Thanks Disney for providing me this event for free. All opinions represented in this post are my own. Also, Babble is a part of The Walt Disney Company.
14 years ago, I attended my first race as a resident of Indiana. It was the granddaddy of them all — the Indianapolis 500. I ventured to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for my first taste of this spectacle everyone was talking about. It feels like it was just yesterday that I left hours later, satisfied that the race was every bit as good as its hype.
Over the years, I have spent several memorable moments at the Speedway — watching both NASCAR and IndyCar races, visiting the pits where crews were in action, and even accompanying my son’s class to the famous Indy 500 museum on site.
But this past weekend was by far our family’s favorite experience. Sure, the Indy 500 race was amazing. So were all of the sights and sounds like Gasoline Alley where the race team garages are located, or exciting events such as Legends Day where old race cars take laps around the famous track. But, what was even more memorable for my family was the time we spent with Disney Junior at the Mickey and the Roadster Racers activity area in the infield.
There’s only so much young children can take from a race. The pits are cool, the garages are neat, and so are the vintage racers, but this only keeps them entertained for so long. And then what? Kids grow tired, cranky, and want to leave. Disney Junior wanted to add something special for the little ones, so they made a change to this year’s IndyCar races across the nation. In fact, they even boosted the family friendliness at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Here are some key takeaways that made our experience extra special:
1. Easy Access to the Track
To be quite honest with you, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (and most every race track around the country) is something of a wonder. Standing anywhere in the infield — looking at the two and a half-mile oval track overwhelms you quickly (not to mention the nearly 300,000 fans who show up to the race!). To think about wading through this sea with your kids is daunting. But we found the Disney Junior area quickly and with ease. There was very little stress trying to get into the track and then exiting.
2. Fast and Family-Friendly Activities
Parents: let’s be honest here. With little ones in tow, time is as precious as a rare diamond. We don’t have time to linger anywhere for long; and, as I mentioned earlier, kids tire quickly, even from something as exciting as seeing a race track. Disney Junior knows this, so they’re uber-intentional with the activities they offer at each station within the Roadster activity area. I took my three young sons through every station in less than 15 minutes. By the end of the day, they had their coloring sheets, balloon animals, and an autographed photo of IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay.
3. IndyCar Driver Sightings
My three sons were so pumped to meet Hunter-Reay. If there is something higher than Cloud 9, they were on it. Besides the joyous glow on their faces when meeting Mickey and Minnie, their expressions when sitting next to a real-life IndyCar driver was one for the ages.
4. Friendly Staff
The whole time we were greeted by ultra-friendly staff who were engaging and genuinely excited to see us. They knelt down to my sons’ level, talked to each about the things they were interested in, and then warmly invited them to participate in each station (which they did joyfully!). Each time we returned to see Mickey and Minnie throughout the weekend, we experienced the same engagement — synonymous with Disney!
5. Mickey and Minnie Sightings
As timeless as the original brick finish line at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so are the amazing Mickey and Minnie Mouse. In fact, words can’t capture the looks of little ones getting their chance to see the iconic Disney characters. We were able to get up close and personal with both characters and it was awesome! Each time we returned to the Roadster event, either Mickey or Minnie were available for family pictures. My sons talked endlessly after getting their picture taken with them.
This is what made our 2017 Indianapolis 500 experience the best we’ve ever had. My sons returned to school this week ready to talk their teachers’ ears off about everything they did over the weekend. I can’t say it enough … if you are planning a trip to an IndyCar race this summer, make plans to visit the Disney Junior Mickey and the Roadster Racers event. They will have a fun Mickey photo-op at each race the rest of the season and awesome DIY helmets and activity sheets. You, as a parent, won’t be disappointed — but most importantly, your kids will leave the event with memories that will last a lifetime!