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Family Fun in Indy

Trees in the Limelight for Fall Fun

Take the Time to Enjoy the Beauty of Fall

October 01, 2010
It's show time! From bright yellow to fiery red, leaves are lighting up the trees throughout Central Indiana.

Visions of the brilliantly colored rolling hills of Brown County and our beautiful state parks tend to top the list of places we think of visiting when it comes to fall foliage. But don't overlook what sits in our own back yard. While peak color time fluctuates, the second week in October tends to be Mother Nature's favorite time around Indianapolis. The city has some beautiful parks with unique attributes that could make that perfect afternoon or weekend stroll come alive with beautiful colors.

This first suggestion will no doubt blow your mind; but, hear me out – there is a method to my madness when I suggest Crown Hill Cemetery. In addition to some of the colorful characters buried there (including a President, three Vice Presidents and John Dillinger) there is a wide variety of colorful trees. Crown Hill was built on a tree orchard and there are over 100 different species making it a great place to pick up a leaf or two for your scrapbook collection. While checking out the tombstones and trees, you can point out that the dogwood tree was once used to make daggers and its bark was an ingredient in toothpaste! Crown Hill is the nation's third largest cemetery filled with plenty of history as well to make it a leaf and learn tour. Go to www.crownhillhf.org for a downloadable map and more information on guided tours.

You can make a day of it by crossing the street to the Indianapolis Museum of Art's 100 Acres. With a 152 acre campus, the IMA has gardens, nature and art at its finest in one convenient location. The new park specifically features a 35 acre lake lined with several kinds of trees and a beautiful Welcome Center that was inspired by a deteriorating leaf. While the kids take a potty break, you can look up through the alternating planks of wood and Plexiglass as if they were the veins of a leaf through which rays of sunlight shine.

Another great place to spread out a blanket and have a picnic is at one of the regional parks with their scenic views, lakes, rivers and ponds. Holiday Park on Spring Mill Road (on the west bank of the White River) features unique ruins from the former St. Paul building in New York sitting on Greek columns. The kneeling figures, called the Races of Men, represent a white, black, and Asian who labored in unity. Just behind the sculpture are 26 columns (10 feet tall) that were obtained from a convent. This 94 acre park also contains more than 800 species of plants.

Garfield Park on Shelby Street is the oldest park in the city and has a 2 1/2 acre Victorian-style sunken garden. Three lovely fountains grace the grounds adding architectural interest to the outstanding gardens surrounded by beautiful maturing trees. The conservatory also features a 7,500 square foot Amazon River Region Tropical Rainforest with a 15 foot waterfall and hundreds of Central and South American plant species. There is a minimal fee of $2 to visit the conservatory.

Eagle Creek Park on the North West side is one of the largest municipal parks in the country with 1,400 acres of water and 3,900 acres of dry land activities, including a wonderful Earth Discovery Nature center. In October, it will feature a Nature Discovery Program with guided nature walks, native plants, weird bugs, live animals and environmental education. The fee is $5 for a car or $3 if you are walking or cycling. Go to www.indyparks.org to find out about all of the city parks and their amenities.

Heading to the east side of town, you will find plenty of foliage at Fort Harrison State Park, as well as interesting history. The 1,700-acre park features walking and jogging trails, in addition to fishing access to Fall Creek and two national historic districts. The former Citizen's Military Training Camp, Civilian Conservation Corps camp and World War II prisoner of war camp is preserved at the park headquarters and visitors can now check out the Museum of 20th Century Warfare. There are also guided horseback tours or pony rides ($16-21 for the trail rides and $3.50 for the pony rides). Fishing (fall and winter) is also available and the park office sells the necessary state fishing permit. In winter, ice fishing is available. Fall Creek runs about 3.5 miles inside the park and visitors are likely to see everything from deer to frogs, beavers, turtles and squirrels. www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2982.htm

And there is a helpful tool you can use from now until November 13th — Leaf Cams. These cameras are positioned at three different places in Indiana this year. They are Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, IN, another in Brown County State Park and the third will flash foliage from the IMA's 100 Acres. All you have to do is log on to your computer and type www.visitindiana.com/leafcam to have the colors fill your screen.

It's always sad when the curtain falls on Mother Nature's show. So, here's an easy project for the family to preserve some of the memories. Collect some of your favorite leaves during your trip. The trick to keeping the colors sharp is to remove the moisture as quickly as possible. Press the leaves between paper towels or the pages of the book and let sit for ten days. When the leaves are dry and flat, put them between two sheets of waxed paper and gently press with a medium hot iron moving slowly over entire surface for about 10 seconds. And voila, you've saved the autumn colors for another day.

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Kimberly Harms has four children (5-24) along with a grandchild and is the associate director of media relations at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, www.visitindy.com. You can follow her on Twitter @kimberlyharms.

Tags: Enrichment, Local

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