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Children's museums can be just the ticket for family vacations, a rainy day, or just plain fun

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

ONE of the country's premier institutions, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis is planning a first-class summer. "Flight: Where Adventures Take Off," an extensive look at flight from butterflies to jets, opened in June and runs through January. Start your exploration in the museum's parking lot, where a 2,400-square-foot, enclosed butterfly garden will be on display until Sept. 4. With 25 species of butterflies, kids can begin to explore flight from a natural perspective.

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Man-made flying machines can be found both outside and throughout the five-floor museum, including a blimp, a Coast Guard helicopter, and a commercial-airline flight deck. On Saturdays in July, kids can also meet Bessie Coleman, the world's first African-American woman to receive her pilot's license over 50 years ago.

The museum also features standing exhibits such as a planetarium and a turn-of-the-century carousel. This summer, SpaceQuest Planetarium is home to a laser light show (three times daily) and a "Starwatch" program hosted by an astronomer exploring the Indiana night sky (first Thursday each month). A "Winnie-the-Pooh" play (twice daily, July 21-Aug. 20) and a variety of workshops are also offered throughout the summer.

A new permanent exhibit also opened this spring celebrating African-American storytelling. "Life Stories: African American Voices That Teach Us All" focuses on oral storytelling and its importance to the community. Visitors can walk down a "street" listening to stories from different neighborhood spots such as a taxi, a church, and a barbershop.

Though there are plenty of learning opportunities, there is no shortage of fun at this museum. Kids won't notice where education stops and the enjoyment begins. As a youngster visiting the museum with only an average interest in science, I can remember being fascinated by the science experiments and feeling as if the interactive exhibit (which has since closed to make room for a new science display) was a huge playroom.

3000 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208; (317) 924-5431.


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