The third leg in my jaunt around Hamilton County, hosted by Sarah Buckner at the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, led my family to visit Conner Prairie, an interactive history park located in Fishers. I must confess that when Sarah suggested we go to Conner Prairie, I was a little worried, thinking that my kids — ages 6, 10 and 12 — would be bored. These are kids who love video games and computers, skateboards and swimming pools. I was afraid a history lesson wouldn’t really register in the fun column with them. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
While I met up with Conner Prairie’s PR gal Angela Tuell, Mike and the kids busied themselves in the Museum Center. Annie and Charlie made paper and Robbie built a Lincoln Log cabin that we had to tear him away from to explore the rest of the museum. Once we promised he could come back to build again, he was all set to head out to 1836 Prairietown.
First stop was the Animal Encounters Barn, where we came face to face baby chicks, a donkey, sheep and a cow. Annie held the baby chicks and tried to convince me to let her have one for a pet. Robbie brushed the cow. Charlie was in a hurry to leave the animals to try out the stilts he remembered from a class field trip.
As we left the Animal Encounters Barn, my cell phone rang. Let me tell you, I felt pretty weird talking on my cell phone in a village that is set in 1836. I was waiting for one of the costumed, in-period characters to ask me about it, but no one did. So we headed on into the Prairietown Village. My fears about the kids being bored were completely unfounded.
Charlie found the stilts and tried with limited success to walk on them. He had better luck with the stick and ring game, quickly mastering the technique of rolling the ring down the shaft of the stick and then keeping the momentum of the ring going along the ground, and even around a circular path. Mrs. Curtis, wife of the blacksmith, was having a great time teaching all of the kids (and a few adults) how to play the game.
We stopped in at Barker’s Pottery Shop and Whitaker’s Store, too, taking in all the differences from our 2009 grocery and department stores. Funny, I couldn’t talk the kids into visiting the schoolhouse. Guess they were afraid of either the homework or the 1836 discipline practices.
At Dr. Cambell’s home, we were all put to work, picking fresh mint from the garden just off the porch. I told the kids how my mom used to grow mint when I was a little girl and how we would pick off a leaf and just chew on it. They gave it a try and quickly declared an allegiance to bubble gum.
Outside of McClure’s Carpenter Shop, we watched with great intent as a hired hand readied trees to become part of a lumber shed for Mr. McClure, the carpenter.
Charlie’s request to swing the big axe was denied, but he did get to sit and use another sharp-enough-to-make-your-mother-nervous tool.
After her turn with the tool (Maybe it was called a draw axe? Maybe I’m making that up?) Annie went in to visit with Mrs. McClure, who gave her a lesson in weaving.
We were so busy in 1836 Prairietown — other stops included the Conner House and the Golden Eagle Inn where pigs went running by us across the road — that we forgot to watch the clock so we could get over to the Lenape Indian Village in time to participate in the tomahawk throwing contest.
In fact, there is so much to do at Conner Prairie, that we could have spent the entire day there. We just have to go back to see Liberty Corner, which is set in 1886 — 50 years later than Prairietown, the Lenape Indian Village and of course the 1859 Balloon Voyage, which was grounded on the day of our visit due to strong winds. The tethered, helium-filled balloon can take up to 20 guests at a time 350 feet in the air to simulate the launch of the first successful airmail delivery by the U.S. Postal Service, which happened to take place in Lafayette, Indiana.
Conner Prairie offers interactive historical events year-round. (For a list of all special events, click here.) From the ride of the Headless Horseman in October, to the Gingerbread Village in December, to the Follow the North Star underground railroad experience in November and April to the Marsh Symphony on the Prairie summer concert series, there are countless reasons to visit Conner Prairie, no matter what month it is.
So I’m putting a family membership on our Christmas wish list when my in-laws ask what to get the kids.Various memberships are available, starting at $45 per year, though some experiences do require special ticket purchases. Click here for more membership information.
And stay tuned for my wrap-up our date night to Symphony on the Prairie and our sunset flight in the 1859 balloon voyage!