Catering to the growing minds of toddlers as well as preteens, kidscommons features three floors of interactive exhibits that introduce basic scientific concepts and kindle creativity. The Gateway Bridge Laser Harp, for example, allows visitors to invent a catchy melody using an instrument made without traditional strings. Meanwhile, a human-sized robotic arm lets kids control a mechanical shoulder, elbow, wrist, and fingers while attempting to perform simple tasks. In addition to a 17-foot climbing wall, the museum hosts a small aquarium that mimics the micro-ecosystem of Indiana creeks and waterways, complete with fish, Hoosier mermaids, and other aquatic lifeforms.
Where prospectors once used the running waters of a river to search their hauls for gems and gold, Copperhead Creek Gem Mining Company employs a winding wooden sluice. Deputized geologists shovel scoops of raw material sourced from 12 mines into wire mesh sifters, allowing the current to carry off the dirt and reveal the colorful stones that lie within. The company also offers bags of mining rough that are likely to contain fossils and arrowheads, along with geodes that visitors can crack at home by using a hammer or throwing them really hard against a tree.
Named one of the 50 Reasons to Love Bloomington by Bloom magazine and one of the nation's top 25 science centers by Parents magazine, WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology invites visitors of all ages to discover how exhilarating science can be. Between a two-story interior and an outdoor WonderGarden, the museum flaunts more than 50 hands-on science activities. A range of exhibits bring youngsters face-to-face with scientific principles in such attractions as the two-story Grapevine Climber climbing maze, the Bubble-Airium’s cloudball machine, and Water Works' ball launcher. Over in the Fitzgerald Hall of Natural Science, live amphibians and insects crawl around settings that mimic their natural habitats. For children aged 6 and younger, the George & Evelyn Brabson Discovery Garden grants youthful scientific inquiry through live animal displays, the Magnet Wall, and a tree house. The museum also hosts regular special events.
The three-night Big Game package catapults fans into a football frenzy with pregame events, overnight sleeping quarters, and game-day views of every crucial play, crushing hit, and halftime high note. Guests can tackle pregame jitters and pillows at the Clarion Hotel or Comfort Inn, both of which boast access to indoor pools, hot breakfasts, high-speed Internet, and long, carpeted hallways fit for agility-based combine training. Also before kickoff, an immersive fan event whets gridiron appetites with autograph sessions, kids' football clinics, interactive displays, and one of the largest known football memorabilia shows on earth.
Chronicling the history of the Howard Shipyard, the Howard Steamboat Museum displays a plethora of steamboat artifacts within a 22-room Romanesque-revival mansion that was built in 1894. Visitors to the Howard mansion step into the nineteenth century, as they can admire original furnishings, brass chandeliers, stained-glass windows, intricate carvings, and primitive steam-powered laptop computers. While walking through the preserved halls, patrons have access to a collection of exhibits, including detailed full- and half-hull models, as well as more than 4,000 original photographs and paintings. Inspect the original paddlewheel from The Delta Queen, study artifacts taken directly from the Robert E. Lee and the Natchez, or browse the gift shop for the ideal present for a seafarer.
As dawn breaks over the campsite, soldiers begin stirring in their tents. Some tend to breakfasts over campfires while others see to the artillery. It's a scene straight from a Revolutionary War encampment—and that's exactly the way the reenactors intended it. Each year, roughly 275 of them flock to Locust Grove to camp out for two days, each of which ends with an artfully staged mock battle.
But when visitors come to the 18th Century Market Fair, they won't just find battle awaiting them. Top-notch craftsmen and artisans also roam the grounds, hawking replicas of 18th-century military and household items. "It's all very reminiscent of the type of market days they would have had during this time period," says Locust Grove's program director, Mary Beth Williams. Cooks dish up stews, pies, and cornbread alongside wine, ales, and apple cider. Nearby, families and historical buffs alike cheer on jugglers, watch as women prepare meals in the colonial kitchen, and listen to live music. And it's not just adults and time travelers creating the historical scene. "There's a lot of re-enactors of all ages," Mary Beth says. "I think it's particularly fun for kids to see other kids running around in period costume."
The fair's grounds lend to the historical accuracy. William and Lucy Clark Croghan built Locust Grove in 1790, on 55 acres of rolling land. To this day, their original Federal-style house remains, with its separate kitchen, icehouse, spring house, and barn. Over the years, Locust Grove was inhabited by Revolutionary War commander George Rogers Clark and served as a stopping point for Lewis and Clark as they walked across America as part of an early Nike ad campaign.