by Brittnie-lee Duffus, PhD Student, Department of Pharmacology
After months of wearing heavy coats and rushing in from the harsh, freezing wind, we’re finally in the clear. Summer is here! It’s the season of embracing the sun-drenched days and exploring your local area or a new place. For many of us graduate and professional students, we struggle with allocating time to embark on summer adventures due to the demands of research. While some of us can take a few weeks off, others are preparing for qualifying exams, collecting the last piece of data for that grant, or finishing the thesis that will secure a ticket out of graduate school. On top of that, who can afford to enjoy summer on a student stipend anyways?
Guess what? You can! I struggled with making time for the big trips my friends were planning in the summer, and I couldn’t afford it after just moving to Indy. I didn’t let that stop me from having fun! My roommate and I set out on a journey to do as much while spending as little. You don’t have to put your summer on hold because you can’t find the time or money to make a trip out of town! The vibrant capital of Indiana offers a multitude of exciting experiences for locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, nature lover, or simply seeking entertainment, Indianapolis has something for everyone. That’s not all! Many of these activities are FREE or very low cost.
Let’s start with looking at FREE activities in and around the city:
- Latin Nights at The Jazz Kitchen
While this one requires a bit of driving outside of downtown, it is well worth it! Gather some friends and book an Uber if you do not have a car, and head to The Jazz Kitchen for a night of fun. Entry is free before 8pm, and a FREE 30minute dance lesson begins at 8:30pm. After the lesson, you can dance away the night! Food and drinks are also available for purchase but if you just want the dancing, grab some food at home before heading out! I’ve been many times throughout the last year with friends and it is definitely on my radar for the summer.
- First Fridays at the Indianapolis Arts District
On the first Friday of every month, the Indianapolis Arts District comes alive with galleries, studios, and boutiques opening their doors for extended hours. You can enjoy street performers, live music, and culinary delights offered by the district with the kids, some friends, or solo! Check out the Murphy Arts Center and the Circle City Industrial Complex.
- Daily Light Show at Monument Circle and Soldiers & Sailors Monument
Located in the heart of downtown, this iconic landmark pays tribute to Indiana’s fallen heroes. Climb the 331 steps to the observation deck for some exercise and be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city skyline. Many concerts, festival and events are also hosted here throughout the summer that you can enjoy. Finally, you can enjoy the nightly light show which bathes The Circle in red, white and blue light, accompanied by music from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
- Indianapolis Cultural Trail
Embark on a journey of art, history, and urban exploration along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. This 8-mile pedestrian and bicycle pathway winds through the heart of the city, connecting neighborhoods, parks, and cultural districts. Grab your bike (or rent one) and enjoy riding through the vibrant art exhibits, beautiful gardens and unique architecture around town. The exercise you’ll get is just a bonus!
- Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
Grab your phone or professional camera and take advantage of the free admission to the outdoors and gardens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. This is the perfect destination to snap pictures and videos that perfectly captures summer! From intricate sculptures to well-designed gardens, you’re sure to find content for your social media or your personal photo collection. Normally, entry to some exhibits is not free. However, as an IUPUI student you get a FREE annual pass! All that’s left for you to do is pack a picnic and make a day out of it!
- Concerts on the Canal
The Indiana Historical Society host free concerts along the canal on Thursdays throughout the summer. You can pay to reserve tables or join the group of enthusiasts who bring a blanket, some food, and set up on the lawn for FREE (I do this!). The concerts begin at 6pm making this a great opportunity to enjoy the evening after a long day of research and writing.
Now let’s talk about things that aren’t free but well worth the low cost:
- GetOutPass Indianapolis
If you’re looking for a pass that gives you a little bit of everything, this might be for you! This pass allows you to explore activities all around Indiana and nearby states like Kentucky, including mini-golf, escape rooms, trampoline parks, bowling, and many more! A friend introduced me to it last year and I jumped at the chance to purchase! They have limited sales throughout the year where you can get an even better price! The total cost of the activities is well worth 10x the cost of the pass. Find more information at GetOutPassIndy.
- Indianapolis City Market
I have not yet visited this market but my roommate, who is also a graduate student, highly recommends it. Located right in the heart of downtown Indy, you can explore a diverse exhibition of food, art, jewelry, and fresh produce! Make a day out of it and take your food to one of the free parks downtown and have an outdoor lunch.
Bonus Tip: Student ID Discounts Many places around Indianapolis offer student discounts when you show your school ID. It never hurts to do a quick google search or ask the places you visit if they offer this service!
These are just a few things you can take advantage of as a student on a budget this summer in Indy. You can also check VisitIndy for updates about free and budget-friendly things to do throughout the year. Comment and let me know if you know of other things to do around Indy that won’t break the bank. Happy Summer!