The first-timers guide to the Indianapolis Museum of Art

So, you’ve never been to the Indianapolis Museum of Art? That’s ok! There’s a first time for everything.

Let me guess why you steered clear: Kids don’t do well in museum settings? Afraid they’ll want to touch things? Are they like my kids and they come in two volumes: Loud and sleeping? Well I am here with a first-timer’s guide to the IMA, to help you enjoy one of my favorite places in Indy without all the fear that comes from taking little kids.

MORE IMA FUN: At long last: Mini Golf arrives at Indianapolis Museum of Art

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's ChildFirst things first, ground rules: It IS an art museum. So before you go, remember to go over museum rules, primarily: No touching most art, don’t go over any ropes and no running inside. That might seem like a lot to handle, but it’s important to remember that kids don’t get better at those skills if they never get to practice them. Also, the IMA gives out Art Packs to little art connoisseurs. These are designed for families with kids ages 4 and up; a freebie that gives kiddos something to play with throughout the trip and keep them engaged. {Find them at the Info Desk near the Davis Lab on Floor 2.}

Most kids would trade a couple of hours of TV/iPad time for an hour of your undivided attention any day of the week and twice on Sunday. So, make sure you take the time to sit down and look at the art, and ask questions like:

  • “What’s that man doing?”
  • “What season do you think it is in this picture?
  • “Why do you think that?”
  • “What color do you notice first?”
  • “How many people are in this one?”

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's Child

Those types of questions will get you through most of the painted and sculpted art without a whole lot of drama. Make sure you check out the 19 Stars of Indiana Art: A Bicentennial Celebration exhibit so they can see famous art from Hoosier artists. Here’s where I get to be the worst parent you know and thus take the pressure off of you: My daughter touched a Robert Indiana sculpture. She spun a wheel on one of them like she was on the Wheel of Fortune: A big no-no. So while you definitely want to prevent that from happening just keep in mind that I have personally had to listen to the horrified chatter over the walkie talkies that happens when kids act like kids. And I lived. There is no art museum jail no matter what they tell you. In fact, the museum even invited us back… Speaking of Robert Indiana, two must-sees are his two sets of sculptures: Numbers {pictured at the end of this post} and the Iconic LOVE statue.

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's Child

On the second floor you’ll find the Star Studio, a kid-friendly, hands on exhibit. Your kids can play with what appears to be a huge Lite Brite {am I dating myself?) as well as blocks, dot-a-dot markers, pipe cleaners for wire sculpture and a chalk wall. There are often instructor lead activities as well where the kids can practice things like stamping, printing and molding with modeling clay.

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's Child

On the third floor in the African art section you’ll find an iPad bay set up to put your face into an African mask, which is always a hoot for kids. Email that photo home to yourself before you move on to the textile type exhibits. Here you’ll find samples of women’s clothing from different eras. Ask your kids some questions like:

  • “Which one do you like best?”
  • “Which one seems the most uncomfortable and why?”

The best part: FEEL the fabric. You can touch this one! Then on the wall behind you, check out the felt board for some more hands on fun.

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's Child

Once you’ve been through the indoor art you have some options. Will you head down to the second floor patio and play on their new mini golf course? It’s included with admission and there is a snack bar out there to help with any mid-day cravings that you forgot to pack for {thanks King David Hot Dogs}. But if mini-golf is a little too structured for your little ones – or if they are like mine and see weapons in EVERYTHING – I suggest you head out to the 100 Acre Woods instead.

{Or if you want to get super formal and use the proper name it is The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres.}

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's Child

This outdoor part of the museum has beautiful gardens, a giant lake, swings that double as art and the Indy landmark: Funky Bones. Help your kids jump from the patella to the femur! My kids can spend almost an hour just jumping around the bones.

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's Child

The benches out here are also works of art. They curve beautifully and offer excellent multi-level photo opportunities for you and your kids. Trust me, if it’s a mild day: you are going to want to be out in the 100 Acres. It’s easily my favorite place in Indy.

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's Child

For the flower children in your life, head over toward the Lilly house and check out the gardens as well as the greenhouse where you’ll find gifts for purchase as well as gorgeous flowers that you probably don’t get to see much of in your day to day wanderings!

First Timers Guide to Indianapolis Museum of Art _ Indy's ChildThe IMA has so much to offer for families. As a guy with four very very rowdy kids I implore you to not let the “art museum” moniker to deter you. Far from stuffy and unwelcoming, the IMA is one of our family’s top 5 hot spots, and we know you will love it too. Say hey to me if you see me out there!

MORE INFO: The Indianapolis Museum of Art is located at 4000 N. Michigan Road in Indianapolis. The Museum is open Tuesdays-Wednesdays and Fridays-Saturdays from 11am-5pm, Thursdays from 11am-9pm and Sundays from 12-5pm. Find additional special dates and times here. Call {317} 923-1331 or visit for additional details. 



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