Top 12 Free Things to Do in Indianapolis

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Savoring Circle City Splendor on a Budget – Indianapolis’ Top Free Attractions

Nicknamed the “Circle City” for its circular downtown layout, Indianapolis captivates visitors with vibrant museums, performing arts venues, historic auto racing and beloved attractions showcasing Midwestern charm.

Indianapolis Cultural TrailScenic downtown greenway connecting neighborhoods and cultural districts.
White River State ParkUrban park with gardens, trails, and museums.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway MuseumMuseum showcasing racing history, free admission.
Indiana State CapitolHistoric building and museum with free guided tours.
Soldiers and Sailors MonumentMonument with panoramic views of downtown Indianapolis.
Indiana Medical History MuseumMuseum focusing on medical history, small donation for entry.
Eiteljorg MuseumNative and Western fine art, free on Fridays.
Indiana Historical SocietyMuseum galleries showcasing Indiana’s history, free admission.
Indianapolis Arts GardenPerforming arts shows in a glass-domed structure.
Indiana City Brewing CompanyFree beer tastings at the downtown taproom.
Indiana Landmarks CenterTours of the historic building highlighting architectural grandeur.

Beyond its world-famous Indy 500 traditions, this dynamic city offers trendy culinary scenes, craft breweries, outdoor escapes at state-of-the-art parks, and family-friendly explorations. Even on a budget, experiencing some of Indy’s top attractions comes free of charge. Here are 12 of the best free things to do in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail – Scenic Downtown Greenway

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Cultural Trail encompasses 8 miles of urban pathways connecting six downtown Indianapolis districts filled with vibrant public art installations, green spaces and attractions.

History and Significance: Opened in 2013 after years of planning and redevelopment, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail transformed downtown into a pedestrian-friendly cultural hub supporting community health, sustainability, transit access and urban revitalization.

What to Expect: Walkers, joggers and bicyclists enjoy safe, scenic passages and creative monuments while accessing over 250 restaurants, shops and arts venues downtown. Interpretive signage and audio tours guide visitors in exploring Indianapolis history.

Visitor Information: The trail is open daily with free admission. Parking garages nearby offer hourly rates. Bike rentals and guided tours available seasonally for fees through local companies.

Stretching eight miles through vibrant neighborhoods, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail guides walkers, joggers and bicyclists past cultural districts filled with striking public art installations, museums, restaurants and architectural landmarks. Users traverse car-free paved pathways dotted with gardens, water features and artistic bike racks beside historic buildings as well as modern skyscrapers. Perfect for self-guided tours at your own pace, the scenic trail allows visitors to soak up Indy’s dynamic urban highlights and serene green spaces without spending a cent.

White River State Park – Gardens, Trails and Museums Galore

Name and Location: White River State Park occupies 250 acres downtown along the White River connecting cultural attractions, scenic greenways, gardens and event spaces in Indianapolis’ busiest district.

History and Significance: Established in 1979 from neglected industrial land, White River State Park revived the area into a dynamic public space improving ecology, spurring investment and offering recreation for Indianapolis resurgence after years of urban decline.

What to Expect: Visitors jog trails, attend concerts, explore gardens, experience interactive museums, rent bikes, dine at cafes, paddleboat the river and enjoy many family-friendly seasonal events across well-maintained green space in the heart of the city.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily with free admission. Some attractions have entry fees. Limited paid parking available along streets, garages and lots nearby. Seasonal hours apply.

Encompassing 250 acres just west of downtown along the scenic Central Canal and White River waterways, White River State Park serves as both a serene urban escape and basecamp for experiencing top Indianapolis attractions. Visitors stroll manicured cultural trailways to access standout sites like the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial, Victory Field minor league baseball stadium and riverside walking paths boasting striking city skyline views – all free of charge.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum – Racing History at the Brickyard

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum showcases racing history at the famous track located at 4790 West 16th Street in Speedway, Indiana, just west of downtown Indianapolis.

History and Significance: Opened in 1956, the Museum commemorates over a century of racing lore since the Speedway’s first races across vehicles, memorabilia, interactive exhibits and experiences educating millions of racing fans over the years.

What to Expect: Guests view classic race cars up-close, ride track buses, watch speed records set, feel the Brickyard’s tricky corners on a simulator, learn racing artifacts’ stories and celebrate icons like Mario Andretti who made history here.

Visitor Information: The Museum is open daily 9am – 5pm in off-season and 7am – 5pm during event seasons. Admission is $15 for adults. Race tickets are separate.

While race tickets cost a pretty penny, the museum at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway provides complimentary admission allowing race fans and history buffs to explore artifacts crossing 110 years as the epicenter of American auto racing excellence. Interactive exhibits reveal captivating stories around key eras, vehicles and events highlighted at the iconic track. Movie theaters replay past Indy 500 race footage for visitors seeking thrills without high ticket fees.

Indiana State Capitol Building & Museum – Historical Grandeur in Downtown

Name and Location: The Indiana State Capitol Building & Museum occupies downtown Indianapolis at 200 West Washington Street, showcasing Indiana heritage across government meeting rooms, historic chambers and exhibits.

History and Significance: Completed in 1888 incorporating rare marble and mahogany, the Capitol has served continuously hosting all three governmental branches across restoring and enhancing the iconic limestone structure to improve visitor amenities over the decades.

What to Expect: Guests tour the Indiana Senate & House chambers viewing 1869 murals, carved Supreme Court doors and the ornate Rotunda while exploring stories of state history, government and art through displays and presentations in the interactive Statehouse Museum.

Visitor Information: Free guided tours operate Monday – Friday on the hour from 10am – 2pm. The museum is open those days 9am – 4pm. Weekend hours vary seasonally.

Built between 1888 and 1906 with stunning white Indiana limestone, the Indiana Statehouse stands as a National Historic Landmark in the center of downtown Indianapolis near Monument Circle. Free guided tours showcase the Renaissance and Baroque architectural details throughout the building and chambers still used today by state government proceedings. The on-site Statehouse museum illuminates political history through photos, news clippings and artifacts accumulated over 125 years of state governance.

Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument – Panoramic Views Atop Monument Circle

Name and Location: The Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument stands 280 feet tall in the center of Indianapolis within Monument Circle, the epicenter of the city.

History and Significance: Built between 1887 and 1901 honoring Hoosier veterans, the ornate obelisk showcases observation decks atop its Doric-Italianate column offering unmatched panoramic skyline views along with a Civil War museum in its neoclassical pedestal.

What to Expect: Visitors ride an elevator or climb 330 stairs to see Indianapolis’ concentric layout from the dizzying height then examine artifacts like Civil War battle flags inside its small museum while appreciating intricate stonemasonry gracing the soaring structure.

Visitor Information: The Monument is open seasonally with varying days and hours. Entry fees $2 adults, $1 kids. Tours are subject to closures for weather events and private events.

Soaring nearly 300 feet at the center of Indianapolis, the magnificent Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument honors Hoosier veterans who served from the Revolutionary War through the Spanish American War. While special events may involve tickets or fees, the monument’s observation level gallery remains free to access, reachable via elevator or climbing 330 stair steps spiraling along the interior colossal columns. Emerging atop downtown Indianapolis rewards visitors with unrivaled 360-degree vistas of the city’s circular layout and urban landscape, especially striking at sunset.

Indiana Medical History Museum – Fascinating Look at Bygone Healthcare

Name and Location: The Indiana Medical History Museum occupies the former pathology building on the grounds of the first state mental hospital, Central State Hospital, at 3045 West Vermont Street on Indianapolis’ near west side.

History and Significance: Built in 1895, the former pathology facility lay abandoned for decades before its restoration as a medical history museum interpreting 19th century medicine,patient treatment, medical education advancement and the lost cemetery of Central State Hospital.

What to Expect: Guests take guided tours viewing century-old equipment and specimens like the iron lung machine, four-headed microscope, autopsy theater, medical tools and textiles that advanced Science yet exposed harsh realities within the notorious asylum’s walls.

Visitor Information: The Medical History Museum offers hourly tours Thursday through Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Group, student and senior discounts available when booking online.

Step back in time to the early 20th century within a former mental asylum restored into the Indiana Medical History Museum, showcasing both the triumphs and tragedies inherit in medical annals with enthralling exhibits. Wander through the 1897 former pathology building to explore equipment and methods common during the era spanning germ theory acceptance, tuberculosis treatment challenges and mental health approaches leading to institutionalization. Budget-friendly tours require only small donations while captivating curious minds.

Free Fridays at the Eiteljorg Museum – Native and Western Fine Art

Name and Location: The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art resides at 500 West Washington Street in downtown Indianapolis’ White River State Park.

History and Significance: Founded in 1989 from the extensive personal collection of Harrison Eiteljorg, the museum stewards and exhibits a premier compilation of Native and Western antiquities, paintings and cultural artifacts educating diverse audiences.

What to Expect: Visitors explore 2 1/2 levels of galleries showcasing Western and Native artworks spanning masks, pottery, jewelry, paintings, weapons and spiritual artifacts across intricate displays interpreting peoples and landscapes of the American West and indigenous cultures.

Visitor Information: The Eiteljorg Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 10am to 5pm. Admission runs $13 for adults but every Friday offers free museum entry. Self-parking available onsite.

Boasting one of America’s finest collections of contemporary Native artwork, the beautiful Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art requests just $13 admission most days – but allows free entry every Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Visitors immerse in impactful exhibits illuminating Indigenous cultures and discussing relevant social issues while admiring intricate beadwork, pottery and spiritual artifacts alongside colorful landscapes and Western-theme works. Free parking makes First Fridays utterly cost-free culture.

Indiana Historical Society Galleries – Journey Through the Past

Name and Location: The Indiana Historical Society Galleries at Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center occupy 450 West Ohio Street in downtown Indianapolis.

History and Significance: Founded 1830, the Indiana Historical Society safeguards over 45,000 artifacts preserving Hoosier heritage across rotating exhibits, collections and multimedia experiences engaging 300,000 visitors annually in the state’s rich stories.

What to Expect: Guests explore core exhibits highlighting Native American life, early Indiana settlements, rule under France and Britain, frontier growth, Civil War involvement and notable people spanning over 300 years of transformations crucially impacting traditions today.

Visitor Information: The IHS Galleries are open Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 5pm. General admission runs $7-13 with discounts available. The Basile History Market and Stardust Café reside inside the center.

Dedicated to chronicling Indiana milestones and history from earliest inhabitants like the Hopewells and Mississippian peoples through pioneer settlements, the rise of industry and key events putting the state on the national stage, the Indiana Historical Society offers free admission into its vibrant museum galleries downtown Tuesday through Saturday. Interactive exhibits and short films engage families while the “You Are There” gallery transports visitors back in time through replicating iconic moments, like watching President Abraham Lincoln deliver speeches across the state.

Indianapolis Arts Garden – Lofty Performing Arts Shows

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Arts Garden overlooks intersections of Washington and Illinois Streets connected to Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indianapolis.

History and Significance: Created through a public-private partnership in the 1990s reviving Indianapolis, the soaring glass atrium provides premier acoustic venue space hosting 300+ performing arts events annually from theater to dance and music just blocks from Monument Circle in the heart of the city.

What to Expect: Patrons ascend grand staircases and pass artistic light installations to experience theater, dance, music, lectures and more from innovative creators across indoor balcony seating overlooking bustling downtown Indianapolis below between renowned art museums.

Visitor Information: The Arts Garden is open daily 6am to 11pm with free admission. Some hosted events require paid tickets. Nearby garages offer hourly parking rates.

Soaring four stories above downtown Indianapolis sidewalks, the glass domed Arts Garden beckons both passersby and arts enthusiasts inside its open-air spaces to discover live music, dance and theatrical productions staged by a spectrum of local arts groups several times weekly. Made possible by generous endowments, most performances come at no cost to visitors in an architecturally stunning backdrop mingling artistic disciplines atop twinkling city skyline views through expansive windows all around.

Indiana City Brewing Company – Local Craft Brew Taster

Name and Location: Indiana City Brewing Company occupies 24 Shelby Street in downtown Indianapolis within walking distance of Lucas Oil Stadium, Georgia Street and White River State Park.

History and Significance: Opened 2015, Indiana City Brewing embraces German lager heritage reviving pre-Prohibition brewery independence creating historically inspired craft beers, small plates and welcoming community space in their sky-lit tap room and biergarten.

What to Expect: Visitors sample German-style lagers, ales, pilsners and seasonals alongside truffle mushroom pizza, giant pretzels and German toasted sandwiches at indoor and outdoor seating while celebrating Indianapolis’ rich brewing tradition.

Visitor Information: Indiana City Brewery opens Tuesday through Sunday with seasonal hours listed online. Brewery tours run Saturdays. Minors allowed until 9pm if accompanied by an adult. Street parking available.

When craft breweries offer free beer tastings, budget travelers listen up. Complementing its full menu of award-winning India Pale Ales, sours, stouts and signature brews, Indiana City Brewing pours taster sizes at their expansive downtown taproom at no cost. Swing through to sample rotating options like blueberry sour or passionfruit Goza before ordering full pours of your favorites to savor while playing lively pub games in an open, industrial-chic setting. Combine with food truck bites from the door-front patio and you’ve got an affordable night out.

Indiana Landmarks Center – Architectural Grandeur

Name and Location: The Indiana Landmarks Center occupies 1201 Central Avenue in Indianapolis, overlooks University Park showcasing eye-catching architecture and design.

History and Significance: Built in 1915 as the grand Steam Plant providing campus heating, today the stately renovated building hosts Indiana Landmarks’ headquarters, event spaces and architectural artifacts honoring heritage preservation efforts across the state.

What to Expect: Visitors admire the soaring Machine Hall event venue, browse exhibits of building ornamentation salvaged from demolition, study decorative finishes and support conservation advocacy for imperiled properties across Indiana.

Visitor Information: The Landmarks Center is open weekdays and for special weekend events. Guided tours offered first Thursdays monthly and by appointment. Limited visitor parking available in the surface lot.

Dating from 1909, the former Columbia Club building opens its opulent halls for free public tours organized by Indiana Landmarks to showcase the lavish interior design. Visitors walk on intricate mosaic floors past hand-carved wood detailing, bronze railings and iconic stained glass adorning grand spaces like the dining room, billiard lounge, barroom and replica War Room highlighting Hoosier connections to military history. The impressive building speaks volumes to early 20th century extravagance right at pedestrian height along Washington Street downtown.

Though best known for racing action, Indianapolis offers cultural depth easily accessible without maxing out your credit card. Fill your time exploring top museums, scenic waterways, performing arts and historic architecture on limited funds but gaining immense rewards.

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