When the weather conditions are right — not too windy, not too cold — you will see the Conner Prairie hot air balloon in the sky. It is a familiar, welcoming, orange-and-yellow beacon in Fishers, Indiana, beckoning everyone to the outdoor museum.
Once inside the grounds, you are transported to the 1800s. Peek inside the houses, walk around the park, and you’ll see hoopers, coopers, blacksmiths, bakers, mongers and other tradespeople of old. They are scattered throughout the museum, wearing traditional costume (or clothes, as they would have referred to them back then), working at their respective jobs.
Ask them a question, and they’ll respond with answers that are specific to the time they’re representing. Every now and again, a visitor will try to engage these busy characters in a discussion about current topics. The visitor will ask about cell phones, or the internet, or who the current president is. Anything to try to break the workers from character. But the workers are unflappable; they redirect the conversation skillfully. They won’t be pulled out of the 19th century.
It’s a museum for looky-loos. You are encouraged to peek. There are many beautiful things on display, from a time when objects were built simply and practically and made to last. Even the not-so-beautiful things, such as unswept corners of rooms or cobwebbed window panes, are beautiful in this setting.
Of course, there are animals. Chickens, sheep, cows — the gang’s all here. If you ever wanted to know what an animal looked like during the 1800s, you can find out at Conner Prairie. (Spoiler alert: They looked the same.) A few of the chickens and roosters were cocky. One visitor walked up to the flock to see how close he could get before a disgruntled chicken chased him away.
There are little pockets of solitude here and there at Conner Prairie. Occasionally, you’ll find an empty room to enjoy at your own pace. There are details everywhere at this museum, and it’s nice to be able to explore at your own speed, quietly.
We couldn’t leave without making a stop at the Apple Store, the place to buy caramel apples, apple pies, cider slushies, pumpkin donuts, popcorn and other goodies. It opens in September, right when the leaves just barely start to turn and the apple cravings begin to kick in. It’s only open for a couple of months, so don’t sleep on it. Thankfully, you don’t need to pay admission to access the Apple Store. It’s located off to the side with its own parking area.
13400 Allisonville Rd.