Rainy day blues got you down? Go to one of Bloomington's indoor kiddie hot spots.
1. The Monroe County Public Library has many rainy day resources. They have ongoing children's programs, a small kid room with play things and new friends to meet, as well as a great collection of books, videos, puzzles, and toys to check out.
2. Fountain Square Mall is an indoor place little kids love. There is a waterfall and a glass elevator, as well as several spots with tables and chairs for an indoor picnic lunch. Also, the parking garage is connected to the mall by a sky walk that offers some cheap thrills for any preschooler who likes to feel big by looking down on the cars driving by.
3. Monroe County Historical Museum offers lots of interesting exhibits of local interest. The stuffed bear can scare some of the littler ones, but the 19th century school room and cabin are fun to look at and even pretend in.
4. Mathers Museum is a place where kids can learn about other cultures in interactive ways. There is a play area for younger kids and more sophisticated exhibits for older ones. Mathers also hosts special events for children throughout the year.
5. IU Art Museum. Even little kids like to look at art, though sometimes it's a bit challenging for Mama to keep them contained. A Caveat about this museum: they won't let you take your baby back pack in as a way to control your toddler, for fear of exhibits being knocked around by it. Even still, if yours are a calm bunch, this could be a great outing on a drizzly day. (This is where my children and I first saw ancient coins, including those mentioned in Scripture. How fun to remember the widow's mite and the coin we're to render to Caesar, and the denarius in the fish's mouth at this secular school's art museum!)
6. Lilly Library. This is definitely for the older kids, but if you want to see what a Gutenberg press looks like or see a copy of a Bible printed on one, a walk through the lobby of the Lily is a great outing (and it's just across the street from the art museum).
7. McDonald's Playland at 4499 W. State Road, between Bloomington and Ellettsville, is an indoor playground for those days when sipping coffee while your preschoolers are exercising seems like a good idea.
8. Wonderlab is Bloomington's fabulous science museum for kids. Unlike all of the free or nearly free resources on this page, Wonderlab costs some money, but a year membership is so very worth it. (If you can't afford the $93/year family membership, ask a Christmas-gift-buying grandparent to forego the toys that get stepped on and break anyway, and instead buy the family a year's pass. Everytime you visit, you can remind your kids of what a great gift Grampy and Grammy got them.) The best part of the year membership, which pays for itself with four visits for a family of five, is that Wonderlab belongs to the Association of Science and Technology Centers, and your Wonderlab membership is honored at other museums around the country. We've spent a packed weekend in Chicago without paying any museum fees.
9. IU's Greenhouse. Where else are your kids going to see lots of tropical plants, huge indoor goldfish, and venus fly traps? Parking can be tough to come by, so you might have to hike a bit from your car to get to the greenhouse.
10. Banneker Community Center. They have a good play space upstairs, prefect for playgroups to meet in.
11. SRSC Family Fun night, second Friday of the month, 7-9pm. The IU gym opens its doors to Bloomington families once a month, for an evening of playing, swimming, making crafts, and eating snacks provided by Bloomingfoods, our local healthy food market. You can sign up for monthly reminders of this event at their website.
It's a gorgeous day and your back yard has lost its charm. Head on out for some Bloomington outdoor fun.
1. Swing! Bloomington Parks are everywhere. Our favorites are Lower Cascades Park and Olcott Park. On Tuesdays, from 10-12 a Play group meets of CGS women and their children at Karst Farm Park throughout the summer.
2. Hike! Some Hiking Trails are right here in the city, and others take a fairly short drive to get to. For nearby woods you can hike through, visit Griffy Lake and Winslow Woods Park. Also, try Cedar Bluff Nature Preserve and Leonard Springs Nature Park. See the road trip list below for what to do on more elaborate days.
3. Canoe! Rent a canoe for cheap ($6/hr) at Griffy Lake.
4. Bike! If you are uncomfortable riding your bike with your kid trailing behind on busy streets, you might like to hit one of Bloomington's paved trails. Southside offers the Clear Creek Trail, a 2.4 paved loop perfect for biking or roller blading or stroller pushing. The city has just opened a very exciting (to moms who push strollers) B-line trail that runs through downtown, passed Wonderlab and Bloomingfoods. If you are more gutsy, and don't mind fighting a bit of car traffic, look at this map, especially designed for Bloomington bicyclists.
5. Swim! Lake swimming is nearby at Monroe County Lake. If you'd rather swim in a pool, you have your choice of Bryan Park Pool, Mills Pool, and the IU outdoor pool. Bryan Park pool is the nicest for small children, because they have a wonderul tots pool called Limestone Lagoon. CGS women and their children meet at Mills pool on the west side during the summer on Thursdays from 3-5. Come join us!
6. Eat! Picnic spots and outdoor grills are at nearly every Bloomington park. For some really good locally grown food, visit the Saturday morning Farmer's Market or pick some of your own strawberries (late May-early June) or blueberries (July-August) at Bray's You-Pick Farm, near Crane Military Base. This summer, there U-pick hours are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Satrudays, 7a.m.-1p.m. Apples are best during September down at Apple Acres (9104 State Road 37 (812) 279-9721), between Bedford and Mitchell.
Put something in the crock pot, grab your diaper bag, pack some lunches, and get out of Dodge! Here's a list of the best day trips, most less than an hour from home.
1. Indianapolis Zoo. Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh my. (plus Komodo Dragons for the summer of 2009).
2. Indianapolis Children's Museum. Rated the best children's museum anywhere.
3. Terre Haute Children's Museum. (warning: because of the close proximity to Wonderlab, the Terre Haute museum does not honor the ASTC pass)
6. Nashville, IN . Central Indiana's answer to Pidgen Forge.
7. Gus Grissom Museum. Local boy becomes astronaut.
8. Bray's Blueberry U-Pick Farm, near Crane Military Base.
9. Apple Acres, (9104 State Road 37 (812) 279-9721), between Bedford and Mitchell..
10. Bluespring Caverns. Central Indiana's answer to Carlsbad Caverns.
11. On any given weekend, you can visit one of the many fairs and festivals that occur around the state. For a month-by-month calendar of events in Indiana, see this page.
12. Go letterboxing. (a plug for my favorite cheap and fun family hobby).