Brookfield Zoo Goes Blue for Autism Awareness

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2014, one in 68 children are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Although not replacing this official estimate, a new government survey of parents reported the number to be 1 in 45 children, ages 3 through 17, have been diagnosed with autism, which indicates there may be more prevalence of autism in the United States as once thought to be.

Autism-Speaks-logo

To bring awareness of one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country, Brookfield Zoo is partnering with Autism Speaks for the annual Zoos Go Blue Campaign on Saturday, April 2, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. To commemorate the day, the water in the zoo’s Roosevelt Fountain will be dyed blue and there will be blue flags decorating the park’s grounds.

Brookfield-Zoo-Fountain-Autism

In light of research that has shown that the presence of an animal can significantly increase positive social behaviors among children with autism spectrum disorder, the animal care staff will be on hand to provide special Zoo Chats. These informal talks will allow families to enjoy up-close experiences with some of the animals. Also, joining in the activities will be representatives from Autism Speaks, who will have booths set up at both the zoo’s north and south gates distributing information and answering questions.

Throughout the day, there will be special activities for families who have children on the autism spectrum. Youngsters can participate in a craft activity at the Hamill Family Play Zoo. The zoo’s Carousel will feature a quiet hour from 11:00 a.m. to noon, which will allow families to ride the popular attraction without loud music. In addition, at 1:00 p.m., there will be a sensory-friendly Dolphins In Action presentation. And, there will be a designated area in the Riverside Room, located in the lower level of BZ Red Hots, where families can go for some quiet time.

The zoo also has several BZ Care Kits that can be checked out during a zoo visit. These kits include noise-reducing headphones, hard copies of visual schedules, autism stickers, and safety alert badges and ID bracelets in case a child gets separated from his or her family.

How will you support Autism Awareness on April 2nd?

Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids #VisitIndy

This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Indianapolis with my family.  Considering I live in the Chicago area – and it’s only a 3-hour drive from the Windy City – I’m surprised that I’ve never ventured to Indy before.  Little did I know that Indy had so much to offer families visiting the area.  From parks and museums to festivals and fantastic food, Indy has it all!  I broke it down to my family’s Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids – do you have a favorite spot that I’m missing?

Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids

5. Indianapolis Firefighter’s Museum

Firefighters Museum_Indy

This small museum is sure to please any fire truck enthusiast in your household.  The upstairs is designed like a real, working fire house and you’re introduced to everything from the beds the firefighter’s sleep in, to the uniforms that they wear, and the equipment they use.  Located in the trendy Mass Ave. Arts District, there’s plenty to see if you take a stroll afterwards.  Have some froyo right across the street at YoguLatte.  Their coconut mocha latte is delish!

4. Indianapolis Zoo

Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo is a must-see in Indy.  Their new International Orangutan Exhibit was completed this summer, and a new aerial cable ride (not yet open when we visited, but check the park for current availability) will allow guests to view the animals like never before.  We saw orangutans climbing the structure and they are mesmerizing to watch.  The zoo’s Dolphin Adventure Pavilion is gorgeous too and their interactive dolphin show is very entertaining.

3. Rhythm! Discovery Center

Rhythm Discovery Center_Indy

My 3-year-old had a blast at the Rhythm! Discovery Center, and I’m not gonna lie – I totally did too!  We must’ve banged on every drum, shaken every tambourine, and played every xylophone in the place!  Probably our favorite parts of the museum were the sound-proof rooms that allowed you to play a real drum set and be as loud as you wanted to be – we felt like rock stars!  Handy Tip: Visit this museum late in the day.  We arrived about an hour and a half before closing and had the entire museum to ourselves.  I’m sure it’s very noisy (and migraine-inducing) at peak times.

2. Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum

Conner Prairie_Indy

Visiting the Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum was, by far, the highlight of our trip – for me at least.  We also had two teenagers with us, and they would undoubtedly say the same.  The historic aspect drew me in, but there’s so much for kids to experience here too.  For one, their indoor Discovery Station is designed for younger kids and allows plenty of room for free-play, exploring, crafting and climbing.  The Civil War exhibit even has an outdoor splash pad (open Memorial Day through Labor Day) and an indoor play area with a large climbing structure.  All that is really fun for kids, but it’s the people at Conner Prairie that really make this visit worthwhile.  They never break character, and you really feel like you’re living in the 1800’s.  I cannot say enough good things about this place – get there if you can!

1. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Childrens Museum of Indianapolis

What visit to Indy with kids would be complete without a trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis?  The almost 500,000-sf facility is the largest children’s museum in the world and is visited by more than 1.2 million people each year.  We love visiting children’s museums and I can honestly say that we experienced things here that we haven’t at any other children’s museum we’ve seen.  Where else can you let your imagination run wild and run a Chinese restaurant , slide down a long Great Wall of China slide, be transported to the land of dinosaurs, or create a colorful sculpture – all in one place?  Only at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

HOTEL BONUS: Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel

Marriott North Indianapolis_Room

Image courtesy of Marriott

Staying at the Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel was a no-brainer for us.  With two teenagers in tow – that had NO interest in visiting some attractions with my preschooler – it was important to me to be located near a place that they would find interest in.  Thank goodness for Keystone at the Crossing, a shopping mall located within walking distance of the hotel!  The hotel itself was great too – friendly staff, clean rooms, and a nice swimming pool are all things I look for that will be sure to please my family, and the Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel did not disappoint.  Be aware, however, that this hotel is located about 25 minutes from the downtown area so plan your excursions accordingly.

GOOD EATS BONUS: Great Restaurants in Indy

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I honestly didn’t think I’d be overly-pleased with the food in Indy, but I’m so glad to say that I was wrong.  Breakfast at Café Patachou was one of the highlights of my dining experience with their fresh and healthy food (and fabulous coffee too!), dining outside at Iara’s Italian Restaurant with my whole family was fun – and their portion sizes were huge – we definitely did not leave hungry, Shapiro’s Delicatessen was a delicious surprise, and Arni’s Restaurant probably had the best pizza I’ve ever had – and I’m from Chicago so that’s saying a lot!  You won’t be disappointed with all the restaurant options in Indy!

As you can tell, we had a fabulous weekend in Indy – and I am confident that we will be back.  It would be impossible for me to list all the fun things to do with kids in Indy, and I feel like we just hit the tip of the iceberg on our weekend stay.  I wish we had planned on a weeklong visit – there’s still so much to see.

What about you – have you ever visited Indy?

For more information on the Indianapolis area, connect with Visit Indy!

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Disclosure: My family was invited to visit Indianapolis by the Indianapolis CVB, Visit Indy, and were provided with complimentary admission to many attractions and a hotel stay.  I was not compensated for this post.  I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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