Top 12 Things to Do in Indianapolis, Indiana

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Adventure and Culture in the Circle City – Top Attractions in Indianapolis, Indiana

Nicknamed the “Circle City” for its circular downtown layout, Indianapolis captivates visitors with vibrant museums, performing arts venues, historic auto racing and beloved attractions showcasing Midwestern charm.

AttractionDescription
Indianapolis Motor SpeedwayExperience the iconic Indy 500 race and museum.
Downtown Canal WalkScenic waterway with pedal boats and kayaks.
The Children’s MuseumEngaging exhibits for kids across five floors.
NCAA Hall of ChampionsMuseum celebrating college athletics.
Indianapolis ZooConservation-focused zoo with diverse species.
Monument CircleIconic city center with historic monuments.
White River State ParkUrban green space with cultural attractions.
Garfield Park ConservatoryTropical and desert plants in a historic setting.
NewfieldsArt and nature blend in a vast museum campus.
Eagle Creek ParkUrban wilderness for outdoor activities.
Tappers Arcade BarVintage arcade games and craft beers.

Beyond its world-famous Indy 500 traditions, this dynamic city offers trendy culinary scenes, craft breweries, outdoor escapes at state-of-the-art parks, and family-friendly explorations. Keep reading to discover the top things to see and do in Indianapolis.

Speed Thrills at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is located at 4790 W 16th Street in Speedway, IN, just northwest of downtown Indianapolis.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1909, it is the original and oldest operating automobile racing track in the world. Home of the iconic Indianapolis 500 race since 1911, the Speedway is considered hallowed ground for motorsports.

What to Expect: Visitors can take guided track tours on buses or in passenger cars at race speeds, kiss the original yard of bricks at the start/finish line, and explore the Hall of Fame Museum filled with classic race cars, trophies and memorabilia.

Visitor Information: Grounds open daily 9am-5pm. Museum open 9am-5pm, Nov-Mar closed Mondays. Tickets start at $15 for museum entry, $40+ for track tours. Event days have adjusted hours.

No trip to Indianapolis is complete without experiencing the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the iconic Indy 500 auto race. Even during non-race times, visitors can take guided track tours revealing insider stories covering over 100 years of racing history. The Speedway Museum dazzles with classic vintage cars, trophies, racing memorabilia and interactive exhibits. Thrill seekers can buckle up for hot laps around the actual track driven by professional drivers topping speeds of 180 miles per hour.

Downtown Canal Walk – Scenic Waterway Through the City’s Heart

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Canal Walk is located central to downtown Indy, following the Indianapolis Canal through White River State Park near West St. and Washington St.

History and Significance: The Canal was restored beginning in the 1980s after years of disuse. Today the scenic waterway links attractions through the heart of Indy’s downtown with fountains, boats, pedestrian bridges, gardens and art installations along its banks.

What to Expect: Visitors can stroll or jog along the waterfront. Interpretive signage tells the Canal’s story. Site features include the American Veterans Memorial Plaza, Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial, poetry garden and more dotting its length.

Visitor Information: The Canal Walk is open daily 24 hours for walking as a downtown green space. Guided tours and boat rentals available seasonally. Much of it runs inside White River State Park off W. Washington St. in the 46204 area code.

Stretching nearly two miles through vibrant downtown, the Indiana Central Canal beckons visitors and locals to take scenic strolls along its pedway and brightly-painted bridges. Historic markers detail the canal’s 19th century origins moving supplies across the state by waterway. Today the lush canal banks buzz with activity including pedal boats, gondolas, and kayaks drifting by. Punctuated by lovely fountains, public art installations, and heritage sites like the Medal of Honor Memorial, Indianapolis’ Canal Walk captivates.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – Engaging Kids Through Play

Name and Location: The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is located at 3000 N. Meridian St. in Indianapolis.

History and Significance: Founded in 1925, it is one of the world’s largest museums devoted to the enrichment of children’s lives. Its mission focuses on experiential learning through interactive exhibits and programs across the arts, sciences and humanities.

What to Expect: Five floors of fun, educationalhands-on exhibits covering dinosaurs, outer space, world cultures and much more. Popular attractions include a carousel, Fireworks of Glass sculpture and hands-on science experiments. New experiences rotate through.

Visitor Information: Open daily 10am-5pm, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $25.95, seniors $24.95, under age 2 free. Discounts for members and eligible groups.

With five floors and 472,900 square feet encompassing everything from dinosaurs to kinetic art sculpture races, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis delights little ones while creatively engaging developing minds. Visit the world’s largest children’s museum to explore a working vintage carousel, planetarium and interactive science experiments while role playing careers from paleontologist to firefighter. Don’t miss experiencing the epic Dinosphere exhibit complete with towering dinosaur skeletons and fossil dig pits. The whole family will discover complete immersion in interactive playtime.

NCAA Hall of Champions – Celebrating College Athletics

Name and Location: The NCAA Hall of Champions museum is located inside White River State Park at 700 W. Washington St. in downtown Indianapolis.

History and Significance: As home of the NCAA headquarters, Indianapolis tells the story of college sports. The Hall of Champions honors top student-athletes and coaches across 24 NCAA sports with interactive exhibits that celebrate the spirit and history of amateur athletics.

What to Expect: Visitors immerse themselves trying activities like a vertical jump measure, reacting to referees’ calls and getting behind the announcer’s microphone. Artifacts, games, films and stories share achievements of both players and teams.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-5pm, closed Mondays and major holidays. General admission is $7 for seniors/students, $10 for adults. Guided tours or additional simulator experiences available at added cost.

As home to the National Collegiate Athletic Association headquarters, Indianapolis provides the ideal location for the NCAA Hall of Champions museum. Celebrating college sports from across 24 divisions in all divisions from hockey to lacrosse to volleyball, interactive exhibits feature games to test agility, a video simulator to attempt scoring goals, and a court to practice free throws. The indoor complex houses artifacts and stories commemorating shining moments in collegiate athletic history sure to inspire.

The Indianapolis Zoo – Adventure in Conservation

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Zoo is located inside White River State Park at 1200 W. Washington St. in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, nestled among native woodlands along the White River.

History and Significance: Founded in 1964, the Indianapolis Zoo has evolved from a small reptile exhibit into an Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoo actively involved in conservation and animal research initiatives across several continents while providing enriching habitats hosting more than 1,200 individual animals representing nearly 300 different species.

What to Expect: Visitors encounter habitats ranging from busy African plains to quiet forests where animals climb, fly and interact while learning about steps they can take to preserve endangered ecosystems and wildlife. Several touch experiences allow getting up close with friendly residents eager to charm admirers advocating for vulnerable fellow species.

Visitor Information: Open daily at 9am, closing times vary seasonally. Ticket prices $19.95/adults, discounted rates for seniors 62+, children 2-12; under 2 free. Additional fees apply for some special animal encounters, rides and experiences.

Spread across 64 lush acres, the Indianapolis Zoo immerses visitors into the habitats of nearly 1,400 animals representing 214 species from around the globe. Get eye-to-eye with Amur tigers at the International Orangutan Center or watch flamingoes and penguins explore extensive new habitats. Special experiences like stoat-a-tat events bring guests literally face-to-face with cheeky animals, while festive seasonal celebrations like Chinese New Year, Dinosphere After Dark for adults and ZooBoo allow kids to trick-or-treat among illuminated pumpkin displays.

Monument Circle and Indiana Statehouse – Iconic Indy Icons

Name and Location: Monument Circle and the Indiana Statehouse sit central to downtown Indianapolis, centered around the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument at the intersection of Meridian and Market Streets.

History and Significance: The 284-foot limestone Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument was dedicated in 1902 to honor Hoosier veterans. Today the iconic Circle drooping flags from all branches meets the Indiana Statehouse south lawn, ensemble representing influential sites of civic identity and purpose.

What to Expect: Visitors can tour the monument museum with an elevator ride to the observation deck overlooking the city, stroll the stately Statehouse halls of government, learn stories memorialized in statues and architecture, and dine along the bustling perimeter at restaurants serving global flavors indicative of Indianapolis’ growing cultural diversity.

Visitor Information: The Circle area is publicly accessible. Monument museum open Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm with entry fees. Statehouse tours available weekdays on the hour by appointment. Valid ID required for entry.

Rising at the center of Indianapolis’ circular downtown streets, the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument stretches nearly 285 feet into the sky and fascinating visitors since its completion in 1902. For panoramic city views, take the elevator ride or climb 330 stairs to the observation level. The Statehouse building anchors another side of Monument Circle, welcoming visitors to view elegant government chambers and the Indiana Senate while learning about the state’s legislative process.

White River State Park – Urban Green Space and Attractions Hub

Name and Location: White River State Park spans 250 acres in downtown Indianapolis just west of the Central Canal and White River between Washington, West and New York Streets.

History and Significance: Established in 1979, Indiana’s first state park transformed deteriorating industrial land into an urban sustainable greenspace linking cultural, educational, recreational destinations through scenic gardens, pathways and water features accented by pedestrian bridges and public art installations.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy miles of multi-use trails passing attractions like the Indianapolis Zoo, museums, ballparks, event spaces, memorials, Victory Field and Military Park, White River Gardens, butterfly gardens, a wallaby walkabout and seasonal programming throughout the park’s ecosystem of sites.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily without entry fees, though attractions inside have varying opening times and admission rates. Parking garages charge hourly fees with supplemental public transportation by IndyGo buses and Pacers Bikeshare stations throughout the grounds.

Encompassing 250 acres just west of downtown along the scenic Central Canal and White River waterways, White River State Park serves as both a serene urban escape and basecamp for experiencing top Indianapolis attractions. Visitors stroll manicured cultural trailways to access standout sites like the NCAA Hall of Champions museum, Eiteljorg Museum of contemporary Native art and KultureCity Sensory Inclusive museum where kids on the autism spectrum find tailored experiences. The expansive green space also features gardens, an outdoor performance venue and pathways boasting striking city skyline views.

Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens

Name and Location: Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens sits on the southside of Indianapolis, located at 2505 Conservatory Dr.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1932, the stunning Art Deco conservatory was designed by architect George Edward Kessler and still contains original glass panes. Today it encompasses 10 showrooms of rare plants from around the globe across 23 acres of scenic public gardens with water features, paths and pastoral lawns.

What to Expect: Visitors traverse biomes ranging from desert to tropical, also enjoying themed annual flower shows like orchid displays, winter train exhibits, spring bulbs and more across meticulously cultivated grounds that provide a salve against winter or escape from urban life into fantastical visions from botanical worlds both near and far.

Visitor Information: The conservatory and gardens are open daily 10am-5pm except major holidays. Entry is free to the outdoor sunken gardens, $5 to access the indoor conservatory attractions and seasonal exhibits. Public parking onsite.

Escape winter doldrums by strolling through fragrant tropical foliage and vibrantly blooming gardens within Garfield Park Conservatory’s soaring glass buildings dating from 1932. Seek inspiration in vibrantly colored orchid displays, desert plants of the arid Southwest and exotic species from the remote Pacific Islands. Outside the conservatory, explore acres of scenic walking paths traversing Garfield Park, ranked among the city’s top site-seeing spaces. Sunken Gardens’ formal flowerbeds, rock waterfall sculpture and historic pagoda offer Instagram-worthy photo ops.

Newfields Museum and Gardens – Artful Afternoons

Name and Location: Newfields encompasses 152 acres of museum galleries, nature trails, beer garden, and historic architecture situated at 4000 N Michigan Rd in Indianapolis.

History and Significance: Originally called the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Newfields has evolved since 1883 into one of the largest encyclopedic art museums in the country, with significant collections spanning 5000 years of human creativity across various mediums and cultures. The campus continues to grow as a dynamic experiential destination.

What to Expect: Visitors traverse rotating exhibits from monumental contemporary sculptures to Midwestern pastoral paintings, Indiana limestone carvings, 18th century decorative arts, frontier artifacts, legendary Orleans Room, plus gardens, trails, beer garden, food and varied public programming on site.

Visitor Information: Newfields is open Tues-Sun. Main museum hours are 11am-5pm, with extended hours Thurs-Sat until 9pm. Timed entry ticketing starts at $20 for adult admission with member, senior, youth discounts. The park grounds are freely accessible to all sunrise to sunset.

Discover oasis-like gardens, stunning architecture and thought-provoking modern art exhibitions at Newfields Museum campus encompassing 152 acres of vibrant culture in nature’s embrace. The IMA Galleries showcase artistic masterworks by luminaries from Hopper to Pollock alongside Asian, African and Indigenous pieces. The vast museum grounds invite visitors to explore scented herb and flower gardens, woodland trails showcasing sculpture installments and a romantic Chinese-style teahouse perfect for reflecting. Newfields entrances art connoisseurs and nature lovers alike.

Eagle Creek Park – Urban Wilderness Adventures

Name and Location: At nearly 4,000 acres, Eagle Creek Park located at 7840 W 56th St in Indianapolis is the largest city park network in the country, sprawling across rolling wooded hills on the northwest edge of the city with a 1,400 acre reservoir at its heart offering year-round recreation.

History and Significance: Established after damming Eagle Creek in the 1960s for flood control,What was once farmland now balances conservation, trails and water access for boating, fishing, swimming, sports and relaxing escapes where visitors reconnect with nature just minutes from downtown.

What to Expect: Walkers, runners and bikers enjoy miles of scenic trails threading through woodlands, meadows and wetland areas observing local wildlife from songbirds to deer. The reservoir welcomes personal watercraft and fishing access via multiple boat launch points and docks open year-round at the designated port.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily from 7am until dusk across multiple managed areas. Entry is free with small hourly launch fees supporting marine upkeep and maintenance. Some amenities like fishing permits or facility rentals require additional paid access.

Spanning nearly 4,000 acres across northwest Indianapolis, Eagle Creek Park stands among the largest city-contained parks in the entire country. Get back to nature while hiking through forested miles over hilly terrain to reach waterside vistas. Saddle up for guided h

orseback trail rides through woodlands and grasslands or gear up to shoot Class 2-3 rapids across Eagle Creek Reservoir by kayak or stand up paddleboard. Rent a cabin or pitch a tent within wooded sites to fully immerse in Eagle Creek’s urban wilderness so close yet feeling worlds away.

Tappers Arcade Bar – Old School Fun with New Craft Brews

Name and Location: Tappers Arcade Bar is located in Fletcher Place east of downtown Indianapolis at 919 Virginia Ave convenient to Fountain Square and I-70 access.

History and Significance: Opened in 2015, Tappers combines 30+ classic arcade and pinball machines with20+ craft beers on tap plus selection of wines in 12oz cans making for a delightfully modern twist on family entertainment center hosting folks enjoying neon flashing blasts from the past alongside Indiana-proud libations.

What to Expect: Challenge your date to master 40-year-old arcade games like Ms. Pac Man, Skee Ball, pinball and more with friendly competitions fueled by local brews like Sun King, Upland or Taxman served straight from the wall alongside affordable bar bites like hand-cut fries, wings, corn dogs and other nostalgic goodies.

Visitor Information: Open 4pm-midnight weekdays, 2pm-1am weekends. Games take quarters or credits. beer, wine and food menus affordable with daily specials always available. All ages daytime hours on weekends. 21+ only evenings. Rental spaces available for events.

Trade skyscrapers for 1980s-style nostalgia at Tappers Arcade Bar, featuring over 50 vintage arcade and pinball machines ready to play. Challenge friends to air hockey, Ms. Pac Man or pinball rounds before ordering Indiana-brewed craft beers, giant Bavarian pretzels and loaded tater tots from the bar menu. With affordable hourly play packages and private party rooms for special occasions, Tappers takes adults back through the decades to the golden age of video gaming.

Whether traveling with family, friends or making it a romantic couples retreat, Indianapolis impresses visitors with cultural icons, vibrant green spaces and enough heartwarming Midwestern hospitality to keep you eager for a return trip soon.

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