One of Indianapolis’s major claims to fame has to be the thrilling range of sporting events it hosts, which includes the famous Indianapolis 500, the world’s largest single day sporting event. It is also headquarters for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The city’s other claim to fame must be that it is the largest city in Indiana and the second largest city in the American Midwest.
I can’t vouch for all of its 2 million inhabitants personally, but I would imagine they’re pretty happy having so many exciting sporting occasions right on their door step. And if you’re less sport and more arts and crafts, there are plenty of other exciting options available too! Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Indianapolis.
1. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
This wonderful interactive children’s museum is the biggest in the world and certainly worth a family visit! The five level playground, for example, has a 43 ft vibrantly colored Dale Chihuly ‘Fireworks of Glass’ sculpture that hangs in the middle of the atrium as well as a totally useable antique carousel on the top floor!
Your kids will love exploring the impressive collection of adult and juvenile dinosaur fossils, learn all about the life of a child in modern China, as well as enjoying the sight of the 16-foot-tall movie prop Bumblebee, from the first Transformers movie. Together with North America’s largest water clock and so much more to see and learn, this will be a wonderful day out full of exploration and wonder!
2. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Here you are in one of the most internationally famous motor speedway capitals of the world, with the chance to take full advantage of it! Home to both the world’s largest and second-largest single-day sporting events, and so large that you could fit the Vatican City, Roman Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Yankee Stadium and Churchill Downs inside the 2.5-mile oval, why not take a shuttle excursion, pace car or an IndyCar to tour around it?
The venue welcomes over 300,000 visitors every year for the Indy 500 alone! You and your family can have an amazing time visiting the Hall of Fame Museum which houses Trophies, memorabilia and actual winning cars from the past century of open wheel racing!
3. Indianapolis Zoo
This terrific 64 acre attraction, which includes a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden, is home to an amazing number of animals and plants which consist of approximately 250 species of 2,000 animals and 2,000 plant varieties. The zoo’s White River Gardens includes three acres of carefully landscaped garden rooms along with a 5,000 sq ft conservatory.
Bring the family and immerse yourselves in learning all about the animals’ natural environments, cleverly constructed to reflect an African Savannah and Asian temperate forest, for example. Travel through the arctic and view polar bears, penguins and other assorted beasts! There is also a great choice of on site restaurants, from burgers, hot dogs, salads and gourmet treats to healthy food, snacks, desserts and drinks too.
4. Conner Prairie
Only a 25 minute drive away, Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers is 800 acres of pretty wooded property offering a variety of indoor, outdoor and historically themed methods for the family to experience how life once was, living in a real prairie town.
The interactive theatre will immerse you all in the Civil War and, as you walk through different ages and talk and even help work with the resident actors as they perform their daily chores, you can really get to feel as if you’ve actually travelled back in time. This is a fabulous engaging history lesson for all the family!
5. Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens
This graceful National Historic landmark sits within the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art but worth a mention of its own. It lies within 26 acres of elegantly manicured gardens and includes Lilly House, the former home of late Indianapolis philanthropist and collector, J. K. Lilly Jr., the property now serving as a museum.
There is plenty for the family to see and enjoy, including the authentic furnishings that offers insight into Indianapolis history. There are also lovely trails within the grounds to walk through which are especially nice in spring and summer, when the entire lovingly cultivated flora bursts into life!
6. Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
What a fantastic museum for the whole family to enjoy! At this hands on venue, you can all experience the excitement of escaping to the West; your kids can dress in authentic costume, hop into a stagecoach and pretend play in the General Store while learning all about how life once was.
As well as the recreational part, the museum has an outstanding collection of Native American art and history together with a fabulous gift shop selling fascinating, attractive handcrafted tools, purses and clothing.
7. Dallara IndyCar Factory
A day out at the Dallara IndyCar Factory must be the ultimate way to go for all the petrol heads in the family!
The venue is made up of 20,000 sq ft of interactive, hands on exhibits, offering you the chance to enjoy getting behind the wheel of a racing simulator which will enable you to experience the excitement of riding in a IndyCar two seater along with a professional driver, or by taking a factory tour where you will be watching skillful technicians handcraft the Dallara IndyCar chassis! For a wonderful souvenir of the day, have your picture taken with the awesome, fast paced DW12!
8. Indiana State Museum
The Indiana State Museum showcases the story of the Hoosier state in a rich and fascinating way from prehistoric times up until the present day. Within three floors of Core Galleries, the wealth of exhibits includes Indiana art, culture and science with the exterior artwork representing the 92 counties making up the state in a colorful, vibrant way.
Your kids will especially enjoy the many hands on areas throughout the museum that gives them the opportunity to dig into some real life history! At the end of your visit, enjoy a delicious meal at the Farmers Market Café, serving some of Indiana’s local produce.
9. NCAA Hall of Champions
For a fun trip for all the college sporting fans in the family, a visit the NCAA Hall of Champions should be on the cards!
Besides being able to read all about the choice of collegiate sports played within the country (all 23 of them) and the awards presented from NCAA to individuals from 1970 to the current day, enjoy testing your knowledge at some of the sports specific trivia, shoot hoops in a 1930s designed gymnasium, and even attempt a downhill skiing simulator for extra fun!
10. Duckpin Bowling
This is a fun site that offers a twist on traditional bowling! Both kids and adults will have a whale of a time in this out of the ordinary bowling venue featuring eight duckpin lanes as well as a billiard table, amid genuine 1930s furnishings.
Duckpin bowling is scored differently than regular bowling and the pin action doesn’t really ‘happen’, but the system is easy for everyone to pick up. Treat yourselves to a blast from the past with a meal and a tour through this wonderful historic building before or after your game!
11. K1 Speed Indianapolis
Seeing that you’re already in the heart of American motorsport, it makes sense to add some racing fun of your own! K1 Speed offers high performance go karts for both adults and kids to have fun with on their high performance and professionally designed bi-level, 900 ft go kart race tracks.
The venue also has a wonderful collection of authentic racing memorabilia, a Pit Café snack bar and large lounge and gaming area, so there is something for everyone to enjoy. The staff is very friendly and helpful too. Speeds can reach up to 40 mph, so hold on to your hats!
12. Lucas Oil Stadium
Whether you and the family are Colts fans or not, this multi purpose stadium is a great place to watch a football game, attend a concert, have a bite to eat and walk around the various shops within the stadium’s interior.
The stadium replaced the RCA Dome and actually had the honor of hosting Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 and to this day is still often referred to as “The House That Manning Built”, even though Peyton Manning no longer plays for the Indianapolis Colts! The stadium is easy to negotiate with plenty of help on hand if you need.
13. Monument Circle
This 284 ½ ft neoclassical monument was built in honor of the soldiers and sailors serving this country. Surrounding the circle are the painstakingly carved statues depicting their battlefield struggles, and on the farthest pinnacle, a woman holding a torch of victory which is symbolic of the fight and ultimate freedom for thousands of slaves.
If you are visiting over the winter holiday season you will be able to enjoy the 2,400 lights that adorn the monument, making it one of the largest ‘trees’ in the world. There is also an interesting civil war museum at the base of the memorial.
14. The Escape Room
This is an interactive game for the whole family to enjoy pitching their wits against, and one in which time is of the absolute essence! You will all be locked in one of the cleverly themed rooms and only have 60 minutes to crack the clues, solve puzzles and work out how to escape!
There are some real head scratching scenarios, including ‘Hoosier Hysteria’ where the famous trophy has been stolen, KGB Interrogation, Art Gallery, Bank Heist, and Jail Break, all absorbing and great fun for all!
15. Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course
Be Tarzan for the day at this exciting, interactive venue! There are 5 zip lines and approximately 40 treetop obstacles to have fun with as you swing from tree to tree through the forest canopy! Anyone of the family from 10 years and up can enjoy two to three hours of thrilling adventure.
You will be fully trained before embarking on your journey by the patient and knowledgeable staff, who make sure you are comfortable in making all the right moves! And don’t worry if you find some of the obstacles a little too much for you, there are always alternative options. A truly fun and exhilarating time to be had by all!
16. Segway Tour
Take a tour with a difference; try it the Segway way! Use a Segway to glide around the White River State park, zoo and canal, coast down to the Old Washing Street Pedestrian Bridge and enjoy lots more besides.
Whether it’s the family’s first time or you’re dab hands at using this mode of transport already, your tour guide will ensure that you first spend time practicing on the machines until you’re all totally comfortable. Trained and coached, you will then set off with your friendly and experienced guide to explore the city!
17. Indiana Medical History Museum
For those budding doctors in the family or for those simply interested in the historical and medical history of the country, this is a marvelous venue to visit. Situated on the grounds of the former Central State Hospital, the core of the museum being the Old Pathology Building, it is the nation’s oldest surviving pathology facility (and also on the National Register of Historic Places).
Initially concentrating on the physical cause of mental diseases, the hospital operated until the 1960s before it became a museum. Its entire scientifically equipped interior was left intact, enabling visitors to explore the teaching amphitheater which includes laboratories for clinical chemistry, histology and bacteriology as well as the autopsy room and anatomical museum which has preserved specimens.
18. Rhythm! Discovery Center
This is a marvelous interactive venue for those of all ages as a place to bring out their own personal rhythm! The Discovery Center is one of world’s leading percussion museums, providing educational exhibits and interactive programs that draw from cultures all over the globe.
It will be of particular interest to everyone who enjoys drumming and as you view room after room of all varieties of drums after reading all about the history of percussion, there are soundproof rooms where you can then make the most of your musical creativity! Your kids will love it – guaranteed!
19. Eagle Creek Park
Eagle Creek Park is the largest park in Indianapolis, centered around Eagle Creek reservoir and covering nearly 1,400 acres of water and 3,900 acres of land. It is perfect for a family day out with lots of great trails for hiking, running and biking and even fishing in the big lake or on the small pond, which will keep the kids busy!
Bring a picnic – there are plenty of picnic tables – enjoy the day and, with any luck, you might even get a glimpse or two of the park’s resident tame deer!
20. Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre
An evening of fabulous live entertainment and tasty food –what could make for a nicer time? The whole family can enjoy plays, professional Broadway shows and highly acclaimed children’s theatre productions while at the same time savoring some delicious hand carved roast beef and delectable desserts!
Beef & Boards welcomes over 155,000 theatergoers every year and is a very popular family venue. And if your kiddies are just that little bit too young to sit through an evening’s entertainment, they also offer a Children’s Theater throughout the year which is suitable for kids over three. A great introduction to the theater and an easy way to develop their interest in the arts!
21. Indianapolis Museum of Art
The Indianapolis Museum of Art sits on 152 acres of grounds and gardens, housing a permanent collection that comprises over 54,000 works of art which include American, African, Asian and European pieces. The museum is actually the eighth largest encyclopedia art museum in the country and definitely worth a visit while you are here.
Of particular interest could be the Indianapolis Star Family Studio which is a free, interactive space for all the family to families to explore, create and share, using art in new ways. Take time to explore Oldfield-Lilly House and Gardens, within which the museum is located.
22. Holliday Park
A very popular park with locals, Holliday Park sits on 94 acres together with an arboretum, generous amount of fun trails to explore, a playground for the kiddies and a nature center that offers all ages programs. Bring your family and enjoy a picnic when the weather permits (which is the majority of the time!), as there are plenty of areas to barbeque, or just pitch a blanket and relax in the grounds.
Of particular interest must be the fascinating stone features that are simply known as The Ruins, though in reality they are not ruins at all, but the remains of a New York skyscraper that had been demolished and now preserved as if genuine works of art.!
23. Rocket Fizz
For all the candy lovers in the family or even those who just appreciate the sight of colorful and creative row upon row of candy and creative bottled sodas, drop by Rocket Fizz.
The shop has an amazing selection of goodies including a joyful amount of old style candy as well as imported sweets from around the world. And if taffy is your personal favorite, you won’t want to miss trying some of the store’s unusual varieties such as maple bacon taffy and even Tiramisu taffy. You have the choice of buying the candy in boxes, bars, bags and individual pieces (though I bet you won’t stop at just one piece!).
24. Central Canal
Take the family for a relaxing stroll, bike ride, or even gondola trip along the Central Canal. This lovely area within 250 acres of state park boasts a backdrop of stunning downtown skyline, along with plenty of public art, lively cafes and comfortable areas to simply sit and watch the ducks!
The Central Canal was quite recently refurbished and has really come into its own. It is such a lovely quarter and you may even catch a glimpse of couples exchanging their wedding vows amid the picturesque fountains and gardens.
25. Goose The Market
Whether you want to treat yourselves to an amazing array of deli produce or buy some fresh meat and a deli platter to take home to cook and enjoy, Goose The Market is worth stopping by for a visit. This full service butcher shop and specialty food and wine market prides itself on delivering fresh, irresistible and luxury food.
Have some sandwiches made right up at the meat counter and choose from locally sourced delectable delights such as duck confit, goat’s cheese, salmon pastrami and a whole lot more. And if it’s a hot day, you and the kids can choose from some of the deli’s refreshing gelato or ice tea!