18 Free Things to Do in Indiana, USA
27 June 2016 | Mri Grout
I was born and raised here (for the most part), but even I didn’t know of these hidden gems of Indiana. There are tons upon tons of museums offering free entry to the curious-minded, budget traveler, such as the Indiana State Police Museum in Indianapolis and the Freeman Army Field Museum in Seymour. There are fascinating trails to follow like the one wandering through the eleven statues of the Garfield Trail in Marion and on top of the fossil beds at the Falls of Ohio, New Albany. Then there are the weird and totally unique free attractions of Indiana like John Iver’s backyard rollercoasters and the giant lady’s leg sundial in Naked City. So what awesome free things to do are you going to try in the Hoosier State?
Free things to do in Northern Indiana:
- Quilt Gardens – Home to over a million flowers in over a dozen different artistically shaped designs, this place is a must see for flower lovers. Or art lovers. Or awesome picnic spot lovers. Or nature lovers. You get the point; it’s a beautiful, relaxing place with awesome flower murals that change every year. Hours: Apr - Sept
- Albanese Candy Factory Outlet – Take a free tour, either self-guided or with a group, around this Gummi Factory. The average time for group tour is about 30 minutes and it’s advised that you reserve a spot either by contacting 855-272-3227 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Self-tours, however, don’t need to be pre-arranged and last anywhere between 5-15 minutes.Hours: 09.00 – 20.00 (Mon – Sat); 10.00 – 18.00 (Sun)
- North Hudson, Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum – Offering free entry into a world of old travel by trains. There are over 30 pieces on display in various different levels of restoration. There is also a nine mile trailhead nearby for those looking for a peaceful walk along the roadbed of the former trail line. Museum hours: 9.00 – 16.00 (Sat)
- Roselawn, Naked City – Built by the proclaimed ‘father of nudism in America,’ this place was eventually passed down to Alois Knapp’s son, Dick. Unfortunately, however, Dick happened to be quite a pervert and was charged with child molestation later on down the line (though after reading that he created events like: Ms. Nude Teeny Bopper Contest, I don’t think it was a surprise allegation…) But in addition to creating new contests once he got his hands on the place, he also created a 63 foot long sundial – in the form of a lady’s leg. A giant lady’s leg.Viewing is free and clothing now optional (though required after a certain point) and its address is 3449 E. State Rd 10, Roselawn, Indiana for those interested in seeing this ridiculously big sundial.
Free things to do in Indiana's Central Till Plains:
- Indiana State Police Museum - A collection of historical artifacts concerning the history of the police in Indiana, such as numerous police uniforms from different areas, a car, and the death mask of John Dillinger, an infamous gangster in the 1930s that deemed himself as a current-day 'Robin Hood.'Hours: 09.00 - 15.00 (Mon - Fri); 12.00 - 16.00 (3rd Sat of the month)
- Zionsville, Antique Fan Museum – The only antique fan museum that offers free entry (or any kind actually) to the public. It’s a lot bigger than you’d think it would be as it has over 400 artifacts, including over twelve different types of fan. Did you know there used to be alcohol-powered ones? Or was that just a cover for during the Prohibition? I have no idea because I haven’t yet been. (:
- Columbian Park Zoo – Offering free entry to both locals and travelers alike, this zoo is an amazing place to visit. It focuses on the conservation of animals all around the world and actively tries to stop the destruction of their environments by bringing awareness to the public (mostly over the horrible coincequences of using palm oil). They have over 100 different animals including white-handed gibbons, black-handed spider monkeys, and galapagos tortoises. I would also recommend using the Colombian Park Zoo’s website for tons of information on the animals they’re housing as you walk around.Hours: 10.00-16.30 (23 Apr – 27 May & mid Aug – mid Oct); 10.00 – 19.00 (28 May – mid Aug)
- Crawfordsville, Ropkey Armor Museum – An indoor museum that houses various different military vehicles, including a M3A1 scout car, some WWII Shermans, and a modern M109 155mm howitzer. I say all of that like I know what they are, but I've got no idea in the slightest. lols.Hours: 11.00 - 16.00 (Mon - Wed, Mar - Dec)
- Logansport, Jerolaman-Long Home: Another museum offering free entry to see its collections of thousands of artifacts about the history of Cass Country, such as locally created art pieces, war costumes, and some Native American pieces. There is also an 19th century two-story log cabin restored to its former glory.Hours: 13.00 – 17.00 (Tue – Sat). Viewing in January is by appointment only.
- Garfield Trail – The creator of Garfield, Jim Davis, was born in this area and so out of respect to his success, the locals built eleven different five foot tall statues of his famous lasagna-loving cat. Such poses include a firefighter Garfield at the Jonesboro City Hall in Gas City and a doctor one outside the (surprise!) General Hospital in Marion, Indiana.
- Murals Trail - A brillant showcase of over 80 art pieces covers the walls in all of the neighborhoods in Richmond. There are paintings depicting comic creations, historical history, abstract expressions, and more. A brochure and trail map can be picked up at the Old National Road Welcome Center from 08.0 - 17.00 Mon - Fri and 10.00 - 16.00 on Sat.
- Wolf Creek Habitat – An amazing place where people seem to really care for the three packs of wolves that they have rescued over the years. Only purebreed wolves are cared for here and they are fed a natural diet (as in they throw in elk heads and stuff). A viewing balcony is free to the public, but if you want to make a $50+ donation you can go in and interact with them IF YOU FOLLOW ALL THEIR RULES! Given that one of them is don’t wear any fur and another is be taller than their normal prey, I think that speaks really well of their living conditions though I have not personally been to see myself.Hours: 10.00 – 17.00 (weekends; May – Sept); 11.00 – 17.00 (weekends; Oct – Apr) UNLESS IT’S TOO HOT FOR THE WOLVES. Then it closes at 14.00
Free things to do in Southern Indiana:
- Colonel Jones’ House – The restored 19th century home of a man named William Jones. Not only was he one of Abraham Lincoln’s bosses back before Lincoln became president, but it was also the setting of the creation of Honest Abe. The story goes that one night while working in Jones’ shop, Abraham accidentally overcharged a customer by a few cents, but instead of pocketing the change he walked for miles in the middle of the night to return the money to its rightful owner.Hours: 09.00 – 17.00 (Wed – Sat); 13.00 – 17.00 (Sun). Open mid-March – mid-Dec only.
- Santa Claus, Santa’s Candy Castle – First off, who freaking knew there was a place in Indiana called freaking ‘Santa Claus!!!!’ Secondly, the guy who now owns the castle that was built there in 1935 (along with a whole Santa Claus village that’s now gone) had this to say: "I thought it would be cool to fill the castle moat with hot chocolate," Kevin told us. "But our health inspector thought it would not be so cool." !!!! Could you imagine how cool that would be!?Hours: 09.00 – 20.00 (7 days in summer); 09.00 – 17.00 (weekends in fall)
- Falls of Ohio - Located on the banks of the Ohio River, which runs between Kentucky and Indiana, is a real prized hidden gem. It's one of the best fossil-finding places in the world that offers free entry to the public and can be visited at any time of year. One doesn't need to know anything about fossils when hunting here as they are clear and easy to see and are embedded into the rock beneath your feet. You used to be able to collect some from here as well, but due to the high number of them taken the practice was banned a number of years ago. You can still take pictures though. :p
- Freeman Army Airfield Museum – A historical army base camp during WWII, this place has now been converted into a museum that’s run entirely; Can call 812-522-2031 during normal business hours to get access at other times or shoot an email to Lbothe@comcast.net*Any donations given to the Freeman Army Airfieald Museum is tax deductable.
- Bruceville, John Ivers’ Backyard – What’s so great about some dude’s backyard you might ask, especially when you find out that John Ivers is a grandpa. What fetish or collection could a man of that age have that would be worth detouring to North Ivers Road just to see, you young backpackers might question. Well, I am so freaking pumped to tell you that the hidden gem here are two self-built freaking ROLLERCOASTERS! Full on freaking ROLLERCOASTERS! He calls the first rollercoaster (in case you haven’t got that already) The Blue Flash and the other, Blue Too. They’re small and only last about 10 seconds each, but how freaking cool is that!? I mean, how many people do you know that have self-built ROLLERCOASTERS in their backyard that you can ride for free!? Hours: June – Sept, weekends only and only via appointment | Max weight allowed: 200 pounds
- George Rogers Clark Park – A national historical park located near the border of Indiana and Illonois. It is home to the largest monument in the US outside of Washington D.C. and is in memory of the conquest of the ex-British owned settlement of Fort Sackville in 1770. Though, really, what did they expect when they named it such? I mean, that’s just pushing your luck...or were they hoping it would be a misnomer?
Do you know of any other free things to do in Indiana? Or just want to write a review on one of the above places you've been? Then we'd love to hear all about them in the comments below!