New arrivals to Indianapolis will have an absolute ball exploring their adopted city, as there is a wonderful array of things to see and do in this surprisingly bustling and cosmopolitan Midwest metro.
Most Indy residents, or Hoosiers, may be racing diehards, but the city has worked hard to increase the cultural value beyond the famous speedway. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an 8-mile urban-planned pedestrian and bike pathway, connects neighborhoods and cultural districts, and offers access to multiple attractions including museums, galleries, public art, eateries and shops along the route.
Most attractions won’t cost an arm and a leg either, so newcomers will be able to get to know their new city and soak up the sights quite affordably. Below are a few highlights of the Circle City that expats will want to check out first.
Attractions in Indianapolis
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The most celebrated car race in the US, the Indianapolis 500 (or Indy 500 for short) is the world’s oldest currently operational automobile race, and the biggest single-day sporting event in the world. It’s held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway seven miles out of town, lovingly referred to as the 'Brickyard' owing to the fact that it was originally paved with bricks (still used to mark the finishing line). The circuit is a 2.5-mile oval track and the race is 500 miles. The Indy 500 is the biggest day on any true Hoosier’s calendar, and it attracts upwards of 250,000 people on race day.
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the world's largest children's museum and is a good shout for a fun, educational family day out. Aimed at youngsters, the museum is packed with interesting and interactive displays on a range of topics related to transportation, culture, science, and archaeology. A huge favourite with the kids, of course, is the Dinosphere exhibit, which recreates the world of dinosaurs, and includes a real Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil, as well as a display of the recently discovered species named Dracorex Hogwartsia in honour of Harry Potter’s famous school for wizards. Other interactive exhibits include space travel, science, pop culture, toys and music.
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Housed in the lovely Newfields Park north of the city centre is the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The highly celebrated museum consists of four pavilions, namely the Krannert Pavilion (American art from pre-Columbian times to the present day, and Asian art), the Hulman Pavilion (from Baroque to Neo-Impressionism, and the Eiteljorg Gallery of African and South Pacific Art), the Clowes Pavilion (medieval and Renaissance art, 18th-century British works, and watercolours by Turner), and the Lilly Pavilion (British and American furniture and German porcelain). All in all, a great day out for art lovers.
Eagle Creek Park and Nature Reserve
One of the largest municipal parks in the US, Eagle Creek Park and Nature Reserve covers a total area of 5,300 acres of land and water. A popular destination in the summer, the park rents out all sorts of watercraft at the marina, and visitors can even take sailing lessons. There’s a big playground for kids, treetop zip lines, beach volleyball, and a 36-hole golf course at the Eagle Creek Golf Club. Keen anglers will also have a great time casting for walleye and largemouth bass. The park also hosts regular summer concerts.
History buffs will enjoy a closer inspection of Monument Circle in downtown Indy, where the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial has been standing since 1902 and commemorates the lives lost during the Civil War. Just north of the monument is the Mausoleum and Memorial Hall, while the large Circle Center Mall can be found three blocks south. The Indiana World War Memorial is another interesting site – the Shrine Room on the third floor being a particular highlight, its construction comprised of building materials from around the world symbolising peace and unity.
White River State Park
Smack in the middle of downtown Indy is the sprawling White River State Park. A welcome solace from the scurry of the city centre, the park boasts peaceful greenery and leafy shade. It’s also home to an assortment of top tourist attractions including two museums, a zoo, a baseball park, an IMAX theatre, the NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial. The highly popular Canal Walk is a three-mile pedestrian area that runs from the park to 11th street in the north, used by runners, cyclists, or those out for a relaxing stroll.
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art
Located at the entrance of White River State Park, this museum houses a large collection assembled by Indy businessman Harrison Eiteljorg. Its displays range from paintings and sculptures by landscapists Albert Bierstadt and Thoman Moran, to pictures and sculptures by artists such as Charles M. Russell and Frederick S. Remington. It also boasts extensive works of the Taos Society of Artists, and Indian art from all over North America.
Also located in White River State Park, the zoo contains several habitats including an aquarium and huge botanical gardens that cover more than three acres of permanent and changing gardens with flora from around the world. Opened in 1964, the zoo contributes significantly to worldwide conservation and research and provides specially created and spacious environs for a massive variety of animals.
Rhythm! Discovery Center
A delight for musos, the Rhythm! Discovery Center is a percussion museum that exhibits all aspects of percussion, from its historical significance in shaping modern music to the actual physics of sound waves. It also displays music artefacts from around the world, including some bizarre and long-forgotten instruments. The museum has an array of interactive exhibits, including the fun Groove Space, where one can play hundreds of instruments. Myriad educational programmes and concerts are also hosted here.