Whenever we think about the mid-western regions of the US, cities like Chicago or Columbus come to mind. However, another popular city that is often overlooked is Indianapolis. The capital of Indiana state, this city is the 15th most populous city in the US and the 29th largest economic region in the USA.
It is home to some of the largest multinationals, two major league sports clubs (colts and pacers), and one of the world’s longest sporting events, the Indianapolis 500. Some of the key economic contributors to the city include hospitality, manufacturing, and business services.
Indianapolis is a captivating city with plenty of tourist destinations, including historical museums, live music events, monuments, exhibits, universities, parks, and sports stadiums. Indianapolis attracts 30 million visitors (approximately) annually.
This makes it an ideal tourist destination for people interested in food, historical places, sports, arts (visual and performing), etc. While there is no standard itinerary for things to do in Indianapolis, it is important to plan and get a basic idea of the different places to visit and how much time it will take.
Things to Do in Indianapolis
1) Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
This museum is considered a ‘must-visit place’ for any tourist. The Indianapolis motor speedway museum is limited to automobile fans and even people who have never heard of automobile racing. It is a captivating place owing to its presence as one of the national historic landmarks.
Along with displaying the city’s strong history of racing, the museum hosts the Indy 500. The museum showcases a diverse range of vehicles that have formerly performed in races. The museum also hosts a guided tour of the victory platforms, a gasoline alley hospitality suite, and even the garages where the vehicles are preserved. Also, if you are interested in viewing the track, there is a narrated track tour, which will take you through the whole walk. The museum is one of the coolest things to do in Indianapolis.
2) White River State Park
Downtown Indianapolis has many cool places to visit. However, the park’s natural elements help you escape the hustle of Indianapolis. With about 250 acres of lush green space, it is a perfect spot to host a picnic, go for a walk, explore the different types of flowers and trees in the region or sit and get some fresh air. The canal walk loops across the waterfront for about 3 miles.
The white river state park also hosts cultural events like theater plays, live music, and dances. Apart from being an ideal park, the white river state park is also a great starting point for those who want to explore downtown Indianapolis. Even if you are into the global factor of Indianapolis, be sure to visit the White river state park.
3) Indianapolis Zoo
With over a million visitors a year, this attraction is on every traveler’s bucket list. With increased industrialization, animals are losing their habitats. Realizing the importance of animals and ensuring that all their species survive, organizations like the WWF have set up places like national parks and zoos. The Indianapolis Zoo is the dwelling place of more than 3800 animals.
Spreading across 64 acres, the zoo has double the number of exhibits compared to other zoos in Indiana. As mentioned earlier, zoos play an important role in protecting rare and endangered animal species, including Guinea Baboons, White Rhinos, Komodo dragons, Amur Tigers, and red pandas.
Other popular species include bottlenose dolphins, orangutans, African elephants, etc. The zoo has many exciting adventures like field trips, dolphin interactions, scout experiences, etc. The Indianapolis Zoo is a perfect place to spend time with family and friends.
4) Indiana State Museum
The Indiana State Museum isn’t too far off if you are still in the White River state park. Made from glass, steel, and bricks, the architecture of Indiana State Museum will blow you away. The museum has three different floors and more than 4,00,000 artifacts.
However, this large building was initially in the city hall; after expansion, the museum shifted its base to the White river state park. Within the museum, core galleries showcase artifacts that depict the history and heritage of Indiana State, otherwise known as the Hoosier state. The artifacts include the ones from the prehistoric era to the contemporary times. Apart from historical relics, the Indiana State Museum has one of the largest IMAX theaters in Indiana.
5) Indianapolis Art Center
Apart from being a go-to destination for art lovers, the Indianapolis art center is also one of the largest community centers in Indiana. The art center has collected some of the best contemporary art pieces for about 100 years. There is much to explore at the Indianapolis Art Center, ranging from sculptures, paintings, and even photographs.
If you go hungry, the center has a café where you can get a meal. However, there are other interesting activities at the Indianapolis Art Center. This includes seasonal exhibitions, workshops, studios, a library with approximately 5000 titles, and an auditorium that hosts live plays, bands, etc. In case you are still unsatisfied, there is an art park outside, which is a total of 9 acres and consists of many sculptures.
6) Indianapolis Cultural Trail
As mentioned earlier, Indianapolis is a very large city. If you have a limited time to travel, then Indianapolis cultural trail is the ideal spot for you. With a total distance of 8 miles, the cultural trail has a lot to offer. From a huge variety of arts to tranquil gardens, you will be preoccupied throughout the trial. Since the Indianapolis Cultural Trial is long, a bicycle can be rented for sightseeing
. There is also a food trial wherein you can explore some of the best dining options, marketplaces, eateries, and shops. Indianapolis Cultural trail passes through popular spots like White River State Park, Mass Ave, Fountain Square, Indiana Avenue, etc.
7) Indianapolis Museum of Art
If you have already visited the Indianapolis Art Center but still crave more artistic collections, then the Indianapolis Museum of art will appease your cravings. Established in 1883, The Indianapolis Museum of art is home to more than 54,000 pieces of art worldwide.
Collections come from different parts of the world, including Asia, Africa, and Europe. The museum has many art collections, from Egyptian mummies to oil paintings. Along with the groups, the museum hosts many famous artists’ artworks.
Apart from the art pieces, the Indianapolis museum of art also hosts a diverse range of events, including film screenings, live performances, lectures, etc. If you have managed to view all the art collections, then be sure to visit the sprawling surrounding gardens.
8) Indiana Medical History Museum
As the name suggests, the Indiana Medical history museum displays the history of the Hoosier state. However, it originally opened to examine the underlying causes behind mental illness. Located in the old pathology building, the museum is the most senior pathological facility in Indiana and the entire country.
Although the interiors have remained the same since 1960, the museum is still in good condition. Travelers can see and understand some of the strangest cases in Indiana and worldwide. They can also look through autopsy bats, laboratories, amphitheaters, and more. While the Indiana Medical History Museum is ideal for people who work in medicine, there is also a lot to offer for those not from the background.
9) Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
As you’ve already guessed, Indiana has a lot of museums. However, the role of most museums is to preserve ancient history. While it may entertain some people, museums are not designed to be fun places. However, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is different. It is one of the largest museums in Indiana and one of the world’s largest children’s museums.
The museum has a total of five levels with many interactive features. Each level has its unique exhibits which keep children entertained. Some unique features include a bumblebee movie prop that stands at the height of 16 feet and fireworks of glass sculpture, which is spread across 43 feet. The latest addition is a Special Sports Legend Experience which lets kids enjoy various sports activities.
10) Lilly House and Gardens
Identified as a national historic landmark, the garden is inside the Indianapolis Museum of art. Although it’s a part of the museum, Lilly’s house and gardens are worth visiting among the Indianapolis places. Spanning 26 acres of lush green space, it is a great place to relax and take a break.
The house consists of classic paintings, antique furniture, and old-school interior designs. Some time back, it belonged to J.K. Lilly Jr, a well-known philanthropist and collector. There is also an explanation of what life was like a century ago. Fall and summer are the best times to visit Lilly’s house and gardens.
11) Eagle Creek Park
Eagle creek park, For many reasons, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indianapolis. With a landmass of about 3900 acres and water bodies encompassing 1400 acres, Eagle creek park is the largest public park in Indianapolis, Indiana. The park was entrenched as a way to preserve nature.
It consists of natural landscapes, trails, and waterways. An ideal spot for nature lovers as Eagle Creek park includes the Woodland Wildlife Preserve, Ornithology center, bird sanctuary, etc. Along with nature lovers, Eagle creek park is also an ideal spot for sports lovers. You can engage in fun activities, including swimming, fishing, hiking, skiing, golf, shooting range, etc.
12) Eiteljorg Museum
The USA is a very diverse country with both immigrants and their descendants. However, before colonization, the US was occupied by native American Indians. While their population is declining, we can understand their culture through their native artworks.
The Eiteljorg museum, located in Washington st, houses such artwork of American Indians. A huge range of art pieces will strike everyone’s interest. In particular, there is a focus on sculptures, paintings, and jewelry-making. Spread across 74,000 sq ft, the Eiteljorg museum also houses western art pieces. The Eiteljorg museum also hosts exhibitions that educate visitors on various subjects.
13) Lucas Oil Stadium
With a total seating capacity of about 70,000 seats and a construction cost of US $ 720 million, one would wonder what all the hype around this place is. Formerly known as the RCA Dome, the stadium was acquired by Lucas oil in 2006, hence its current name. Home to the Indianapolis colts visiting the Lucas oil stadium is one of the best things to do in Indianapolis.
While the primary reason for visiting the stadium is football matches, other activities exist. Many live concerts are conducted in the Lucas oil stadium. They include famous artists like Taylor Swift, One Direction, Guns N Roses, and many more. Travelers can also tour the stadium grounds and enjoy dining in the food outlets.
14) Monument Circle
Located at the center of Indianapolis, Indiana, the Monument circle is a must-visit for any tourist. The monument circle is 284 and a half feet tall and is also known as the Soldiers and sailors monument. Many soldiers and sailors have sacrificed their lives for their country.
The monument was officially dedicated on May 15, 1902. Since then, a museum that houses equipment from the civil war opened up in 1918. In 1973 the monument circle was included in the national monument of historic places. A neoclassical style design, the monument consists of a circle of statues. At the center, there is a statue of a woman who is holding a torch. She symbolizes the freedom of enslaved people that were freed.
15) Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
Benjamin Harrison served as the 23rd president of the U.S.A. and the only one from Indiana. President Benjamin Harrison was influential in the development of the country. He founded the national forest reserves and strengthened and modernized the US navy.
The Benjamin Harrison presidential site is a treat for history buffs in the northside historic district. There is a tour that talks about President Benjamin Harrison, from his childhood, a career as an attorney, early political career, and his role in the American civil war. Apart from getting a glimpse at his life, the benjamin Harrison presidential site also has a candlelight theatre. The theatre hosts many plays in the 19th and 20th centuries.
16) Discovery Center
Discovery Center is located in downtown Indianapolis. The Discovery Center is a percussion museum with various
instruments worldwide. There are guided tours that explain the history of different percussion instruments. Apart from the guided tours, there are many other fun activities like playing a gong drum eight feet tall, joining a drum circle, participating in their workshops, and performance spaces. The center is also convenient as you can walk to many locations within the mile square. An award-winning museum, the discovery center is an ideal destination for people of all ages.
As we are coming out of the pandemic, more people find it safe to travel. If you are visiting the USA, then Indianapolis is a perfect city. It is a combination of cosmopolitan and vintage vibes. From museums representing its rich cultural history to shopping districts, beautiful parks, and sports stadiums, there is something to do for different age groups in Indianapolis, Indiana.