An outdoor view of the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis, just one of many things to do in Indianapolis
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Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis | Great for Science

The Indiana State Museum is a must-see for all who love science and history and are visiting the Indianapolis area. If you’re visiting Indy and want to learn more about our state, don’t miss the Indiana State Museum!

I grew up in Indiana. And, though I’ve been by the Indiana State Museum, I had never been in it (other than to use the parking garage and head out to White River State Park, the canal, or the Eideljorg Museum. See the “Location” section below for more info).

I don’t know how it had been missed all of these years! Honestly, I think a good part of it was that I never expected it to be THIS cool! I was shocked when I discovered all the Indiana State Museum has to offer.

I had no idea there were so many paleontological discoveries in our state! And it was so fun to see all of the innovations that came from Indiana over the last several centuries! If you love science and history or just love the great state of Indiana, this museum is for you!

Where is the Indiana State Museum?

The entrance to the Indiana State Museum with several scientific and innovative tools painted on the wall

The Indiana State Museum is centrally located in downtown Indianapolis. Visitors to the museum can take Washington Street to access the White River State Park Parking Garage under the museum. Though parking at that garage is pricey, visitors to the museum will pay just $5 when they ask the museum ticket attendants for a parking voucher. (Please be aware, the price may have changed since the writing of this post.)

Located directly in front of the canal, visitors can experience everything the museum has to offer and also enjoy the canal right out the back doors of the museum!


650 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204

The Indiana State Museum: Scientific Discoveries (1st Floor)

The Indiana State Museum has a floor dedicated to scientific discoveries, including fossils from mammoths and mastodons found in Indiana

My science-loving husband LOVED this section of the museum! The Indiana State Museum now ranks as his favorite museum in Indy(!)… all because of this science section! The first floor is dedicated mainly to fossils found in Indiana. There are fossils on display from mastodons, mammoths, short-nosed bears, Sabertooths, and ground sloths.

A tall room with fossils behind glass and hanging from the ceiling

They also have an “Ancient Seas” section which displays marine fossils such as sharks and sea scorpions found around the state. How did they get to land-locked Indiana? The state used to be covered in water, and these marine animals called Indiana home!

The museum highlights the history of the Ice Age as it affected Indiana and the melting period, which ultimately led to the formation of several lakes in Indiana. Bones, teeth, and tusks from a wide variety of paleontological discoveries throughout Indiana were on display.

We were amazed at how many fossils have been discovered in Indiana. In fact, around 300 mammoths and mastodons have been found in Indiana alone! And there are probably many more still waiting to be found!

The Indiana State Museum: Hoosier Innovations (2nd Floor)

Historic cars on display at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis

The 2nd floor of the museum highlights the culture of the people of Indiana.

It begins by celebrating the Native Americans who called this land home first. Then, it highlights pioneer times, shows vehicles and tools used in the early 1900s, displays old toys and attire from the late 1900s, shines a light on racism, and then shares a list of famous individuals from Indiana.

They even had a small plaque honoring “Gus” Grissom, one of the first astronauts in space with his own museum at Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana!

We had so much fun at one interactive exhibit in the pioneer section. It reminded me of the old “Oregon Trail” game! The interactive game set in pioneer times had us pick our food and supplies for a 2-week trip to Indiana. Along the way, we encountered difficulties where we had to use the items we had chosen to complete the trek. Fortunately, we made it! lol

It definitely brought back memories of all the hours I spent playing “Oregon Trail” as a kid!

If you love history, check out Conner Prairie, a living history museum northeast of Indianapolis.

The Indiana State Museum: Rotating Exhibits (3rd Floor)

An interactive area at the Indiana State Museum for visitors to try their hand at putting together parts to make a bicycle.

The third floor changes seasonally. When we visited, there were three exhibits. One exhibit had several art displays, one exhibit gave children the opportunity to build a city out of cardboard boxes, and the last exhibit highlighted the success of Major Taylor, the fastest cyclist in the world.

Marshall “Major” Taylor was an Indianapolis native. Visitors could read about his life and the challenges he faced, including racism.

But there were also a few interactive components. There was a racing game a family could play and there was even an area where children could build a scooter from metal pieces and bolts provided and then race it on a short race course (pictured above)! We were pretty impressed!

Families really seemed to be enjoying this section.

Questions About the Museum:

What Age of Children Will Likely Enjoy the Indiana State Museum Most?

I would suggest children visiting the museum be at least 5 years old. Even then, a lot will go over their heads if they cannot read. Ideally, the child would be 10 or older. We noticed several little kids running through the museum and otherwise really bored. The older children were saying things like, “That’s so cool!”. Older children will probably enjoy the Indiana State Museum more.

How Long Will It Take to See All of the Indiana State Museum?

Plan to spend about three to four hours there. We chose to arrive in the later morning, check out the first floor, go out to lunch nearby, and then check out the second and third floors. This may be ideal if you bring young children. Additionally, there is so much to do in the area, you will likely want to explore other attractions nearby.

Do You Have Any Suggestions for Those (Like Me!) Who Are Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free?

Yes! The museum has an indoor cafe called “Farmer’s Market”. Their menu indicates gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options. In fact, this cafe was listed in our blog post on The Best Allergy-Friendly Restaurants in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The cafe is located on the 2nd floor of the museum and could be accessed by the public as well. Since each floor of the museum requires a new entry (show your wristband to the attendant), visitors without wristbands can still walk through the museum to traverse between the front of the museum and the canal. They can also use the large stairwell in the museum. So visitors to Indy should have no problem getting to the Farmer’s Market cafe for gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegetarian options.

The entryway to the market cafe at the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis

What Else is There to Do in the Downtown Indianapolis Area?

So much! The Indiana State Museum is within walking distance of White River State Park, the downtown canal, the Medal of Honor Memorial, the NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Eideljorg Museum. It’s also right around the corner from the Indianapolis Zoo, Victory Field, and the Indiana Historical Society. (Check out our post on 34 things to do in Indy!)

And the best part is the Indiana State Museum is in the middle of all of this! In fact, the canal downtown goes right past the Indiana State Museum! The Eideljorg Museum is right next to the state museum, and the NCAA Hall of Champions is right across the canal. Just a short walk down the canal is the Indiana Historical Museum.

And, if you want to spend a few minutes outside take a walk down the canal to White River State Park. There, you can rent 4-wheel surrey bikes, electric bikes, and more, or you can stroll across the bridge over White River and check out all of the outdoor art pieces along the way!

Because the Indiana State Museum is centrally located, you could easily spend half a day enjoying the museum and still check out other attractions in downtown Indianapolis!

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Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog
Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog
11 months ago

The Indiana State Museum looks terrific! This Indianapolis destination sounds like the perfect spot for the science kiddos! We will have to stop by for a visit next time we are back home in Kentucky.

Lisa Manderino
Lisa Manderino
11 months ago

I seriously need to go to Indiana! I have never been. This looks like a cool musuem!

11 months ago

I love museums. The Indiana State Museum looks to be a great one to visit!

Linda Winans Egeler
11 months ago

We love science museums! That photo of the fossil exhibit is amazing! We don’t have anything like that near us.

11 months ago

I know my kids would love the Indiana State Museum. Exploring all those exhibits looks like fun.

11 months ago

I think the older I get, the cooler I find science museums! The Indiana state museum looks like it’s amazing!

Cindy Moore
Cindy Moore
11 months ago

Indians State Museums sounds like a fun place to spend an afternoon! And I love that the on site cafè has healthy options!