Top Attractions in Indianapolis
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Highlights of Indianapolis
Indianapolis' claims to fame revolve mostly around sports. The Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals allow the city to boast the two largest single-day sporting events in the world and the world's largest drag race. Add in the Indianapolis Colts, the NBA Pacers and the NCAA headquarters, and it's easy to understand why sports can overshadow everything else the city has to offer.
If you take time to look around, though, you'll find that Indianapolis's pride extends well beyond the racecourse. Top-notch museums, a stellar downtown park and historic architecture are among the capital's many highlights.
Click ahead to learn about some of our favorite attractions in Indianapolis.
The Indiana Historical Society's impressive Indiana Experience shares state history through technology and costumed interpreters. Three You Are There galleries create vignettes where visitors interact with interpreters; you might repair a 1924 Tin Lizzie or shop with 1945 rations coupons. Other exhibits include a swank Cole Porter room, where a singer croons the works of native son Porter; and Destination Indiana, a group of touch screen stations where visitors explore Indiana's 92 counties through stories. (800) 447-1830; indianahistory.org
Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Five levels of interactive exhibits qualify as a must-see for visitors of all ages; plan to spend at least half a day at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. The Take Me There: Egypt exhibit gives you a chance to visit an ancient Egyptian home and marketplace, and the world-class Dinosphere -- an eerily lifelike re-creation of the Cretaceous period -- always gets a thumbs-up. Equally fascinating: the world's largest glass sculpture (a 43-foot tower by Dale Chihuly) and a moving exhibit about heroic children, including Anne Frank. (317) 334-3322; childrensmuseum.org
White River State Park
This urban park combines green space with activities for the entire family. Stroll paved pathways along the river and expanses of shrub- and flower-lined lawns; rent a bike or surrey; and take pedal-boat rides on the historic Central Canal. Summer concerts are held on a lawn overlooking the White River.
White River State Park also is home to some of the city's major attractions, including the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the Indiana State Museum, the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens, NCAA Hall of Champions, the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial and Victory Field Baseball Park. (800) 665-9056; in.gov/whiteriver
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Fans consider this 100-plus-year-old venue a mecca, but even people who don't know racing get wrapped up in the history and pageantry at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Three annual racing events stoke major adrenaline: the Indianapolis 500 in May, the Brickyard 400 in July and the Red Bull Indianapolis GP in August. But even when it's not race day, visitors come here for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum as well as behind-the-scenes grounds tours. (800) 822-4639; indianapolismotorspeedway.com
Plan a day trip to this premier interactive history park sprawling across 800 acres in Fishers (17 miles north of downtown). Costumed interpreters at Conner Prairie play historically accurate roles in areas including an 1836 town and one of Indiana's first farms. In one of the newest exhibits, visitors can also soar 350 feet above the prairie at the 1859 Balloon Voyage.
Check the website for special events held throughout the year, especially Follow the North Star, a compelling re-enactment of the Underground Railroad. (800) 966-1836; connerprairie.org
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
Most people don't come to Indy with Native American and Western art in mind, but this jewel in White River State Park is absolutely worth a visit. The collections at The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art include ancient and modern art.
For a real deal, plan to visit in June when the Eiteljorg holds its annual Indian Market and Festival. A $10 ticket gets you admission to the museum and the fest, where 130 Native American artists, storytellers, dancers and singers converge. (317) 636-9378; eiteljorg.org
Indiana State Museum
The family-friendly Indiana State Museum inspires a fresh appreciation for Indiana and its history. The first floor of exhibits focuses on Indiana's environmental and geographical history; the second floor highlights the history of Indiana's people. Take a whiff of spices used by pioneer women, learn about the railroads' impacts on the region and hear from a slave trying to navigate the underground railroad. (317) 232-1637; indianamuseum.org
Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens
The Indianapolis Zoo, located in the city's White River State Park, is a must-see for both animal- and plant-lovers. Winding garden paths, flowers and lots of green space make it a pleasure to wander among the animal exhibits. Kids will love petting the dogfish shark in a shallow pool and an opportunity to help zookeepers wash elephants. A cheetah exhibit re-creates a savannah habitat. The 3.3-acre White River Gardens includes a sun garden, water garden and shade garden. (317) 630-2001; indianapoliszoo.com
NCAA Hall of Champions
Hands-on exhibits should intrigue both athletes and nonathletes at the NCAA Hall of Champions. Soaring ceilings, waving flags and red bricks provide a grand entrance that makes you feel like a superstar just walking in the door. Inside, first-floor exhibits feature information on major sports, but head upstairs for the real fun: shooting free throws, clocking your pitching speed and using a downhill-skiing simulator. (800) 735-6222; ncaahallofchampions.org
Indianapolis Art Center
At this 12-acre creativity park, visitors become artists, drawing, painting and making jewelry. Created to provide employment for out-of-work artists during the Great Depression, the Indianapolis Art Center remains true to its original mission by hiring professional artists to teach the many -- and varied -- classes offered here. The park surrounding the central building features open-air studios and sculptures amid lush landscaping. (317) 255-2464; indplsartcenter.org
Indianapolis Colts and Lucas Oil Stadium
Soldiers and Sailors Monument
At the center of downtown's Monument Circle, the 284-foot Soldiers and Sailors Monument, built in 1902 of gray limestone, has become a symbol both of the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana. The monument houses a Civil War museum at its base; visitors can also walk 330 steps to a panoramic observation level or ride in the elevator for $1. (317) 232-7615; in.gov/iwm
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Northwest of downtown, view permanent European, Asian, contemporary and African collections on 152 sculpture-dotted acres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Also on the grounds: The 22-room Lilly house provides a look at life on a country estate in the early 20th century. The Tobias Theater, nicknamed The Toby, opened in 2008 as a venue for films, speakers and other programs. (317) 923-1331; imamuseum.org
100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park
This former quarry between the White River and the art museum has become a relaxing place to admire modern art. 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park features artworks in a setting that includes woodlands, meadows, wetlands and a lake. Guided tours are available summer weekends. (317) 932-1331; imamuseum.org/100acres
President Benjamin Harrison House
President Harrison was the second president from Indiana, the first being his grandfather, William Henry Harrison. Visitors to the President Benjamin Harrison House will quickly realize that the staff and volunteers here are eager to share their passion about the Harrison family, the home and Indiana's place in history. Unlike many other historic homes, this privately owned house gives visitors a lot of freedom. Nothing is roped off, allowing you to walk on the carpet, play the gramophone or peer at photos up close. (317) 631-1888; presidentbenjaminharrison.org
This diagonal street on the downtown's east side is an up-and-coming neighborhood. Find a shrine-turned-concert venue, a playhouse, comedy clubs, restaurants, shops, live music and galleries along Massachusetts Avenue. Don't miss the Chatterbox Jazz Club, a tiny bar that's hosted live jazz for more than a quarter century. Note: The neighborhood draws some characters after dark, but still feels safe. (317) 637-8996; discovermassave.com
Broad Ripple Village
This lively, eclectic, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood buzzes with high-end boutiques, bars, vintage-clothing shops, art galleries and public art displays, as well as fast-food and chain restaurants. Broad Ripple Village tends to see a quieter clientele during the day and a more boisterous, younger crowd in the evening. (317) 251-2782; discoverbroadripplevillage.com