School-aged kids who think they don’t like museums will experience a change of heart at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which just opened a $38.5 million, 7.5-acre indoor and outdoor sports facility March 17. The Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience was designed to promote family involvement in sports and fitness through 12 outdoor sports experiences and three indoor exhibits devoted to physical fitness and sports history.
The expansion adds to what is already one of the biggest children’s museums in the world at just under 500,000 square feet, with about 120,000 artifacts and more than 1.25 million visitors a year. Museum planners consulted with members of a dozen pro sports organizations — from football and baseball to tennis and car racing — to come up with cool skills exercises designed to promote family fitness and instill lifelong good habits. Medical professionals were also brought in to contribute to the medical, health and fitness expertise.
The activities are designed to appeal to visitors of all ages and include such innovative themes as changing a tire in a race-track pit stop and shooting hoops of various sizes, depending on the height of the children. There are statues of famous sports figures throughout the facility, and even artsy kids can get in on the action by drawing their favorite sport scene at a family art table.
Other features at the museum include a temporary “Hot Wheels” exhibit starting in May in honor of the toy car company’s 50th anniversary; a mummified dinosaur, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the best preserved dinosaur remains in the world; and a “Fireworks of Glass” exhibition by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. There also is an exhibit called “The Power of Children: Making a Difference,” which celebrates the accomplishments of young people who shaped our history.
There are costumed actors on hand at a number of exhibits, include “Take Me There: China,” designed to foster intergenerational learning, and “Beyond Spaceship Earth,” an immersive exhibit that depicts space exploration from NASA’s Project Mercury program, its first launch of Americans into space, to today’s International Space Station. Families will learn about the scientific work that ISS astronauts undertake, both inside the space station and outside the airlock in space.
To ramp up the fun, the museum also offers a whacky chocolate slide, inspired by Willy Wonka and featuring all sorts of sweet treats.