Dinos, Mummies, Pirates, Astronauts, Robots, and Warriors: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

July 4, 2014 — We were sitting in a hotel room on the eastern edge of Illinois the night before the short Indiana leg of our recent massive road trip. We hadn’t yet planned a single thing to see in that state. The first thing I did was a Google Image Search for the most prominent point on our route, Indianapolis. I saw this:

Well...this, minus me, of course.

Digging further, I saw this:

I didn’t know what that building was, but obviously I was going there. Turns out, it’s the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. And, fortunately, I had children.

Give me a second. I don’t get to write a sentence like that too often.

Now, children’s museums generally go two ways. They can be extremely kid-centric to the point where it’s just a higher-budget Chuck E. Cheese or they can have some really cool exhibits that’ll make you want to go even if you don’t have kids.

The CMI certainly straddles both types, with plenty of kids-only things and plenty of cool things that had me selfishly dragging my older kid away from the former.

First off, they have a dinosaur mummy. I already posted about that. They also had, on temporary exhibit, actual terracotta warrior statues that had been buried with the first emperor of China. Seeing these face-to-clay-face was a giant list-cross for me and they, like the dinosaur mummy, will get their own post.

But below are the things that aren’t getting their own post—not because they shouldn’t but because at some point I have to write about something other than the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. I don’t want to be typecast.

Bumblebee. Note the dinosaur behind him.

Amelia Earhart's aviator goggles
This glass sculpture was just too big to fit in my camera lens. You could also
stand directly below it and look up inside it.
This...was in the parking garage.
The suit of Indiana astronaut David Wolf, worn aboard the Russian
Mir space station. The placard on this exhibit read, "Wolf's specialty is
space walks. He's also a doctor, and helped design the International
Space Station's medical facility." Bad. Ass.

It's like a museum-quality Halloween decoration

One really great section of the museum that was technically for kids focused on archaeology. It was divided into three parts, one for Egyptian archaeology, one for ocean archaeology, and one for the excavation of the Chinese terracotta warriors. All three were filled with actual artifacts, replicas of real artifacts, and immersive interactive pieces. The Egyptian part was my favorite. With actual animal mummies and canopic jars, a room where the walls and ceilings were covered with hieroglyphics that lighted up, and a life-sized sarcophagus that you could put together like a jigsaw puzzle.

And it was guided by, of all people, by this guy

And even though the Egyptian part was my favorite, the ocean archaeology part was no slouch. It was centered around the Caribbean wreckage of what is believed to be the Quedagh Merchant, a ship commandeered in 1699 by none other than Captain Kidd himself.

And this, could very well be the cannon of one of our most famous pirates.

But the best part of the museum, by far, is its Dinosphere. It sounds like a cross between Jurassic Park and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and it's only slightly less cool than that. It’s not a huge collection of dinophernalia, but it definitely makes the most of what it has.

The weather changed in this room, with lightning storms
popping up every so often. There were  also niches where you could
stick your head inside plastic semi-spheres
within the actual dino exhibits.

And there was this guy doing his thing. His name tag says "Bob."

A recently discovered dragon-like dinosaur named Dracorex hogwartsia,
which means "Dragon King of Hogwarts." No lie.

A dino with a brain tumor. Unfortunately it was diagnosed too late to save him.

And there was stuff we could both agree was cool.

See? I mean, I know adult museums with far fewer artifacts worth seeing. Not a bad stop for a last-minute decision.

And the moral is, always cover your architecture with life-sized dinosaurs.