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.)