Top 12 Museums in Indianapolis

Last Updated on February 20, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Indianapolis offers an array of remarkable museums that explore everything from art and design to sports and science. As Indiana’s capital and largest city, Indianapolis houses top cultural attractions and educational experiences to intrigue museum-goers of all ages.

Museum NamePrimary Focus
The Indianapolis Museum of ArtArt across various cultures and eras
Eiteljorg MuseumNative American and Western Art
The Children’s Museum of IndianapolisInteractive exhibits for children
NCAA Hall of ChampionsCollege sports history and achievements
Indiana State MuseumIndiana’s natural history and culture
Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary ArtContemporary art since the 1960s
Indianapolis Art CenterCommunity arts engagement
The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and LibraryKurt Vonnegut’s life and works
Indiana Medical History MuseumMedical history
National Art Museum of SportSports as interpreted through art
Indiana Historical SocietyIndiana’s history
The James Whitcomb Riley Museum HomeLife of poet James Whitcomb Riley

When visiting Indy, make sure to explore these premier museums showcasing important aspects of the city and state’s dynamic history.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Name and Location: Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN

Collections and Exhibits: Spanning 152 acres, the museum’s collection contains over 54,000 works including major holdings of Neo-Impressionist, African, Native American and American paintings, sculptures and decorative arts pieces. Some highlights include a stunning 5,000 piece glass collection, Turner landscapes, Tibetan scroll paintings and emerging contemporary installations.

What to Expect: Prepare for an art adventure across vast galleries and wings dedicated to dazzling European old master works, intricate Persian manuscripts, towering Buddhist shrine sculptures and vivid modern pieces including surreal opt-art and pop interpretations allowing immersion into human creative ingenuity across eras and civilizations. The surrounding grounds also invite exploration of art installments tucked along neat hiking trails and lush gardens.

Visitor Information: General admission $18 for adults granting access to the permanent collections and most galleries, special exhibitions ticketed separately. Open Tuesday through Sunday 10am-5pm. Plan on spending 2-3 hours minimum absorbing extensive offerings then refueling at one of the onsite cafes.

With expansive collections of Asian, African, European and American art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art ranks as one of the largest general art museums in the country. The museum’s vast holdings include a stunning 5,000 piece collection of Neo-Impressionist art featuring iconic works by Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and Vincent van Gogh. Visitors can also admire paintings and sculptures by legendary American artists like Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth and Robert Indiana. Additionally, the museum hosts world-class temporary exhibitions spanning contemporary design, Chinese Terracotta Warriors, art glass, and more. The museum’s beautiful grounds, known as the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, also entice visitors to spend a relaxing afternoon appreciating outdoor sculpture installations.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Name and Location: Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Collections and Exhibits: This distinctive museum houses Native and Western American paintings and cultural artifacts including one of the country’s finest collections of Native art spanning basketry, textiles, jewelry, pottery and deservedly celebrated paintings complemented by old master and contemporary Western works interpreting frontier expansion – all providing compelling beauty and perspectives.

What to Expect: Marvel at intricate Hopi kachina dolls donning vibrant feathers and leather, study intricate landscapes from luminaries like Frederic Remington immortalizing gritty Plains life on vast canvases and reflect upon stunning abstract paintings detailing Native self-perseverance shared intimately though gallery spaces designed for both appreciation and deeper understanding sure to ignite admiration for diverse cultures that shaped the American spirit.

Visitor Information: General admission $15.50 adults. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10am-5pm showcasing diverse collections across two expansive floors. Tours, classes and summer family days offer engaging additions sure to enrich time spent immersed in these compelling artistic voices and icons spanning Indigenous ingenuity to rodeo legends distilling 500 years of American frontier nostalgia, identity and allure in one remarkable destination.

This one-of-a-kind downtown museum features a premier collection of contemporary and historic Native American works of art alongside powerful Western American paintings and sculptures. Located near the Indianapolis Zoo and other major attractions, the Eiteljorg Museum’s Native American art includes impactful Potawatomi, Ojibwa and Iroquois pieces. The museum’s Western art collection contains paintings by famed artists such as Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington and Georgia O’Keefe. Gorgeous outdoor gardens and fascinating indoor exhibits give visitors abundant ways to further explore Native and Western artistic heritage. Special events like the museum’s annual Indian Market & Festival each summer celebrate Native culture through performances, artisans and traders.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Name and Location: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, IN

Collections and Exhibits: Dedicated to inspiring wonder and curiosity in kids through interactive play, the massive museum features dynamic hands-on exhibits spanning science, culture and technology across five floors from vibrant Global Village displays to an incredible Dinosphere housing towering Brontosaurus skeletons surrounded by replicas prehistoric beasts awaiting discovery.

What to Expect: Prepare for an epic kids quest allowing imaginations to transport into outer space via a suspended astronaut simulator, excavate giant dinosaur bonesIncluding those of a T-Rex relative, climb a National Park-inspired FireLookout tower boasting panoramic views from indoor TreeTops then send handmade car creations zipping down towering test track shoots specially designed to engage young brains making STEAM principles exciting through play-based education attained in this children’s museum utopia sure to build lifelong learning appreciation.

Visitor Information: Open daily starting at 10am, closing hours vary. General admission $40 ages 2+ with discounts for seniors and military. Plan to stay at least 2-4 hours to fully enjoy expansive rotating exhibits, signature galleries, daily arts programming and seasonal events hosted at the largest children’s museum in the world. Onsite snacks and parking available.

With five floors containing endless interactive exhibits and activities, the world-famous Children’s Museum of Indianapolis delights kids while engaging their minds. Some of the museum’s most beloved permanent exhibits include a 1900s carousel, massive Dinosphere area where kids can dig up dinosaurs, and an extensive model railroad experience. Visitors also enjoy interactive science displays, a planetarium, and the inspiring “Power of Children” exhibit relaying true stories of youth creating positive change. Plus, the museum hosts fun temporary exhibits and events year-round tied to holidays, wellness and STEM education. Thanks to its breadth of engaging options, it’s easy to see why the Children’s Museum ranks among the largest museums of its kind globally.

NCAA Hall of Champions

Name and Location: NCAA Hall of Champions, Indianapolis

Collections and Exhibits: Showcasing collegiate sports history and inspiring stories of scholar athletes who demonstrate determination through overcoming adversity, galleries contain interactive games testing skills against sports greats, broadcast booth roleplay stations and rotating exhibits highlighting iconic moments across college athletics where passion fuels the human drive towards purpose, community and excellence through commitment living up to higher virtues.

What to Expect: Learn the science behind projecting a buzzer-beater 3-pointer before trying to beam a half-court shot just like an all-star. Compare hand size against giants of gridiron lure sharing hard-won wisdom handed kindly to next generations before watching highlight reels of record-setting performances reminding all that diligent preparation meeting opportunity unleashes greatness lying dormant within every ordinary kid until their day arrives to leave lasting inspirations writing the next never-say-die chapter.

Visitor Information: Open daily 9am-5pm. General admission $7 with discounts for seniors, students military. Interactive games and rotating exhibits engage all ages to appreciate college sports contributions shaping lives and America’s identity as Audacity’s proving grounds forge character when dreams seem distant until suddenly within reach for those boldly striving.

As Indianapolis bills itself as the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World,” the city fittingly houses the NCAA Hall of Champions inside the NCAA national headquarters. This one-of-a-kind attraction celebrates the rich history and tradition of college sports and athletes. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to test their vertical jump and other athletic skills. Engaging displays honor NCAA tournament history showcasing trophies, tickets, programs and trading cards. Visitors also view inspiring films highlighting legendary coaches and players who became champions on and off the field. For college sports fans, the Hall of Champions delivers a special museum experience that spotlights Indianapolis’ integral role in college athletics.

Indiana State Museum

Tracing Indiana history spanning early Native American inhabitants to present-day innovations, the Indiana State Museum provides an illuminating overview of the state’s natural landscape, people, events and advancements. The museum houses important artifacts like a Benjamin Franklin-owned clock and mastodon fossil bones found at Indiana excavation sites. Engaging exhibits cover Indiana’s role in the Civil War, Native American traditions, early settlement, industrialization, and cultural heritage. Key attractions include an authentic 1880s general store, a 75-year automotive collection and an interactive children’s ScienceWorks center. Special exhibits highlight more recent Indiana stories related to agricultural leadership and basketball mania.

Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art

Though only founded in 2001, the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA) has quickly built an impressive, diverse art collection. The museum focuses on works created since the 1960s representing styles from Pop Art to German Expressionism. Visitors can view provocative pieces by famous artists such as Andy Warhol, Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Marina Abramovic. Exhibits also showcase talented Midwestern artists including Indianapolis natives. Along with the two indoor galleries, iMOCA manages dynamic outdoor mural parks that have transformed downtown areas into vibrant public art spaces. Various events and programs give visitors engaging ways to connect with contemporary art.

Indianapolis Art Center

Dedicated to community arts engagement, the Indianapolis Art Center offers classes, workshops and exhibitions to inspire both hobbyists and seasoned creators. Visitors can explore works by over 200 professional artist members in the Art Center’s galleries and gift shop. Expert artist-instructors lead classes in drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelry design and more. The center also runs summer camps focused on youth creativity development. Special events like the Fine Arts Fair support arts education programming while bringing people together. Visitors of all ages and abilities find inspiration through the Art Center’s passionate community arts mission.

The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

This museum pays tribute to the legendary Indianapolis-born author Kurt Vonnegut, known for satirical classics like “Cat’s Cradle” and “Slaughterhouse-Five.” The museum displays rare Vonnegut artifacts and documents spanning his reporting days at the Indianapolis Star to his World War II experiences influencing much of his writing. Exhibits explore Vonnegut’s early life as the son of German immigrants, while programs and grants support the next generation of Indianapolis writers to carry on his literary legacy.

Indiana Medical History Museum

Housed in the former Central State Hospital pathology facility, the Indiana Medical History Museum offers a unique and chilling glimpse into the past. The brick building contains old medical laboratories and a morgue, interpreted today through displays of century-old stretchers, surgical tools, documents and organ samples. Exhibits spotlight outdated and unethical 20th century practices like lobotomies and electric shock therapy, allowing modern visitors to reflect on how medical views have evolved over time. Strange yet thought-provoking, this museum provides an unconventional experience for guests intrigued by medical history.

National Art Museum of Sport

Given Indiana’s celebrated sports legacy, the National Art Museum of Sport lets visitors explore athletics as subject matter interpreted through diverse artistic mediums. Opened in 2018 and continually growing, the museum’s collection contains pieces by both professionals and passionate amateurs. Exhibits incorporate various sports from auto racing to bowling to curling in the artists’ chosen styles. Guests can vote for their favorite artworks to enter the museum’s contests, while talks and classes provide engaging ways to further connect art and sport.

Indiana Historical Society

Educating visitors on pivotal Indiana moments and figures spanning 300 years, the Indiana Historical Society contains exhaustive state history galleries and exhibits. The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center spotlights defining events like frontier battles, women’s suffrage campaigns, jazz culture contributions, sports innovations, and more. Visitors learn about origins of familiar Indiana brands such as Eli Lilly, Studebaker, and rural electric co-ops. An interactive exhibit lets families time travel to 19th century Indiana for historical role play exercises.

The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home

This Indianapolis museum home occupied by beloved Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley from 1872 until his death in 1916 provides a window into the Victorian era. Period furnishings and Riley’s belongings depict his life writing wholesome dialect poems nostalgically celebrating rural life. Exhibits trace Riley’s career from local literary fame to internationally acclaimed “Hoosier Poet” who recited verse for President Benjamin Harrison. Strolling through the home where Riley lived and worked for 44 years, modern visitors can connect to his enduring pastoral sentiments.

Conclusion

From expansive museums like the Indianapolis Museum of Art to specialized destinations like the Kurt Vonnegut tribute, visitors can easily fill multiple days delving into Indianapolis’ broad range of exceptional museums. When planning an Indianapolis museum experience, incorporate highly-rated attractions covering pivotal facets of Indiana heritage from visual arts to medical science to sports passion. With acclaimed permanent collections and enthralling rotating exhibits and programming, the city’s museums engage and educate travelers of all interests.

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