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Traveling With Toddlers: Indianapolis Edition

Did you know that Indianapolis is less than one day’s driving distance for almost half of the United States? I’ll admit, when we began looking at Law Schools nearly seven years ago we all wondered, “What the heck is in Indianapolis?” It has since turned into our home and has become a place I love coming home to. Now that we’re in the Midwest I love little weekend trips to nearby towns, a change of scenery does all of us some serious good. We’ve had amazing weekends away in Cincy, Columbus, Louisville, Chicago and South Bend. While the winter weather can be a little dreary, it doesn’t make the people of Indianapolis any less kind, the atmosphere any less charming, or the museums any less fun. (Or the city any less affordable!) I could come up with a hundred things for a little family to do in Indianapolis and all of them would be fun, but for now, here’s some of the most popular (and my favorite) places to take a toddler (or kids in general) within Indy.

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  • Welcome to Indianapolis! 1 of 5
    Welcome to Indianapolis!
    Indianapolis is not only a great place to raise toddlers, it's a great place to hang out with them as well. Here's a few of the most popular tot hot spots.
  • Indianapolis Children’s Museum 2 of 5
    Indianapolis Children's Museum
    Did you know Indianapolis has the world's largest children's museum? I frequently see friends asking about children's museums in Chicago and Ohio and the response is always the same "Eh, it's okay, ours is better." Addie and I went to the museum weekly when Cody was in school and I still don't think we saw all there was to see or do all there was to do. You could easily spend two full days at the Indianapolis Children's Museum and not get bored. There's a fully restored carousel on the top floor next to a maze of mirrors. There's hands on science, water play and an entire room dedicated to children under 5. The basement hosts trains and some pretty spectacular hands on dinosaur displays. The exhibits are always changing and after six years of going we have yet to be disappointed.
    Indianapolis Children's Museum-Open Monday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission prices $13.50-$18.50, children under 2 are free.
  • Oldfields-Lilly Gardens 3 of 5
    Oldfields-Lilly Gardens
    My mom is a landscape photographer and has traveled the world to some pretty amazing places. Of all the places she's been, she named the Oldfields Lilly Gardens in Indianapolis as one of the most beautiful places she's ever been. Located on the campus of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the gardens have been painstakingly landscaped and curated since 1920. An entirely new outdoor art space opened several years ago behind the gardens and one could get lost in all the magic for hours while there. If you need a place for little ones to run free and experience nature, this is the place. For older kids or bored adults the IMA boasts free admission and amazing art (I'll be honest, as much as I like the idea of exposing my toddler to culture, she won't be going in the IMA any time soon. I learned that lesson with Addie, especially when she tried to sit on a chair that was actually art and she called an original Warhol "A MESS!") There's also a greenhouse that is one of my most favorite places to go in the winter. Rooms full of orchids, succulents and tropical flowers. It's truly spectacular.
    Oldfields Lilly Gardens - Open daily from dawn to dusk. Free admission. (Extra fee to tour the Lilly home, but don't with a toddler.)
  • Indianapolis Zoo 4 of 5
    Indianapolis Zoo
    Our zoo is not terrible, in fact it's the perfect mix of just about everything I like about zoos. Lots of shade, plenty of places to relax and a great assortment of animals and wildlife. The Indy Zoo boasts the worlds biggest shark touch tank, some pretty cool walruses and an underwater dolphin viewing dome (which freaked me right out the first time I saw it.) There's also a deserts pavilion where you can watch meerkats and race with tortoises, a lake with bright pink flamingos and lemurs and towards to back of the zoo you can feed a giraffe or watch an elephant get a bath. There's also a toddler friendly splash pad where kids can run through and under dozens of water features. (Bring swim diapers/swimsuits, water shoes and sunscreen.) There's a very good chance that you won't even need the rest of the zoo once your kids find the splash pad. Just outside the zoo (and included with zoo admission) is White River gardens, a huge greenhouse that hosts free flying butterflies in the summer and glorious orchids throughout the year. Behind the greenhouse are expertly manicured and themed gardens perfect for a quiet wander.
    Indianapolis Zoo- Open Monday-Sunday with hours varying by season but generally 9 am - 4pm. Ticket prices vary by season ranging from $7-$17
  • Holliday Park 5 of 5
    Holliday Park
    In the middle of an old established Indianapolis neighborhood is Holliday Park, the best possible park in all the land. There are three different award winning playgrounds, one is gated in and specifically meant for the small and mighty toddler. There are miles of hiking paths through wooded splendor and a nature center filled with puppets and hands on nature themed activities. This is more than a park, this is an experience your entire family will adore. Warning: there are no official restrooms by the playground, only Port-a-Potties. Regular restrooms are available in the nature center which is a good 5 minute walk (10 with a toddler) from the playground. It's really the only drawback to this amazing 94 acre park.
    Holliday Park - Open daily, sunrise to sunset. Free

Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.

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