Where can you build a windmill, take a 1859 Balloon Voyage and shop in a 1836 general store?! Look no further than Conner Prairie in Fishers, Indiana. This interactive outdoor museum will take your family on journey of adventure while sparking creativity and learning along the way. Here are six reasons why Conner Prairie is the perfect family retreat.
An Epic Discovery Station
Stepping foot into this extraordinary play area left me flabbergasted. The endless activity stations and imaginary play areas is every parents dream come true. This indoor, air-conditioned discovery center allows kids to build their own hideaways, dress up and pretend. A general store, barn and log cabin beckon children to make-believe.
Afterwards head over to the build your own hideaway, where kids are given blankets, sheets and a variety of objects to hang them from. The littlest members of your party even have a designed area that allows them to roll and crawl about. There is a craft corner that parents will want to monitor. Families are encouraged to make a craft, but know that scissors and craft supplies are out for all to use. For us that meant keeping our little gal from toddling over to help herself, however there was so much to keep her occupied she never even noticed it.
Climb inside a Tree House
This is every kids dream come true: A four story tree house designed for them to explore! The tree house is packed full of fun treasures and entertainment areas. Imaginations are going wild as your explorers go from one area to the next. Outdoor instruments, painting concrete vases and the opportunity to dig up a piece of the past are just a few of the exciting things happening at the Treetop Outpost. Their new Fort Hoosier has opened which offers climbing walls, tunnels and more.
Take A Balloon Voyage
One of Conner Prairie most notable attractions is the historic 1859 Balloon Voyage. Guests can soar up to 370 ft in a helium-filled tethered balloon. The enclosed gondola allows balloon voyagers the opportunity to walk about and take in the scenic views of the Prairie once the you have reached the desired altitude. Tickets for the Balloon Voyage are sold separately at the Balloon Kiosk which is located right next to where you board the balloon. The rate for tickets vary depending on if you are a member, child and day you visit. Overall, visitors can expect to pay $17.00 a piece.
After you have purchased your tickets you will then wait in the balloon queue for the next available ride. Rides typically last 15 minutes round trip. Once you have boarded you will note that the gondola is surrounded by a guardrail and netting. This puts nervous parents at ease. We took our 15 month old daughter and on our flight there were children younger and older than her enjoying the views. During landing the gondola does roll around a bit, so be sure to hang on!
Ensure that you have checked to see if the balloon is flying prior to your visit. High winds and bad weather will keep the balloon grounded. In the event that you have already purchased a ticket and weather has prohibited flight, check with the balloon kiosk about receiving a refund or rain check.
Step Back Into History
Be transported back in time to experience everyday life in central Indiana during 1836. Signs alert visitors that the townsfolk know nothing of the present or anything before 1836. I recommend strumming up a conversation with one of them in an attempt to get them to crack. Ever time I tried I was not successful, but took away a powerful history lesson. Test you skill at a few “old school” games and take a peek into all the historic homes.
Cross over the covered bridge and you are instantly in the Civil War during 1863. Young cadets participate in military drills, gather supplies and meet the local residents as the prepare for battle. They even have a fun splash area where little ones can cool off with water canyons or go on a river journey at their new River Crossing play area.
Farm Yard Friends
Animal enthusiasts in your family will adore the opportunity to get up close and personally with some of the prairie’s four legged occupants. Specialist who care for the animals are available to answer any questions and point out fun features and crazy behaviors of our beloved farmyard friends. A interesting fact is that Conner Prairie is home to unique and rare historical breeds of livestock. Be sure to ask the caretakers in the barn for more information because it is fascinating.
Endless Opportunities to Create
Everywhere we looked there was an opportunity to create. Stepping inside the Create.Connect exhibit children are able to learn about science, math and technology in a hands-on environment. Crafts were abundant, experiments with wind captured the attention of young and old, then throw in the opportunity to design and build a real windmill to wow the crowd. I felt that there were some parents who were enjoying this area even more then the kids! As you make your way throughout Conner Prairie there is something to discover or create in every part of your journey, so keep your eyes peeled!
A Few Tips
I have only briefly covered a few of our family favorite activities during our visit to Conner Prairie. Families can spend the whole day exploring and never get bored. We were able to spend four hours here with our 15 month old before the sandman finally came knocking. Here are a few tips to make your experience more enjoyable.
- Bring a stroller if you have a little one who may get tired. There is a lot of walking here and trust me, you don’t want to have to carry them back to the car.
- There is a restaurant and places to buy snacks, bottle water and drinks. I would recommend having one with you at all times, especially during warmer days.
- Wear sunscreen! Portions of Conner Prairie is shaded, but there are areas that will have you exposed to the elements. Come prepared.
- Also bug repellent.
- We opted to do the balloon voyage first. That way we knew our little one would be in a good mood and would tolerate it.
- There is a tram that will bring you back to the Balloon Voyage from the Civil War Journey and vice versa.
- Check out their calendar for special events happening. We visited during the Festival of Machines, which is the equivalent to the “Disney World” of Touch a Trucks.
- Check out Conner Prairie’s website to develop a game plan for your day. Going in with goals on what to see will help you navigate and coordinator your schedule.
Looking for more to explore while visiting Indiana? Check out the why Hamilton County, Indiana is a family favorite.