In the center of Indiana, Indianapolis was destined to be the capital of the Hoosier State. The city is packed with exciting historic activities, matched only by its beautiful locale with ample parks and recreational opportunities.
Indianapolis may be home to some riveting museums and art galleries, but the scenic White River flows through town, offering lush public parks and some excellent paddleboarding through downtown.
Perhaps the best things to do in Indianapolis and certainly the biggest drawcard for visitors, however, can be found among the city’s immense sporting calendar. Indianapolis is home to the world’s biggest motorsport event, while football and baseball provide plenty of live entertainment.
In this post, we'll cover:
15. Indiana State Museum
Exploring Indiana’s art, history, culture, and science, the Indiana State Museum is a complete look into the Hoosier State. There are over 450,000 artifacts on display covering three floors within the striking building.<.p>
The major exhibits include an exploration of Indiana’s ancient history when dinosaurs roamed the state. The mastodon, an elephant-like mammal, is a major feature and can been seen after first walking through an ice tunnel.
Afterwards, head up a floor to learn about the history and culture of Indiana’s native communities and recent history in the state. You can find the museum within the beautiful White River State Park.
14. Indiana War Memorial
Outside of Washington D.C., no city has more landmarks dedicated to veterans than Indianapolis. The Indiana War Memorial covers a large downtown area featuring two museums, along with numerous monuments and statues.
The grounds are a poignant sight, especially in the fall, when the surrounding trees turn red alongside the statues dedicated to historic figures. One of the two museums is the Shrine Room. A captivating experience, the room is dedicated to WWI soldiers that didn’t make it home.
The other section of the Indian War Memorial is the Military Museum that explores the history of war and veterans within the state. Learn about the early Battle of Tippecanoe through to the 21st century.
13. Eagle Creek Park
As the biggest public park in Indianapolis, Eagle Creek Park has long been a popular way to enjoy some time away from the bustle of downtown. From 56th Street, locals and visitors alike can leave the skyscrapers and traffic behind by venturing down the many nature trails or paddling across the sprawling lakes.
You can take advantage of the ample amenities within the park, including several rental shops. Get your hands on a kayak, canoe, or SUP and head out onto the water while in the summer the park’s marina offers sailing lessons.
Eagle Creek Park features a beach for lazing under the sun, playgrounds, and obstacle courses. The park is also a preserve, and exploring on foot is a great way to find privacy among nature and maybe spot some lingering deer.
12. Indiana State Capitol
In 1825, after being a state for almost a decade, Indianapolis became Indiana’s capital city. However, after moving from Corydon, plans for the current statehouse weren’t developed for another four decades, with construction on the historic building completed in 1888.
Made from white oak and Indiana limestone, the capitol building is a significant piece of architecture. Today, it’s one of only a handful of statehouses that are home to all branches of government.
You can take a guided tour of the Indiana State Capitol every day of the week aside from Sundays. If you prefer to embark on the journey alone, begin on Washington Street where you can appreciate the limestone facade and Corinthian porticoes.
11. Indianapolis Zoo
Featuring a large aquarium, a sprawling botanical garden and, of course, plenty of land-going animals, the Indianapolis Zoo makes for a great family day out. The zoo hosts over 300 species and almost 4,000 animals that hail from all regions of the planet.
Each section represents a specific climate and habitat, allowing you the opportunity to see your favorite animals in a more natural setting. Highlights of the Indianapolis Zoo include the International Orangutan Center, home to the largest group of orangutans in the country.
However, no time at the zoo would be complete without visiting the Dolphin Pavilion. Walk into the underwater world where you can view the dolphins swimming above your head.
10. Eiteljorg Museum
Inside one of Indianapolis’ most stunning buildings, the Eiteljorg Museum tells the story of Native Americans and life in the Old West. Its efforts to explore the culture, history, and individual perspective within these communities, helps the museum to be much more than another art gallery.
The Eiteljorg Museum is the only one of its kind in the Midwest. Its focus on Native American life along with the Old West creates complex and necessary conversations that will help change the way you look at American history.
As for the art on display, the museum is home to one of the most impressive contemporary Native American art collections in the world. The Eiteljorg Museum also hosts the Indian Market and Festival.
9. Victory Field
For many reasons, Indianapolis is an exciting destination for sports fans. However, an easily forgotten part of the local sports scene is Victory Field, home to the Indianapolis Indians. The stadium which can hold almost 15,000 fans is one of the best spots to watch minor league baseball.
Forget expensive food and drinks at MLB stadiums around the United States. Settle in for a cheap and fun day at the ballpark in town. There are many specific events that make each match worth attending, such as free base running for the kids and dollar snacks.
If the young ones grow restless as you enjoy the ballgame, they can run free on Victory Field’s spacious green lawns.
8. Benjamin Harrison Home
The 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harris, moved to Indianapolis in 1854, where he would go on to become a significant figure in American life. His home for much of his life in the city is now a National Historic Landmark and features much of Benjamin’s personal effects.
While the beautiful home has become a significant attraction in Indianapolis over the years, it first played a major role in Harrison’s presidential campaign. The Victorian-era home has 16 rooms, which now display the life and times of the former President.
Today, you can explore the home to learn about Harrison’s work as a prominent lawyer, his development of the navy and his skills in working with nations around the world.
7. Indianapolis Museum of Art
Within the downtown area, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is a must-visit for aficionados and casual fans of fine art. The museum’s impressive collection features over 50,000 pieces from around the globe. Covering multiple genres and eras, visitors can appreciate exquisite portraits, sculptures, and textiles, among others.
Such is the sheer magnitude of the art on display that the Indianapolis Museum of Art is among the largest encyclopedic art museums in the U.S. The museum is broken into several sections, containing works from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. With such notable artists like Rembrandt and Picasso featured.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is within the lush Lilly House gardens. The gardens are a beautiful natural complement to your art experience with many ornate floral sections.
6. Lucas Oil Stadium
Home to the city’s beloved Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium is the place to go for live sport and concerts year-round. The state-of-the-art arena has a max capacity of 67,000 fans and regularly sells out during the NFL season.
Lucas Oil Stadium has a retractable roof, perfect on those sunny fall days or to protect fans from the bitter winter evenings. When the roof is open, you can take time to admire the skyline while being less than a mile from the city center.
With its prime location, it’s easy to get to and from Lucas Oil Stadium via public transport. If you’ve arrived outside of a game or concert, you can still embark on a guided tour. This will take you onto the field and even into the NFL locker rooms.
5. Indy 500
Each year, the eyes of motor sports fans from around the world turn in unison, focusing on the 2.5-mile track in Indianapolis. The city is home to the Indy 500, a race that’s been held for over a century and is considered the most revered race in the United States.
The Indy 500 is traditionally held on Memorial Day Weekend at the end of May. Each year, 250,000 screaming fans cram into the bleachers while over 100,000 more find themselves on the ground level. They combine to make the Indy 500 the biggest motorsport event on earth.
The racetrack has the nickname, “The Brickyard” after once having a completely brick surface. Today, the cars complete 200 laps in the race with only 36 inches of brick remaining.
4. Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Featuring a giant collection of over 130,000 artifacts, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is captivating from the very start. Dedicated to connecting kids to history and the world around them, the museum provides a variety of educational experiences that never bore.
It won’t be until you arrive that you’ll realize how big the museum is. Set across multiple stories, the dozens of hands-on activities and exhibits will keep the entire family busy for hours on end. A perennial highlight is the dinosaurs. Here in the Dinosphere, visitors can journey back 65 million years into an ancient world where these majestic beasts reigned supreme.
Later, spend time between the many sections that focus on space travel, music, toys and more.
3. Monument Circle
Appropriately placed in the center of Indianapolis, the Monument Circle honors those who have served in the United States’ military. The striking monument has an incredible presence and beauty thanks to its neoclassical design and 284-foot tower.
At the top of the gray limestone structure is a woman holding a torch of victory, providing an equally somber and inspiring sight. You can walk up the tower (and 330 stairs) to an observation platform for city views along with the opportunity for a guided tour.
Around the tower are spacious grounds with several prominent statues that continue to show victory and defeat of battle. It’s in the Monument Circle that you’ll also find the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum.
2. Central Canal
Since those busy days in the early 1800s, Central Canal has transformed into a gorgeous attraction in the downtown area. Once a pivotal waterway that transported goods in and out of Indianapolis, the Central Canal has taken on a new life in recent decades.
Today, you can rent kayaks and paddleboards to make your way down the picturesque canal with the city skyline rising in each direction. The canal cuts through the White River State Park, a central oasis far-removed from the bustle of local traffic.
It’s a beautiful and calming experience, offering a unique perspective of the city. Later, jump back onto dry land and explore the miles of walking and cycling trails that lead to scenic picnic spots.
1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
Whether you’re an avid racing fan or barely know your stick shift from your indicator, you would have heard of the Indianapolis 500. The race was first held in 1911 and has grown to become of the most famous motorsports event on earth.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is found on this hallowed ground and showcases a historic collection of race cars and artifacts associated with the iconic event. Learn about past winners of the event and see their victorious cars on display.
Now a National Historic Landmark, as a part of your museum experience, you can tour the track on a bus, later stopping at the victory platform and exploring pit lane. Along the way, try to imagine the stands packed to the rafters with 250,000 people!