Family Fun In and Around Evansville
Visitors who find their way to Evansville are bound to discover more than they imagined in this friendly, affordable city.
With a vibrant riverfront park and a wealth of art and entertainment attractions, the Evansville area offers a little something for everyone – from a 2,700-passenger riverboat casino to a 200-acre nature preserve with walking trails and free family programs.
The city’s revitalized downtown area flanks the scenic Ohio River, and Casino Aztar’s Riverfront Pavilion houses shops, restaurants, hotels and an executive conference center.
Here’s just a sampling of the region’s many offerings.
Fun for the Family
Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden is a major family attraction, with more than 700 animals on 50 scenic acres of rolling hills on Evansville’s northwest side. One of the zoo’s most popular exhibits – Amazonia, Forest of Riches – features a lush tropical indoor rainforest setting with a waterfall, suspension bridge and dozens of rainforest residents, including toucans, howler monkeys, porcupines, tarantulas, snakes and jaguars.
Plenty of woodland creatures can be seen
in the wild at Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, a National Natural Landmark. Managed by the nonprofit Wesselman Nature Society, the preserve offers free weekend and evening activities including nature hikes, story and craft times, raptor shows, bird-banding workshops and a sustainability series. The nature center building is scheduled to be closed through November 2010 for a major renovation project, but the preserve’s six-plus miles of walking trails are open to visitors.
Dynamic, hands-on exhibits and programs make the Koch Family Children’s Museum of Evansville (affectionately called cMoe) a must-visit place for families. Located in a beautifully renovated building that used to house the former Downtown Central Library, cMoe includes 18,000-square-feet of exhibits with four main galleries and a multimedia theater.
Evansville also offers a full calendar of outdoor festivals. In autumn, the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival is a weeklong event each October that draws more than 150,000 people. The main attraction is the food, which includes such exotic fare as chocolate-covered grasshoppers and alligator stew.
Musing About Museums
The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science – the oldest and most established cultural institution in the state – is an anchor of the downtown riverfront. Featuring a planetarium, permanent and changing art exhibits, a full-scale Art Deco train and much more, this venerable museum is in the midst of a $15 million capital expansion project.
Also downtown on the riverfront is the last World War II-era LST (which stands for “landing ship, tank”) still in operation in the world: the USS LST-325 Ship Memorial. The tank is permanently docked in Evansville and serves as a museum with tours led by military veterans and trained volunteers.
One of the nation’s first housing projects was built in Evansville in 1938, and visitors to the Evansville African American Museum can explore its history. The museum includes a video presentation, a scale model of the Lincoln Gardens community and a refurbished original one-room apartment, as well as trophies and memorabilia from sports teams in the days before integration.
Heart of the Arts
Just a 30-minute drive from Evansville along the Wabash River, the small town of New Harmony offers a change of pace and an artsy, historic vibe. Originally founded as a utopian site in the early 1800s, New Harmony features modern art galleries and studios that blend seamlessly with the town’s historic past. A spacious visitors’ center, called the Athenaeum, offers an orientation film, exhibits about New Harmony history, brochures, maps and an observation deck.