A canal, bike trails and these world-class attractions star at White River State Park: Indianapolis Zoo, where kids can hang with dolphins, and White River Gardens for flowering landscapes. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art showcases Native American cultural objects and art, including a sculpture of a medicine man.
At lunchtime, Harry and Izzy’s serves fillet sliders and a steak burger topped with spicy mayo.
Catch the current film showing in the Imax theater at Indiana State Museum.
When you’re ready to crash, the renovated Omni Severin Hotel (from $149) comforts with earth-tone palettes, higher-end bath products and the locavore destination 1913 Restaurant.
Cafe Patachou serves delicious fried-egg sandwiches; try add-ons like avocado, salmon and bacon.
Cyclists and walkers head out to navigate the Cultural Trail, 8 miles of streets-turned-trail between five downtown districts; Massachusetts Avenue (aka Mass Ave) in particular teems with restaurants, bars and shops.
The namesake burger with Taleggio cheese shines at Bru Burger Bar.
North of downtown, Broad Ripple Village features diverse street life, graffiti murals and fun shops like Broad Ripple Vintage for funky men’s and women’s clothing.
Savor a four-course prix fixe dinner at Recess, where the inventive menu changes daily.
Baseball fans know to dine early then catch the Indianapolis Indians at Victory Field; the team is the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
More information: Visit Indianapolis (800) 323-4639; visitindy.com
5 Great Places to Experience the Arts
1 Indianapolis Art Center Created to provide employment for out-of-work artists during the Great Depression, this 12-acre creativity park remains true to its mission by hiring professional artists to teach the many and varied classes. (317) 255-2464; indplsartcenter.org
2 Indianapolis Museum of Art Northwest of downtown, view permanent collections of European, Asian and African art on sculpture-dotted acres. One of Van Gogh’s self-portraits will be on display with other neo-Impressionist art June 15–September 7, 2014. (317) 923-1331; imamuseum.org
3 The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park: 100 Acres This former quarry has become a place to admire modern art among woodlands, meadows, wetlands and a lake. Seasonal guided tours run on weekends. (317) 923-1331; imamuseum.org/100acres
4 Indy Parks Each summer, parks throughout Indy welcome crowds to lively concerts. Some require tickets, but many (including performances by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Indianapolis) are free. (317) 327-7275; indy.gov/parks
5 Stutz Artists Association Complimentary wine and cheese, plus live music, make events in this former automobile factory downtown much more about celebrating (and selling) art than quietly contemplating it. (317) 503-6420; stutzartists.com
Bring the kids
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis The world’s largest children’s museum has five levels of fun. Interact with exhibits like the new Playscape for babies and toddlers, a dino dig and The Power of Children. Opening in May 2014, Take Me There: China reveals the history and culture of the world’s largest country. (800) 820-6214; childrensmuseum.org
Climb 330 steps (or ride the elevator) to the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument for a 360-degree view of downtown Indy. The 1902 monument honors Hoosiers who gave their lives in each of the nation’s wars. Inside, the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum tells the trial of war via letters, photos and artifacts. (317) 232-7615; iwm.in.gov
Meal You’ll Remember
Seasonal ingredients and unexpected twists pepper the menu at the new, buzzy Late Harvest Kitchen. We liked the Brandade, a dip made from pureed cod and served with brioche; the LHK salad, laced with shavings of fennel; and walleye served with pimiento cheese grits and green tomato chow chow. (317) 663-8063; lateharvestkitchen.com
One Big Party
Concerts and a huge parade lead up to Sunday’s signature 200-lap, 500-mile race. It makes the Indy 500 Weekend (May 24-25, 2014) a bash worth stopping for. Television can’t capture the thrill of seeing race cars worth $1 million zooming around the 2½-mile oval track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you go, don’t forget earplugs. (800) 822-8500; indianapolismotorspeedway.com