Many of the activities promoted online as being kid friendly in this City are pricey – at least from the perspective of a middle-class Mom with not-unlimited resources.
So, inspired by such an article shared on Facebook by a friend, I searched and couldn’t find a list of family friendly activities that are free or at least affordable for most.
My husband and I brainstormed a bit, and this list is the result Many thanks to Ron for documenting a lot of the activities. We did not try to make this an exhaustive resource, and there are plenty more fun and enriching activities that cost greater than $10 per person. We decided to include activities that we personally enjoyed with one child or another over a 20+ year period, and we kept the activities in the City proper (pretty much). Here goes…
Monon Trail – A former rail road track that bisected the City, now a paved trail that runs from 191th Street in Hamilton County, south to 10th Street. You can run, walk, bike, trike, roller blade on the trail. It will take you past the cultural districts downtown. Total length is 19.7 miles
Cultural Trail – connects the six designated cultural districts in the City. Bring your own bike, or rent one from a bike-share station along the trail. Stop to visit some of the cultural destinations, dine and enjoy the day.
92-County Walk around Indiana State Museum / Canal Walk – you can visit all 92 counties in the state of Indiana and see a visual representation of what is new and unique to each, simply by walking around the perimeter of the Indiana State Museum downtown. Just some amazing sculpture. While you’re there, visit with the Mastodons (or are they Woolly Mammoths?)
Walk or run the Canal downtown – Indy’s own river walk, and one of the City’s beautiful downtown destinations – which also happens to be an Indianapolis historic site. Make sure you stop and see the permanent art exhibits and monuments, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial, and the USS Indianapolis monument.
There are plenty of places to sit and rest, or grab something to drink. You can also treat yourself to a paddle boat or a “surrey with the fringe on top” rental, or pretend you’re in Venice and take a gondola ride!
White River State Park –concerts on the grounds during the summer. Not free, but fun!
Feed the ducks in Broad Ripple – Bring your own seed or duck food.
Holcomb Gardens – On the grounds of Butler University, located in the Butler Tarkington neighborhood. Feed the koi, count turtles, listen to the carillon, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Explore Crown Hill Cemetery– Crown Hill is a 555 acre park in the heart of the city. It remains an active cemetery. It was founded in 1863 and solders from every war are buried in the National Cemetery, established in 1866. The cemetery is a venue for special events, such as the storytelling festival each October. The Gothic Cathedral has also been a venue for concerts. The exquisite sculpture and grave markers throughout the cemetery mark the history of Indianapolis. Otherwise, it is (again) a great place to walk or bike. St. Richard’s cross country athletes train by running up and down the hills at Crown Hill. President Benjamin Harrison’s grave is the highest point in Marion County. Check the website for a list of tours and special events, and the occasional Friday and Saturday night ghost tours.
Miniature golf at Rustic Gardens on South Arlington ($3) –
Not your typical miniature golf course. There are rocks, leaves and other obstacles, real grass, and no silly windmills, on a much larger scale that most miniature golf courses. Bring your mosquito repellent! Great for kids, and for kid-free dates.
Marrott Park Nature Preserve (75th and College) – hike trails, skip rocks and go bird watching in a lovely park close to home
Spray park The city park at 61st and Broadway, now named the Dan Wakefield Park, has a free “spray park”. No tickets or reservations required. The hyperlink will take you to a list of all free splash pads in the Metro Indianapolis area
Indianapolis Children’s Museum – On the first Thursday of the month the Children’s Museum stays open late for Target Family Night, which offers free admission to kids and their families from 4-8 pm.
Soldiers and Sailors Monument – Great view of the city, across from the Cathedral
100 Acre Woods – one of the largest museum art parks in the country. Come climb on the same skeleton sculpture featured in the movie “Fault in Our Stars” (John Green is an Indianapolis resident, and neighbor to one of our families)
Summer Nights Film Series at the IMA – not free, but fun for a date night for Mom and Dad! Bring your own chairs or blankets, picnics and non-alcoholic beverages and settle in for a class (or campy) movie. Sun King is the official brewer. Films begin at dusk.
Winter Nights Film Series – again, at the IMA except inside the Toby Theater. A fun activity when winter blues set in.
Movies on the Lawn at Garfield Park – free, once a month through the summer
Garfield Park Arts Center – accessible art activities for all ages, as well as exhibitions
Heck, just go to Garfield Park! Shakespeare in the Park, Concerts, Country Dancing, year round vintage movies with live commentary…
All images were borrowed from the associated websites. I claim no right of ownership to any of them