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 the works of these intersecting cultures an dincludes pieces by Frederick Remington and Kay Walkingstick.
Harry and Izzy’s serves filet sliders and a steak burger topped with spicy mayo.
Learn about Indiana art, science and culture, then see a film in the Imax theater at Indiana State Museum.
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.
When you’re ready to crash, the renovated Omni Severin Hotel (from $149) comforts with earth-tone palettes, marble and granite in the bathrooms, and the locavore destination 1913 Restaurant.
Cafe Patachou serves delicious broken-yolk egg sandwiches; try add-ons like avocado, salmon and bacon.
Cyclists and walkers head out to navigate the Cultural Trail, 8 miles of designated lanes 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 downtown; 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 View permanent collections of European, Asian and African art on sculpture-dotted acres northwest of downtown. (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 Playscape for youngsters and learn why we admire three famous kids in The Power of Children. (800) 820-6214; childrensmuseum.org
Meal You’ll Remember
Ignore the strip-mall setting and sparsely decorated cinder-block walls. Recess’ chef-owner Greg Hardesty wants your focus on your plate, or bowl, or ramekin—what you get depends on what ingredients are in season. You might get a deconstructed pot roast, red snapper on a bed of lemon thyme or a blueberry trifle . (317) 925-7529; recessindy.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 in May 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. Don’t forget earplugs. (800) 822-8500; indianapolismotorspeedway.com