Just when you think you’ve been everywhere in the city and there is nowhere else you can possibly take your children that they couldn’t walk through blindfolded while giving you an oddly sarcastic description of everything around them, we find a new-to-us place to explore! With summer coming, we’re all going to need the hidden gems we can find to entertain the kids.
So let me ask you this: Have you been to Marian University’s Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab?
First – and total shocker to me – Marian University is located like thisclose to Newfields’ 100 Acres. Howdy, neighbor! I’ve known about Marian because of the signs pointing in its direction whenever we’re visiting the art museum and have heard rumblings about its cycling team (as in bicycling, not recycling – they are also adjacent to the Major Taylor Velodrome, after all).
But the EcoLab? It’s tucked away from view, but once you find it, you’ll see it’s full of surprises. It features an amazing outdoor hiking path complete with such kid-friendly grossness as skunk cabbage and extremely well-labeled poison ivy.
Why would you want that? Easy. Ask my wife to identify poison ivy. She can’t. In fact there is a story in my daughter’s favorite Fancy Nancy book where Nancy CLAIMS to know the rhyme, “Leaves of three let it be!” and still manages to get herself covered in the stuff. Kids like to think they know what to stay away from, but here you can show them the real live stuff with no ambiguity. This is most certainly poison ivy, and you most certainly shouldn’t touch it. The EcoLab is a good controlled environment to teach kids wilderness survival… or just common sense.
Skunk cabbage probably won’t come up much in your average trip through the woods, but it does smell terrible, which my son thought was amazing. The nearby placards told us that it has pretty interesting medical benefits including those for respiratory issues. My asthmatic daughter could not be persuaded to eat it though… I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works anyway, but I would have shown the picture at her wedding.
Our favorite part of the EcoLab was the bat boxes! High in the trees, these little homes are perfect for little blood suckers. Actually, as you will learn at the EcoLab, most bats do not suck blood. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but let’s just say Dracula really pulled one over on us.
To sum up, this hidden gem is definitely worth exploring. Check out the greenery and get a closer look at Indiana’s native environment. It’s open from dusk to dawn and completely free. Park your car near the old Allison estate, and then climb down the stairs. Tell the turtles we sent you!
MORE INFO: The Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab is located on the campus of Marian University, 3200 Cold Spring Road, Indianapolis. It is open from dawn until dusk and free to the public. Follow signs for parking off of Cold Spring Road. Visit their website for additional details.