If you’re thinking about having some family fun in Champaign-Urbana on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we have an article for you. But if you’re thinking about shaking it up a little and skipping town, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a great day to visit Indianapolis. Many, if not ALL, of our favorite Indianapolis family-friendly venues are FREE to the public on that day, every year. While we write often about museum free days in Chicago, free museum days at Indianapolis attractions are MUCH more rare.
Martin Luther King Day is the best known of those days. Not only are these attractions free, most of them have special events and content aligned with Dr. King’s legacy.
– Indianapolis is a two-hour drive from Champaign-Urbana, and makes for a relatively easy day trip. Or stay the weekend if you prefer; as a large conference center, hotel rooms are plentiful and not terribly expensive (once you get away from downtown).
– Remember, Indianapolis is in the Eastern time zone, so to maximize your time there, get an early start to your day.
– Some free day admissions require a canned food donation for each person in your party, so plan ahead.
– Save even more money by packing your own lunch and snacks. Most, if not all, of these locations allow you to bring food into the venue and have lunch facilities.
– Parking is mostly free as well for these venues on MLK Jr. Day, but not always. Check with each venue.
– We base the savings on the family of four – two adults and two paying kids. Every location has a different definition of a “kid”.
Here’s the scoop on what’s free in Indianapolis for Martin Luther King Day:
The Indianapolis Children’s Museum: The museum opens its doors with FREE admission to all children and families to celebrate the life, achievements, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $72 to $90 (no. that is not a typo!)
- Listen to storyteller Portia Jackson speak about courageous children from the Civil Rights Movement
- Enjoy music from The Griot Drum Ensemble and the Freetown Village Singers
- FREE admission is from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; special activities end at 3 p.m.
The Indianapolis Zoo: In celebration of his life and legacy, guests are invited each year to join the Indianapolis Zoo as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Along with its other partners in White River State Park, parking and admission to the Zoo are free on this day with the donation of a non-perishable food item for Gleaner’s Food Bank (minimum donation of one item per person). Open weather permitting, so if it in question, call. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Our review of a winter visit to the Indianapolis Zoo here.
AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $48
Conner Prairie: Our family fell in love with Connor Prairie a few years ago, when we went in late May and got the full experience. Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with theatrical performances, family games, archaeology activities, art and more. While you’re there, explore the indoor areas Create.Connect, Craft Corner and Discovery Station. Open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Get all the info HERE.
AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $36
Indiana State Museum: Let’s face it, the name of this museum makes it sound b-o-r-i-n-g. But our kids had a blast there a few years ago. And they just opened a brand new exhibit for preschool children in fall 2019. Admission is FREE; donation of a canned food item for Gleaners Food Bank is encouraged but not required. Parking is free in the White River State Park underground garage.Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $58
- Celebrate Dr. King’s dream and explore the struggle for civil rights.
- See highlights from Dr. King’s most iconic speeches
- explore activities pertaining to civil and human rights
- help create a “Dream” mural, and reflect on what you can do to ensure the dream lives on.
Eiteljorg Indian Museum: Admission is free with the donation of a non-perishable food item for Gleaners Food Bank from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 20 at the museum, 500 W. Washington St., Indianapolis. Guests have one last chance to to catch the model train exhibit, “Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure.” (This is right next door to the Indiana State Museum). Parking is free in the White River State Park underground garage. AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $46
Newfields (The Indianapolis Museum of Art) Event on Jan 19: Newfields is closed on Mondays, and does its annual MLK Day celebration and program on Sunday. Called “SPEAKING LOVE”, the program emphasizes sharing and reflecting through poetry, song, dance, and more. “Come together to remember Dr. King’s words while moving beyond comfort zones to get to know someone new at Newfields.” AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $56