Steven's Adventures in Wonderland

Sunday, June 24, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Travelin' with Steven, Day 5:  Indianapolis, IN to Dayton, OH

This morning we arrived at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis (www.childrensmuseum.org) in the first hour after it opened.  For the next six hours, we tried in vain to visit every single exhibit before being pushed out the door at closing time.  We weren't the only ones who were eager to explore this acclaimed wonderland for kids of all ages.  Even a mother brachiosaur seems to have lifted the steel roof of the museum's welcome center to allow her little one to enter.

Brachiosaur sculptures at Children's Museum of Indianapolis
But wait.  We saw more dinosaurs even before we entered.  Three huge alamosaurs bursting from the Dinosphere exhibit’s exterior made us eager to get inside and check out this phenomenal place.

Some want out while others try to sneak in.
As soon as we entered the multi-story welcome center, we were greeted by a mammoth size transformer.  A prop from the 2007 Transformers movie, Bumblebee was getting lots of attention from kids and adults alike.  Though this big guy was immobilized and unable to really transform, we were treated to a demonstration of a human size version of Bumblebee transforming from a car later.

Transformer Bumblebee even had a California license plate since at times he is a car.
All this, and we hadn't even reached the ticket counter yet.  For all the excitement that was obviously in store, we found the admission rates of $12.50 for youth ($16.50 for seniors) pretty reasonable.  And that was before we knew we'd be spending six hours.

Dinosphere was the obvious choice for our first destination.  Exhibits allowed visitors to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and even smells of the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth.  Located in the museum's former IMAX theater, the exhibit makes use of the massive screen to simulate different times of day as a backdrop for the skeletal triceratops, T rexes and other critters within, most of which are displayed in active positions.

Triceratops and T rex in the heat of battle
The Dinosphere houses one of the largest displays of real juvenile and family dinosaur fossils in the United States, as well as a functioning paleo lab, interactive stations and activities, and a great collection of dinosaur art.  A hard act to follow, but clearly this museum was up to the challenge.

How about life-size Hot Wheels?  Dubbed Hot Wheels for Real the exhibit featured rarely seen collectible Hot Wheels cars and amazing life-size versions of iconic favorites.  There was even a diamond-encrusted Hot Wheels car (small size) valued at $140,000.

Steven with the full size Twin Mill (not street legal, a sign informed)
As in other sections of the museum, interactive opportunities abounded including decorating a life-size VW Beetle Hot Wheels replica or racing the little cars on 6-ft tall winding, looping tracks.  Like most of the other areas, this exhibit was hard to tear ourselves away from, but there was so much more to see.

An Indy race car built from LEGO bricks
The LEGO Travel Adventure section had dozens of models of various types of vehicles built from LEGOs, from stagecoaches to rocket ships, even a life-size model of an Indy race car.  After marveling over how they crafted these miniature transportation types from plastic bricks, Steven and I had a chance to try our hands as we participated in a family travel adventure challenge. 

Our LEGO adventure vehicle
Each group of participants in the challenge was given a tub of LEGO parts and 15 minutes to create a vehicle that would meet three criteria provided by the leader.  Our vehicle would be used in Australia, where it needed to dive off the Great Barrier Reef, haul collected rock and shell samples, and transport them across 1,000 miles of desert. We threw in the tree for extra fuel across the desert.

Then the interactivity ratcheted up to a new level.  At the rock wall, kids were given a brief lesson in rock climbing, strapped into a helmet and harness, and told to scale the rock wall.  This was not one of those walls with artificial footholds.  Only cracks and small protrusions were available to use on the natural style wall.

Steven scrambles up.  What is he gripping?
At some point during the day, we visited the museum's food court, which actually provided healthy choices for kids and adults.  Our six plus hours were filled with wonder and awe, and we all agreed that this museum would be hard to beat for interactivity and both the quality and quantity of exhibits.  Some of our other favorites are pictured below.

The Maze of Mirrors - To infinity and beyond
40-ft tall Chihuly glass sculpture (There was even a hands-on activity for this!)
Ceiling of the glass sculpture activity room (and base of the 40-ft sculpture)
26.5 ft Water Clock, using 70 gallons of colored water to display the current time
More LEGO vehicles
Another full-sized Hot Wheel replica
Not pictured are many other exhibits which we enjoyed including simulated archaeological sites featuring the tomb of an Egyptian pharoah, China's terra cotta warriors, and a Caribbean shipwreck.  Another area allowed visitors to "experience" modern-day Egypt from the airplane landing in Cairo to visiting homes.  The Power of Children section used multimedia effectively to relate the stories of Ryan White, Anne Frank, and Ruby Bridges as examples of the differences children can make in influencing the world. 

Leaving reluctantly as the doors were about to be locked, we considered what it might be like to spend the night inside.  Realizing it wasn't possible, we left Indianapolis and I-65 behind as we headed east on I-70 toward Dayton, OH, where we'll visit some historic aviation sites tomorrow.

Along the way, we realized that we still needed to plant our Indiana letterbox and find at least one box in the state this year.  We left the interstate at New Castle and visited Memorial Park, where we completed both our letterboxing tasks before stopping at the local Subway for dinner and heading off to Dayton.

Quote of the Day:
"This museum was made to impress!"  Steven