Road Trips

From the Windy City to the Indy City: Indianapolis is top spot for family fun, cultural adventures

2014-06-05T10:00:00Z 2014-06-11T11:26:05Z From the Windy City to the Indy City: Indianapolis is top spot for family fun, cultural adventuresCarrie Steinweg Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 05, 2014 10:00 am  • 

It's road trip season and one of the best family road trips in the Midwest isn't too far from home. A couple hours in the minivan and you arrive in a city that offers a plethora of activities for sports fans, history buffs, cultural gurus and kids or kids at heart. There's also an opportunity to peek into different parts of the world. Two newly opened exhibits at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis focus on China and a crew of orangutans at the Indianapolis Zoo have just settled in to some new digs.

China comes to Indy museum

At the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army has set up temporary residence and it's the only place in the U.S. to see the exhibit this year. Buried for centuries, approximately 8,000 of these detailed life-size soldiers were discovered in 1974. As part of the world's largest underground burial site, dating back to 210 B.C., the soldiers were created to protect an emperor's tomb in the afterlife. The exhibit opened in May and runs through November 2.

"We are thrilled and honored to be the first family focused institution to ever partner with the Shaanxi Province to display the real Terra Cotta Warriors. We want children and families to learn and develop a deep appreciation for what a complex and valuable place in history these treasures hold," said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

The Chinese theme has also been carried out in other areas of the museum. Also new to the museum is the "Take Me There: China" exhibit which immerses youngsters in the culture of China through a variety of hands-on sections that give a taste of every day life in current China.

"The key factor that I would love to get across is that our museum is not 'just for kids,'" said Kimberly Harms, the museum's Director of Media and Public Relations. "I honestly learn new, fascinating things every single day. And, this incredible exhibit about the science of the paint of the Terra Cotta Warriors is clearly for people of all ages and an exhibit that museums across the country would love to have. In addition, most of us can't afford to travel around the world to experience other cultures and unique cultural artifacts like these. This is truly an affordable way to travel the world without a passport and immerse yourself in another culture such as China - both ancient and modern China. We believe exposing people to other cultures fosters awareness and understanding."

Be sure to leave adequate time in your trip to see all the museum has to offer. Plan for a full day or even two days to make your way through all five levels. It's the world's largest children's museum, covering close to 500,000 square feet with 11 major galleries. For more information, visit childrensmuseum.org.

A peek at endangered animals of Southeast Asia

Having an opportunity to observe one of the world's most endangered creatures isn't something you do every day, but the Indianapolis Zoo introduced a new extensive and unique exhibit over Memorial Day weekend to allow visitors to view and learn about orangutans, which now only exist on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Southeast Asia.

The Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center is home to eight orangutans where every element was specially designed to meet the needs of the species. Covering an area equal to more than two NFL football fields with a network of cables, platforms and bridges situated above, visitors can watch their movements overhead. The exhibit has both indoor and outdoor viewing available. Then for a birds-eye view, the Skyline ride takes guests in cable cars for a look at the orangutans from above.

"The vertical and complex nature of the International Orangutan Center frees the orangutans to move their bodies in a full range of natural, athletic and graceful ways," said Dr. Rob Shumaker, Vice President of Conservation and Life Sciences.

Families will enjoy learning about the personalities of each of the group of varying ages, from zoo veteran Azy at age 36 to energetic 9-year-old Rocky. For more information, visit indyzoo.com.

The zoo is part of the White River State Park, an urban state park with several diverse attractions including the Indiana State Museum, White River Gardens, IMAX Theatre and more. For more information, visit inwhiteriver.com.

More family fun

Indianapolis also has so much more in store for families with another highlight being the Indianapolis Speedway and Hall of Fame Museum where you can get your fill of racing history and action. It's also an ideal time to take in a minor league ball game at Victory Field. And be sure to visit the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument where you can head to the observation deck for some lovely views of the city. For more information on attractions, go to visitindy.com.

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