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“Not what it should be or could be.”

Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Ranked #2 of 127 things to do in Indianapolis
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: The largest children's museum in the world just got even bigger with the addition of a new 7.5-acre outdoor health and fitness area that encourages activity through multiple sports. The new space, called Riley Children's Health Sports Legends Experience includes basketball, football, hockey, soccer, pedal car racing (drag strip and oval track), golf, baseball, and tennis. The indoor portion of the new area includes the National Art Museum of Sport along with the World of Sport and History of Hoops. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis itself is made up of 500,000 square feet with exhibits and activities that are fun and interesting for the entire family as they explore the physical and natural sciences, history, world cultures and the arts through exciting interactive exhibits on five floors. Families will discover some of the most rare dinosaur fossils in the world and see what it's like to live and work in space. There's also a theater with children's plays and live entertainment.
Reviewed 2 April 2018

It seems unpatriotic to offer any critical perspectives on the Indianapolis Children’s Museum because all the state and local promotional literature hypes it so loftily. There are, however, severe downsides that should be revealed and shared. I rated our visit of 11:00 a.m. Friday, March 31st as 2 star in order to be as positive as possible – less would be a more accurate reflection of the associated pain. The source of the many serious problems is not the quality or variety of the exhibits, i.e. what the museum offers to the public; the source of the problems is the administrative staff, i.e. their relentless and overarching poor management as it relates to policies and execution (most of the hourly service staff were very pleasant in the face of adversity). To prod the executive staff and board in making the necessary changes, this review will be posted on TripAdvisor as well as sent directly to the mayor’s office and the museum.

The following is our summary of the major downsides of the visit. Please note that we purchased our admission tickets in advance and drove six hours round trip, otherwise we would have happily aborted the event.

• We drove there and when we came within six blocks of the museum it took approximately one full hour to move that final short distance. The bumper-to-bumper congestion and confusion was beyond unbelievable – we moved one car length every couple of minutes. No city police or museum staff were present anywhere to assist! The family was going “crazy” because we needed a bathroom stop – we truncated the approach and ran into a nearby church for assistance.
• When we finally reached the parking lots and multilevel garages, they were marked full, barricaded, and we were pointed down the road with no further guidance whatsoever. We found a spot on the street in a neighborhood eight blocks away. So much for the prohibition on the museum website stating there was plenty of free parking so city streets should not be utilized.
• Once nearly inside to actually inside, lines became the activity of the day: lines, long lines, and still longer lines. The first were to simply get into the actual exhibit area – as many as three different types with very little clear signage and no staff to direct the human traffic. We wasted time by standing in several incorrect lines. Oddly, there are no security checks or scanners. I appreciate that this speeds up the process, but there are associated risks.
• Want to use the bathroom: Lines and more waiting!
• Want to find a table to eat the lunch you packed: Wait for availability or sit on the floor.
• Want to purchase a drink: Three more lines which must all be sequenced: 1) line to obtain the drink cup, 2) line to purchase the drink cup, and 3) line to fill the drink cup. Total time about 25 minutes. It is very hard to understand why someone could not conceive of a single line method. The payment area (number 2 above) was a mindlessly designed arrangement without any queuing (why no queues?) and with the three (why not more?) checkouts; each one double-sided – the cashier had to keep turning around to service both sides. We felt deeply sorry for these abused young workers. Advice: Food and drinks are expensive, so pack your own.
• The most popular general exhibit area was that of the dinosaurs. To get there, patrons had to navigate their children and strollers through a narrow section of the dining area while intermixing with the lunch crowd – more chaos and confusion.
• Want to take a trip down the central chocolate slide? Wait an hour. Once to the front, you will find a single worker – pleasant, but overstressed. Two or more workers would have been helpful and quicker. We had to skip this attraction due to the extremely long line; and we had to skip the carousel and others for the same reason.
• The museum consists of two primary sections: the traditional one and the newer sports-oriented, mostly outdoor one. To move freely between them was physically very possible and potentially easy except that the administration had created an artificial chokepoint that in turn created a wait line exceeding 100’ in length and requiring – you guessed it – another 30 minute wait. With all the time dedicated to waiting in lines, it left very little to have any of those happily anticipated and advertised experiences.
• Once permitted into the sports center, waiting and lines were still the norm.
• We waited the required 40 minutes in order to go inside the tree house. BIG mistake. The tree house is probably the single most ill-conceived exhibit in the museum – perhaps in any museum or theme park. The journey is not a pass-through. The single passageway is narrow and wide enough for only one person. The greatest difficulty is that undisciplined traffic is going up and going down at the same time on the same path – one must return the same way one came. Internally, it’s an unstaffed free-for-all with a full mix of ages engaging each other. Definitely not worth the time and disorientation.

This was our third visit to the museum over the years; and instead of improving, the operation has deteriorated. The administrative staff and board of the museum simply must immediately recognize the serious shortcomings related to their plans and their execution – and then, take corrective action at once as it is both obvious to all and well overdue. Until then, this was our final visit.

Date of experience: March 2018
4  Thank Riverpup
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
The Children's ... o, Manager at Children's Museum of Indianapolis, responded to this reviewResponded 3 April 2018

Thank you for your review. Friday March 31st was Spring Break, Easter weekend, and the first good weather day for our newly opened Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience. Our peak visitation definitely was representative of all the reasons to visit. Last year we implemented a Plan Ahead pricing structure, which intends to steer people away from peak visit days by offering lowest prices on off-peak days. Our parking availability is often the first indicator to visitors that the museum is experiencing a peak day, in the same way that a full parking lot at the mall indicates a busy holiday shopping day. We do have a very reasonable exchange policy for our Plan Ahead pricing for families who decide not to brave the crowds once it becomes clear that have chosen a peak day to visit. We also have a Customer Service Center open 7 days a week, always happy to assist with visit planning so you make the most of your visit.

As a staff, we do anticipate peak days, based on the school break calendar and various other factors, and plan accordingly. Staff parking shifts to a remote location, opening up more spaces for visitors. We bring more tables into the food court during peak visitation, on the way to Dinosphere as you mentioned and we open our school lunch space for overflow lunch crowds. Families are welcome to bring their own lunch, we just ask that the lunches be stored in a locker until ready to eat to protect our galleries and artifacts. Our Chocolate Slide, the spring version of our beloved Jolly Slide, is very popular and is staffed at the top and the bottom by one staff person each, but the lines do move quickly and one person can easily assist the two sliders at a time.

We did have a short wait to enter our sports experience on Friday, which was to be expected due to the nice weather and the recent opening. Most families were very understanding and patient, which we truly appreciated. The chokepoint you describe was a queue line of guests awaiting entry. To alleviate congestion, families were pulsed into the experience as other families exited. The queuing was carefully managed and monitored the longest wait was seven minutes from the end of the line to entry. The Tree of Sport does have a limited capacity on the steps to the slides but also has a short stay time, which allows many children to enjoy the slide throughout the day. We did have a staff member inside the treehouse as well as one outside below assisting. The sports experience was open until 8pm on Friday, an extra 3 hours beyond the main museum closing time, which allowed families to continue to enjoy the experience into the evening after the daytime crowds dissipate.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is not operated or funded by the city of Indianapolis so it is not likely that you will get a response from the Mayor’s Office about your visit, but we do appreciate your thorough approach. Thank you for giving us a chance to respond. We encourage all future visitors reading this review to reach out to the museum so we can give insider tips, such as best time to visit, best time to arrive for garage parking and how to plan for (or avoid) peak visitation days.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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250 - 254 of 3,680 reviews

Reviewed 1 April 2018 via mobile

Really enjoyed this children’s museum with our 3 and 1 year olds. Large, diverse and engaging. Went twice in past year, we are from Ohio.

Would highly recommend this place.

Date of experience: February 2018
Thank Pras499
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 April 2018 via mobile

We enjoyed the museum. We were there with a 10 year old and an 18 year old. Enjoyed the China exhibit and the ISS exhibit. Others were geared more towards younger kids. If you have younger kids, would be great. The sports exhibit looked fun but lines were so long, we didnt get to try it.

Date of experience: March 2018
Thank ILFamily_of_Five
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 March 2018 via mobile

What a great place. Huge. Activities for all ages. Great food options but pricey. The new outdoor area was spectacular . It was very busy, due to Good Friday. Had to park very far away.

Date of experience: March 2018
Thank juliekenben
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 31 March 2018

Great museum for children... and for adults! Very entertaining and a lot of very interesting exhibitions; I highly recommend!

Date of experience: January 2018
Thank sleax
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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