Vacationers overlook Indianapolis at their peril. That's because the capital of the Hoosier State is conveniently located, packed with sporting attractions, a great place to eat, drink and party - and blessed with some exceptional family attractions as well. What's not to love?
If all you care about is speed, Indianapolis is the place for you. Pack your earplugs and buy tickets to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see the legendary Indianapolis 500, see the hall of fame or put your own skills to the test at Lucas Oil Raceway.
But even if you aren't an automobile fanatic, Indianapolis has plenty to offer. Broad Ripple is a fabulous place to dine or skip between bars like the Brewpub or the Alleycat Lounge. Downtown restaurants like Dunaway's compete in national competitions with the country's finest, while the Indianapolis Zoo will captivate kids.
When you include the fact that a friendly welcome is guaranteed, it become clear that few American cities deserve your attention more than this charming, vibrant Midwestern destination.
Any city that hosts the Indy 500 has a good claim to be called the racing capital of the world, but Indianapolis also stages other motorsports spectaculars, including the Brickyard 400. Racing fans will also adore the Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, with exhibits featuring many past winners of the event.
Indianapolis has some superb areas to enjoy yourself in the evening after a day of watching racing or sight-seeing. Whether you head to Broad Ripple, Irvington or Fountain Square, you'll find a warm welcome, great food, local beers and all-night DJs. It's a great destination for entertainment fans.
Indianapolis is steeped in history, with an incredible number of beautiful buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Visit highlights like the home of President Benjamin Harrison, the Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens or Crown Hill Cemetery (the final resting place of John Dillinger) to get a sense of the city's rich past.
Indianapolis is at the heart of some of the richest farmland in the world, and the quality of its produce is reflected by the city's dining culture. Dine at upscale bistros like the Corner Wine Bar or Palomino's or just fill up on old-time home cooking at Le Peep, a local favorite.
Motorsport isn't the end of the story for sports fans. You can also watch the Colts play in the NFL, the Pacers in the NBA or even take your own vehicle to the summer drag racing contests at the Lucas Oil Raceway.
Located next to the White River in the northern suburb of Woodstock, the Museum of Art is Indianapolis' cultural jewel. More than just a gallery, the complex contains an outdoor theater, the 100-acre Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, the beautiful Lilly House and the Toby - probably the city's finest cinema. However, the art is sublime as well, with works from Africa, the ancient Mediterranean, the Americas, and Asia, along with European and American modern works. It's a feast for all culture fans.
Stretching across 3,900 acres in Pike Township, northwestern Indianapolis, Eagle Creek Park is the fourth-largest park of its kind in the USA, and a wonderful place to relax. But it's not just a green space. There's also the Earth Discovery Center which includes an array of animals and nature exhibits, as well as all of the trail maps you'll need to explore the park and its natural wonders. You might even catch a kayak race on the lake, and art shows are regularly hosted on the park grounds, too.
A 2.5-mile-long rectangular oval track that put Indianapolis on the map, the Motor Speedway hosts the Indy 500 every May, drawing 400,000 fans to watch the world's fastest drivers compete for the gold, making it the world's biggest sporting venue. But even if the 500 isn't in town, the Speedway is a motor-sports hub, with motorcycling events and vintage automobile races like the Backyard Invitational, which takes place in June. NASCAR events regularly roll into town, while the inner ring is even used to host professional golf tournaments.
The city's finest family attraction can be found on 30th Street in the Meridian Park district. It's an incredibly imaginative venue, with interactive dance exhibits, galleries of pop memorabilia, a circus big top space where kids can learn some tricks of the trade, dinosaur skeletons and space exhibits, as well as scientific and historical floors too. Mixing entertainment and education seamlessly, the Children's Museum is just as much fun for parents as it is for kids.
Right at the heart of Indianapolis, Monument Circle's center is occupied by the solemn Soldiers and Sailors Monument. But it's not just a reminder of military sacrifice - it's also a vibrant venue for food markets, dance events, music and much more. Climb the 284-foot tower of the monument to enjoy stunning views from the observation deck, sit on the steps and gorge on gourmet pizza or locally-made chocolates, catch a show at the Hilbert Theater (home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra), or pop into Christ Church Cathedral, which is right on the Circle.
Indianapolis is at its best when there's plenty to see and do. Winter isn't the ideal time to visit, owing to the generally very cold weather, but from April onwards the city is hard to resist. Motorsports fans should visit in late May to watch the Indianapolis 500, while August sees major events like the State Fair, Oktoberfest, and the Rib America Fest - so it's a great time to visit as well.
The best way to travel to Indianapolis is by taking a flight into Indianapolis International Airport, which is around 15 miles out of town. From there, the cheapest route into town is to take IndyGo bus 8, which costs $1.75, but there are car rental outlets, limo services, shuttle buses and taxis at the airport as well.
Indianapolis' Amtrak station is located at 350 S. Illinois Street, not far from the city center. The train is a great way to reach the city from Chicago, thanks to the Hoosier State service and the city is also a stop on the Cardinal route between Washington D.C., New York, and Chicago.
Indianapolis has superb road connections to all parts of the USA. If you are coming from Chicago, take I-65. Those driving from Eastern Seaboard cities should take I-70, while anyone driving from the south can take I-75 or I-65 straight into the city. The best route from the west is to take I-40, then switch to I-44 at Oklahoma City.
Greyhound run intercity bus services from a huge range of American cities, including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Kansas City, and their terminal is at the Amtrak station. Burlington Trailways offer an alternative service from major Midwestern cities like St Louis or Minneapolis.
Indianapolis offers a great range of different accommodation options, from modest B&Bs to luxury hotels. At the top of the range, you might want to try the Union Station Crowne Plaza, which offers unique accommodation in adapted Pullman cars or the Kendall Inn, where Jacuzzis come as standard. Looking Glass Inn B&B is a homely option in the city center, while budget travelers could try the Indy Hostel, which supplies comfortable dorm beds at affordable prices.
Downtown Indianapolis – The cultural and business heart of the city, Downtown is the place most visitors look for their accommodation. Indianapolis City Market offers regular tastings of local produce, wine and beer; the Fountain Square district has some superb Mediterranean restaurants, while Theater on the Square in the Mass Ave neighborhood is the city's premier performing arts center.
Broad Ripple Village – Around six miles north of the city center, Broad Ripple is the nightlife and dining center of Indianapolis. Dance all night at clubs like the Red Room, sample craft ales at Hopcat and dine on healthy, locally sourced food at Flatwater Restaurant. It's a fantastic place to meet the locals and have a good time.
Irvington Historic District – Indianapolis' historic core, Irvington, has hundreds of 19th-century buildings and is a joy to walk around. See historic homes like the Benton House and the Stephenson Mansion, stock up on groceries at Irvington Farmers Market or catch a play at the Irving Theater. It's a family-friendly, upscale area that makes the perfect base for an Indianapolis vacation.
IndyGo operates an extensive and popular local bus network that costs $1.75 per ride and offers $4 day passes, so it's a cheap way to see the city. Bus number 17 is particularly useful as it links Downtown Indianapolis with Broad Ripple.
Booking taxis ahead of time is advisable in Indianapolis, and locals rarely flag down cabs when they need them. Local rates are typically $3 for the meter drop, then $2 per mile, with additional charges for extra passengers. UberX cars are much cheaper, with a basic fare of $1.25 and then $0.75 per mile (but a minimum fare of $5.10).
Driving around Indianapolis makes sense, as the Metropolitan area is quite spread out and getting between areas like Irvington and Broad Ripple can take a while if you rely on public transit. Parking is easy to find in the center, where meters charge $1.50 per hour. Rates of $1 per hour are common in outer districts.
Broad Ripple is the place to go if you are hunting for vintage clothing, art or antiques. Westfield Boulevard has some of the most popular stores, including Chelsea's gift shop and French Pharmacie (an apparel boutique). Fountain Square is another great shopping area. Jewelry and crafts lovers shouldn't miss Heirloom Classics Jewelry and Beads, while the Indianapolis Downtown Antique Mall can turn up incredible bargains. For an upscale mall experience, head to Castleton Square, home to stores like JC Penney, Sear's and Macy's.
If you are self-catering or need food for a picnic, the best places to shop for fresh groceries in Indianapolis are the local markets. You'll find farmers' markets in Irvington and Broad Ripple that showcase Indiana's fruit, meats, vegetables, cheese and baked products. If you want standard groceries, you can also head to supermarkets like Publix, Walmart and Marsh.
Deciding where to eat in Indianapolis is tough. With so much to choose from, it's hard to know where to start. If you are out and about and need a snack, sandwich joints like 96th Street Burgers and Broad Ripple's Boogie Burger are the place to go. Bazbeaux Pizza has three locations where gourmet pizza is on the menu, and there are upscale options like Corner Wine Bar where the fillet mignon (and the wine list) is exceptional. Expect to pay anything from $10 for a burger to $40 for a gourmet meal, but mid-range meals generally cost around $15-20.