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The first timers guide to Conner Prairie

So, you’ve never been to Conner Prairie? That’s ok! There’s a first time for everything. Here’s our guide to making that first timer visit as a family count.

There are a lot of places that I like to go in the greater Indianapolis area. I’m pretty much a regular at any place that is remotely kid friendly. But there is one place that is not only near and dear to my heart, but it’s near and dear to my home and so I visit it more frequently than any other location in Indy: Conner Prairie.

First timer guide Conner Prairie _ Indy's Child

While proximity is a driving force behind the fact that this particular family friendly location is my default, it doesn’t hurt that my children literally scream for minutes on end in the car that they want to go here virtually every time we are in the car. That’s right, if you’ve driven north of 96th street with young kids in the car anytime in the spring, summer or fall you’ve probably heard it: “BALLOON DADDY!! I WANT TO GO TO THE BALLOON!!” If you have always wondered what the hype was about, but never made the plunge; if you have thought to yourself eh, I’m not a history buff; or if you are just plain new to the area, allow me to give you a first timers guide to Conner Prairie.

First timers guide Conner Prairie _ Indy's Child

Before you even get there, you need to decide for yourself the most important question of the visit: To 1859 Balloon Voyage or not to Balloon. If you’ve never been, and you don’t have a serious fear of heights, I suggest you Balloon. But take it from an old pro, you never ever want to do the balloon first with kids. That is the last thing you do before you leave. Use it as a negotiating chip when kids are running too far ahead. You definitely don’t want to play that card too early or you’re going to spend the rest of your visit being asked to go back on the balloon. So that’s tip #1. It’s not exactly easy either because once you get past the main building {which has some excellent science displays and a really cool kids play room that is boss in the winter time}, it’s the first thing you walk by outside.

First timer guide Conner Prairie _ Indy's Child

I’m not saying you should skip the inside – because you shouldn’t – but consider the weather. If it is a nice day and you know your kids’ attention spans are limited, I’d hurry them out back. There is so much to see, and the inside is open in the winter when the outside is not, so I’d hustle my way to the barn if I were you. When you get to the Balloon pavilion go to the left and head past the snack area. That will take you on the dirt trail to 1836 Prairie Town, and my personal favorite: The Animal Barn. Pet the goats and the sheep, maybe even a cow or chicks depending on the season. This area used to be my kids’ very most favorite thing in the whole place. I say used to be because on June 1 of this year a new contender took over…
First timer guide Conner Prairie _ Indy's Child
The Treetop Outpost is the newest exhibit at CP. It’s past Prairie Town and before the Civil War section. My family generally opts to skip Prairie Town on the way in and hit it up on the way out. We only do that because the kids run full speed toward the Treetop Outpost as soon as we leave the Animal Barn. It’s a pretty decent hike, too. The treehouse is like nothing you’ve seen recently. It’s 4 stories, it goes up and down, there are books, hands on play things, musical instruments, bracelet making, you name it. The place is loaded with kid friendly activities.


RELATED POST: To Prairie Tykes or not at Conner Prairie?


My younger kids will sit and play in the sand boxes out front for hours and it’s fine because the whole area is in the shade. It’s cool, it’s breezy. The area is delightful. We might be biased, but I’m telling you, your best bet is to budget the most of your time to this area.

First timer guide Conner Prairie _ Indy's ChildFirst timer guide Conner Prairie _ Indy's ChildOnce we leave there we generally make our way to the Civil War section. There is a “short cut” that’s not really a short cut through the field on the right side of the path coming out of the Treetop Outpost. Otherwise you can just walk over the bridge like a normal person, but my kids really like to run through the grass and do cartwheels on their way to 1864. This area is generally more suited for kids older than mine, especially the show in the general store. That can be a bit scary for younger kids but my wife and I love it.


ANOTHER MUST READ: Conner Prairie Treetop Outpost opens


My kids really like to train with the union soldiers outside and march with the wooden guns before heading back across the bridge to Prairie Town. But before I move you out of this area I want to tell you there is a really great splash pad back there from May-September. We have never been there because for the life of us, my wife and I can’t ever remember to pack towels and once our kids know it exists they will go to it every single time we are there. So they don’t know it’s there. Don’t tell them please. We don’t want to drive wet kids home.

First timers guide Conner Prairie _ Indy's ChildFinally hit up Prairie Town last. There are a variety of different types of buildings and homes in this area so you can see what appeals to you. To the left {when you are walking back from the Civil War area} there is a school and a general store where they will tell you all about life in 1836. If you go right {back toward the main building} you’ll go past all our favorite spots: the potters shop, the carpenter, the doctor {who has a pretty impressive herb garden!} and the Golden Eagle Inn which has some more animals out back. This is the area thats fun to visit during the cooler months if the weather permits them to keep it open. They have a fire going most days and a group of vagabond musicians who will wassail with you and your family to welcome in the season. Definitely a good time if you keep your self properly dressed for the weather.

First timer guide Conner Prairie _ Indy's Child

At this point you will have concluded most of the best parts of Conner Prairie. Except, of course, the balloon. But the balloon ride may not be in your budget every time you visit so if you’re all ballooned out, check out the play ground on the other side of the Balloon pavilion. This side also has the Lenape Indian camp which has some great demonstrations including a tomahawk throw. It’s usually exciting enough to keep our kids happy whether they get a balloon ride or not.

MORE INFO: Conner Prairie is a nationally acclaimed interactive history park located at 13400 Allisonville Road in Fishers. It combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiences. Visit ConnerPrairie.org or call {800} 966-1836 for admission dates, hours and ticket prices.


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