How to Visit Indianapolis Museums for FREE in 2020
Do you love visiting museums? Do you love visiting museums for FREE? We’ve put together a list of special days when we know Indianapolis museums will be open to the public for FREE or very reduced cost in 2020.
Why do we make this list? Because we know that museums are expensive, but great opportunities for families to spend time together. We make a similar list for almost every season in Chicago; free museum days are plentiful there, but generally only for Illinois residents. (TIP: Winter is one of the best times to visit Chicago museums – lots of opportunities for free days!)
However, in Indianapolis, free days are more limited (one day with the most options for free visits is Martin Luther King Jr. Day; more on that here). That’s why this list includes all of 2020. You might have the ability to go to a museum any day of the week and get a great discount, if you have a museum membership. Always ask about reciprocal agreements, such as the Nationwide Museum Passport Program.
We’ve also included the average free day savings for a family of four (two adults, two kids) so you can see how beneficial these are to your family budget. For many museums, the kid price applies to children 3-11, but sometimes its 13 and under. Some museums offer free admission to kids 5 and under. Always look at the fine print.
Please note that prices are subject to change without notice.
Our article focuses on general admission. However, many museums also offer discounts or freebies for veterans, families of active service military, as well as teachers. Some are part of the Museums for All program, for those who have valid EBT or WIC cards – many offer admission for $3 up to six family members. Check the websites accordingly for more info.
– 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.
Free days at The Indianapolis Children’s Museum
Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 20), President’s Day (February 17), Fiesta Familia (TBA), Christmas Eve (December 24)
If you’ve never been to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, run, don’t walk. There’s a reason why this is considered the best children’s museum in the world. With constantly changing exhibits as well as favorite standbys, this place is a must for any family – at least once. And although the word “children’s” is in the title, don’t be fooled – this is a great place for grownups, too. In 2020, If you plan a trip there on a non-free day, plan ahead to save money and buy tickets in advance online.
AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $72 to $90 (no. that is not a typo!)
Free days at NEWFIELDS (also known as The Indianapolis Museum of Art):
Martin Luther King Jr. Day; First Thursday of the month from 4-8 pm, March through September; National Public Gardens Day (in May)
Newfields is the name of the campus that includes The Indianapolis Museum of Art as well as a 100-acre “nature park”. The museum itself is one of the oldest and most comprehensive in the nation, and it is surrounded by a historic estate; a working greenhouse and orchard; beautiful gardens that host exhibitions and outdoor festivals; performance spaces that welcome guests for film screenings and concerts; and a Park with meadows for outdoor concerts, a 35-acre lake, hiking trails and sculptures by contemporary artists from around the world. AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $56
Free day at THE INDIANAPOLIS ZOO
Free day: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
In celebration of his life and legacy, guests are invited each year to join the Indianapolis Zoo as they 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 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
Free days at CONNER PRAIRIE, FISHERS
Free days: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day – January 20; President’s Day – February 17; Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day – April 4 (free tickets are required); Sensory Friendly Day – April 26
With a unique approach to education about history and innovation, Conner Prairie is one of the most visited outdoor museums in the country. Our family fell in love with Connor Prairie a few years ago, when we went in late May. Note that going in winter means a more limited experience, as the total experience includes a lot of outdoor walking and attractions. But regardless of time of year, it’s worth it to explore the indoor areas Create.Connect, Craft Corner and Discovery Station. Get all the info HERE.
AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $36
Free days at INDIANA STATE MUSEUM, downtown Indianapolis
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day – January 20; Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day – April 4 (free tickets are required)
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 and play area for preschool children in fall 2019. Admission is FREE; on MLK Day a 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
Free day at Eiteljorg Indian Museum
Free day: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day – January 20
The art in this museum is just as it sounds – but it’s definitely gorgeous. There’s also a fun interactive kids section on the first floor. On MLK Day, 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
Free days at Indiana Historical Society
Free days: MLK Day – January 20; Circus Day – March 28 (last Saturday in March); Smithsonian Museum Day (April); Concerts on the Canal and free Thursdays (with extended hours, Thursdays in June and July); Fourth of July; Author Fair – December 5 (first Saturday in December) – only free day during the 6-week run of Festival of Trees
Great place for budding historians. Travel back in time and learn Indiana stories and learn about famous people from Indiana. Some exhibits feature interactive historical interpreters. Parking is validated with a paid adult admission; unsure about free day parking. AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $36
Free days at Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library
Free days: First Monday of the month
In honor of his wit and wisdom, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library champions the literary, artistic, and cultural contributions of the late writer, artist, teacher, and Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut. This newly opened museum is probably best for older kids who are interested in authors, writing and free speech. AVERAGE SAVINGS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR: $38
Have you had a great museum trip with your kids lately? We’d love to hear about it!