Free Things to Do in Southern Indiana

When we tell you to come see us in southern Indiana - just across the river from Louisville, we mean it! And we’re not asking you to break your bank. Sometimes the hottest spot in town is the one that costs the least or nothing at all. 

We've compiled a list of the free activities you can find in Southern Indiana year-round and during the fall and holiday season. 

Big Four Pedestrian Bridge

What to expect: A walking path across a former railroad bridge links Southern Indiana to the Louisville Waterfront. Go in the evening and enjoy the gorgeous LED lighting system that gives the bridge a lovely, colorful glow. Hours: 6 a.m.-11 p.m.

HighlightsBicyclists and walkers on the Big Four Bridge

 

Carnegie Center for Art & History

What to expect: The Carnegie Center for Art and History is a division of the public library system in New Albany-Floyd County. The center acts as a hub for contemporary art shows and historical information and exhibits about Floyd County. The art exhibits rotate on a monthly to bi-monthly basis and encompass various media. Hours: 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. (closed on Sundays and Mondays)

Carnegie Center Penny Sisto Love Bug

Highlights

  • Free admission
  • Most programs and lectures are free 
  • #IAmPublicArt yearly public art event
  • Presenters of the New Albany Flow Park (art and skate park)

 

Schimpff’s Candy Demonstration & Museum Tour

What to expect: Schimpff’s Confectionery is family- owned and operated. It has been in its current location since 1891. The confectionery makes and sells several candy varieties including cinnamon red hots and their version of the Modjeska, a rich caramel and marshmallow chew. The store, which includes a deli, soda fountain, and museum, offers candy making demonstrations. A simple call ahead will let you know what time to catch the demonstrations, which can be red hot making or chocolate dipping. 

HighlightsSchimpff's Tour

  • Modjeskas
  • Museum and candy memorabilia
  • Good comfort food in the deli
  • Speaking with members of the Schimpff family about the history
  • Perusing the photos on the walls

 

Ohio River Greenway

What to expect: A seven-mile stretch of Ohio River Waterfront on the Southern Indiana side providing walking, biking, and hiking to residents and visitors. The Greenway spans the lengths of New Albany, Clarksville, and Jeffersonville’s southern borders. The project is a collaboration between the cities with each city adding its own specific amenities to the project. It has received input from Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. Hours vary.Ohio River Greenway, boy on bike

Highlights

  • Falls of the Ohio Access
  • Big Four Bridge Access
  • New Albany Amphitheatre and Waterfront access
  • Loop Island Wetlands

 

Fossil Beds at the Falls of the Ohio

What to Expect: The Fossil Beds at the Falls of the Ohio State Park date back nearly 400 million years. For a $2 parking fee, access to the Fossil Beds is a short hike down to the river. Be sure to wear good hiking shoes or boots. Bring a bucket and a brush to clear debris from fossils. Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

HighlightsFossil beds at the Falls of the Ohio

  • Walking down to the fossil beds is free (parking is $2 per vehicle next to the interpretive  center, there is also free parking at the nearby park)
  • Listen for alarms that signal changes in the river level 
  • Most fossils are relatively small, marine life but the fossil deposits are some of the largest in the country.
  • Some are 50-feet long. See tips for finding really big fossils
  • Bring sunscreen, a hat, and water. 
  • Remove any trash you bring with you

 

JAM Sessions (Jeffersonville Arts Movement)  

What to Expect: Expect art!  JAM Sessions are opportunities for the public to engage and create with professional artists. Most of the JAM Sessions create pieces for public display. Materials are supplied. Check the Jeffersonville Arts Alliance website. Hours: 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. 

Highlights

  • Make art that will be part of the local landscape for years to come. 
  • Lantern Making 
  • Creativity 
  • Family Friendly Fun 

 

Hiking on the Knobstone Trail 

What to Expect: If the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail is too much, try Indiana’s Knobstone Trail. It is Indiana’s longest natural footpath and perfect training for anyone interested in long distance trekking. The trail is 58 miles long and runs along a high ridge. It offers spectacular views of Southern Indiana’s hills. The southern end of the trail ends at Deam Lake, just 20 miles north of Louisville. Take a short hike or the whole 48 miles. Hours: Mostly open but check the Knobstone Trail website for trail closures

Highlights 

  • Nature 
  • Great exercise 
  • Camping opportunities 
  • Free  

 

Festivals & Events  

Spring

Thunder Over Louisville happens in mid- to late-April and offers one of the nation’s best fireworks displays set to music. The fireworks show is the opening event for the Kentucky Derby Festival. Viewing from the Jeffersonville side offers great viewing and easier to navigate crowds. 

What to Expect 

Viewing the fireworks and the airshow are free and visible from many areas of SoIN. Check the Thunder Over Louisville event info.

Summer

Farmers Markets occur in New Albany each Saturday from 8 a.m.- noon, May until October. During the summer months, the market has a couple of extra locations and has a Wednesday market. Check the site for current information. In Jeffersonville, the market operates at two locations on two different days. Markets happen at Big Four Bridge park from on Saturday mornings and at Faith Lutheran Church on Allison Lane. Check the site for details.  

Art on the Parish Green is a yearly arts festival happening the second week in June. The festival is a juried art show and hosted by St. Paul Episcopal Church in New Albany. Artists run the gamut of mediums from photography to fiber arts. Art on the Parish Green includes a wine/beer garden, musical performances and a bluegrass mass.  

Art in Speed Park is a juried art show that strives to connect “Community, Creativity and Culture.” This festival is held at the historic Speed Park in Sellersburg, Indiana during the final weekend of August.  

Fall

Harvest Homecoming is one of the largest festivals in Southern Indiana. It has a 51-year history and draws many thousands to New Albany’s downtown. The festival happens the first two weekends of October. It features a parade the first weekend, followed by booth days the following weekend, including tons of food, a baby photo contest and the best people watching around.  

The Sugar Skull Shake Shake cultural festival happens every other year in late October and celebrates the heritage of our Latino neighbors. It is a one-day festival that highlights the food, the celebration of El Diá de Los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead when honor is given to ancestors who have passed on. A nicho-making JAM session often precedes the festival. Find more info about the Sugar Skull Shake Shake event.

Autumn on the River happens each October in Bethlehem, Indiana. It began as a festival to support the town’s only three-room schoolhouse, and that mission continues today. The festival draws thousands of people to Bethlehem to enjoy the fall colors, food, carriage rides, a car show, as well as plenty of fun and games.  

Winter

Charlestown’s Christmas Light Show happens from late November (the weekend after Thanksgiving) through New Year's Day.  Each night families can come to 1000 Park St., across from Charlestown High School and stroll among the Christmas lights. There is hot chocolate, mini-golf, skating, and carriage rides. Carriage rides are available for a small fee. It’s the perfect place to create holiday memories.