A couple of months ago I started thinking about what we could do once the weather turned colder. We spent the summer and fall visiting parks and enjoying the sunshine, but this mom is NOT a cold weather person. If I could move to Florida for the winter, I would. Unfortunately that is not an option, so I need to find things to keep us busy indoors. The first place I thought of was Rhythm! Discovery Center.
Located in downtown Indianapolis near Circle Centre Mall, Rhythm! is a hidden gem. I think a lot of people either don’t know about it at all, or they think a museum about drums can’t possibly be that interesting unless you are already a drummer. This is definitely not the case. Rhythm! Discovery Center is really inclusive of people of all ages and musical knowledge/ abilities. AND, no matter your age or drumming abilities, making a lot of noise is FUN! And Rhythm! offers plenty opportunities for noise.
Rhythm! gives you the chance to learn the history of percussion. First you are introduced to the different types of percussion: wood, metal, and skin. This also gives you your first chance to make noise: banging the gong. Next, you get to learn more about these three types in an exhibit that tells you about the origins and science behind their different sounds. We loved reading all the signs and particularly enjoyed all the scientific explanations. There are many hands-on areas throughout this exhibit to give the kids a better chance to understand all that science. We loved this. The kids were really able to get into it and make observations about the different sounds. The kids especially loved the area where they could test different mallets and sticks on the same drum to see what sounds each made. I loved how engaged they were and how they didn’t even realize they were getting a whole science lesson. They made hypotheses and tested their theories, then changed some of their ideas based on what they observed. We probably spent an hour just in this area alone. The great thing about this exhibit is that it is big enough to keep kids interested, but small enough that we could go back and forth as we learned new things, re-testing and really taking the time to grasp all the concepts.
Another really interesting area focuses on the use of percussion in film. You can see different instruments used the making of Indiana Jones, which of course was very cool to my adventurous boys. They also have a computer set up where you can play percussion for the Simpsons theme song.
And of course the interactive area! Really there are so many interactive areas throughout the museum that I think we would have been fulfilled even without this. But it was the super amazing icing on the cake, so to speak, for my boys. An entire room filled with shelf upon shelf of percussion instruments! There are bongos and triangles and shakers and pretty much anything you can imagine. This area is especially great for smaller children because they can pull everything down and really explore and make noise. But of course kids of all ages love to do that! There are also two sound-proof rooms with drum sets. These are SO COOL! You can adjust the acoustics to make it sound like you are playing different places (a stadium or a cathedral, for example) and you can record yourself playing! I’m pretty sure we devoted another hour just to that (I got stuck spending a lot of time hitting the “record” and “play” buttons, but they were entertained).
We first discovered Rhythm! not long after it opened, in the winter of 2009/10. At that time my kids were younger and mostly loved the hands-on areas and banging on the drums. Now that they are a little older, they are more able to appreciate some of the historical displays and some of the more complicated ideas about how percussive instruments work and some things that make them so interesting. And, of course, they still love banging on the drums.
Though it’s fairly small, this museum is jammed packed with things to do and can definitely take up a whole afternoon. It can get loud, so keep that in mind if your child has sensory issues or you have a headache that day. Rhythm! Discovery Center is open every day 10:00 – 5:00, except Sunday which is 12:00 – 5:00. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for kids, 5 and under are free. OR you can get a family membership for $60, which gets you in free for an entire year! For all the information, visit their website and www.rhythmdiscoverycenter.org.