Top 12 Top Attractions in Indianapolis

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Emily Johnson

The Top Attractions in Indianapolis

As the capital and largest city in Indiana, Indianapolis offers an appealing combination of Midwest charm and big city attractions. Well known for sporting events like the Indy 500 and hosting the NCAA headquarters, visitors will also find a vibrant arts scene, cultural destinations, great restaurants, and an overall affordable Midwestern experience.

AttractionDescription
Indianapolis Motor Speedway & Hall of Fame MuseumHome to the Indy 500, offering tours and showcasing racing memorabilia.
The Canal and White River State ParkOffers kayaking, paddleboarding, and various cultural attractions within its 250-acre grounds.
Indianapolis Museum of ArtFeatures over 54,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years across various cultures, including a notable Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture.
The Children’s Museum of IndianapolisOne of the world’s largest children’s museums with interactive exhibits on science, world cultures, and more.
Monument CircleThe heart of downtown, surrounded by memorials and monuments with historical significance.
Indianapolis Cultural TrailAn 8-mile urban path connecting arts and cultural districts with public art and restaurants.
NewfieldsA 152-acre campus of gardens, art, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art with diverse activities.
Benjamin Harrison Presidential SiteThe preserved home of the 23rd President, showcasing Gilded Age life and history.
Indianapolis ZooAn accredited zoo with diverse species and habitats, focusing on conservation.
Eagle Creek ParkLarger than Central Park, offering water sports, trails, and picnic areas.
Conner PrairieA living history museum with immersive exhibits on Indiana’s pioneer era.

From auto racing heritage to impressive museums, this article explores 12 of top attractions that make Indianapolis an entertaining city to explore and enjoy on your next Midwest vacation.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway & Hall of Fame Museum

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a racing complex located in Speedway, Indiana. It is home to the Indianapolis 500 mile race and Brickyard 400 NASCAR race. The Hall of Fame Museum is located inside the oval racetrack.

History and Significance: The Speedway was constructed in 1909 and hosted its first races in 1909. It is one of the oldest and most famous racetracks in the world, known for its unique oval design. The Indy 500 race has run there since 1911 and is considered one of the most prestigious races in auto racing.

What to Expect: The Hall of Fame Museum features exhibits on the history of motorsports, Indy 500 memorabilia, classic racing cars, and more. Visitors can also take a track lap tour or kiss the bricks at the start/finish line. The Speedway itself is massive and steeped in racing history.

Visitor Information: The Hall of Fame Museum is open daily 9am-5pm, except limited hours in Nov-March. Ticket prices vary. Guided track tours available. The Speedway complex is open year-round for visitors.

As home of the world’s largest single-day sporting event for over 100 years running, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway forms the pantheon of American auto racing. Race fans flock here year-round to get their speed fix touring the Hall of Fame Museum showcasing classic vehicles and racing memorabilia. But a trip during May for the iconic Indianapolis 500 represents a quintessential only-in-Indiana experience. Since 1911, the oval 2.5-mile track hosts bone-rattling action as drivers push speeds over 230 mph vying for the Borg-Warner trophy on the hallowed Brickyard. Legendary drivers like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Helio Castroneves help place “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” permanently among the top sporting events worldwide.

The Canal and White River State Park

Name and Location: The Canal Walk and White River State Park are located in downtown Indianapolis. The Canal links to White River State Park.

History and Significance: The Central Canal was restored beginning in the 1980s after having been largely abandoned for decades. Today it links several cultural attractions. White River State Park was established in the late 1980s to preserve open green space for public recreation.

What to Expect: Visitors can walk or bike along the Canal towpath. White River State Park offers concerts, art, a small zoo, gardens, trails, rentals and cultural sites near the downtown. It’s an urban sustainable park project.

Visitor Information: The Canal Walk and White River State Park attractions are open year-round. Hours vary by site. Many attractions and events are free to the public. Some sites charge admission or activity fees.

Downtown along the waterfront, White River State Park contains cultural attractions, sports facilities, memorials and green space surrounding its namesake waterway. Visitors rent kayaks and stand up paddleboards to ply the canal offering unique city skyline perspectives. Joggers take advantage of riverfront walking paths and grassy fields under the shade of weeping willows. Inside 250 acre park grounds, favorites like the NCAA Hall of Champions, Eiteljorg Museum of Native American and Western Art, Indianapolis Zoo, Indianapolis Indians baseball at Victory Field, Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial and other destinations give locals and tourists alike ample reasons to enjoy Indy’s vibrant downtown outdoors.

Indianapolis Museum of Art

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Museum of Art is located in Indianapolis, Indiana on the grounds of Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens.

History and Significance: Founded in 1883, the IMA is among the largest and oldest art museums in the country. Its collection has grown to over 54,000 works spanning 5,000 years of art. The museum is internationally known for its collections.

What to Expect: Visitors will find paintings, sculpture, decor arts, Asian art, contemporary art, prints, drawings and more. Exhibits rotate through the galleries. The museum also features a garden, cafe, and nature park.

Visitor Information: The IMA is located at 4000 Michigan Rd. It is open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-5pm, Thursday & Friday 11am-9pm, Sunday 11am-5pm. Admission is $20 for adults, discounts for students, youth and seniors.

Spanning a 152-acre campus northwest of downtown, the Indianapolis Museum of Art amazes with expansive collections spanning 5,000 years of human creativity across artistic mediums and cultures worldwide. The museum’s galleries compile over 54,000 individual pieces into collections focusing on areas including European, American, Native American, African, Asian and contemporary works. Don’t miss the recently acquired Robert Indiana LOVE sculpture greeting visitors on the way inside to explore this world-class art institution for free. Frequent special exhibits also attract big crowds, like the recent immersive Van Gogh installation featuring the Dutch artist’s work swirling across walls and floors in a vivid, multi-sensory experience throughout the museum’s indoor and outdoor spaces.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

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

History and Significance: Founded in 1925, it is one of the largest children’s museums in the world. Its mission is to create extraordinary family learning experiences across arts, humanities and sciences.

What to Expect: Visitors will find five floors of interactive exhibits covering science, world cultures, history, dinosaurs, space and more. Popular permanent exhibits include a carousel, Fireworks of Glass sculpture and Treehouse.

Visitor Information: The museum is open daily 10am-5pm, closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $25.95 for ages 2 and up. Discounts for seniors, military families and members.

Lauded as one of the world’s best museums just for kids, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis innovates family-friendly learning through immersive, hands-on exhibits focused on science, world cultures and creativity. As one of the largest museums of its kind spanning 29 acres, kids run happily from dinosaurs, Egyptian mummies and vintage Star Wars props, to skill-building challenges and an expansive outdoor Sports Legends Experience. Don’t miss the iconic 43 foot tall glass sculpture Fireworks of Glass tower inviting admiring gazes of kids and adults alike inside this family crown jewel of Indy attractions.

Monument Circle

Name and Location: Monument Circle is the circular centerpiece of downtown Indianapolis bounded by Meridian, Market, Illinois and Washington Streets. At its center is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

History and Significance: The 284-foot limestone monument honoring Hoosier veterans was dedicated in 1902. Today the Circle area encompasses key government buildings, cultural sites, memorials and public art pieces that represent Indianapolis.

What to Expect: Visitors will find restaurants, banks, churches, memorials and statues around the Circle. The lower level of the monument can be toured for views overlooking the city, and events like concerts are also held there. It’s a site for civic gatherings.

Visitor Information: Monument Circle is publicly accessible year-round. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument museum is open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm and offers guided tours plus a gift shop.

The very heart of downtown Indianapolis emanates from its central Circle dotted end-to-end by memorials and monuments. Standing as one of the oldest and most famous traffic circles in the U.S., its Neoclassical, Beaux Arts and postmodern architectural styles tell the city’s storied history in brick, granite and limestone. Pay respects at the central 1885 Soldiers and Sailors Monument topped by the indoor observation deck and Civil War Museum. The circular hub connects downtown neighborhoods, public art installations and the city’s immaculate urban park systems. Holidays draw crowds for ceremonies lighting Indiana’s official Christmas tree adding to the iconic circle’s storied past and patriotic significance as Indy’s communal gathering place.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an urban bike and pedestrian path located in downtown Indianapolis.

History and Significance: The 8-mile trail project was completed in 2013 to connect neighborhoods, entertainment districts and six cultural districts. It promotes walkability, public art and sustainable transportation.

What to Expect: Visitors will find a scenic trail dotted with public art installations like sculptures, bike stations and signage pointing out local features. Trail users can journey through different neighborhoods and sites.

Visitor Information: The trail is openly accessible year-round for self-guided tours by bike or foot during daylight hours. Trail maps can be found online and signage marks its route through the city with highlights.

Connecting six arts and cultural districts downtown, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail provides a vibrant pedestrian venue for art, history and architecture spanning Indy’s urban core. Originally railroad tracks, the 8-mile urban path now bustles with joggers, bicyclists and sightseers enjoying public art installations, informational plaques and prime views of Indy’s architectural heritage. User-friendly interactive maps located throughout direct visitors to discover the Massachusetts Avenue Arts & Theater District, the Wholesale District or other vibrant neighborhoods connected by these pedestrian-friendly pathways. Foodies find restaurants and cafes lining the route, as the trail loops around favorite attractions like the Indiana Statehouse and its monumental lawns rolling down Capitol Avenue.

Newfields

Name and Location: Newfields encompasses the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Lilly House historic home, gardens and nature preserve located at 4000 N. Michigan Rd. in Indianapolis.

History and Significance: Founded in 1883, Newfields has evolved into a 152-acre cultural campus. It is one of the 5 largest encyclopedic art museums in the U.S. with significant collections to explore. The site has been both an estate and public museum.

What to Expect: Visitors will find art galleries with rotating exhibits, 100 Acres sculpture park, beer garden, cafe, trails, a historic home, greenhouse, seasonal displays across the campus and more. Family-friendly site.

Visitor Information: Newfields is open Tuesday-Sunday. Museum hours are 11am-5pm, with extended hours on Thurs/Fri til 9pm. Grounds are accessible daily sunrise to sunset. Admission fees apply with discounts available.

Encompassing 152 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, eye-catching sculpture and historic architecture in downtown Indy, Newfields expands far beyond the walls of its anchoring Indianapolis Museum of Art. Nature lovers, art enthusiasts, film buffs, foodies and families all find engaging activities across Newfields’ vibrant grounds. See cutting-edge works at the IMA galleries before wandering lush gardens, water features and winding pathways showcasing contemporary sculpture. Catch an indie flick or foreign film at the on-site cinema before grabbing farm-to-table fare at the campus’ seasonal beer garden. Through art, nature and community connections, Newfields’ sprawling urban campus reveals creative ways to engage Indy culture.

Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site

Name and Location: The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is located at 1230 N. Delaware St. in downtown Indianapolis. Harrison was the 23rd U.S. president.

History and Significance: Built in the 1870s, the red-brick Victorian home is where President Benjamin Harrison lived before and after his presidency from 1889-1893. It offers insight into Gilded Age politics.

What to Expect: Guests can tour the house filled with Harrison family furnishings and Victorian decorative arts. Changing exhibits supplement the history. Also find gardens, gift shop and visitor center on site.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-3pm. Guided tours offered on the hour. Adult admission is $10, senior/student discounts. Private group tours can also be booked in advance online.

History buffs find a rare Presidential era insight at the former home of the country’s 23rd President Benjamin Harrison. This red-brick Victorian mansion offers the only President-related attraction not technically owned or operated federally or nationally here in the heart of downtown Indy. Tours pass through the actual rooms where President Harrison, the great-grandson of founding father William Henry Harrison, and his family lived during his late 19th century term. Visitors glimpse Gilded Age finery like original wallpapers, late Victorian furnishings and personal artifacts providing intimate views into a relatively unknown yet fascinating political era and First Family, powered by female reform. A Presidential site run independently with passion by the local community makes this historic urban time capsule a unique Indianapolis gem.

Indianapolis Zoo

Name and Location: The Indianapolis Zoo is located at 1200 West Washington St. in Indianapolis, inside White River State Park along the river.

History and Significance: Founded in 1964, the zoo has evolved from a small reptile exhibit to become a leader in animal conservation and education over 50+ years. It encompasses several biomes with global animal habitats.

What to Expect: Visitors will find over 1,400 animals representing nearly 300 species in naturalistic environments from deserts to tropical forests designed to enrich animal life. Several interactive animal encounters available.

Visitor Information: Open daily at 9am, closing hours vary by season. Ticket prices: $19.95 adults, discounted youth, senior and member pricing. Additional activity fees may apply. Strollers and wheelchairs can be rented.

Families flock to the nation’s only accredited zoo offering visitors the chance to see Amur tigers, African elephants and orangutans inhabiting spacious naturalistic environments. Special exhibits bring seasonal opportunities to view playful Australian red kangaroos or adorable koalas in dedicated enclosures. Embark on journeys through biomes like the deserts of Arizona or grasslands of Indiana populated with bison and elk in impressively detailed habitats. Along the way, don’t miss esteemed exhibits like the International Orangutan Center, Cheetah: The Race for Survival, and Simon Skoda International Orchid display whose 798 individual orchids set records in 2012. As Indiana’s largest attraction, the Indianapolis Zoo engages and educates visitors on conservation efforts to protect endangered species around the globe.

Eagle Creek Park

Name and Location: Eagle Creek Park is a 4,000 acre municipal park located at 7840 W. 56th St. in Indianapolis, offering both waterway and forest preserve recreation.

History and Significance: Established in the 1960s when the reservoir was created, Eagle Creek has become the Midwest’s largest city park and one of Indy’s most popular outdoor escape destinations for boating, hiking, biking and more.

What to Expect: Visitors will find trails, shelter houses, playgrounds, an earth discovery area, dog park, water access for boats, canoes, fishing, swimming beach (in season) and more across 1,400 acres open to the public daily.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily from 7am-dusk. No entrance fees to access grounds, trails or launch boats. Program fees apply for golf, shelter rentals and some organized activities.

Spanning more acres than New York’s Central Park, Eagle Creek Park provides aquatic recreation and ample green space minutes from downtown Indianapolis. Eagle Creek Reservoir offers prime conditions for sailing regattas, kayaking quiet coves or reeling in bass and catfish from its waters. Over 10 miles of paved bike trails entice cyclists and joggers, while horseback riders take advantage of almost 17 more miles through woodland paths. Families and groups flock to reserve one of many open-air sheltered picnic areas surrounding the water. Nature lovers find an urban wilderness oasis with wetlands, prairie grasses and ample avian and waterfowl sightings located remarkably close to a major Midwest metropolis.

Conner Prairie

Name and Location: Conner Prairie is an interactive history park and Smithsonian Institution affiliate located at 13400 Allisonville Rd. in Fishers, just north of Indianapolis.

History and Significance: Founded in 1969 at the site of Potawatomi settlements along the White River, Conner Prairie preserves Indiana heritage across nearly 1,000 prairieland acres with exhibits and living history attractions.

What to Expect: Guests can experience 1800s pioneer life, meet historical characters, visit native settlements, explore nature trails, see heritage breed animals and more immersive activities across the grounds and indoor exhibits.

Visitor Information: Conner Prairie is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-5pm. Ticket pricing varies by day/activity with discounts for seniors, youth, military families and members. Certain dates sell out for special events.

For immersive exhibits transporting visitors back in time to Indiana’s early pioneer and colonial eras, Conner Prairie delivers historical recreations and experiential learning only minutes from downtown Indianapolis. Named for a house built in the 1830s still located on the museum grounds today, Conner Prairie’s park encompasses over 800 sprawling scenic acres and over a dozen themed areas to explore. Meet with animatronic alumni discussing building of the Erie Canal alongside costumed interpreters demonstrating 19th century crafts, trades and living history encampments throughout reconstructed villages and working farms. Unique offerings like hot air balloon rides, zipline courses high above the treetops, and special events spanning science, music, food and history engage visitors in early Midwestern life through interactive environments no classroom lecture could ever hope to replicate.

Conclusion

Beyond sporting legacy and heartland hospitality, Indianapolis rewards visitors with vibrant arts, architecture, cultural insights and kid-friendly science blended into quintessential Midwestern city surroundings. World-class destinations like Newfields and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway anchor rich experiences for art lovers, racing fans, families and outdoor enthusiasts all filtered through Indy’s wholesome brand of Hoosier charm. Indianapolis continues growing in national prominence as an entertaining Midwestern capital ideal for easy weekend escapes stuffed with plenty to see and do.

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