Trying to plan a family day close to home without putting a dent in your wallet? Crème de la Crème of Carmel has you covered. We’ve put together this list of super fun, totally free things you can do without traveling far at all. With so many amazing things to check out in and around Carmel, you’re ready to fill in your schedule with a variety of free activities. From art to nature and beyond, there’s something for everyone in our local area.
“body of water near green grass field during sunset” used with permission via Unsplash by Steven Van Elk
Carmel boasts an abundance of beautiful nature, so you’ll never run out of ways to enjoy the outdoors in town. One place every nature-lover will want to put at the top of the list? Coxhall Gardens, a modern botanical park that spans 125 acres. This unique place right here in Carmel features twin bell towers that are 90 feet tall, a recreation lake, and the Centerpiece, a dramatic site that includes a statue of Jesse and Beulah Cox as well as a gazebo, fountains, and tiered lawn seating.
Kiddos will love checking out the Children’s Garden, which includes features like echo walls, peek-a-boo hills, Tiki huts, and more. You can also use the trails for walking or biking or go fishing while you’re enjoying the picturesque surroundings.
Carmel Arts and Design District
Whether you have some budding artists in your brood looking for inspiration or you just want to take a nice walk close to home, you can’t go wrong by heading to the Carmel Arts and Design District. You’ll find this amazing area right in Old Town Carmel.
Known as a premier arts and design destination in the Midwest, the Carmel Arts is also one of Indiana’s designated arts districts. Walking around the area means checking out art galleries, interior design, and the showrooms at the Indiana Design Center. You can also pop into various antique stores, specialty retail shops, or restaurants if the mood strikes.
After exploring the Arts and Design district, keep the fun going by checking out Carmel Midtown. You’ll find this area between the Carmel Arts and Design District and the Carmel City Center. This midtown section of Carmel stretches along Monon Boulevard, which functions as an enhanced portion of the Monon Trail complete with places to sit and catch up with loved ones.
You’ll want to save time for Midtown Plaza, a grassy lawn that boasts a big television screen where you can catch a movie or take in a game. Throughout the week, live music and other events also take place. You can even park for free, as you can find parking along the street or in the parking garage.
The Monon Trail, a rails-to-trails paved trail, spans through Central Indiana. You’ll have easy access to the trail from Carmel, too. Just join the trail at the 96th Street trailhead and get ready for a fun day outdoors.
Monon Trail connects to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and downtown Indianapolis and stretches over 20 miles to the north to Sheridan, so you’ll have so much to do no matter which way you turn. You’ll pass by places like Midtown Plaza and the Carmel Arts and Design district, so you can easily integrate other fun activities if you want to spend a longer day out and about. Free parking and access points include Rohrer Road (south of 146th Street), Main Street in Carmel, and the Hamilton and Marion County border at 96th Street.
Carmel Farmers Markets
Full disclosure: You’ll likely want to transform your free day out when you see all the delicious produce and other goodies available to buy at the Carmel Farmers Markets. Still, if you’re searching for a way to spend a Saturday morning, our local farmers markets are the way to go. You can easily spend a few hours simply browsing and taking in the fun environment around you.
Farmers markets aren’t just for the summer months in Carmel, either. In addition to the May through September market that takes place every Saturday morning from 8 to 11:30 a.m., Carmel hosts a winter market from November through March on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
Carmel International Arts Festival
Mark your calendars so you don’t miss out on the Carmel International Arts Festival. This free festival is open to the public, and it features artwork from artists based across the globe. The juried art show is just the start. You’ll also have access to food vendors, art non-profits, and international entertainment, not to mention a children’s activity area perfect if you’re enjoying an outing with the kids.
ART ROCKS!, a family-friendly, free event is just one of the many highlights. This part of the festival takes place on Saturday night, offering a street party complete with a local band. You’ll also find exhibits from Carmel’s Sister Cities, Kawachinagano in Osaka, Japan and Xiangyang in Hubei, China, free art activities, and more.
If you’re looking for another fix of arts and culture after a visit to Carmel Arts and Design District, just pay a visit to nearby Noblesville. There, you’ll find the historic Noblesville Square in the downtown area. The square surrounds the Hamilton County Courthouse, a local icon, and is part of Noblesville’s Cultural Arts District. Just like Carmel’s Arts and Design District, this area is designated by the state.
All in all, Noblesville Square boasts a variety of restaurants and shops, not to mention places where you can browse and even make art. It’s a great place for a laid-back day when you just want to stroll around and enjoy the atmosphere.
There you have it! Crème de la Crème of Carmel just gave you a list of seven great places and activities to check out the next time you’re craving a fun and free day out. But maybe we didn’t include your family’s favorite local spot? If you have a favorite free activity we missed, let us know so we can add your recommendation for other Carmel locals to check out.