Best Things To Do in Indianapolis
Besides the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hall of Fame Museum (which is a must-see for most visitors), the city offers the truly wonderful Indianapolis Museum of Art. If you're traveling with kids in tow, you'll definitely want to spend a few hours at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. The zoo, which is inside the verdant White River State Park, is another good pick for families, as is a stroll along the Central Canal. Did we mention the Indianapolis Colts? They're here too, winning games at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Updated December 30, 2015
- #1View all PhotosfreeCentral Canal#1 in Indianapolis4.5 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND4.5 miles to city centerFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
The Central Canal, which also goes by the name Indy Canal Walk, was born in the 1840s when the Indiana state government was trying to bring more commerce to the city. But soon after, the state found itself bankrupt and the plans for a 296-mile waterway were shelved. Today, the Central Canal is a 3-mile loop that flows by the Indiana State Museum, Victory Field, the Indianapolis Zoo and the 250-acre White River State Park, among other popular attractions. You can walk alongside the canal or book a segway tour, but you can also hire a gondolier or rent a pedal boat or kayak.
Whatever mode of transport you choose, you'll enjoy a spectacular view of the Indianapolis skyline, not to mention a 17-foot waterfall, some of the city's best contemporary architecture, and memorials to the U.S.S. Indianapolis and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Keep your eye out for colorful murals on the canal underpasses, too. According to recent visitors, this is the spot for quiet relaxation in Indy. Aside from the peaceful atmosphere, travelers also love how clean the area is, calling the Central Canal an "asset to Indiana."
- #2View all Photos#2 in Indianapolis6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND6 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Spread out across 152 acres and featuring more than 54,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is an impressive institution. It's also among the 10 largest art museums in the U.S. Superlatives aside, what visitors love most about IMA is its variety. Not only does it offer Neoimpressionist paintings (like Georges Seurat), contemporary art and Chinese ceramics, but it also boasts one of the largest contemporary art parks in the U.S. — The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres. The acclaimed outdoor space features a 35-acre lake and art installations set amidst woodlands and wetlands. And bonus: kids are welcome to play on the interactive installations. While you're outside, consider visiting the Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens, a 26-acre estate on the grounds of the IMA that is a National Historic Landmark.
Recent visitors highly recommended including the IMA in your itinerary and said it was a great way to spend a day in Indy. Travelers particularly loved the grounds, and said the museum store is worth stopping by as the merchandise changes with the exhibits.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Indianapolis2.5 miles to city centerSportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2.5 miles to city centerSportsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been around since 1909, so this epic track has seen more than 100 races speed by. The 30,000-square-foot museum came about 50 years afterward, featuring about 75 cars and even a theater that shows Indy 500 footage throughout the years. Visitors have the choice to see the complex by purchasing race tickets, visiting the museum or taking the very popular (and comprehensive) grounds tour. Some of the most popular events here are the Indianapolis 500 (held in May) and the Brickyard 400 (held in July).
Even if you only consider yourself a casual NASCAR or automobile history fan, you should make time to visit this National Historic Landmark, according to recent visitors. Aside from the sheer volume of memorabilia, travelers were also impressed with the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Reviewers said you should set aside a few hours to comb through the museum grounds, and if you're willing to fork over the extra cash, opt into the grounds tour. IMS also offers a bus tour around the track, but reviews were mixed; some enjoyed the experience, but others were disappointed the tour narration was provided by a pre-recorded tape and not a staff member. Some travelers also felt the tour would've been more interesting if guests could hop on and off the bus to explore more of the track.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Indianapolis5.5 miles to city centerMonuments and Memorials, Museums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND5.5 miles to city centerMonuments and Memorials, Museums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Considered an Indiana landmark, the Indiana War Memorial comprises two museums, three parks and 24 acres of monuments, statues, sculptures and fountains. So, if you're a fan of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., you'll likely enjoy spending a few hours here. In fact, Indianapolis is second only to D.C. in acreage and number of monuments dedicated to veterans.
Of the two museums within the historic plaza, you'll want to spend the majority of your time in the Indiana War Memorial Museum, especially the Shrine Room. Described by recent visitors as "breathtaking" and "peaceful," the Shrine Room is dedicated to fallen soldiers of World War I and features materials hailing from around the globe, which symbolizes the worldwide effort it took to end the war.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Indianapolis6.3 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND6.3 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you're in Indianapolis with kids, a visit to this museum is a must. Spanning 472,900 square feet and boasting 11 major galleries, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis lives up to its title as the world's largest children's museum. Exhibits at the highly praised facility include a planetarium, the heavily hyped "Dinosphere: Now You're in Their World" (featuring an archaeological dig) and the "National Geographic Treasures of the Earth" exhibit, which showcases re-creations of three archaeological sites, including an Egyptian tomb, a pirate shipwreck and China’s Terra Cotta Warriors. Beyond these standouts, there are also several more floors of exhibits and even some Chihuly glass for decoration. Plus, the museum boasts an impressive 12,500-year-old mastodon skeleton and its own carousel.
Recent visitors said you can't leave Indy without taking a spin through this museum. Some reviewers even said it's worth adding to your itinerary if you don't have kids in tow thanks to the museum's well-designed exhibits. Plus, parents who visited felt the museum's fun, educational environment encourages interaction not just for little ones, but for parents, too.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Indianapolis4.3 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.3 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Spread across 64 acres and home to more than 1,600 animals and 23,000 plant species, the Indianapolis Zoo is a favorite among families visiting Indy. Easily navigate its sprawling acreage by planning your visit around the zoo's five biomes, or areas of plants and animals separated by climate: Oceans, Deserts, Plains, Forests and Encounters. Among the highlights for recent guests were the underwater dolphin viewing dome and the newly opened orangutan center. Travelers were also impressed with the White River Gardens, which boast a glass-enclosed conservatory, a water garden and 1½ miles of walkways, among other features. The zoo also offers "special zoo experiences" (not included in admission) ranging from swimming with dolphins to watching a penguin paint a work of art (that you get to take home).
Recent visitors raved about the zoo and noted that it was clean and the guides were friendly. The only downside: visitors felt the special zoo experiences were a little pricey, and not reasonable for families on a budget. Reviewers also cautioned against eating at the zoo, as some felt the expensive menus weren't worth the convenience.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Indianapolis5.2 miles to city centerSports, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND5.2 miles to city centerSports, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Home to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium is a must-see for sports fans, according to recent travelers. With the capacity to hold 67,000 fans and a retractable roof that features unbeatable views of the downtown Indianapolis skyline, the stadium (which opened in 2008 and hosted the 2012 Super Bowl) is consistently described as a "beautiful sports venue" by visitors. Recent fans who visited said the stadium was clean and noted that the design is easy to navigate. Sports hounds who caught a game during some warm Indy weather particularly appreciated the retractable roof.
You'll find the stadium less than a mile south of downtown and accessible from Interstate 70. If you're attending a game, consider using public transportation or taking a cab to reach the stadium instead of driving; some visitors said the roads around the stadium can get congested on game days. Although the best way to get the full Lucas Oil Stadium experience is to attend a game, you can also take guided tours of the playing field, an NFL locker room, Lucas Oil Plaza and the press box, among other areas. Recent visitors who took a tour highly recommended it, and not just for the behind-the-scenes access, but also for the interesting information provided by the knowledgeable guides. Several reviewers also said taking a tour is one of the best ways to get a closer look at the stadium's impressive architecture. Tours typically last one hour and are offered at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday. Tour tickets for adults cost $10; seniors ages 65 and older and children between the ages of 4 and 12 can take the tour for $7. For more information on tours and stadium events, visit its website.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Indianapolis4.9 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND4.9 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're interested in learning more about the art, history and cultures of the American West and Native Americans, then a stop at the Eiteljorg Museum is a must. Another selling point: The Eiteljorg Museum is the only museum of its kind stationed in the Midwest, and one of only two museums east of the Mississippi that explore both Native America and the American West.
Its permanent collection includes works from Andy Warhol, N.C. Wyeth, T.C. Cannon and Frederic Remington, among many others. But the real star may be the museum's collection of contemporary Native art, which has been ranked among the world's best. And then there are the special exhibitions, which have covered subjects like Jewish life in the West and the works of seminal artists like Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe. Plus, each year the museum hosts a variety of Western and Native artists in residence.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Indianapolis4.9 miles to city centerSports, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND4.9 miles to city centerSports, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Indianapolis doesn't boast its own MLB team, but it is home to a Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Indianapolis Indians. Even if you're not a fan of baseball, you should consider attending a game at Victory Field, especially if you've got kids in tow. This 14,230-seat ballpark is consistently praised by locals and travelers alike for its cleanliness, affordable prices and stellar skyline views. Recent visitors with kids especially liked that there is ample grass space for children to play on and spots where families can spread out blankets to enjoy the game. Reviewers also reported that the crowd and staff are friendly and fun.
The Indianapolis Indians play from April to September, but if you're not in town to catch a game you can always schedule a tour of the stadium. For $5 per person, you can see the Victory Field dugout, press box, visiting clubhouse and training room, and the grounds. Tours typically last an hour and must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. You'll find Victory Field in White River State Park, about a mile southwest of downtown Indy. Tickets for season games range from $10 to $16 and can be purchased online or at the stadium. There are several parking lots surrounding the stadium; most cost between $5 and $9 to park in.
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