Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: World’s Biggest Children’s Museum

children's museum indianapolis

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis — those glass balls you see are part of the 26-ft-tall water clock. On the second floor, you can see the HotWheels exhibit and Mr. Bear’s Playhouse. On the ground floor is the food court that serves healthy, kid-friendly food.

After raving about Junibacken, the Children’s Museum in Stockholm, it just wouldn’t be right for me not to share my enthusiasm for the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis (CMI). This weekend marked our son’s first trip to Indiana – my husband grew up here and I have been here at least 15 times with him.

children's museum indianapolis

My son loved the tractor at Mr. Bear’s Playhouse.

We were very excited for our family outing at the Children’s Museum, which my husband remembered fondly from his own visits as a child. And all four of us (me, my son, my husband and my father-in-law) were completely wowed by CMI. Not only was it incredibly clean (especially important for this genre of museum) but there was so much to do and see. It’s quite possible that there is more to do at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis than there is to do in the entire city of Indianapolis.

hotwheels indianapolis

Discovering the laws of motion and gravity at the Hot Wheels for Real exhibit.

Our son is almost two, and we discovered  three areas that were perfectly suited to him. (And perhaps there more, like the trains and the dinosauras, but we didn’t get to everything, unfortunately.)

We started at Mr. Bear’s Playhouse, which says it’s for kids 5 and under but it’s really geared to the younger set. It’s a huge room with different play stations, including a “water pump” that spewed blue foam balls, a sand table, a play kitchen/dining room and a slide. There was also a tractor (see above for a photo of my son enjoying the tractor). In retrospect, we spent way too long in this area but we could barely tear my son away. The Children’s Museum is actually building a new playspace to replace all this, and it’s due to open in August 2013.

sculpture chilren's museum

Dale Chihuly sculpture

Luckily, the “Hot Wheels for Real” exhibit was just next door. There were Hot Wheels cars memorabilia, as well as life-sized cars for the kids to climb on. Of course, there were plenty of Hot Wheels cars for the kids to push (zoom?) around the tracks. For the older kids, there was the chance to design your own car. This exhibit will only be here until the end of January, but don’t worry  there are cars in other places in the museum too, because Indy — home of the Indy 500 — is mad for cars.

Our next stop was the “Carousel Wishes and Dreams,” which took us up several flights of stairs that wound around Dale Chihuly’s 43-foot-tall “Fireworks of Glass” sculpture. My son took his first-ever carousel ride, and then took his second-ever carousel ride a few minutes later. The carousel, a permanent installation, is just gorgeous. It was originally in Broad Ripple Park in Indianapolis, where it stayed from 1917-1956.

CMI indy

The playhouses by the carousel reminded us of the playhouses at Junibacken!

Near the carousel is a really cool maze and three playhouses, which reminded us of the playhouses at Junibacken’s Storybook Square, but bigger. That is theme here: bigger. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the biggest children’s museum in the world, but is it also the best?

children's museum food court

The frozen yogurt robot encourages a healthy dessert at museum’s food court.

I can’t answer that… yet. So far, I’ve only been to four of the world’s children’s museums. It’s definitely better than the Children’s Museum in Manhattan and in the Hamptons, which are very similar to each other and actually seem quite good until you become an international Children’s Museum Evaluator like me. Yes, I (avowed NYC snob) am admitting that something is better in Indiana than it is in New York and even the Hamptons. Actually, there are plenty of things that are better in Indiana, like the massive grocery stores. But I digress…

So the real question here is did we like it better than the one in Stockholm… I just loved the aesthetics of the Storybook Square — so sweet and charming. Didn’t love  Junibacken’s Storybook Train though. Junibacken is an ode to Astrid Lindgren and has a children’s literature theme, whereas in Indy it was more about discovery. So they are both wonderful museums in their own right. I think that most kids would probably enjoy the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis more.

What’s your favorite Children’s Museum?

One Response to Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: World’s Biggest Children’s Museum

  1. Jill October 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    Love that tractor photo!

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