Downtown Indianapolis is known for a lot of things – the restaurants, the nightlife, the events and the museums, just to name a few. It’s no surprise to Indy residents to learn that Downtown is jam-packed with things to do for families and children. We’ve searched high and low and come up with our picks of the lesser-known “underground” (figuratively, not literally) hidden gems of Downtown for kids and families.
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is the obvious first choice for views from above the Circle City, but great views are to be had all over Downtown. There’s an observation deck at the City County building that is open free to the public Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. with occasional extended hours during special events such as the Circle of Lights celebration. Next, venture over to Eskenazi Health to visit the Sky Farm rooftop garden for views of the orangutan exhibit at the Indianapolis Zoo and Lucas Oil Stadium. The Sky Farm is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so you can experience this fun even at the end of an exciting day Downtown.
The large Walker Theatre sign is iconic to Downtown Indy, but this historic building provides families with a new perspective on Madam C.J. Walker through a variety of experiences. The Walker Theatre houses the Walker History and Heritage Center that displays nearly three dozen exhibits showcasing a number of personal and business memorabilia from Madam C.J. Walker. (Be sure you call in advance, as volunteers run this small museum!). After perusing the memorabilia, take a tour of the theatre (by appointment) and, if you’re there on the first Friday of the month, the actors at Freetown Village will treat you to a living history performance.
This location is actually underground…and it’s probably a good thing because all of those drums would surely distract the patrons of Circle Centre on daily basis. Rhythm! Discovery Center is a percussion museum that is a young (and old) child’s paradise. They have hundreds of different types of drums on display and available to play. That’s right, they WANT you to bang on that giant gong like it’s the last thing you’re ever going to do, and trust me, my four-year-old does. The museum may seem small at first glance but it’s easy to spend a couple of hours in the space without even glancing at your watch. Rhythm! hosts weekly family activities, including a drum circle, that are not to be missed.
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is a favorite for adults because of the unique exhibits and art pieces on display. But go down the stairs by the giant totem pole and you will discover a wonderful play area for children. Children can engulf themselves in imaginative play, pretending they are living in the 1800s, and complete their experience in a stagecoach.
The public art Downtown is hard to miss, but there’s a lot more to see than just a few installations on Mass Ave. The government buildings are riddled with interesting and historical pieces of art. Take a walking tour of the Indiana State House, the Government Center, the American Legion Mall and the Indiana Law Enforcement and Firefighters Memorial for dose of culture before wandering over to IUPUI. Check out the Plaza at Riley Hospital for Children, the Wood Fountain and the Mega-Gem.
The next time you’re downtown with your family, venture off the beaten path and check out some of the hidden gems of Indy!
Post written by Megan Noel. Megan, a veteran educator with a PhD in Early Childhood Education, enjoys researching life through the eyes of her two young children, while writing about her family’s adventures on IndywithKids.com. With a nearly a decade in small business and marketing, this freelance writer spends most evenings pouring over new ideas and writing articles, while indulging in good food and better wine.