean real, recently unearthed dinosaur bones.  Not only that, you can interact with the staff members in an open window where you can ask questions and engage in discussion.

That would probably be enough for most museums.  But, even more – you can actually arrange to go on a real dinosaur dig with museum staff in South Dakota. (You’ll have to ask about that – there’s not a shuttle or anything. They’re good, but not that good.)

Mr. Carron is actually an acquaintance of mine in a roundabout way.  His brother is a former co-worker in Saint Louis. Though we had never met before, it was great fun getting to share stories about our mutual home town.  An added bonus was also a personal tour to some of the rarely seen parts of the museum.  Walking the halls of their massive storage facility could make a 90-year-old feel like a child again.

We walked by shelves holding every board game you could think of to the biggest collection of Star Wars toys I’ve ever seen. Antique televisions, strange quilts, artwork, statues, stuffed animals, a giant pillow resembling Mick Jagger’s lips and a yellow submarine. Even a massive room full of clothing – all categorized and labeled as though it was an obsessive compulsive person’s dream closet.

While not discouraged, I resisted the urge to take photographs because it felt as though I was in a sacred time warp of sorts.

As impressive as my private tour was – don’t worry, the parts of the museum the public does get to see are equally as awesome.  Each exhibit seemed to have a three or four prong approach where visitors experience subjects with all of their senses and learn as much as they desire.Power Of Children is a brilliant exhibit that pays tribute to Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White – the Indiana native that made headlines as a teenager in the 80’s at the height of the AIDS epidemic.  Visitors walk through massive displays that highlight how these three impacted the course of history.  The display is touching, including actual artifacts from Ryan White’s bedroom and a full size classroom modeled after the one Ruby Bridges attended in 1960 when she was one of the first black students to attend an all white school district of New Orleans.
The Children’s Museum goes beyond just a museum in the traditional sense.  They have a pre-school on site and offer special free or discounted services for neighborhood children as well.Museum admission is under $20.  Oh and there’s free covered parking!At the end of my visit – I couldn’t think of a single thing that could improve the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.  Except for maybe some PEZ dispensers.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is located at: 3000 North Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208

Visit: www.childrensmuseum.org for the latest exhibit information and to purchase tickets online.