Free Things To Do in Indianapolis, IN
What can you do for free in Indianapolis?
Cultural districts, downtown neighborhoods, the Canal Walk
Fairs and festivals
Libraries and other literary events
Yoga and other workouts
Wineries and breweries
No matter what sort of budget you have and where you live, ideas for free things to do are always welcome. Downtown Indianapolis and the greater Indy area offers an extensive range of free attractions and activities from brewery tours to museums to yoga workouts. With a wide selection of kid friendly options, you're sure to find something that fits the bill. You'll be able to keep busy with family and friends just about every week all year round.
[Please note that I last verified the dates and links in this article in August 2015. All information is subject to change at any time without notice.]
- Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). Certain areas of IMA are free every day, including the Museum Store, IMA cafe, The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, and LOVE and Five Brushstrokes sculptures. The museum has free admission on the first Thursday of each month from 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. Additional free admission days include Spring Equinox, National Museum Day, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, National Garden Day, Silent Night, Winter Solstice, and Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. Visit the museum website for the 2015 dates for the additional free admission days.
- Children's Museum Indianapolis. The recent Children's Museum expansion makes the institution the largest children's museum in the country. Target sponsors free family nights on the first Thursday of each month from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. as well as Christmas Eve from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Learn about science, trains, flight, dinosaurs, treasures of the Earth, space, the local community, and much more.
Monument Circle is the perfect place to take in downtown Indy and appreciate all that the city has to offer. Enjoy a picnic lunch or a quick snack on the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Before you head over to the site, take a virtual 360 tour of the monument and entire Monument Circle via Google. While you're in the area, you can also have a peek at one of the live radio shows that broadcasts from the Emmis Communications building. The Emmis Communications building hosts 19 FM and 3 AM radio stations in five states.
Cultural Districts / Cultural Trail, downtown neighborhoods, and the Canal Walk
Indianapolis houses six Cultural Districts, four of which are located downtown: Indiana Avenue, Mass Avenue, the Canal and White River State Park, and Wholesale District. Each district has its own character and offers opportunities for dining, shopping, and simply checking out the architecture. Make a point of checking out the other downtown neighborhoods as well, each of which has its own features. For example, Lockerbie Square was recently fully restored and boasts stunning architecture.
While you're downtown stroll the 1.5 mile long Downtown Canal Walk. It offers views of historic churches and some of the finest contemporary architecture in the city. During the warmer months of the year, you'll also see a steady stream of pedal boats and kayaks, which for a nominal fee, you can rent from Wheel Fun Rentals directly west of the Indiana State Museum.
Hero Jr at the 2014 Fountain Square Music Festival | DoItIndy
Fairs and festivals
- Italian Street Festival. Mid-June, Holy Rosary Catholic Church near East and Stevens Streets. Enjoy Italian food and beverages, live music, and children's amusement rides. The food spread features over 25 pastas, Italian meats, desserts, and more.
- PBS Kids in the Park. Mid-June, Military Park. WFYI hosts "meet and greets" with beloved PBS characters including Curious George, Clifford, and Maya & Miguel. The event also features live entertainment, games, and vendor booths.
- Talbot Street Fair. Mid-June, between 16th & 20th / Delaware & Pennsylvania. Shop from over 270 talented artists from all across the nation, take in live entertainment, and view exhibits.
- INDIEana Handicraft Exchange. Mid-June, Harrison Center for the Arts. INDIEana showcases the best local contemporary artists around who make clothing, jewelry, and much more. You can also purchase local food and beer, including Lick ice cream, and listen to live music.
- Asian Fest. Late June, White River State Park and the Indiana State Museum. The event features food from local Asian restaurants, a costumes fashion show, merchandise vendors, and a variety of cultural activities including Bollywood dancing, Chinese chess, and henna. Take advantage of half price admission at the Indiana State Museum on the day of Asian Fest.
- Familia Fest. Late June, Military Park. Familia Fest is the largest annual Hispanic cultural event in Indianapolis. Sample authentic Latin cuisine, kick back some brews in the beer garden, take in live music, and enjoy family fun including pony rides, bounce houses, games, and arts and crafts.
- Fountain Square Music Festival. Early June, Fountain Square. This four day event showcases a wide range of local and national bands. There is free music in Fountain Square in the days leading up to the event as well as during the event. Tickets are available for shows at Radio Radio, White Rabbit, Joyful Noise, and Hi-Fi.
- Indy Sister Cities Fest. Late September, Georgia Street. Celebrating the mayor's vision of Indianapolis as a global city, the event includes cultural booths, international cuisine, live music, and a kids' zone.
Libraries and other literary events
- Central Library. The downtown Central Library is gorgeous and offers lots of free lectures, story times, and other events as well as reading lists and homework help.
- Indiana State Library. The Indiana State Library is an ideal place to conduct genealogy and Indiana history research, to view rare books and manuscripts, and to access varying government services, talking books and Braille library, and the state data center. Free general library tours as well as tours for family historians are available upon request. Visit the library's tour page to learn more.
- Indiana Historical Society's William Henry Smith Memorial Library. Located inside of the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, the library is the perfect venue for completing family history research and browsing intriguing pieces of history. Admission is also free for the on-site Basile History Market and Stardust Terrace Café.
- Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is free and open to the public. It showcases Indianapolis native's original drawings, sketches, photos, cigarettes, and more. Visiting the library is a one of a kind opportunity to see the world through Vonnegut's satirical eye and sardonic sense of humor.
- Indy Reads Books. The Indy Reads Books bookstore hosts a dog reading event on the first and third Saturday of every month from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Paws & Think has a rotating cast of certified reading therapy dogs that enjoy sitting and listening to stories with the children. Visit Paws & Think to learn more.
Tad Robinson Band at Concerts on the Canal | Bob Burchfield
- Indianapolis Artsgarden. The Arts Council of Indianapolis programs an extensive range of concerts and performances in the Indianapolis Artsgarden with more than 300 free lunchtime concerts and exhibitions throughout the year. Click the Artsgarden link to download monthly events schedules.
- Concerts on the Canal. Concerts on the Canal happen on Thursday nights in June and July from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. The series includes pop, R&B, soul, rock, jazz, and a cappella. Free seating is available on the grass. You can also pay to reserve tables. There is food and drink available for purchase. Click the link for the current lineup.
Yoga Tips: Engage Your Warrior | Yoga With Adriene
Yoga and other workouts
Taking advantage of a free yoga class or another workout session is a great way to explore a new form of exercise before committing to a class or simply to save a little money while staying in shape.
- Georgia Street Workout Wednesday. Workout Wednesday on Georgia Street's west block take place from noon to 12:45 p.m. every Wednesday from mid-April to late September. Downtown Indy has partnered with the YMCA to offer fun group fitness workouts with friendly, motivating instructors and upbeat music. They alternate between zumba and cardio hip hop with different instructors each month. All fitness levels are encouraged to attend.
- All People Yoga Center (APYC) at Monument Circle. APYC owner Gail Payne leads Mellow Monday yoga classes every Monday from noon to 12:45 p.m. at Monument Circle.
- Growing Places Indy. Thanks to a sponsorship from Invoke Studio, Growing Places has a summer yoga series from June to August. Meet at Chase near the Eastside Legacy Center at 727 N. Oriental Street on Thursdays from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Donations are accepted. They go toward Growing Places Indy and the Eat Well Initiative Summer Farm Stand with a weekly $10 match to their SNAP/EBT customers.
Indianapolis is home to dozens of parks, including the following.
- Fort Harrison State Park. Dating back to 1903, Fort Harrison State Park was originally a military fort that also served as a prisoner of war camp. Spanning 1,700 acres, the park features stunning lakes and hardwood forests with biking and hiking trails, picnic facilities, and two fishing access points.
- Historic Military Park. Covering 14 acres, Military Park is Indy's oldest park. Now part of White River State Park, it was a Civil War encampment and the site of the first Indiana state fair. However, it gets its name from the shape of the park, which looks like a military badge. The park is home to many annual festivals, including Indy JazzFest.
- Holcomb Gardens. Located on the Butler University Campus, the picturesque Holcomb Gardens span 20 acres and feature daffodils, lilacs, tulips, and daylilies. Take a leisurely stroll through the gardens or enjoy the flowing fountain and Persephone statue from one of the gardens' benches.
- Perry Park. Perry Park is a great place to take the whole family. From swimming at the pool in the summer to skating on the ice rink in the winter, there is always something to do at Perry Park. The park also features a roller blading track and picnic shelters.
- University Park or University Square. Located just south of the World War Memorial Building, the space was used for drilling Union troops during the Civil War. After the war ended, Indianapolis citizens created a fund to turn the land into a park. The area showcases statues of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Harrison, and Schuyler Colfax, an Indiana native who served as Vice President under Ulysses S. Grant. The five level Depew Fountain serves as a focal point in the middle of the park.
It's also worth mentioning that the Sunken Garden at the Garfield Park Conservatory is free, with a mere $2 general adult admission for the full conservatory. The Sunken Garden is open all year round, weather permitting.
Sun King Brewery
The Sun King Brewery offers tours on Thursdays at 6:00 p.m. and on Saturdays starting at 2:00 p.m. and then running on the hour or as needed, on the half hour until 4:00 p.m. Tours last approximately half an hour and are offered on a first come, first serve basis. You must be present at the brewery to sign up for the tour. Each tour is limited to 20 people, and all participants must be 21 or older with a valid ID. It is recommended to wear close toed, skid resistant shoes, as the brewery floors may be slippery.
The Easley Winery also offers noon tours on Saturdays and Sundays for just $5. Tours include a sampling of seven wines. Click the link below for more details.
Are you looking for more things to do in other Midwest cities? Check out what Milwaukee and Iowa City have to offer!
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© 2015 Rose Clearfield