Inflation is up and prices are higher on everything, so people are looking for bargains – especially on entertainment. If you’re doing your best to watch your budget (or save for summer vacation), you’re far from alone, but that doesn’t mean you need to stay home every weekend. Indianapolis is a vibrant and exciting city that offers a range of free and low-cost activities for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.
There are plenty of options to choose from, whether you’re interested in history, art or the outdoors. Here are some of the best cheap and free things to do in Indianapolis:
Indianapolis Cultural Trail
The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an eight-mile-long trek that connects several cultural districts in downtown Indy. You can while away the day by taking a scenic walk or bike ride while doing a little sightseeing. The trail takes you past independent art galleries, unique gift stores and outdoor markets. It’s a fantastic, low-frills way to just learn more about some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods and local businesses.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields is located on a sprawling 152-acre campus. While the museum only has periodic free-admission days, the outer grounds are always free to explore – and totally worth the visit. You can wander through the gardens on a warm spring day, which include a beautiful orchid greenhouse and both a sensory and sculpture garden that is meant to be touched. Several walking paths wind through the woods and around the ponds, which makes this spot a favorite for romantic couples.
White River State Park
White River State Park is a beautiful urban park located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The park hosts several different attractions, including the Indy Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and the Indiana State Museum, all of which have reasonable entrance fees. You can also take a totally free stroll along the White River or rent a bike and explore some of the area’s trails. Don’t forget to check out the numerous community events held there throughout the year, including things like Easter Egg runs and beer and wine events.
The Indianapolis Central Library
The Indianapolis Central Library is a beautiful, historic building that houses the city’s main library – and a reminder that libraries have long been community cultural centers where knowledge is always available for free. While there are plenty of books to browse, the building itself is worth a visit. The library offers free tours that take you through the building’s stunning architecture and history. You’ll be able to see the grand staircase, the glass atrium, and the historic reading room.
Monument Circle, which is oft-described as the heart of Downtown Indy, is home to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a 284-foot-tall structure that honors those who fought in the Civil War. You can take a free guided tour of the monument and climb to the top for a beautiful view of the city. This is a favorite spot for locals to grab a bite to eat on a nice day and just spend a few hours people-watching. Monument Circle also regularly hosts numerous free activities throughout the year, including free performances by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
The Canal Walk is a charming, three-mile-long walkway that winds through downtown Indy, following the canal line that was built in the 19th century to transport goods through the city. Along the way, you’ll see public art installations, beautiful bridges and many of the city’s most historic landmarks. You can also rent a pedal boat and explore the canal from the water.
Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden
The Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden is a beautiful botanical garden located on the south side of Indianapolis. The conservatory is only $3 to enter for regular admission and $5 for special events, while the Sunken Garden is free and features fountains, flower beds and a range of exotic plants, including tropical palms and orchids.
Mass Ave Arts District
Located just northeast of downtown, the Mass Ave Arts District is home to anything but the ordinary. You can find street artists, live theater, and one-of-a-kind shops of every variety. If you’re looking for someplace with an open, eclectic vibe that will re-energize your spirit and give you inspiration, this is the place to visit. It’s an area that is beloved by locals and visitors alike.
Indianapolis City Market
The Indianapolis City Market is a historic downtown marketplace that has been in operation since 1886. It features a range of local vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods and artisanal products – and it’s one of the city’s hot spots for “foodies.” You can explore the Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and sample some of the delicious food on offer, or simply enjoy the beautiful architecture of the building. For a small fee, you can even get a guided tour of the fascinating catacombs underneath Whistler Plaza.
Fort Harrison State Park
Do you feel the need to really get outside and roam a bit after being shut indoors all winter? Well, Fort Harrison State Park is beautiful, close to the city – and it has 1,700 acres of trails, picnic areas, fishing spots and historic districts to explore, including an old fort and an officer’s home. The entrance fee is just $2 per person for pedestrians and $7 per vehicle with in-state plates.
Indianapolis Art Center
The Indianapolis Art Center is a nonprofit art organization located on the north side of the city – and the folks there are on a mission to inspire creativity and unite the larger community through artistic expression. The center offers a range of free and low-cost art classes and workshops for visitors of all ages, as well as several events throughout the year, including art fairs and festivals. Come for a class, but stay for the community you find!
Whether you’re interested in art, history, or the outdoors, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant and exciting city – and there’s always something new to see or learn here in Indy.