Many of the museums in Indianapolis are open to the public on select days for free, including the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art and the museums of the landmark Indiana War Memorial Plaza. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.Lockerbie Square Historic District
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Lockerbie Square Historic District is Indianapolis' oldest preserved residential neighborhood, named in honor of residential planner Jannett Smith Lockerbie McOuat and her father George Murray Lockerbie. The district dates back to the mid-19th century and was formerly known as Germantown due to a large influx of German residents beginning in 1849. Since 1973, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, preserving beautiful Queen Anne, Italianate, and Federal-style homes and buildings. Notable buildings within the district include the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home, which is open to the public as a living history home museum Tuesdays through Sundays. Walking tour information for the district is provided by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, showcasing 25 historic residences and five modern structures in the area specifically designed to complement historic buildings.
2.The Antique Fan Museum
© The Antique Fan Museum
The Antique Fan Museum is a free-admission museum in Zionsville, showcasing a collection of more than 2,000 antique and historic fan models. The museum was originally opened in Wichita, Kansas in 1997 by the Antique Fan Collectors Museum and relocated to the Indianapolis area in 2009 with the help of ceiling fan manufacturer Fanimation founder and AFCA member Tom Frampton. Today, the museum is operated within the Fanimation facility in Bennett Technology Park, housing collections of fans from both the original AFCA collection and Frampton's personal historic fan collection, including battery, water, steam, and electric powered fans and handheld fans dating back to the 1880s. The museum is open to the public Mondays through Fridays during business hours, with parking available within the adjacent technology park.
10983 Bennett Parkway, Zionsville, IN 46077, Phone: 317-733-4113
3.The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art
© The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art
The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art is Indianapolis' only dedicated museum displaying the works of emerging contemporary artists, open to the public daily during exhibitions from 9:00am to 7:00pm. The free-admission museum was originally founded in 2001 as a temporary traveling "museum without walls," moving into its current gallery space at the Alexander Hotel at CityWay in 2014. It is scheduled to move into a new permanent gallery home in mid-2019, located on the site of the city's former Ford assembly plant. New gallery exhibitions are rotated approximately every two months, showcasing the works of local, regional, and national artists, with exhibits often developed by emerging curators. Visitors should check the museum's exhibit schedule to confirm exhibit dates, as the museum is closed to the public between exhibitions. Metered street parking is available nearby and is free to the public on Sundays.
216 E South Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204, Phone: 317-790-5757
4.The Indiana State Police Museum
© The Indiana State Police Museum
The Indiana State Police Museum preserves the history and chronology of the Indiana State Police from the organization's founding in 1933 through the present day. The free-admission museum is open to the public Mondays through Fridays during business hours, with additional hours offered on the third Saturday afternoon of each month. Visitors can explore one-of-a-kind police force artifacts, including an historic 1938 Chevrolet police car, preserved police uniforms from the 20th century, and artifacts related to the history and infamy of John Dillinger and the Brady Gang. In addition to self-guided museum exploration, groups of visitors may explore the museum as part of free guided tours with advance reservations.
8660 E 21st St, Indianapolis, IN 46219, Phone: 317-899-8293
5.The Rolls-Royce James A. Allison Exhibition Center
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The Rolls-Royce James A. Allison Exhibition Center is a 6,000-square-foot museum display center operated in downtown Indianapolis as part of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust. The exhibition center showcases engine technologies related to the history of the Allison Engine Company, which was acquired by Rolls-Royce in 1995. Engines on display used in civil and military vehicles, aircraft, and ships include engines used to power historic and significant models such as the North American P-51 Mustang, the C-139J Super Hercules, and Embraer ERJ jets. Interactive video modules are offered at each exhibit, incorporating historic and STEM information related to engines. The museum is free and open to the public Tuesdays through Fridays during the morning and afternoon hours, though visitor donations are encouraged to fund new exhibits and museum programming.
450 S Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46225, Phone: 317-230-4882
6.The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park
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The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park is a 100-acre public art park located on the campus of Newfields, formerly known as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which is one of the largest and oldest encyclopedic art museums in the United States. Though the museum requires ticketed admission, the Art and Nature Park is free and open to the public daily, located along the eastern side of the White River. As one of the nation's largest museum art parks, the park is home to both permanent and temporary site-specific art installations, including works by contemporary artists such as Kendall Buster, Type A, Los Carpinteros, and Jeppe Hein. Other park features include a 35-acre lake, a nesting platform for birds of prey, and large plantings of spring ephemeral wildflowers.
1850 West 38th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46228, Phone: 317-923-1331
© Indianapolis Artsgarden
Indianapolis Artsgarden is one of downtown Indianapolis' most prominent landmarks, serving as a public pedestrian connector and artistic display venue crossing the intersection of the city's Illinois and Washington Streets. The Artsgarden was constructed in 1995 by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut and Kuhn Architects, the developers of the adjacent Circle Centre Mall, and showcases more than 250 annual public cultural and musical performances within its seven-story enclosed glass dome. A Cultural Concierge desk serves as an official Indianapolis visitor center, offering brochures and performances schedules for area attractions and arts organizations. Visual arts exhibits are also displayed regularly, with a focus on the works of emerging and student artists throughout central Indiana.
110 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, Phone: 317-631-3301
8.The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum
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The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum is a free-admission museum located within the lower level of Indianapolis' Soldiers and Sailors monument. The 9,000-square-foot museum is named in honor of American soldier and pharmacist Eli Lilly, the founder of the Eli Lilly and Company pharmaceutical company. It showcases exhibits related to the impact that the American Civil War had on the people and culture of Indiana, featuring battlefield artifacts related to the war and personal letters and diaries of soldiers and war-era Indiana residents. The museum is open to the public Wednesdays through Saturdays between May and October, with limited operation hours during the winter months. Visitors should note that although the museum is free to enter, a suggested donation is strongly recommended for adult visitors.
431 N. Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, Phone: 317-232-7615
9.The Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument
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The Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument is Indiana's most-recognizable monument, standing more than 284 feet above the city's Monument Circle traffic circle and retail district within Indianapolis' downtown region. The monument was designed by architect Bruno Schmitz and officially dedicated in 1902 following 13 years of construction, intended to honor Indiana soldiers in the American Civil War. Since its dedication, the monument has also come to popularly honor Indiana soldiers in other historical national and international conflicts, serving as the first United States monument dedicated to the everyday soldier. Visitors may ascend to the monument's observation level for a 360-degree view of the city Wednesdays through Sundays during business hours between May and October, with limited operation hours during the winter months.
1 Monument Cir, Indianapolis, IN 46204, Phone: 317-232-7615
10.Indiana War Memorial Museum
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Indiana War Memorial Museum is housed at the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza, a major monument in Indianapolis' downtown honoring veterans of WWI. The memorial is home to the free military museum, which is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays during business hours. Exhibits showcase the state's military history from the Battle of Tippecanoe through the present day, displaying artifacts such as an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, the gallery of the USS Indianapolis, and collections of military firearms and uniforms. More than 400 military flags are also showcased throughout the museum, along with a replica of the state's Liberty Bell.
55 E Michigan St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, Phone: 317-650-9058
11.The Indianapolis Cultural Trail
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The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an eight-mile pedestrian and cycling path spanning throughout Indianapolis' downtown district, connecting the city's neighborhoods and cultural districts and serving as the anchor for the city's greenway system. The trail is maintained by the nonprofit Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Inc. organization and was constructed as a public-private collaboration with support from the City of Indianapolis and the Central Indiana Community Foundation. Today, the landscaped trail connects a number of downtown landmarks, including White River State Park, the Indiana State Capitol, the American Legion Mall, and Monument Circle. It also connects visitors to several other area walking and cycling trails, including the Canal Walk, Monon and Pleasant River Trails, and the White River Greenway.
132 W Walnut St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, Phone: 317-653-1948
12.Indy Reads Books
© Indy Reads Books
Indy Reads Books is one of Indianapolis' premiere independent bookstores, serving as the public enterprise of the nonprofit organization Indy Reads, which strives to improve literacy throughout the Central Indiana region. The store sells children's and adult collections of new and used books, with a program for special ordering nearly any volume that the store does not hold. Each purchase contributes to the organization's mission to foster programming for adult literacy throughout the Indianapolis area. A curated art gallery is also showcased at the bookstore and viewable without purchase. Free public special events are hosted periodically at the bookstore, including poetry slams, author readings and lectures, and live music performances.
911 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46202, Phone: 317-384-1496
13.Concerts on the Canal
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Concerts on the Canal are hosted at the Kruse Family Stardust Terrace at the Indiana History Center, held each Thursday evening throughout the months of June and July. The summer concert series is one of Indianapolis' most popular free public special event series, showcasing local and regional pop and rock acts such as the Cool City Band and My Yellow Rickshaw. Guests are welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages to concerts, though alcoholic beverages must be purchased on site. Free seating is available at the terrace's grassy lawn, with upcharge reservations for table seating. Visitors should note that in the event of inclement weather, concerts are held indoors at the Frank and Katrina Basile Theater on the History Center campus.
450 W Ohio St, Indianapolis, IN 46202, Phone: 317-232-1882
14.Indianapolis City Market
© Indianapolis City Market
Indianapolis City Market is a National Register of Historic Places-listed city market that was originally opened to the public in 1886, remaining one of the city's top urban markets and eateries today. More than 30 local artisan booths are showcased at the market regularly, along with the Original Farmer's Market, which brings local farmers and produce vendors to the market every Wednesday between May and October. Tomlinson Tap Room showcases 19 rotating taps of regional Indiana craft beers, along with a selection of local wines, and serves as a public gathering space at the market to relax and enjoy food from the market's food vendors, including Gomez BBQ. For an additional charge, visitors can take guided tours down into the Romanesque catacombs underneath the market's Whistler Plaza.
222 E Market St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, Phone: 317-634-9266
15.The Downtown Indy Canal Walk
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The Downtown Indy Canal Walk is a popular three-mile walking loop in Indianapolis' downtown district, showcasing historic sites and landmarks connected to the city's downtown canal and 250-acre White River State Park. The walk is a popular route for joggers and cyclists, traversing the city's downtown waterfront at the Indiana Central Canal, which was constructed in the 19th century to connect the Ohio River and Wabash and Erie Canal. Beautiful art and architecture are showcased along the walk, including Convergence, a gateway sculpture designed in 2005 by Urban Artifacts, and Arch, a 20-foot sculpture along the lawn of the Herron School of Art and Design. The Canal Walk provides access to some of the city's top attractions, including the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum, and the NCAA Hall of Champions. For an additional fee, visitors can rent pedal boats or gondolas for exploration of the canal waterway through downtown.
16.The Indiana State Library
© The Indiana State Library
The Indiana State Library is housed within a beautiful historic limestone building in Indianapolis' downtown district, originally constructed in 1934. The library's history extends back to 1825 and today houses an extensive public collection of volumes related to the city's civic and social history, including genealogical records, Indiana history volumes, civic and government documents, and rare books and manuscripts. The limestone and walnut building showcases splendid midcentury American architecture, including impressive stained-glass windows and colorful murals. Visitors are welcome to explore the library's architecture, peruse its volumes, and use services such as its State Data Center, Talking Books Braille Library, and genealogy services.
315 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis, IN 46202, Phone: 317-232-3675
17.The Talbot Street Art Fair
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The Talbot Street Art Fair is one of the most respected fine arts fairs in the United States, taking place each year within the historic Herron-Merton neighborhood in Indianapolis' northside. The festival is Indiana's oldest juried art fair, originally founded in 1956 to showcase the works of 15 area artists and makers. Today, more than 270 artists throughout the central Indiana region and the United States showcase their works across a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, photography, jewelry, and home goods. The festival is open to the public during the morning and afternoon hours over the span of a weekend in mid-June and offers free admission for all visitors.
1600 N Talbot St, Indianapolis, IN 46202, Phone: 317-745-6479
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Indy LaborFest is downtown Indianapolis' annual free-admission Labor Day festival, taking place the Saturday before Labor Day each year on the city's Georgia Street. The event attracts more than 20,000 annual attendees and offers family-friendly fun for visitors of all ages, including live music performances by local and regional popular music acts. Food vendors from throughout the Indianapolis region serve a wide variety of cuisines, including barbecue and ice cream vendors. A Kid's Zone showcases children's attractions such as bounce houses, slides, a zip line, and children's games, with family-friendly crafts and activities available. Visitors are welcome to bring lawn chairs for the duration of the event. In the event of inclement weather, visitors should check the festival's Twitter account for event closure updates.
250 W. Georgia St., Indianapolis, IN 46225
18 Best Free Things to Do in Indianapolis Year Round
- Lockerbie Square Historic District, Photo: Courtesy of Sergey - Fotolia.com
- The Antique Fan Museum, Photo: The Antique Fan Museum
- The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, Photo: The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art
- The Indiana State Police Museum, Photo: The Indiana State Police Museum
- The Rolls-Royce James A. Allison Exhibition Center, Photo: Courtesy of Alskiba - Fotolia.com
- The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, Photo: Courtesy of skymoon13 - Fotolia.com
- Indianapolis Artsgarden, Photo: Indianapolis Artsgarden
- The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, Photo: Courtesy of alon - Fotolia.com
- The Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Indiana War Memorial Museum, Photo: Courtesy of simonwhitehurst - Fotolia.com
- The Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Photo: Courtesy of petunyia - Fotolia.com
- Indy Reads Books, Photo: Indy Reads Books
- Concerts on the Canal, Photo: Courtesy of Astarot - Fotolia.com
- Indianapolis City Market, Photo: Indianapolis City Market
- The Downtown Indy Canal Walk, Photo: Courtesy of Alexey Stiop - Fotolia.com
- The Indiana State Library, Photo: The Indiana State Library
- The Talbot Street Art Fair, Photo: Courtesy of chaolik - Fotolia.com
- Indy LaborFest, Photo: Courtesy of tpap8228 - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.com