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Finally took the kids to Conner Prairie, which I’d been promising them all summer, the week before we go back to school, and it was as enjoyable a trip as we’ve had there. It’s definitely a unique experience within the spectrum of Indianapolis “museums,” and worth visiting for sure, especially during the spring and summer.
Conner Prairie bills itself as an interactive history museum, and that’s really what it is, although it comes off as a hybrid of “playscape,” petting zoo, and period-piece play. Most people think of it in terms of the 1836 pioneer village, because it’s certainly the only one of those in the vicinity. But while kids of a certain age (my eldest now) will play along with the actors in the buildings, some of the youngest ones seem not to “get” the concept of joining in the play and talking to them on their level, at least enough to learn things from, say, the blacksmith or the carpenter. But it’s truly a unique experience, to the extent that you or your kids give yourselves over to it. The Civil War Journey is a wholly separate area, worth visiting, again mostly for older kids, but there is a kids play area indoors and a water feature as well.
And yet, that’s not all that you get at the park. The main attraction for me and the kids has always been the animals. I grew up in Georgia and had relatives with a farm and hatched chicks in my kitchen, but we have no pets at home now, so the chance to interact with animals is always something they enjoy. At Conner Prairie, the sweet spot is in the spring when most of the baby animals make their appearances. But throughout all the warmer months, the kids can pet young farm animals and see/interact with larger ones, including turkeys and oxen that come parading through the Prairietown streets. And they do come out on special days during the winter season.
Then there’s the balloon. Although it requires an extra ticket over the cost of admission, and is subject to weather vagaries (wind, rain, cold), it’s another unique experience worth having in Indianapolis. This isn’t a hot-air balloon, but a helium balloon, tethered to the ground on a cord that allows it to float up to 350 feet. From above, one gets a new perspective on the prairie and the north side of Indianapolis, can see the downtown skyline on a clear day, and either from the ground or from the balloon itself, it’s a very photogenic aspect of Conner Prairie.
The inside playrooms have also been upgraded in the past year, with science and technology historical exhibits in the main atrium, and areas for indoor play and art inside, always a good option on a bad weather day. And there’s a playground, so overall there is too much to do in one visit. Just like the other museums around town, it’s not hard to make each visit a bit different. We’ll be back.