Indianapolis is known for being the capital of Indiana and The Racing Capital of the World but there’s much more to Indy than that. From the largest children’s museum in the world to an impressive art scene, there are so many great things to do in Indianapolis with kids!
Here are our favorite things to do with kids in Indianapolis, plus places to dine, stay, and day trip! Itching to explore more in Indiana? Check out the top things to do in Indiana with kids.
Things to do in Indianapolis with Kids
1. Climb to the Top of the Solider and Sailors Monument
It’s hard to walk through Indianapolis without seeing the Soldier and Sailors Monument, located in Monument Circle. It is one of the largest historical markers in Indiana and is dedicated to the common solider.
Take the elevator up 284 feet to the obelisk-shaped monument top or take the stairs for a vigorous climb. Either way, the top of this monument is worth the ascent as you admire the 360-degree views of Indianapolis.
The fountains around the monument are beautiful. Take time to walk around admire the fountains sculptures and inscriptions.
2. Pedal Boat Down the Canal
Did you know Indianapolis has its own canal system like Venice and San Antonio?
Combine fun and a bit of exercise by renting a pedal boat from Wheel Fun Rentals and exploring the Central Canal which stretches several miles into downtown. Explore tunnels and fountains and waterfalls during your boat ride through Indianapolis, and enjoy seeing some fine art along the way.
Interested in another way to explore the canal without all that pedaling? How about a leisurely gondola ride or a kayak? You can also rent surrey bikes and peddle along portions of the canal.
3. See Indianapolis Sports Teams Play
Indianapolis is home to Indianapolis Colts, the former team of NFL legend Peyton Manning. You can watch the pros play at Lucas Oil Stadium
If basketball is more your thing, head to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to see the Indiana Pacers play.
For affordable family-friendly fun, cheer Indy’s minor league baseball team, the Indianapolis Indians, to triumph. Kids will love experiencing America’s favorite pastime at Victory Field, one of the best minor league ballparks in America. The Indians are a AAA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
4. Peruse the NCAA Hall of Champions
Love sports? Then don’t miss a visit to the NCAA Hall of Champions. NCAA Hall of Champions is located inside White River State Park, in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The park itself is filled with outdoor activities but the fun of the Hall is all inside.
Sports fans will enjoy learning more about the history of the NCAA and its 23 NCAA sports at this museum, while checking out statues and busts of famed college athletes, many of whom went on to legendary professional athletes as well.
The big draw for kids of all ages are the interactive and hands-on exhibits. Shoot hoops in a vintage 1930’s-era gymnasium, test your skills on a downhill skiing simulator, or try our luck at kicking soccer penalty shots.
The NCAA Hall of Champions also has a scavenger hunt for kids. Not only does it highlight each area of the Hall and encourage them to read all about the players and sports represented, it also comes with a fun prize at the end!
5. Spend the Day Outside at the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park
Release some pent-up energy at the free and fantastic art sculpture park, Fairbanks Art and Nature Park.
Here kids can combine playing with art appreciation while climbing over artifacts such as the family favorite Funky Bones exhibit. Explore wetlands, woodlands, and the 35-acre lake as well. Pack a picnic and make it a day mixing art with nature for some kid-friendly fun!
Fairbanks Park is part of the 152-acre Newfields campus which also home to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, a historic estate called the Lily House, a few different floral gardens, and a beer garden. As you can imagine, it is easy to spend the entire day at Newfields.
6. Feel the Need for Speed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
No trip to the Racing Capital of the World is complete without a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You can take a quick tour of the racing oval on a bus a cruising down the speedway as you learn more about the history of the speedway. You get to stop to kiss the famous paving bricks from the 1909 track surface at the start/finish line.
Families with older kids that are major racecar fans will want to take the 90-minute Full Grounds VIP Tour. Highlights include taking a lap on the track, stopping at Pagoda Plaza, standing on the famous “Yard of Bricks,” and even cruising through Gasoline Alley where they quick fill up NASCAR and IndyCars during the races.
Visit the Hall of Fame Museum exhibit to gawk at trophies, or even better, take a spin around the iconic oval for an official track tour in the shuttle bus. Still have a need for speed? Visit the Dallara Car Factory for a behind-the-scenes look at how Indy cars are built.
Thrill seekers might even want to consider taking a spin in a real IndyCar on the Indianapolis Speedway! This special experience is expensive ($500), but you get to experience the g-forces and speeds (up to 180mph) of a real race. Understandably, this experience is only open to those 18 and older.
7. Bike the Cultural Trail
Bike the eight-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trail that connects all six of Indy’s cultural districts. These trails make up one of the coolest urban trail systems around and is an ideal place to explore Indianapolis on protected pathways.
Not only will you find beautiful views and landscaping, but you’ll pass by some unique public art to admire along the way. Be sure to check out the Pacers Bikeshare where you can borrow bikes for a $1 plus 15 cents per minute. Such a bargain.
8. Get Loud at the Rhythm! Discovery Center
The Rhythm! Discovery Center allows kids of all ages to try out rare percussion instruments such as bongos, gongs, and tambourines. Even adults won’t resist letting loose and channeling their inner rock star!
There are several instruments that can be played in their own sound-proof rooms like drums sets and xylophones. Kids will have a blast knowing that they can be as loud as they want. Don’t expect to leave until everyone has banged on every drum, shaken every tambourine, and played every xylophone in the place!
9. Indianapolis Zoo
Taking the kids to the Indianapolis Zoo is a great way to learn about animal habits in a fun and educational setting that focuses on showcasing animals that live in several of the world’s biomes.
The Indy Zoo’s International Orangutan Center is home to curious orangutans that will climb and swing their way into visitors’ hearts and is used in research of the cognitive abilities of great apes.
If there’s a butterfly lover in the house, be sure to visit the Butterfly Kaleidoscope exhibit which invites guests to check out 40 different butterfly species.
Don’t forget to schedule a visit to the Dolphin show, an indoor experience where the in-house dolphins show off their skills. There are also seals, penguins, walrus, and even sharks.
10. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Looking for a spot to spend an entire day having a blast while learning at the same time? The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the perfect place to go!
Heralded as the largest children’s museum in the world, this museum invites kids to dress up and learn about cultures from around the world. Take Me to Greece is a fun spot to learn about contemporary Greek culture, the daily life of a typical Greek family, and “fish” for dinner, and practice bottling olive oil. There is also a connected exhibit about saving the sea turtles.
If that’s not enough, the Dinosphere will intrigue any future paleontologist. Jam-packed with dinos, there’s even a mummified dinosaur complete with skin and scales as well as a display showcasing what the dino ate for dinner.
There are exhibits on pop culture, space, science, super heroes, a miniature railroad, and ancient treasures of the Earth, among many others.
No surprise – The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis made our Top 10 Children’s Museums in the US. Be sure to check out the rest!
Where to Stay in Indianapolis with Kids
After uncovering the best of Indy, the kids will need a place to recharge and relax. Check out these family-friendly options:
Crowne Plaza Indianapolis – Families of train lovers can spend the night at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis, where old Pullman train cars have been converted into rooms.
JW Marriott Indianapolis – This large and swanky-yet-family-friendly hotel offers a wonderful location across the street from White River Park. Enjoy the fabulous pool then catch a ball game next door at Victory Field.
SpringHill Suites Indianapolis Downtown – For a newer hotel located right in downtown and across from White River State Park, check out SpringHill Suites. They offer free breakfast, and large rooms for families that include a fridge and microwave. This hotel also offers board games and Wii video game consoles for more fun.
Omni Severin Hotel – Located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, the Omni Severin is the city’s longest running luxury hotel and is a beautifully restored piece of the city’s history. This hotel treats their youngest guests with a backpack full of goodies upon arrival. Plus, who can resist the milk and cookies at night?
Where to Eat in Indianapolis with Kids
Indy’s claim to fame is their massive pork tenderloin sandwiches – a sandwich with fried, breaded, and pounded pork exceeding the size of the bun. Head to The Artisocrat, a family-friendly restaurant that has one of the best pork tenderloin sandwiches in the city.
For something a little healthier, Café Patachou has been an Indianapolis institution for 25 years, and has even been named one of healthiest restaurants in the nation.
Day Trips from Indianapolis with Kids
Located just north of Indy, Hamilton County exudes charm and offers plenty of activities that families will love. Train lovers will enjoy a visit to The Indiana Transportation Museum while doll lovers shouldn’t miss the Museum of Miniature Houses.
Step back into time or float high above in a hot air balloon at Connor Prairie Park, an interactive history park where kids can discover what it was like to live and play in Indiana’s past.
If you travel 45 miles east of Indianapolis, you’ll be surprised to learn that there are mountains in the Midwest. Brown County, Indiana greets visitors with beautiful scenery and family adventures such as hiking, camping, canoeing, and zip-lining.
Visit quaint towns nearby to indulge in handmade ice cream, shop charming stores, mine for gems, and play some miniature golf.
Columbus is located 45 miles south of Indianapolis, is highly rated for modern architecture, and is a great place for families to visit.
Kids will have a blast at Kidscommons, where they can blow bubbles, conquer a climbing wall, or slide down a giant toilet!
When finished playing around, walk across the street to the iconic old time ice cream parlor that’s also a historic landmark. Kids will also love exploring nature while paddling down the Driftwood River or exploring the new 1.5 acre Freedom Park.
A special thanks to Karyn Locke for contributing to this post.