inside indy

By Glenda Winders // Photography submitted

Museums offer perfect getaways during dicey spring months

Although the weather outside is no longer frightful, it isn’t quite yet delightful either. Even though you long to get back out to the hiking trails or tennis court, spring showers and unpredictable temperatures might keep that from happening just yet. While you wait, this the perfect time to check out all there is to do indoors in Indianapolis.

“Indy is a great year-round destination,” says Nate Swick, Visit Indy communications manager. “If the weather’s not ideal, you can head inside to explore one (or several) of our world-class museums and attractions. There’s always something to discover.”

Kids’ Choice

If you have children to entertain during spring break and/or rainy weekends, the obvious place to start might be the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, where there’s something to do for all of them, regardless of their ages. Younger kids can dig for dinosaur eggs, visit a space station at “Beyond Spaceship Earth,” and explore water, sand, music and art at “Playscape.” Their older siblings will also enjoy the “Take Me There” exhibit, where they’ll board an airliner and travel to Greece. Once there they’ll learn to fish, bake bread, feed sea turtles, speak a few words of the language and lots more.

“Learning about a new culture is a great way for families to expand horizons and see how people in other parts of the world celebrate, what their customs are, their food choices, their living spaces and care of the environment,” says Jeffrey H. Patchen, museum president and CEO. “By understanding more about others, we become more accepting and interested in what’s similar and what’s different about many cultures.”

“The Power of Children” will inspire them with stories and artifacts about Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White, while the “Dinosphere” allows them to see what the world was like when dinosaurs were a part of it. “The Pigeon and Pals” is an art-and-play temporary exhibit based on the books of Mo Willems that encourages children to read. Add to all of this plays in the Lilly Theater, a 43-foot sculpture by glass artist Dale Chihuly, and opportunities to see terra cotta warriors, mummies and a shipwreck. The inside “Sports Legends” exhibit is open all year. After March 14 the outdoor sports — from miniature golf to football — will also be open.

You’re going to need a lunch break at some point. The food court is a great spot for a quick bite so that you can get right back to exploring.

On the Waterfront

Another possibility is the Canal Walk area, where you can park once and visit several museums. The Eiteljorg Museum offers artwork by such notables as Frederic Remington and Georgia O’Keeffe as well as contemporary and Native American art. The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center is both educational and lots of fun. Here you can step into “You Are There” exhibits, where costumed actors in authentic settings tell you about great moments in Indiana history. Talk to a pioneer preacher, join the archaeological dig at Angel Mounds or visit with Madam C.J. Walker, who founded a hair-care products line in 1915 and became a millionaire. (When you leave, stop at the Alexander Hotel to see the portrait of Walker created from 3,840 combs by sculptor Sonya Clark.)

At lunchtime head to the Museum Café for fresh salads, sandwiches and wraps as well as intriguing dishes named Cuban Fillo Cigars, Cactus Cobb Salad and Rancho del Sol.

Nearby is the NCAA Hall of Champions, where sports fans can be inspired by their favorite players, and there’s also the Indiana State Museum, where both permanent collections and special exhibits explain Indiana’s history from the time the Earth was formed to the present day. Special exhibits on now are “Rube Goldberg: The World of Hilarious Invention!” and “FIX: Heartbreak and Hope Inside our Opioid Crisis.”

“The museum is a great place to spend an afternoon or a whole day, regardless of the weather,” says Cathy Ferree, CEO of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. “Our permanent experiences offer something for everyone, from a chance to get up close with Ice Age skeletons or authentic Indiana art, to pop culture artifacts or hands-on science in our Naturalist’s Lab. Plus, with our changing experiences, we are constantly offering new exhibits.”

Lunch here is at the Farmers Market Café, where the menu features seasonal local produce. If the weather is good, you can sit outside.

Art & Craft

The venerable Newfields (formerly the Indianapolis Museum of Art), with new exhibits always arriving and a constantly changing outdoor landscape, is worth several repeat visits. Permanent collections include African, Asian, American and European fine art with pieces by such notable artists as Edward Hopper, Mary Cassatt, Paul Gauguin and Pierre Auguste Renoir as well as photographs, textiles and fashion. The contemporary design gallery is one of the largest in the world. While you’re here, be sure to take the virtual reality tour of the mid-century-modern Miller House in Columbus. Hoosier visitors will also especially appreciate paintings by T.C. Steele and John Singer Sargent’s portrait of poet James Whitcomb Riley.

If it’s sunny outside, take a walk through the gardens, and once it reopens for the season on March 20 stop in at the Lilly House, an early 20th-century mansion. Then plan to have lunch at The Café, where you can look out over the gardens while you eat and be sure to save time for the exquisite gift shop.

Think Small

Some of Indy’s smaller museums will surprise and delight you. Take for example the Indiana Medical History Museum. Located in the Old Pathology Building on the grounds of what was once known as the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane, it provides a history of medicine and chronicles its discoveries and evolutions. Here you can visit a doctor’s office from the 1950s and a garden where medicinal plants are grown. You’ll also explore the laboratories, library, autopsy room and anatomical museum that is the repository for more than 15,000 medical artifacts and specimens, many of them brains.

Another surprise is the Teeny Statue of Liberty Museum, a kitschy 9-foot-by-16-foot space that houses some 1,000 Liberty-related artifacts, with a range of items from statues, T-shirts and sprinkler heads to bottle openers, snow globes and rubber ducks. And while you’re in a patriotic mood, why not pay a visit to the Statehouse. A 45-minute guided tour will teach you about the building’s history and architecture as you see how Indiana government works.

Indianapolis devotes more acreage to honoring fallen heroes than any other city in the United States, and it is second only to Washington, D.C., in its number of monuments and memorials. One of those is the Indiana War Memorial Museum. Visitors enter by way of the North Vestibule and Grand Foyer then go upstairs to the Shrine Room, designed to foster citizenship, peace and unity — and it does. The 40-foot red marble columns represent the blood that was shed by soldiers during World War I. A sculpted frieze by Frank Jirouch tells the story of that war; portraits by Walter Brough depict the major military commanders from each of the Allied powers. Items on display in the museum’s galleries include military firearms and uniforms and an AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter.

While you’re here, visit the other related patriotic sites: the Veterans Memorial Plaza, the USS Indianapolis Memorial and the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. You’ve probably driven past it many times, but did you know you can go inside to a gift shop and the observation tower at the top?

Once you’ve climbed up the stairs to do that, you’re going to be tired and hungry. Wrap up your downtown adventure at nearby Bazbeaux Pizza or Bru Burger; both are family-friendly in case the kids came along.