We all know of the obvious places to have fun in Indianapolis (the museums, the zoo, the big parks). But there are lots of hidden gems in Indy that you might not have heard about.
Here are eight hidden gems in Indianapolis that are perfect for your next outing!
Say hello to some farm animals at Traders Point Creamery
A farm-to-table restaurant is not usually the first place you think of when you’re looking for an activity to do with the kids. But Traders Point Creamery offers two ways to explore their working farm: self-guided tours and private tours. During the Self-guided Farm Walk, which is open year-round, hike through 1.5 miles of pasture and along Eagle Creek to catch a glimpse of the Traders Point’s cattle herd and chickens, and keep your eyes peeled to spot deer, hawks, Blue Herons and other native Indiana wildlife. Private, guided tours are open April through October, and are good for large groups. Every Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m., stop by the milking parlor to see farmers and cows in action. When you’re done, head to the Dairy Bar to get some fresh ice cream, a smoothie or a milkshake to taste the rewards!
March to the beat of your own drum at Rhythm! Discovery Center
Do you have children who love to drum on anything they can get their hands on? Then get them out of the house (and their hands off your fragile breakables) and take them to Rhythm! Discovery Center to explore all-things percussion. This interactive museum — hidden away in the Circle Centre Mall near Panera Bread — features unique exhibits that highlight percussive instruments from cultures all around the world and throughout history. There is also a space just for kids, with drums, rattles, tambourines and other instruments that they can drum, beat and play — and make as much noise as they want!
Learn about outer space at The Carmel Planetarium at Carmel High School
Yes, there is a real planetarium just outside of Indianapolis! Located inside Carmel High School, the Carmel Planetarium serves as the home base for CHS astronomy classes, as well as a field trip destination for elementary school kids in the Carmel Clay School district. On special days, the Carmel Planetarium opens its doors to the public and provides public planetarium shows during the evening. During the presentation, visitors of all ages can learn about constellations, stars and all sorts of other mysterious wonders about space! Check the Planetarium’s website for future show dates.
Ride above the city for free on the IU Health People Mover
You might have seen the IU Health People Mover whizzing through downtown Indianapolis, traveling on its tracks from Methodist Hospital to Riley Hospital for Children, to University Hospital and back. It’s a handy form of transportation for patients, employees and visitors of the hospitals, but it’s also a really cool (and free!) way to see Indy from 30 feet above the ground. Catch a ride on one of the People Mover’s two trains, which takes about 7 to 10 minutes to make its journey. It’s a great hidden gem for train and tram lovers of all ages — and did we mention, it’s free!
Need some kitty cuddles in your life, but don’t have a cat? Nine Lives Cat Café has you covered. Touted as Indianapolis’ first cat café, Nine Lives is a coffee shop where visitors can relax, enjoy a cup of coffee and sit among cats and kittens of all stripes (sometimes literally). Nine Lives acts like a foster home for all the cats who live there, and visitors are welcome to enter the cats’ home to pet, play and observe fine felines in a welcoming, cat-friendly environment. All the cats who live at Nine Lives Cat Café come from the Humane Society of Indianapolis, so if you fall in love with any particular cat during your visit, you can adopt him and give him a fur-ever home!
Climb aboard a vintage fire truck at Carmel Fire Buffs and Fire and Fire Department Museum
Tucked behind Main Street in Carmel, the Carmel Fire Buffs and Fire Department Museum doesn’t get much foot traffic, and many people aren’t even aware that it’s there. But for fire-truck lovers of all ages, this small museum is a must-see. Young children can enjoy climbing onto a real, vintage fire truck for a pretend ride, and adults can ooh and aah at all the old fire paraphernalia and memorabilia on display. Carmel Fire Buffs is run by one man, and the museum doesn’t keep regular hours, so call ahead to make sure they will be open before you visit!
Discover local nature at Zion Nature Center
Zion Nature Center is another little-known treasure, partly because it’s hidden away behind Eagle Elementary School in Zionsville. Open to the public during weekends and when school isn’t in session, this nature center invites visitors to learn about the natural world around them — specifically, the nature of Indiana. You can touch real animal skins and claws, spy on bees making honey in a real hive, look through microscopes to see insects up close, and more. A hit with the young kids is the room that’s dedicated to play: there are books, blocks, stuffed animals, costumes (and a stage to perform), plus other fun stuff that will keep everyone busy for quite a while. Throughout the year, Zion Nature Center also hosts programs and activities for the community.
Play in the giant dog house at The kids wing at the Indiana State Library
No, we’re not talking about the Indianapolis Public Library — although that one is cool, too. This is the Indiana State Library, and perhaps because of its stately appearance, most people forget (or didn’t know in the first place) that there is an entire wing of the library dedicated to children. The Indiana Young Readers Center includes books and interactive exhibits by local authors, as well as toys, puzzles and games for little ones to play with. Best of all, there is a big Clifford the Big Red Doghouse that kids can play in, or snuggle up on the comfy bean bag chair inside and read.