Indy Essentials: 10 Can’t-Miss Experiences in Indianapolis

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If you’re in town for the Indy 500, this list is for you. While this legendary sporting event brings in crowds from around the world, there’s so much else to do during your stay in Indianapolis. From immersive museums to relaxing gondola rides, here are nine activities that define the Indianapolis experience.

1. Embark on a Monument Tour

With more war memorials than any other U.S. city outside of Washington, D.C., Indianapolis is home to 25 acres dedicated to military history and honoring our veterans. Enjoy a self-guided tour of the Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District and check out the monuments, statues, sculptures and a museum. See the sights from the observation deck at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Stroll the American Legion Mall to pay your respects at the World War II Memorial and the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials. Visit the district’s crown jewel—the Indiana War Memorial—to explore exhibits commemorating Indiana’s military history, like the Battle Flag Collection and the Eli Lilly Civil War Exhibition. 

2. Visit the Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo is a triple threat, featuring a zoo, aquarium and botanical garden – it’s the perfect place to spend time with the family or in between the Indy 500 events. Pose for a photo with a playful dolphin at the Dolphin In-Water Adventure. Watch as a penguin or orangutan creates a personalized painting for you to take home. Feed the giraffes, kangaroos, or flamingos. Or, go for a thrilling ride on the Kōmbo Family Coaster. Feeling brave? Get up close and personal with boas, iguanas, and gilas monsters in the Deserts biome.

3. Go Museum Hopping

From the world’s largest children’s museum to an acclaimed outdoor history museum, Indianapolis is the perfect backdrop for a day filled with history and culture. Dive into immersive exhibits at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, from a working archaeological lab to an International Space Station replica where you can try on space gear. Visit the Eiteljorg Museum to explore renowned art collections depicting Indigenous American tribes and the American West. Head to Conner Prairie for an interactive journey back in time at a living history museum with animal encounters, hot-air balloon voyages, and a four-story treehouse. Or, admire one of the world’s largest collections of antique, racing, and classic cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. 

4. Bike the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an 8-mile biking and hiking trail that weaves through all six of Indy’s cultural districts downtown. See iconic landmarks like Monument Circle and the picturesque White River State Park. Soak in the city’s eclectic street art and historic architecture along the way. Cruise past five acres of lush gardens spanning the trail, with thousands of colorful perennials and hundreds of trees. Ready for a pit stop? Park your bike at Lugar Plaza to cool off in the interactive spray fountain, join a free yoga class, or grab a bite at one of the rotating food trucks.

5. Indulge in a Deep-Fried Tenderloin

Dine like a local by sinking your teeth into Indiana’s legendary deep-fried tenderloin. This Hoosier delicacy, born in Huntington, is a mouthwatering masterpiece of crispy pork perfection. Picture a giant disc of pork, pounded thin, breaded, and fried to golden-brown deliciousness, loaded with lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, all tucked snugly between a bun. You can find the iconic dish on the menu at many restaurants around town. Make your way to Chatham Tap, Plump’s Last Shot, Nine Irish Brothers, The Mug, or The Rathskeller to indulge in the hearty dish. 

6. Take a Gondola Ride Down Central Canal

Looking for a date night idea during your time in Indianapolis? Head to Fresco Cafe to board a 30-minute gondola ride straight out of a romantic novel with Old World Gondoliers. Glide down the Central Canal, taking in enchanting views of downtown Indianapolis while your gondolier serenades you. Marvel at the stunning architecture lining the canal banks, from the Indiana State Museum to the Eiteljorg Museum. Cruise under the elegant arches of the Walnut Street Bridge and past the picturesque White River State Park. For an extended ride, opt for the 75-minute yacht tour to see the whole canal.

7. Catch a Baseball Game at Victory Field

If you’re visiting between April and September, don’t miss out on the fun of an Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field! Take in panoramic views of the downtown skyline while cheering on the Indians as they swing their way to victory (we hope). Grab classic game day bites from concession stands like Top Taco and Burger Kitchen. Book a Victory Field tour for a behind-the-scenes look at the grounds, training room, indoor batting cages, and more. 

8. Transport Yourself to Another Dimension at Healer

Once an average office building, Healer is an immersive music and art venue unlike any other. The space was designed to be an inclusive DIY community for all ages, with mesmerizing art installations housed in former office cubicles and live music every weekend. Admire the wild art collections that fill the space from floor to ceiling. Enjoy a performance by a touring act or local musician. Embrace your inner child in the 90s room, complete with bean bags, Super Nintendo, stuffed animals, and old TVs. Grab a drink at the nautical-themed bar. Head outside to Mad Max Katz Art Park, an outdoor multi-use space with decked-out RVs and a variety of funky art on display.

9. Spend a Day in Eagle Creek Park

Embrace the great outdoors with a half-day adventure at Eagle Creek Park, Indy’s sprawling 3,900-acre playground. Grab your sneakers and hit the trails. There are over 16 miles of pathways weaving through woodlands and lakeshores. Play a round on the 36-hole golf course. Or, make a splash on the water by renting a kayak, canoe, or pedal boat. Channel your inner angler and cast a line to try your hand at catching largemouth bass, walleye, crappie, and catfish. Looking for a thrill? Take flight among the treetops with Go Ape Treetop Adventures to soar through zip lines and take on rope ladders. If you’re bringing your furry friend along, head to the Bark Park for some off-leash fun. 

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