Museums: Day Trips from Indianapolis

The deep and fascinating history of Indianapolis and the entire midwestern state of Indiana has left a permanent, venerable mark on Indianapolis culture, society and community. All around Indianapolis, there are niches and crannies harboring physical manifestations of what has come before. Some of the most gratifying to visit are the many fine museums that are only a day trip away from Indianapolis.

Below is a directory of the great museums close to the Circle City. A visit to any one of these facilities makes a memorable thing to do in Indianapolis for you, your guests and all Indianapolis children. You might also want to check out our directory of Indianapolis museums right here at home.

Museums | Day Trips from Indianapolis

Academy of Hoosier Heritage in Mooresville, Indiana
John Wooden was a legendary basketball player and coach with Indiana roots. His hometown pays tribute to his legacy by featuring him in a museum called the Academy of Hoosier Heritage. Wooden is best known for the mark he left of college basketball, coaching UCLA to 10 NCAA national titles. Many other famous Hoosiers and related historic artifacts are on display at this Indiana Museum. School children field trip to the Academy of Hoosier Heritage to learn about local history. Classes are held in the Academy Building’s one-room school. The structure was built in 1861 and was used as a boarding school for more than a century. The first floor of Mooresville’s Academy building is used for public meeting space and houses offices for the Community Foundation of Morgan County Inc, which is with the Academy of Hoosier Heritage on the second floor. For a journey through central Indiana history, take a day trip to see the Academy of Hoosier Heritage.

Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum
in Auburn, Indiana
150 miles northeast of Indianapolis is the classic car capitol of the world. The Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum displays classic cars ranging from 1894 to 1999, many of which were made right here in the Hoosier State. The site of the museum is the original Aurburn Automobile Company, a designer of luxury classic cars. For an educational and fun day trip from Indianapolis, check out the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.

Carroll County Historical Museum in Delphi, Indiana

This Indiana museum has been going digital since 2000, and now has more than 116,000 photographs that are electronically archived and now invincible. The Carroll County Historical Museum is located in downtown Delphi on the first floor of the county courthouse building. Amazing historic artifacts are displayed here, including a bell from the 1800s era courthouse. The bell was actually recovered from the Ohio River after a boat collision in 1839. Other fascinating memorabilia from decades past are a part of this county museum’s unique collection. It’s free to visit this Indiana attraction, but donations are greatly appreciated. Don’t miss out on some of the other day trip destination in the area, like Wolf Park and Prophetstown State Park in nearby Battle Ground, Indiana.

Circus Museum
in Peru, Indiana
Just over an hour’s drive north of Indianapolis, you’ll find the novel town called Peru, widely referred to as the “Circus Capital of the World.” If you plan to visit in mid-July, you can take in the awe-inspiring Circus Heritage Festival, which lasts an entire week. There’s plenty to see at this fun museum during the rest of the year, however, and it’s all guaranteed to take your breath away.

Clabber Girl Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana
Clabber Girl Baking Powder became a household brand name in the 1870s. The company was started by Frances Ulman and his two brothers, and eventually the entire family had a hand in the business. It was originally just a grocery business, and eventually it was expanded into a general merchandise distributor and a manufacturer of spices, coffee and, yes, baking powder. The factory is located in downtown Terre Haute, and visitors are able to sample Clabber Girl coffee and buy some to take home. The Clabber Girl Museum is full of historic artifacts and memorabilia from the last `50 years of the business, and a tour through this Indiana museum shows the evolution of the company and how the times have changed through the decades.

College Football Hall of Fame

Head up to South Bend, Indiana for a glimpse at college football history. From the Heisman Awards to game reel bloopers, the College Football Hall of Fame is a great destination for football lovers, even in the off-season. Bring a few friends, or the whole family on an unforgettable day trip. If you’re looking for an excellent venue for a wedding reception, family reunion, birthday party, or another private event, the College Football Hall of Fame is a great spot. Hoosiers and college basketball lovers from across the globe are encouraged to view the long history of college football glory at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Doctor Ted’s Musical Marvels in Dale, Indiana

Ted Waflart was an engineer before becoming “Doctor Ted.” In 1973, he picked up a new hobby while antique shopping. It started by repairing an old pump organ, and how his collection is a museum. The most exciting display at Doctor Ted’s musical Marvels is a Decap Belgium Dance Organ. It’s an all-in-one band with sounds of a bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, accordions, saxophones and more.

Dubois County Museum in Jasper, Indiana

For several decades, this historic Indiana museum’s collection was crammed into a small building in Jasper. That all changed in 2003, when an old 145,000 square foot furniture factory was donated for museum use. Now there is more space than the collection can fill, so portions of the Dubois County Museum are available to rent for private events. A restored double log house can even fit into the large space. Another exhibit includes artifacts from when Germans immigrated to the southern Indiana community. NBA and NFL stars from the county are also outlined in a popular sports display.

Fulton County Historical Society Museum in Rochester, Indiana

Tarzan is from Indiana? Yes, it was Otto Elmo Linkenhelt of Rochester, Indiana who played the Tarzan in the original silent version of this classic film. His acting history and roots in the Hoosier State makes up one of the educational exhibits at the Fulton County Historical Society Museum. The Historical Society also operates the Round Barn Museum in Rochester, another great Indiana attraction.

Grissom Air Museum

If you’re looking for an exciting and educational getaway from Indianapolis, head up to Peru, Indiana and check out the Grissom Air Museum. The museum features 25 outdoor aircraft on display, including a B-17 Flying Fortress and several other historic planes. The indoor museum teaches visitors about the history of flight, and it offers interactive experiences for the whole family to enjoy.

Henry County Historical Society Museum in new Castle, Indiana

Civil War general William Grose was the original owner of what’s now the Henry County Historical Society Museum. this museum’s extensive collection includes a fascinating hand-made desk. It’s made from 56, 978 pieces of inlaid wood, and tells the entire family history of its maker Thaddeus Coffin. Other popular exhibits include the furnishings of William and Emma Bond and a military tribute to two county generals.

The History Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana

An ancient city hall building, constructed in 1893, is now the home of The History Center in downtown Fort Wayne. highlights of the museum’s collection include an antique jail cell, known as the calaboose, and historic documents from the time when Fort Wayne was named the “most lawless town in Indiana.” Many visitors come to pay tribute to the Father of Television. Philo Farnsworth created some of the very earliest television sets at his business in Fort Wayne called the Farnsworth-Capehart Company. Several other exhibits detail Hoosier history through the decades, making the History Center a very educational day trip destination in northeast Indiana.

Hoosier Bat Company in Valparaiso, Indiana

Baseball rival home run hitters from the Cubs and White Sox can agree on one thing, Hoosier Bat Company practice bats. Sammy Sosa and Frank Thomas both regularly used these three-wood blended bats. The patented design was made by Indiana businessman David COok, and it features and ash handle, hickory hitting area and a maple barrel. Tours of the manufacturing facility in northwest Indiana are available if scheduled in advance.

Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Indiana

For over a century, the Howard family dominated the boat building business in southern Indiana. Together they constructed more than 3,000 watercrafts, including some of the fastest steamboats in the world. A museum was opened at the family’s huge mansion home to honor their legacy. Artifacts from the late 1800s ship building era, models of the world’s finest steamboats and even a piece of a paddle-wheel from the Delta Queen make up the expansive collection at the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Indiana University Art Museum in Bloomington, Indiana

An award winning record setting, world famous art museum is located only an hour south of Indianapolis, on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The state-of-the-art structure was built by world renowned architecture firm I.M. Pei and Partners in the late 1970’s. The museum itself is a unique work of art, as there are no right angles to be found in the building’s frame. More than 30,000 items make up the Indiana University Art Museum’s extensive collection, which includes works by Monet and Picasso. Perhaps the most noticeable piece in the collections is the Indiana Arc, which is a large crimson display welcoming visitors at the front entrance of the museum. The aluminum art piece was created by Charles Perry and give to the university in 1995.

James Dean Gallery in Gas City, Indiana

Come see the 7,2000 square foot tribute to this Hoosier film star. Thousands of fans, enthusiasts and historians pass through Gas City, Marion and Fairmount each year to pay their respects to this Indiana native. Memorabilia ranging from ceramic mugs to bronze busts stretch from wall to wall, and makes up the world’s largest James Dean collection. This Indiana attraction opened doors in 1988, and curator David Loehr takes great pride in his massive collection. Take a day trip from Indianapolis and explore the footsteps of James Dean, beginning at his birthplace in Marion and all the way to his grave site in Fairmount.

Jay County Historical Society in Portland, Indiana

One of the best portraits in existence of Abraham Lincoln before his presidency. It’s been called Honest Abe’s best picture, but it never saw the light of day because his fellow republicans thought he looked underdressed. An iron lung is also displayed at this museum. This piece of antique medical equipment was used to treat polio patients before the disease went extinct. The Jay County Historical Society holds an annual Fall Heritage Festival each  October. Plan your next trip in advance to fully enjoy all that Portland, Indiana has to offer.

Johnson County Museum of History in Franklin, Indiana

In its early days, the Johnson County Museum of History displayed its collection in storefront windows. Today its housed in Franklin’s former Masonic Temple. Part of the museum collection includes the Lewis and Sarah Hendricks log cabin circa 1835. The highlight of all displays is the Fabulous 50s with Nick’s Candy Kitchen. The Johnson County Historical Society runs the museum, and offers tours of other nearby attractions. Three different driving tours take visitors to a former Underground Railroad station and dozens of other locations.

Luckey Hospital Museum in Wolf Lake, Indiana

Dr. James E. Luckey operated a medical practice out of his home, and what started as a small clinic grew into a three story hospital. It was equipped with emergency room and surgery capabilities, and today it’s a hospital museum. The building was recently rescued by descendants of Dr. Luckey, and the museum soon followed. Now there are old nurses’ uniforms, medical equipment and even an old fashioned surgery room on display at the Luckey Hospital Museum.

Mathers Museum of World Cultures in Bloomington, Indiana

Around the world in 80 minutes? It’s possible at this Indiana museum, where cultures from all over the globe come together under one roof. The Mathers Museum of World Cultures is a one of a kind anthropology museum that illustrates similarities and differences between people from all walks of life. More than 20,000 objects and 10,000 photographs make up the collection here, but they are displayed in a rotating schedule in order to maximize the material that can be studied at Mathers Museum. That means that a day trip to this Hoosier museum could offer something entirely different in the spring versus the fall. Family programs, university programs, research projects, lectures and workshops are held here during the school year. A day trip to the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is an educational getaway from the Circle City.

Mid-America Windmill Museum
in Kendallville, Indiana
The windmill capital of the Midwest is located right here in the Hoosier State. More than 50 windmills are on display on the site, and some even date back as far as the early 1800s. Windmill history and the evolution of the modern windmill are detailed by the exhibits, making this a unique and educational experience. Going green, clean energy and windmill power are all major discussion topics of today, some see what all the hype is about, and learn about windmills from all over the area.

Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart, Indiana

Housed inside an old bank building, this Indiana museum has more than 3,200 works in its collection. Famous artists Norman Rockwell, Grandma Moses, John Singer Sargent and Edward Moran have just a few featured exhibits at the Midwest Museum of Amercan Art. Admission is free on Sundays and free films and lectures are held each Thursday afternoon. A featured attraction at this nineteenth and twentieth century art gallery is the original bank vault, which was converted into a display area itself with permanent and revolving exhibits. Art lovers of all ages come to observe the artistic mastery inside this 25,000 square foot facility.

Model T Museum in Centerville, Indiana

Henry Ford created the world’s most affordable car, which made the automobile ore attainable for many Americans. Not only did it win the title “Car of the Century,” it’s also known as the car that put the world on wheels. Centerville, Indiana is home to the Model T Museum, a tribute to these classic cars. The Model T Ford Club of America runs this Indiana museum, and much of the collection on display includes vehicles on loan from private collections. Antique car enthusiasts visit Centerville with flashy classic cars, making it a unique and perfect destination for a day trip from Indianapolis.

Moore-Youse Home Museum in Muncie, Indiana

Three generations of a Hoosier family lived in this house for decades. This antique house has been restored to look like it did in the late 1800s. One of the most fascinating features of the historic site is all the authentic furnishings and decor. There’s even photographic proof that guests can compare in the second floor bedroom. The picture dates back to 1896, when Clara Moore rocked her baby granddaughter in a chair next to a table and desk that still sit in the same spot. The Moore-Youse Home is believed to be one of the oldest standing structures in Muncie. A tour of this historic museum home gives visitors a stroll through time and a feel for how Muncie life was in the past.

Muncie Children’s Museum

The medium-sized city of Muncie, Indiana, about an hour’s drive to the northeast of Indianapolis, offers lots to do in a day. You and your family may, in fact, decide to stay over to take in more of the sights and activities in Muncie. Be sure to see the Muncie Children’s Museum, an excellent complement to the world-famous Indianapolis Children’s Museum in downtown Indianapolis.

Norm Skinner’s Farm Museum and Village in Perrysville, Indiana

Ancient farm equipment, automobiles, sleighs and other 1820s era farm equipment are displayed on Norm Skinner’s Farm. Each fall, Farmer Skinner fires up his equipment collection at his annual steam and gas show. Visitors from near and far step back to the 1820s and experience life on the farm in the old days. Norm Skinner’s Village has some of the coolest ancient structures, including historic homes, an 1830 tavern, an 1890 school house, a round barn from Illinois, an 1881 jailhouse and several log cabins. Escape from Indy for a day or two and experience Indiana farming.

Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana

The art of quilting is a trade passed down for generations. Unique patterns, historic books and other educational sites await at the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana. Famous quilter Marie Webster lived in the home that the hall of fame is now located in. Webster wrote the first book on quilting, and she developed a very successful mail order quilt pattern business. Her office and other  parts of her home are still intact and displayed at the hall of fame.

Ragtops Museum
in Michigan City, Indiana
Classic car lovers flock from all over the country to see the 70,000 square foot showroom at the Ragtops Museum. More than 60 assembled cars make up the museum’s collection, and many cars are for sale. For a relaxing and education day trip, venture up to the Ragtops Museum. While you’re in northwest Indiana, be sure to check out the beautiful shorelines at the Indiana Dunes State Park and National Lakeshore. The museum doubles as an event venue, hosting wedding receptions, family gatherings and several other private events.

Southern Indiana Center for the Arts
in Seymour, Indiana
Hoosier rock-n-roll legend John Mellencamp has a deep appreciation for the arts. His creativity and generosity are displayed at the S.I.C.F.T.A. Mellencamp purchased the property while filming his 1993 motion picture. Falling From Grace, and he now rents the property at the very low cost of one dollar every two years. Along with local artists, the paintings of John Mellencamp and his mother Marilyn are on display for the public. Educational opportunities are available at this Indiana arts Mecca, including pottery classes, lectures and juried art shows. The Minutes to Memories garden is another cool site to see at the center. It was dedicated in 2003 to honor the memory of John’s grandmother. Art lovers and Mellencamp fans alike enjoy all there is to see at this day trip destination, including dozens of exhibits and tons of Mellencamp memorabilia.

Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana

The evolution of transportation is on display at this Indiana museum, and the collection ranges from  horse and buggies to wagons and gasoline engines. The Studebaker National Museum is located in South Bend, Indiana, and it makes for a fun and interesting day trip from Indianapolis. Classic car lovers and history buffs enjoy the Studebaker National Museum, which opened in 2005.

Wylie House Museum in Bloomington, Indiana

Andrew Wylie was the first president of Indiana University, and his campus home still stands to this day. Many visitors are confused about the location of the Wylie House Museum, because it’s just a few blocks form the actual Hoosier campus. It’s a little known fact that the original location of Indiana University actually was on the land surround the Wylie House. President Wylie lived in the home with his wife and their 10 children. This historic home is designed to replicate its mid-1800s appearance, with hard forged iron works and hand-tooled shutters. Aside from the security system, the home has no electricity making it a truly authentic experience with Indiana history.

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