Butler University’s Holcomb Gardens is an enchanting 20-acre setting composed of towering trees, trails, bridges and native flora.
The gardens are tucked between Butler University’s campus and the historic Indianapolis Central Canal. In the middle of the gardens is a 500-foot-long grass mall perfect for flying kites or having a picnic. The gardens have been around since 1950.
I have many fond memories of visiting the gardens while my mom attended classes at Butler in the 1980s. Being on a college campus is thrilling enough for a kid, but walking over the tiny foot-bridge that spans the koi pond behind Clowes Hall was simply heavenly. On a spring day, when the windows were open at the School of Music, the students’ notes would marry with the sounds of nature to create a symphony like none other.
For many years, I thought that Holcomb Gardens was just about the gardens. And that really was enough for me. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered a foot path through the woods that led to Holcomb Observatory. The observatory is one of the largest public observatories in the world. Inside of it is a 38-inch Cassegrain reflector along with many smaller telescopes. There is also a fully-digital planetarium. Currently, the observatory is closed due to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus. But generally, it is open when school is in session, and it is run by students.
4600 Sunset Ave., Indianapolis | butler.edu