Spring break in Indianapolis (+ Chicago)

We just got back yesterday from our spring break trip to Indianapolis and Chicago. My husband’s mother and sister live right outside Indy, so we flew there Saturday and came back yesterday. A few trip notes, memories, and highlights:

Flying with five kids is…not that bad. I say this even though we were delayed close to two hours on the way there, and in a really annoying way (they didn’t tell us it was that long delayed, they posted a 30 minute delay right at the departure time, and then never gave an update, even though the departure time came and went, so we couldn’t go get lunch or anything, and there was no inbound flight to track for clues…). It wasn’t fun, but the kids mostly entertained themselves and the 11-year-old was a huge help with the 3-year-old. Given that the flight was less than 2 hours, this was definitely the right call vs. driving. (Future flight learning: We should print up boarding passes. My husband had to go back from security with a kid to get a printed pass each time as the seventh electronic one from Apple wallet would get flagged — who knew? If you are flying with seven people, perhaps this will be helpful for you…)

Maybe we’ll get a Chevy Suburban? Longtime podcast listeners know that I have lamented our inability to buy a new Toyota Sienna w/AWD to replace our current one with its various decade-old car issues (the supply chain issues from the pandemic still have not worked themselves out on this particular vehicle. We have looked in multiple states, talked to professional car buyers and nothing). We rented a Suburban and the kids liked it, so we shall see. Though part of what they liked was that it was new and clean. Which, if we bought one, it would soon not be! The gas mileage is worse, though, so that would be a drawback.

Big kids like their own space. Hosting seven people is kind of a big ask, but since my mother-in-law and sister-in-law live less than 2 miles from each other, we split the family. My three big kids stayed with my sister-in-law, whose 16-year-old daughter was there (older son off at college) and this turned out to be a great idea. They got to do big kid things (play cards, watch movies) at night, enjoy a little independence from us, go on random Starbucks runs, and now my daughter wants an older sister, which is really not in my power to give her!

Running on flat terrain is easier than hilly terrain. No surprise, right? But there are some really well done running/bike trails right by where we stayed. I ran two mornings with my sister-in-law. We did 4 miles each time and it felt very doable. I have to run on two rather large hills to get anywhere headed out from my house in PA, so I enjoyed the contrast (and the company).

Zoos are a good family outing. The Indianapolis Zoo is really quite impressive. They have an aquarium equivalent there (with dolphins and a touch tank), plus a giant savannah section where we saw rhinos, elephants, lions, etc. We needed to get pretzels in the middle to fortify ourselves, but we were able to spend several hours there. The Indianapolis Children’s Museum is also great. We went there one day, though I think several of my kids’ favorite part was playing Minecraft in the exhibit they had, which is kind of funny, since they can do that at home (and were limited to 10 minutes in the exhibit). I guess it’s more fun in a different context!

I want to create some (more) miniature rooms….I have a little dollhouse furniture room set up on my office book shelf, and this has always been an interest of mine. So I was happy that I got to see several miniature scenes on this trip! The Indianapolis Children’s Museum has several, and then we also went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which has Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle. This has elaborate rooms, like a kitchen with dishes modeled after the dishes in Queen Mary’s Doll House in Windsor.

When in doubt…submarines and coal mines. We got tickets for the submarine tour and the coal mine tour at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. These were definite highlights. We could imagine the cramped conditions of that German submarine, and learned about its 1944 capture. And then the coal mine featured dark tunnels, a train, and loud equipment…something for everyone!

Lunch makes hiking better. My husband and I often want to take our kids hiking, and they often don’t want to go, but they really liked a loop we walked in Turkey Run State Park (about an hour from Indy). We got to skip rocks, scramble on rocks, cross a covered bridge, see a coal mine entrance, and then walk over a suspension bridge. Then we went over to the Turkey Run Inn for lunch and so I think people felt rewarded for their exertions.

Anyway, there was some sibling bickering, and probably the little kids were on screens too much (one way to entertain them during downtime) but everyone seemed to have a good time. Now I’m back to sing in the various Holy Week services. I did the Maundy Thursday one last night and tonight we do Anthony Masokowski’s Passion (according to John). This is a 28-minute a cappella work that is really challenging but the rehearsal after the services last night went pretty well. So here’s hoping that we do the piece justice tonight…

Photo: Turkey Run, the covered bridge


13 thoughts on “Spring break in Indianapolis (+ Chicago)

  1. After much research we bought a Chevy Traverse last fall. We were transitioning from a (Very old) Audi Q7. Our goal was to find the mid-sized SUV with the most interior space and with the most 3rd row legroom as our kids continue to longer and longer legged. We have the interior with 2 captains chairs and 3 seats in the 3rd row. So far we have loved it. If feels less large than the Suburban and Tahoe but with almost as much interior space. The gas mileage is not amazing but it is better than the full sized SUVs. All in all we are happy with our choice.

    1. @Gillian – ooh, interesting. I will look into that one as well. Yes, back row leg room is key. We have many big people now!

      1. I have a 2011 Chevy Traverse, and I LOVE it. I bought it new, and it has 239,000 miles on it, all but about 50 driven by ME – about 20 on the odometer when I bought it, and about 30 driven by my husband – 20 of them just a couple of weeks ago!

  2. It makes me so happy to see you enjoyed some of what Indiana has to offer. Turkey Run is our absolute favorite state park. Did y’all do trail 3 (the ladder trail)? We are so lucky to have such a nice zoo & children’s museum. If you’re ever back in the area I also recommend Conner Prairie. They have a really wonderful outdoor playground area & in the summer they host Symphony on the Prairie.

    1. @Amy – we did trail 1 on one side and then mostly trail 4 on the other. I think my husband wound up on #3 as he was coming to meet us at one point and it was a tricky one!

  3. The Art Institute of Chicago has the Thorne Miniature Rooms. Maybe not as fun as the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle, but quite accurate. The History Center in Lake Forest (north of Chicago, and next time you are speaking on the North Shore, stay at the Deerpath Inn) recently had a nice exhibit of miniature rooms and included a neat dollhouse. I marvelled at the rooms from private collections and how they were transported to the History Center. There was quite a variety, some quite whimsical. Miniatures can take you in many directions. A local nature path has little fairy and elf gardens/habitats along the way. We used to make those, as kids, with found items.

    Have a good Easter weekend!

    1. @Barb – thanks for the Easter wishes! I’ve seen the Thorne rooms and really enjoyed them – always a treat for me when I’ve got a few hours in Chicago. This time, we had the kids, so we went to the more kid-focused museums. But I’m sure I’ll be back. I’m always excited when I’m staying at a hotel near the Art Institute!

  4. Have you seen these things on Etsy called shelf nooks? (Or something like that—I can’t quite remember.) They are a small vertical rectangle with a miniature scene inside, meant to sit on a shelf between books. My husband got me one for our anniversary a year or so ago. You can buy them fully made or kits if you’re feeling crafty.

    Also my friend has been painting house furniture kits from Hobby Lobby as a fun activity for herself. She doesn’t currently have a dollhouse but she sets up the furniture on shelves or tables.

  5. I’ll just share my personal experience with the switch from a minivan to an SUV…. many years ago now we had a minivan. I decided at one point that I didn’t want a dorky minivan anymore, so we sold it and bought a Buick Enclave SUV (essentially the exact same style as a Chevy Traverse- we looked at both, same size and layout, etc.). Anyway, we got the SUV and I ended up hating it compared to a minivan!! It was just not the same! I hadn’t realized how great the sliding doors on the van were (in the SUV, you constantly have to worry about the kids hitting somone’s door in the parking lot…), the higher up trunk in the SUV didn’t provide the same space and ease as the lower trunk in the minivan that can literally hold 4 large suitcases STANDING UP (and I had a gallon of milk roll out the back and burst on my driveway- that wouldn’t have happened in my van! hahaha)…. The interior space was better in the van, and the SUV was actually hard for my (then young) kids to climb up into. No one liked the way back seat in the suv either compared to the roomy back seat in the van.

    Anyway, we ended up trading it in a mere 2 months after we bought it (super awesome financial move there… LOL) and bought another van- we have the same Toyota Sienna you have I think, silver Limited edition- ours is a 2012. I learned my lesson the hard way! I guess I am a minivan mom, after all. Won’t make that mistake again!

    Then again, obviously many people drive SUVs and must like them… but I always wonder if that’s just because they haven’t personally experienced the beauty of a minivan yet. 😉 I know a Suburban is a bit larger than an Enclave/Traverse too.

    We are currently needing to replace our van sometime soon, too. We haven’t looked too much at the inventory yet, but I know my husband found a Sienna Limited version, like what we currently have, but either 1 or 2 years old with very low mileage in our area already that he wanted me to look at… so I’m hopeful we’ll find something? We don’t need it to be brand brand new though- we typically always opt to buy slightly used vehicles in excellent condition just since they depreciate so fast, anyway! So maybe the issue is with shopping for brand new? I’d probably be willing to switch to an Odyssey if I have to, though I’d really prefer the Sienna….

  6. Thank you for sharing about your travels! I grew up in Indiana, going to Turkey Run, the Children’s museum, zoo, and day trips to Chicago. I don’t have family there now, so I haven’t taken my own kids. It is fun to read about your family experiencing it!

    I hope you have a nice Easter!

  7. I’m gonna recommend you check out a Ford Expedition Max. The third row is much more spacious than a suburban and the trunk is great. I came from a Honda Odyssey and have no trunk space issues so it can fit eight adults comfortably. I’ve got four kids, two are tall teenagers and the other two soon to be. It’s got some fuel efficient feature (can’t think of the name right now) so gas isn’t too bad either. With the amount of shuttling kids around that happens, I’m spending a certain amount on gas anyway.

  8. I am catching up on blog reading, and I’m so excited you spent spring break near me! I grew up in Indy and now live just north in Fishers, so I have been to all of those places many times. The Children’s Museum is the best! When I was a kid, the dollhouse exhibit was my favorite, and my kids enjoy it too. We haven’t checked out the Minecraft exhibit yet.

    1. @Kim N – hopefully you get a chance to see the Minecraft one! I think the highlight for my kids was just playing Minecraft somewhere new…

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