Location: Fishers, Indiana
Type of Venue: Off-site, living-history museum
Nearby Accommodations: Hampton Inn and Suites Indianapolis-Fishers
In 1823, William Conner, an Indiana trader and interpreter, built a grand home for himself and his family on a hill overlooking the floodplain that would soon become known as Conner Prairie. The land changed hands several times and was eventually purchased by Eli Lilly, president of Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceutical company. Lilly had a penchant for preservation, believing in the importance of experiencing history rather than just reading about it in textbooks, and he quickly took to restoring the 111-year-old structure.
Lilly opened Conner Prairie in 1934, inviting visitors to come explore the grounds, but it wasn’t until 1970 that Conner Prairie took on a new form as a living-history museum, where staff dress, act and speak in 1800s style. Today, friends and families of all ages come together at Connor Prairie to interact with one another while experiencing history and science in a stunning setting of more than 800 acres.
Throughout the years, the organization’s mission statement has remained the same: to be “a unique historic place that inspires curiosity and fosters learning by providing engaging and individualized experiences for everyone.” The organization fulfills that mission every day by offering animal encounters, historic demonstrations, hands-on workshops, once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as an 1859 hot-air-balloon voyage and more.
For groups looking to experience this living-history museum, Conner Prairie offers multiple meeting and event spaces throughout the property that can host up to 200 guests. As Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute affiliate, Connor Prairie gives meeting groups the rare opportunity to experience modern amenities while gathering in a lovingly preserved space that brings history to life.
The meeting spaces at Conner Prairie are spread throughout the property’s 800 acres and include such wide-ranging options as rooms with uninhibited views of the open prairie and a private home set in the woods. The Overlook Room, for up to 250 guests, offers panoramic windows and a large fireplace. Woodland Hall can be divided into two separate spaces: Woodland Hall North can hold up to 200 guests, Woodland Hall South can hold up to 125 guests, and the two spaces combined can hold up to 300 guests. Other spaces include the Featherston Barn for up to 112 guests, the Prairie House and the Hilltop Pavilion for up to 125 guests each, the Bayt Pavilion for up to 315 guests, the Lilly Theater for up to 100 guests, and the Delaware and Wapahani classrooms for up to 33 guests each.
The team at Conner Prairie works exclusively with MBP Distinctive Catering in Indianapolis, where menus are customized to meet each group’s specific needs. The caterers have been serving the surrounding Indianapolis area for more than 30 years, crafting menus for breakfast, brunch, lunch, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and late-night snacks. They can create picnics for groups looking to dine outdoors or craft culinary journeys that take place throughout the night indoors. Their desserts often leave lasting impressions on their clients; options like their decadent S’more Entremet take the cake. Alcohol is available.
Conner Prairie offers nonprofit pricing for eligible groups and can help arrange custom experiences for meeting groups. A few of its regular offerings include the Historic Challenges, which put guests to the test to see if they have what it takes to survive life on the prairie while competing in 19th-century games and scavenger hunts. Another option, Picnics on the Prairie, includes period entertainment such as caricaturists, magicians and live bingo callers. Groups can rent the entire park for larger events or book a VIP experience that will give their guests exclusive perks like reserved parking, private dinner buffets and access to select attractions during Conner Prairie festival weekends.
Before and After Events
Before and after meetings and events, guests can take part in any of the offerings at this 800-acre living-history playground. Meeting attendees get Conner Prairie admission and can join in on an 1859 Balloon Voyage, take a guided group tour or book a private tour, take hikes in the woods and enjoy the seasonal activities that take place at Conner Prairie throughout the year. The organization even has an Apple Store where guests can purchase treats like hand-dipped caramel apples, cider slushes, apple doughnuts and pies during September and October.