A neatly paved path edged with feathery grasses winds through downtown Indianapolis, enticing passersby to follow the brick markers across the street and explore the next stretch of trail. The 8-mile loop makes a rough rectangle surrounding some 60-plus thriving downtown blocks, connecting five cultural districts and some of the city’s best theaters, museums and parks. Playful art installations, including a lighted, rose-scented passageway, add extra interest to trail treks. Stay at the luxe Conrad Indianapolis or The Alexander; both stand just blocks from the trail and let guests use bikes for free. (317) 631-6542; indyculturaltrail.org 
5 signature trail sights
1 Dine alfresco and dig into contemporary Italian dishes served tapas-style at Bluebeard in the Fletcher Place neighborhood, south of downtown.
2 Enjoy a gondola ride along the canal anchoring White River State Park. Kids along? Pop in to see the dolphins at the Indianapolis Zoo, or let the kids sit in a real stagecoach at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
3 A student’s sculpture on the corner of Indiana Avenue and St. Clair Street, Looking Through Windows depicts windowpanes found throughout this historical African-American enclave. See if you can find them. (Download a scavenger-hunt map at indyculturaltrail.org/herronproject.html .)
4 On hip Massachusetts Avenue, duck into The Best Chocolate in Town for a bag of Cultural Trail Mix, then score a cheap read at Indy Reads Books, a funky used-books store.
5 The Glick Peace Walk shines across from the impressive Scottish Rite Cathedral. With a dozen luminary gardens, it honors peacemakers, including Mark Twain and Jonas Salk. Save this stop for evening, when glass memorials are aglow.
See Midwest Living's reviews of Bluebeard , White River State Park , Indianapolis Zoo , Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art , The Best Chocolate in Town , Conrad Indianapolis  and The Alexander .
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® May/June 2013. Prices, dates and other details are subject to change, so please check specifics before making travel plans.)