Best Things to Do in Indianapolis

Downtown Indianapolis Skyline

While the Hoosier state capital is perhaps best known for being the home of the Indy 500, Indianapolis is more than just a city for racing enthusiasts. It is a place where public art, professional sports, bike paths, universities, museums and parks merge into one dynamic city.

Plan to explore Indianapolis on wheels — biking or scootering are two popular modes of transportation — or by kayak through the Central Canal. You can even get in a race car and take a 180 mph ride around the oval Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the thrill of a lifetime.

Here are our picks for the best things to see and do in Indianapolis.

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Cycle the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

The best way to explore the background of the hit 1979 movie Breaking out (about a working-class teenager obsessed with the Italian cycling team) is on a bike. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an 8.1-mile bike path, runs through downtown Indianapolis and has tracks that take riders through three city neighborhoods.

The northeast spur runs along Massachusetts Ave before joining another popular trail, the Monon Trail. The southeastern spur follows Virginia Ave to the Fountain Square neighborhood, a commercial historic district. The southern spur of the trail connects the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium.

The pleasant cycle path is dotted with more than 61 works of art in the public space. Download the free route map and rent a bike from one of the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare stations along the route.

Explore the natural and cultural wonders of White River State Park

The 267-acre White River State Park is Indianapolis’ prized urban green space. Located on the White River of the same name, the park has trails, trees, and cultural gems. Watch a movie on Indiana’s largest movie screen (more than six stories high) at the IMAX Theater or watch a baseball game on Victory Field† Meet the mastodons of prehistoric Indiana, see the world’s best-documented Amish quilt collection, and learn about the Hoosiers who left their mark on the world during the Indiana State Museum† The Eiteljorg Museum in the park spotlights Indiana’s indigenous people through an extensive collection of artwork by historical and contemporary Native artists.

Walk along the Indiana Central Canal or rent a pedal boat and enjoy the city from the water © fllphoto / Getty Images

Paddle or walk the Indiana Central Canal

The Indiana Central Channel offers a 3-mile waterfront promenade for cyclists, walkers and runners. The public art-lined canal walk starts at 10th St and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St and travels south past several points of interest, including the USS Indianapolis Memorial, the Watanabe Garden, and the Indiana State Museum, before arriving at White River State Park. Rent a swan pedalo or a kayak at Wheel Fun Rentals at Canal Walk to get out on the water and enjoy the scenery.

Kiss the Stones at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

The Indy 500 is arguably the greatest spectacle in motorsport. Considered part of the Triple Crown of Motorsports (along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix), the race is hosted on the 2.5-mile oval track of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, built in 1909. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is home to one of the world’s largest collections of vintage race cars, including more than 30 Indy 500 winners. Photos and other vintage memorabilia show the Speedway’s 100-year history.

Go behind the scenes and experience the Speedway’s rich history. Visitors can also snap a photo on the same podium as the race’s celebrated winners and “kiss the bricks” at the start/finish line. NASCAR champion Dale Jarrett started this tradition of kneeling and kissing on the sidewalk in tribute to the winning drivers.

Cars race around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Fly around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a professional Indy driver © Grindstone Media Group / Shutterstock

Jump into a real Indy race car or run slower loops on an indoor go-kart track

If you want to experience the thrill of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, get in a real Indy race car and take a ride around the iconic oval with the Indy Racing Experience† You’ll feel the g-force as you sit in the passenger seat next to a professional Indycar driver who will whip you around the track at 180 mph.

To feel the excitement of car racing minus the bone tingling, Speedway Indoor Karting offers karting on its mini superspeedway, an oval, slippery track that promises an adrenaline rush at speeds of up to 65 km/h.

Stroll through the galleries, theaters, restaurants and boutiques on Mass Ave

Massachusetts Avenue, known as “Massa Avenue” by locals, is a five-block historic district where art mixes with commerce. Pick out a pair of shoes Stout’s shoes (the oldest shoe store in the country), treat yourself to a Flying Cupcakesip a pint of German lager in the historic Rathskeller Biergarten or watch a classic play in The District Theater

Paint with an elephant, touch the skin of a rhinoceros or feed a sloth at the Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo is home to more than 3,800 animals, including red pandas, Brazilian rainbow boas, and warthogs. The zoo’s Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, a research center dedicated to orangutan conservation, is home to 10 of the monkeys. Innovative cable highways allow the orangutans to travel through the zoo.

If you’ve ever dreamed of painting with an elephant, touching the rough skin of a rhinoceros, or feeding a sloth, check out the zoo’s menu of unique animal adventures

Immerse yourself in art immersed in nature in Newfields

Surrounded by 34 hectares of land, the historic House and Gardens Oldfields-Lilly is the former estate of pharmaceutical millionaire Eli Lilly. Visit the house and grounds designed by renowned landscape architecture firm Olmsted Brothers, then browse the 54,000 works on site Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). The ninth largest encyclopedic art museum in the United States, the IMA has rotating exhibitions and a permanent collection that includes an extensive collection of Neo-Impressionist and Japanese paintings from the Edo period. Finish your visit with a glass of sparkling wine on the hotel’s garden terrace beer garden

Exterior of the Indianapolis Children's Museum
See dinosaurs come to life at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis © Russ Vance / Shutterstock

Explore the world’s largest children’s museum

A life-size dinosaur peeks through a window of the massive Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, where kids are invited to listen to, touch, and climb the exhibits. The five floors are packed with so many fun exhibits that kids won’t even realize they’re learning while they play. Kids will want to spin on the 1917 Broad Ripple Park Carousel, build toy boats to float along the waterway at ScienceWorks, and spend a day with the dinos at Dinosphere, a sound-and-light experience that travels back in time to the late Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago. Outdoor exhibits include the Avenue of Champions with statues of 16 heroes from sporting history, a mini speedway with pedal race cars, and the climbable 25-meter Fantasy Tree House of Sports.

Shoot around the Bottleworks District

the boutique Bottleworks Hotelan Art Deco gem that once housed the offices of Coca-Cola companies, the walkable 12-acre centers Bottleworks District† The recently restored district was the largest Coca-Cola bottling plant in Indiana before closing in 1964. The Garage Food Hall, the city’s first food hall and community-oriented marketplace with 20 independent local and regional vendors, is housed in two former van garages. Catch an indie movie on the Living room Theater or challenge friends to a game of table football, pinball or duckpin at Pins mechanical company† get a Lime scooter share so you can ride through the chic food and shopping center on wheels.

Beer poured into a glass at a brewery in Indianapolis, Indiana
Grab a beer with friends while visiting the Circle City Industrial Complex © Paul Velgos / Shutterstock

Visit the studios and meet the artists of the Circle City Industrial Complex

Indianapolis’ largest and arguably most vibrant artist community spans the half-million-square-foot Circle City Industrial Complex (CCIC). Once upon a time, the Schwitzer Corporation, an early auto parts manufacturer, produced turbochargers here; today artists work and collaborate in the vast space. Every first Friday, the CCIC hosts an open studio event, inviting visitors to interact with local artists through special exhibitions, installations, and live art-making events. Enjoy a precision-engineered craft beer in the dog-friendly Centerpoint Brewingwhere a 30 barrel brewing system produces 3000 barrels per year, or a cocktail of 8th Day Distillery, makers of gin, rum and even absinthe. Or play a round of the newfangled sport of fowl – a boisterous game that combines soccer, bowling and cornhole – at Fowling Warehouse† The first person to knock over an opponent’s 10 pins (positioned in a typical bowling layout) with a football wins.