Community Family Life Things to Do

Free Museum Days in Indy in 2021

Indianapolis is one of the most exciting cities in the nation. Wherever you look, there’s always something new to do and something interesting to see.

When you have a family, however, all those fun experiences can start to get a little pricey. That’s why it’s smart to take advantage of free and low-cost admission to the area’s best family attractions whenever you can.

Here’s our list of upcoming events that area museums and other attractions are planning:

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

This place is literally five floors of fun for kids and kids-at-heart alike. There are tons of exhibits here — many of them interactive and designed for family entertainment. 

The American POP exhibit is a glimpse into the way that pop culture is created and, in turn, shapes much about the way that we interact with each other. The Dinosphere lets you wander into a prehistoric world full of strange plants and massive beasts. Or, you can step into the future by exploring the International Space Station like an astronaut.

The Children’s Museum is offering free admission on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 18) and Presidents’ Day (Feb. 15). You can also enjoy $6 admission from 4-8 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. The Museum offers free memberships to families living in the six Mid-North neighborhoods without regard to income or ability to pay.

The Indiana State Police Museum

At some point or another, almost every kid gets fascinated with police cars. If you have a kid who is currently in that phase or a history buff in the family, this is the place to take them!

The Indiana State Police Museum is always free for visitors of all ages. Most of the displays are not interactive, but you can check out a fingerprint station and the inside of a real police car. 

Speaking of police cars: There are vehicles in this museum that represent the finest the police had to offer from the 1930s through the early 2000s. You can also check out old-time uniforms, badges and other equipment. And, of course, there’s an entire section of the museum that focuses on John Dillinger, the most well-known outlaw to ever come out of Indiana.

Guests are welcomed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m, Tuesdays through Fridays and from noon to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month.

The Indiana State Museum

The Indiana State Museum is absolutely fascinating. You can learn about the evolution of the planet through the “Birth of the Earth” exhibit and explore the wonders (and monstrosities) of the ancient seas, among other things. 

Geology, archaeology, paleobiology — nothing is off-limits when it comes to the wonders your family can experience inside this building. Tickets are normally $10 for children, $16 for adults and $16 for seniors. On both Jan. 18 and Feb. 15, however, there will be free admission to all.

Because of the necessary safety measures, admission on those two days will be limited to two-hour visits between 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Pre-registration is not required, but entrance is limited and will be on a first-come, first-served basis — so get in line early if you intend to visit!

Newfields: Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields (the collective name for the Indianapolis Museum of Art and its campus) is a huge favorite with local families when it comes to places to explore. There’s always something yet-to-be-seen or a new exhibit or two.

Just 15 minutes from Monument Circle, the Museum is one of the nation’s oldest and largest art museums, with a huge collection of Asian, African and Western art among its permanent collections, while many contemporary art displays rotate through.

On Sunday, January 17th, guests are invited to join together for a time of sharing and reflection, poetry and song — among other expressions of love for their fellow man. Tickets are free, but they need to be reserved, so make your plans early!

If you aren’t able to make it this weekend, don’t worry: From March through September, the first Thursday of every month also has free admission. (Once again, please reserve your tickets in advance.)

The Indianapolis Zoo

Okay, technically, this is a living exhibit, not a museum — but the Indy Zoo’s conservation efforts involve animals from all over the world that are largely endangered or threatened by human expansion, poachers and environmental changes. That earns it a spot on this list, to be sure.

On Jan. 18, 2021, admission to the Indy Zoo is free for all in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Come hang with the orangutans, check out the vibrant birds soaring overhead and peek at wildlife that you normally would only see in the sands of the desert or the deep forests and jungles. 

While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Zoo Babies! Glenda the long-tailed macaque had a New Year’s baby and the zoo has seen several other new births in recent weeks. Reserve your visitation time online in advance, so that you’re able to get a spot.

Other Museums Offering Free Admission

Check out these other local favorites on MLK Day:

As always, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to complicate the schedules for almost all institutions and businesses. While the information above is current as of the time this was written, things may be subject to change based on updated safety precautions. Call ahead to confirm that a venue is open before you go — and tuck a spare mask or two in your car or bag, just in case.