Museums give us the chance to gain an appreciation and understanding of art, culture, and history. Indiana holds a diverse set of museums, including the largest children’s museum in the world, exhibits full of fine art, live historical re-enactments, and some of the best military collections in the United States. Thus, it is a must for all Hoosiers to check out these 20 incredible museums. This list is part of The 20 IN 20. Begin your decade with a real adventure in 2020 by completing at least 20 of our 400 incredible things to do! Find out more about The 20 IN 20 here.
Travel is permitted, and museums are allowed to be open, but it is still vital to practice social distancing as we continue to fight COVID-19. Face coverings are required in Indiana, so be sure to mask up when entering an Indiana museum. Please take precautions, plan ahead, and follow CDC and local guidelines while visiting the Hoosier state.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest of its kind in the entire world! Over 130,000 artifacts are housed on five floors of interactive fun and excitement. An abundance of exhibits, including Barbie You Can Be Anything: The Experience, Take Me There: Greece, American POP, Beyond Spaceship Earth, Dinosphere, and more, will provide entertainment for the whole family. The Riley Children’s Health Sports Legend Experience is full of heart-pumping sports and physical fitness experiences. USA Today 10 Best named it as America’s top children’s museum! Buy tickets here.
Founded in 1981, the Grissom Air Museum was established by seven veterans in Peru. The museum preserves aircraft located at the Grissom Air Reserve Base. It is home to a total of 32 military aircraft with 24 currently on display. Visitors can sit in planes and helicopters, including an F-4 Phantom, H1-Huey Helicopter, Bomb Loader, and more. Our readers voted the museum among the Best of Indiana. For more information on planning a visit, click here.
Conner Prairie is an outdoor living history museum found in Fishers that recreates life in the 1800s. There are many experiences to be had, including 1836 Prairietown, 1859 Balloon Voyage, 1863 Civil War Journey, and more! Conner Prairie also happens to be Indiana’s first Smithsonian affiliate. Their goal is to provide families with multi-generational opportunities to come together and learn. Conner Prairie finished third in the voting when we looked for Indiana’s Best Museum.
Kids can spark their imagination at Science Central! This hands-on science museum in Fort Wayne is full of fun educational experiences, including a static electricity demonstration, liquid nitrogen experiment, optical illusions, and so much more. Their Science on A Sphere exhibit, a six-foot globe that rotates “mid-air,” allows guests to flip a button and see different planets, currents of the oceans, and real-time storms throughout the world. Science Central finished in the top 10 when we held voting for Indiana’s Best Museum.
There are four car museums in Northeast Indiana that attract visitors worldwide, including two located right next to each other with the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum and National Automotive & Truck Museum. Auburn Cord Duesenberg is one of Indiana’s most unique museums, displaying over 120 cars featured on three floors. Nine automotive-themed galleries let visitors experience automotive history from classic to racing cars. The original Auburn Automobile Company Showroom and offices are located inside the museum as well. The National Automotive & Truck Museum lets visitors enjoy two floors of amazing one of kind vehicles, prototypes, classic cars, and trucks. The pride and joy of the collection is the General Motors Futurliner #10, which was used by the company to tour the country and promote technology of the future.
The Indiana State Museum, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the NCAA Hall of Champions all call White River State Park home. The Indiana State Museum features exhibits and artifacts about the Hoosier State, with Indiana’s complete history and culture on full display throughout the museum. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art inspires appreciation and understanding of the art and culture of the American West and Indigenous peoples of North America. The NCAA Hall of Champions allows visitors to get hands-on with 24 NCAA sports and learn what it takes to be an NCAA student-athlete.
One of the largest and most extensive military collections in the country can be found in Vincennes. The Indiana Military Museum preserves artifacts important to American history and educates future generations. Military uniforms, vehicles, artillery, aircraft, and other equipment make for an unforgettable experience in the indoor and outdoor exhibits. The museum was voted one of the Best of Indiana.
The CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center was founded by Holocaust survivor and forgiveness advocate Eva Kor. Holocaust survivors are present at the museum and give visitors insight about prejudice, the consequences of choices, and more through their lens. Eva passed away on July 4, 2019, and it was a significant loss to the Terre Haute community, the state of Indiana, and the world. However, her legacy lives on, as the interactive “Dimensions in Testimony” installation allows visitors to ask questions to an Eva hologram and hear her testimony.
Exhibitions of fine and American decorative art from diverse artists headline the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. The Early Learning Center on-site gives a hands-on learning environment for children. Each of their exhibits is typically on display for 6-12 weeks. Find current exhibitions here. The museum was voted one of the Best of Indiana.
Red Skelton was a Hoosier comedian and entertainer who rose to fame in the middle of the 20th century for his TV show, “The Red Skelton Show.” The Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy exists to honor Skelton’s comedic legacy. A 3,500 square foot exhibit features a Red Skelton Comedy kit, “Freddie the Freeloader” stage set, a showcase theater featuring highlights from his career, and more. Temporary exhibitions are also on display, depending on the time of year. The museum was voted one of the Best of Indiana.
Newfields is an iconic Indiana museum with so many things to do. Inspiring works of art highlight the walls, the lush gardens are the perfect place for a relaxing stroll, and the 100-acre nature park is full of wetlands and meadows. All of the 2020 exhibitions at the Indianapolis Museum of Art can be found here. Purchase your tickets to Newfields here.
Immerse yourself in the story of the Studebaker Corporation, an Indiana automobile manufacturer founded in South Bend. The Studebaker National Museum follows the arc of the company and showcases many of their iconic vehicles. The Studebaker Corporation gifted its 33 vehicle collection to South Bend in 1966, which are currently housed in the 55,000 square foot museum. The Studebaker National Museum also features the most extensive Presidential Carriage collection in the United States. Read more about the different collections of Studebaker vehicles here. While visiting the museum, make sure to checkout the History Museum in South Bend, which shares a building the the Studebaker museum.
It’s history but just way more super. The Hall of Heroes Superhero Museum is the world’s only superhero and comic museum. Marvel and DC fans alike will be in heaven as visitors can find iconic props and comics, including Adam West’s personal Batman costume, Captain America’s shield used by Chris Evans, origin comics signed by Stan Lee, and more. See more of the marquee attractions at the Superhero Museum here.
The Indiana War Memorial Museum commemorates Hoosiers killed during World War I. The museum is full of military equipment and artifacts from every American conflict. A visit to the memorial on the top floor will leave you breathless. The five-city-block plaza next to the museum is also filled with four fountains, 25 acres of monuments and statues, and three parks.
Virgil Grissom, America’s second man to reach space in 1961, was born in Mitchell and attended Purdue University. He was selected to be one of the “Mercury 7”, an elite group of astronauts at NASA, and oversaw the first manned mission of the Gemini program. The Gus Grissom Museum at Spring Mill State Park showcases artifacts from his life, headlined by the Gemini III Space Capsule suspended in the air. Grissom’s Mercury spacesuit, along with the helmet worn during his Mercury flight, are also on display!
Located within the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, the IMS Museum collection encompasses automobiles and artifacts representing more than a century of Indianapolis 500 culture, drama, and competition, plus vehicles representing NASCAR, Formula One, American short-track racing, drag racing, and motorcycles. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, comprised of drivers, team owners, and personalities who have had a significant impact on IMS, is also housed at the museum.
Located in Downtown Evansville, The Children’s Museum of Evansville (cMoe) offers over 20,000 square feet of galleries and exhibits, housed in a beautiful historic Art Deco building once home to the public library. A new traveling exhibit, The Amazing Castle, is a fanciful medieval village filled with opportunities for problem-solving, storytelling, and imaginative play!
No one tells the story of American wind-power better than the Mid-America Windmill Museum in Kendallville. It was initially created to display windmills manufactured at the Flint and Walling Company plant, but it has now expanded to display 52 windmills in its barn and also on the gorgeous outdoor path. The most well-known attraction at the Mid-America Windmill Museum is a replica of the Robertson Post Windmill, which was the first-ever windmill built in the United States. Learn more about a visit here.
The Indiana Historical Society has been Indiana’s premier storyteller since 1830. The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center is not only the headquarters for IHS but also a museum dedicated to immersing visitors to the past in new ways. Rummage through its incredible research library and then confront history first hand with its three experiences. The current experiences include Destination Indiana, Cole Porter Room, and the W. Brook and Rwanda Y. Fortune History Lab.
In 49 states, Basketball is just a game, but this is Indiana. Hoosier Hysteria is real, and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame celebrates the proud heritage of the sport throughout the state. The 14,000 square foot museum tells in-depth stories about the people, teams, communities, and schools that have been apart of Indiana basketball history since the 1890s. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame opens on Thursday, September 24!
Mascots liven up the game across all collegiate and professional sports, which is why one of the newest Indiana museums is so exciting. The Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting features 20 of your favorite furry friends, including Mr. Met from the New York Mets, The Coyote from the San Antonio Spurs, and Brutus from the Ohio State Buckeyes. All kinds of fun occur at the plethora of interactive exhibits in the museum. Visitors can show off their skills in the Department of Phuzzical Education that features a T-Shirt Shooter Stadium or explore the world of mascots at the Science of Silliness. There is even a Build-A-Bear® kiosk where kids can Build-A-Mascot! The Mascot Hall of Fame is closed until further notice.
A trip to the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum is a journey back to the bygone era. Positioned on the former junction of the Erie, C&O, NYC, and PRR in North Judson, the museum allows visitors to experience the sights and sounds of trains from decades ago. The museum is usually open year-round on Saturdays but is currently limited on a minimal schedule. Its final date of operation this year will be October 3.
The Indiana Medical History Museum is located on the grounds of the former Central State Hospital, which opened in 1896 to find causes of mental illness for patients deemed “insane.” The heart of the modern-day museum is the Old Pathology Building, which is the oldest surviving pathology facility in the nation. Today, visitors can explore the teaching amphitheater; laboratories for bacteriology, clinical chemistry, histology, and photography; the library, reception room, and records room; and the autopsy room and anatomical museum, which houses preserved specimens–mostly brains, organized by pathology. The Indiana Medical History Museum is currently closed to the public until further notice. Follow its Facebook page to stay up to date on reopening plans.
Plan your #The20IN20 trip by checking out the map of Indiana museums below!