From green spaces and glistening waterways to marvelous monuments and the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy has something for everyone.
The state capital of Indiana, Indianapolis plays host to the world-renowned Indy 500 motor race each year. Aside from speedy race cars, Indianapolis (or Indy, as it is more lovingly referred to) is a charming, picturesque city filled with grand green spaces, wonderful waterways, and magnificent monuments. My fiancé, Ferdy, and I visited Indianapolis last year as an excursion during our trip to Chicago and we instantly fell in love with Indy. Some of our trip highlights were exploring White River State Park, biking along the Canal Walk, and, of course, stopping by the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Whether you enjoy exploring fascinating museums, visiting famous or historical sights, or being at one with nature, there is so much to do in Indianapolis. So, no matter what your tastes are, Indy is sure to win you over and wow you as much as it did with us.
While there are so many fun things to do in Indy, I have narrowed it down to eight things that you really need to do while visiting the city. (Don’t worry—there is a little bit of everything!) Read on below for The Colorventurer’s Guide to Indianapolis.
Visit Monument Circle
Located in the heart of Downtown Indianapolis, Monument Circle is the main focal point of the city. Central to everything that is going on in the city, Monument Circle is a must-see if you visit Indy. While you’re there, check out the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is the state’s official memorial to all of those who served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Frontier Wars and the Spanish-American War. Did you know that Indianapolis has more memorials and monuments than any other U.S. city outside of Washington D.C.? Super cool, right?!
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument also houses an observatory where visitors can experience panoramic views of the city skyline. If you choose to climb the stairs to the observation deck (you’ll have to climb approximately 300 steps), admission is free; however, if you choose to ride the elevator, there’s just a small fee. You can also find the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum and a small gift shop there as well.
If you’re visiting Indy during the holidays, make sure to catch its large holiday event, Circle of Lights. Spectators gather at Monument Circle to see the most spectacular display of lights illuminate to officially kick off the holiday season.
Check out the Monument Circle’s webpage to see if there are any upcoming events!
Check Out the Indiana State Capitol
Downtown, you can find the Indiana Statehouse, the state capitol building of the state of Indiana. Indiana is actually one of the few states in the nation that has all three branches of government operating out of its state capitol building. While the capital was originally located in Corydon, the capital was moved to Indianapolis in 1825, and the building of the current statehouse was completed in 1888.
Guided tours of the Indiana Statehouse are available Monday through Friday and on Saturday, so make sure to take a tour! You can plan your visit on the Indiana Statehouse Tour Office’s website.
Take a Stroll Through White River State Park
One of my highlights from our trip was going to White River State Park because it is absolutely lovely! Covering 250 acres on the west end of downtown, White River Start Park has a unique blend of green space that is perfect for relaxing or having a picnic and cultural attractions, like the Indianapolis Zoo (which we’ll get to in a second), the NCAA Hall of Champions, the Indiana State Museum, and The Amphitheater at White River State Park.
With lots of green space, walking and biking paths (especially along the river!), equipment rentals, and attractions, it’s easy to spend hours at the park! You can enjoy urban oasis by walking its various trails or rent a bike (or surrey bike like we did!) to explore White River State Park.
See the Animals at the Indianapolis Zoo
While at the White River State Park, make sure to check out the Indianapolis Zoo! This world-class facility is home to nearly 1,400 animals and 31,000 plants! You can even get up close and personal with some of the animals at the zoo. You can actually feed the giraffes and flamingos at the zoo! How cool is that?!
From plains and deserts to forests and oceans, there are so many fun animals to see. Speaking of the ocean, you can also experience a dolphin in-water adventure where you’ll get to learn all about dolphin characteristics, adaptations, and training. There are so many fun things to do at the zoo!
Ride a Surrey Down the Canal Walk
The Canal Walk starts at White River State Park and serves as a waterside promenade for walkers, runners, bikers, and sightseers. Along the Canal Walk, there are lots of grassy areas where you can sit and relax (maybe even enjoy a picnic!), and simply enjoy the peacefulness of the canal. There are also lots of fun murals along the Canal Walk that you can check out, too, and take photos at, including this fun flower mural.
While walking along the Canal Walk is nice, it can be fun to enjoy it while riding a paddleboat, which you can rent. My personal favorite, however, was when we rented a surrey bike and rode along the canal on the bike. It was so much fun riding down alongside the water, and it was even cooler when we got to actually cross the canal (!!!) to return on the other side. (Don’t worry, there’s a bridge that you cross.)
Walk Around Downtown
Downtown Indianapolis is filled with so many fun shops to look at and there is such a variety for everyone. You can find lots of well-known retailers, like H&M and Forever 21, at the Circle Centre Mall. If you’re something fun to do in the evening, check out a movie at the Regal Cinema there! If you like to hunt for more unique items, downtown has tons of one-of-a-kind, locally owned boutiques in the popular in Cultural Districts where you can find fun trinkets, handcrafted art, eclectic home wares, and cute, trendy clothes. So, shop to your heart’s desire!
Stop by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
No visit to Indy is complete without a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Technically located in Speedway, Indiana, just mere miles outside of downtown, the motor speedway is one of the oldest and most revered motorsport facilities to the world, and is home to the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. (Just look at that sign!)
Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with the famous Indy 500 race, there are also so many fun things to see while you’re there. Located at the speedway itself, you’ll find the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum which houses automobiles and artifacts representing more than a century of Indy 500 culture and competition. At the museum, you can discover all there is to know about the automotive industry in the state and see trophies and race memorabilia from events all around the world. In short, if you’re a racing fan, you do not want to miss this!
Feeling the need for speed? At The Indy Racing Experience, you can also live out your racing dreams at the speedway. The Indy Racing Experience offers the thrill of a lifetime where fans can step into real IndyCar machines and zoom around the historic speedway. Hop into in a custom two-seat IndyCar or get behind the wheel and drive a car that actually competed in the Indy 500 (!!!). How cool is that?! And, of course, you can always plan your visit around the 500-mile race, which usually takes place at the end of May each year.
Eat Indiana’s Signature Sandwich at Dawson’s on Main
After spending time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, head on down the street to Dawson’s on Main to experience the signature sandwich of Indiana: The Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. Trust me, this sandwich does not disappoint. This crispy hand-breaded pork tenderloin is fried to golden perfection and served on a brioche bun with Dawson’s signature sauce and all the fixings. Just make sure to come hungry, because the portion size is enormous. Ha!
I hope you check out some of these fun places and have fun in Indy!