Indianapolis is one of the hidden gems of America. The twelfth-largest city in the country is home to the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400, and you can certainly tour the track and, for a fee, drive around the track.
But what if you're not a sports fan and you have some time to kill in "the amateur sports capital of the world"? It really depends on what interests you--the city has a variety of activities including museums, historical attractions, nightlife, and outdoor activities. There is absolutely no shortage of things to do in Indianapolis.
You can also look forward to plenty of accommodation options as well as amenities such as dining facilities, shopping, and transport options to enable you to get around and explore with ease. Below is our pick of the top tourist attractions in Indianapolis.
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This Children's Museum of Indianapolis is situated close to the downtown area and is the perfect place to bring the kids for a day of fun, education and excitement.
Although pricey, no one can argue that you don't get your money's worth at the world's largest children's museum.
The children will love the interactive displays and will also be able to enjoy a unique learning experience covering everything from science and culture to history and the arts.
There are five floors at this museum, so the chances are that you will be here for quite some time if you want to explore it fully.
Noted exhibits include a train, a 12,500-year-old mastodon skeleton (just part of the large Dinosphere exhibit, which features an archaeological dig), a planetarium, a mummy, replicas of China's terra cotta warriors, a pirate shipwreck, and a carousel. The museum also has seasonal attractions, such as a haunted house (with a lights-on tour) and Jolly Days, a Christmas celebration.
The museum is definitely one of the top attractions in Indianapolis that is enlightening for children and adults alike.
Address: 3000 N Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46208
Also Read: Top 10 Best Children's Museums in the USA
If you are looking for a fabulous way to enjoy a family day out, Indianapolis Zoo is one of the perfect places to visit in Indianapolis.
You will find hundreds of animal species to learn about when you come to the zoo, making this both a fun and educational day out for both kids and adults alike.
You can also further enhance your visit with some of the special experiences that the zoo offers, such as the Animal Art Adventure or the Dolphin In-Water Adventure.
If you want to save money, it is well worth looking at one of the packages that are offered by the zoo, which can help you to save money on both admission and accommodation.
Address: 1200 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46222
If you are looking for a day of watery fun with the whole family, a visit to the Freedom Springs Aquatic Park is a must on your trip to Indianapolis.
You will find all sorts of facilities here to ensure you have a day filled with excitement, fun and adventure.
This is a state-of-the-art water park with slides, a lazy river, kid's play areas, water rides, and much more.
In addition to offering a great and memorable day out, the water park also offers swimming lessons and even water fitness classes for visitors to enjoy as well as cabana rentals so you can take some time out to relax.
Address: 850 W. Stop 18 Rd, Greenwood, IN 46143
You can look forward to a really unique and exciting experience when you head to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.
This is a place that will pique the interest of both kids and adults with its fascinating experiences.
The kids will enjoy being involved in interactive exploration, delving into fields such as engineering, technology, science and history.
Covering 800 acres, this park offers both indoor and outdoor experiences for visitors to enjoy. The park also hosts various events over the course of the year, so this is a great way to further enhance your visit.
With so many things to do, it is no surprise that it is one of the best Indianapolis attractions.
Address: 13400 Allisonville Rd, Fishers, IN 46038
A day of excitement and adventure will be had by all when you head to the Go Ape Treetop Adventure.
This is a great way to spend a few hours having fun with the family and enjoying outdoor recreation with a difference.
With numerous zip lines and treetop challenges, you will have the time of your life when you head to this Indianapolis attraction.
It is worth noting that this attraction is not recommended for younger kids and is suitable for ages 10 and up.
Address: 5901 Delong Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46254
For those looking for a cultural experience, the Indianapolis Museum of Art is one of the excellent attractions in Indianapolis.
The museum is located on more than 150 acres of ground and offers an engaging and exciting permanent display with everything from Asian and African arts to exploring a wide variety of cultures.
There's simply something for everyone here, including exhibits designed for children and interactive exhibits. The museum is a stop for major art events, ranging from Roman statues to samurai swords.
Trained docents are on hand to answer any questions you may have, and the museum frequently offers classes, ranging from bonsai to yoga.
In addition, you can look forward to exploring the stunning gardens during your visit.
Address: 4000 Michigan Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46208
There are many beautiful outdoor locations in Indianapolis, and Garfield Park Conservatory and Gardens are amongst the most popular.
Dating back to the late 1800s, this is the oldest park in the city and is also a place where you will find plenty to see and do.
With its sunken garden, arts center, sporting facilities, and conservatory, you can enjoy a great day out when you come here. There are also picnic areas, so you can make a real family day of it when you visit.
Address: 2505 Conservatory Dr, Indianapolis, IN 46203
If you are a fan of classic and unique cars, you should definitely pay a visit to the Hall of Fame Museum at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
You will find one of the most varied and exciting collections of vehicles, including racing, antique and classic cars at this museum.
There is also a theatre on site where you can learn more about the Indianapolis 500, which was won by many of the cars that are now displayed here.
You can even take a tour of the race track by bus with a guide to help you learn all about its history.
If you’re looking for cool things to do in Indianapolis, be sure to make a pit stop at the Hall of Fame Museum.
Address: 4790 W 16th St Indianapolis, IN 46222
Also Read: Best Race Tracks in the US
Situated in White River State Park, this museum is home to a wonderful collection of Native American and Western art, making it the perfect attraction for those who appreciate fine arts and culture.
You will find both contemporary and traditional artwork here, with some fascinating displays and exhibitions to take in during your visit.
The museum also holds family events and demonstrations, which makes it ideal for those who want to arrange a family day out.
Address: 500 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Located in the Old Pathology Building on the grounds of the abandoned Central State Hospital, the Indiana Medical History Museum offers a journey through the history of medicine, with an emphasis on psychiatry.
The building was state-of-the-art when it was constructed in 1896, and has been maintained since.
The museum features a portrait of Dr. William Fletcher, a hospital superintendent who publicly burned the restraints and was fired for the destruction of state property in 1883. You can also see a photograph of Dr. Sarah Stockton, who was hired in 1884 and known as a whistle-blower and advocate for women's health.
The museum also contains an anatomy museum, which displays the brains of several former patients, including one kicked in the head by a mule. Several of the brains were stolen in 2013, along with an EKG machine, about 10 scopes, a baby scale, and various unnamed artifacts, and sold on eBay, according to Reuters. Shortly thereafter, the thief posted on Facebook "Yo I got a bunch of human brains in jars for sale hmu for details u know u want one for Halloween," according to Fox 59.
He was captured and most of the exhibits recovered in a sting operation at Dairy Queen, and interest in the museum surged. The museum has odd hours, so call before you go. Admission comes with a guided tour of the building and a self-guided tour of the medicinal herb garden.
A visit to this museum is one of the strangest things to do in Indiapolis and should definitely be on your bucket list.
Address: 3045 W Vermont St, Indianapolis, IN 46222
You can have either a guided or self-guided tour at this small museum dedicated to the Indiana State Police.
The museum has an entire section dedicated to Hoosier criminal John Dillinger and includes a death mask and his wooden gun that he used to escape from an "escape-proof" jail.
Other exhibits include one on the history of drunk driving breath detection equipment; the first such device was invented in Indiana and called the Drunkometer.
Also included is a double-headed patrol car, in which visitors can don an Indiana State Police hat and turn on the lights and siren (don't worry, the volume has been turned down). Admission is free, but the museum is closed Mondays.
Indiana State Police Museum is one of the most thrilling Indianapolis attractions.
Address: 8660 E 21st St, Indianapolis, IN 46219
Let it not be said that Indiana doesn't aim high; the Canal started as one of the state's greatest debacles.
Initially proposed to run 296 miles long and started in 1836, the Canal was designed to connect the Wabash and Erie Canal to the Ohio River.
The project nearly bankrupted the state, and only 26 miles were built, of which nine were operational. The Canal became a source for the local water purification plant and was designated an American Water Landmark in 1971.
A revitalization effort in the 1980s led to the Canal Walk, a three-mile waterside promenade that you can tour by paddleboat, gondola (yes, they know O Sole Mio), foot, Segway, and bicycle carriage.
Worth visiting is the USS Indianapolis Memorial, a monument to the fallen sailors on the World War II ship sunk by the Japanese after delivering the parts for the atomic bomb.
Canal Walk is among the favorite tourist spots in Indianapolis and should be high on your list of to-dos.
Address: 801 W. Washington St.,Indianapolis, IN 46204
Located on Monument Circle, this is probably the most recognizable image associated with the city.
At the top of the monument is an observation deck and Lady Victory, who is facing South in memory of the Civil War.
In the basement is the Col. Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, which chronicles both the home front and battlefield of Indiana soldiers during the Civil War.
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which is 15 feet smaller than the Statue of Liberty, becomes "the world's largest Christmas tree" every December, with strings of lights and giant wood nutcrackers prominently on display.
While the observatory offers a nice view, the best view in town is about a block away, at the City-County Building's observatory.
It is undoubtedly one of the must-see attractions in Indianapolis for history buffs.
Address: 1 Monument Cir, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Indianapolis has more military monuments than any other city except Washington D.C., and this is one of many monuments dedicated to veterans.
Here you can see a complete set of World War I nurse uniforms (which even the Smithsonian doesn't have), a replica of the USS Indianapolis radio room, an AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter, and a chapel dedicated to those who didn't come home.
The USS Indianapolis, made famous by Quint in Jaws, was a heavy cruiser during World War II that was sunk by the Japanese after she delivered critical parts of the atomic bomb.
Contrary to Quint's account, a distress signal was sent but ignored, and the ship sank in 12 minutes.
About 300 sailors went down with the ship, and out of the 1,195 crew, only 316 survived; the rest succumbed to exposure or were eaten by sharks. It was the worst US Navy disaster in history and the world's largest shark attack.
It’s clearly one of the greatest things to do in Indy and the best way to show respect to those who have fought to serve our country.
Address: 55 E Michigan St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
This museum is dedicated to all things Indiana. For example, three U.S. presidents had direct Indiana connections: William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and Benjamin Harrison (whose house in the city is also a museum history buffs will love).
Memorable experiences include hearing a Potawatomi storyteller tell a tribal legend, "Why the Bear Has a Short Tail," a cooking show by a Shawnee who makes grape dumplings; a re-enactment of Miami chief Little Turtle's speech defending Native rights; the opportunity to pack your Conestoga wagon for the trip to Indiana (eat your heart out, Oregon Trail); the chance to split logs and churn butter; and watching a movie in the IMAX theater.
It is simply one of the best places to go in Indianapolis if you want to learn the history of Indiana from ancient times up to the present day.
Address: 650 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
As Hoosier native Vonnegut said, "Unexpected travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." Learn more about the Slaughterhouse-Five author here.
Exhibits include Vonnegut's typewriter, the Purple Heart he received, rejection letters (including one publisher who thought his account of the Dresden firebombing was "not quite compelling enough"), first editions of every novel, and photographs of the satirist.
It really is one interesting spot and one of the best Indianapolis attractions.
Address: 543 Indiana Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46202
Do you like European beer? This is your tour! The tour goes through the trendy Massachusetts Avenue district, known as "Mass Ave" to the locals.
You'll stop at four local bars and breweries, including the Scottish-themed McNiven's, which serves haggis and Scotch eggs (timid tourists should try the grilled cheese).
You'll also visit the Athenaeum, which has a Biergarten so lively that there's a sign that reads "No dancing or standing on Biergarten tables." The tour concludes with a Guinness challenge at one of the city's many Irish pubs.
Taking this tour offers one of a kind experience and is one of the most amazing things to do in Indianapolis.
Address: Indianapolis, IN
Located within the grounds of Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, the 100-acre Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park is a must-visit place in Indianapolis, especially if you have kids in tow.
The outdoor space is available to the public and features contemporary art. Aside from site-responsive artworks, the park also allows visitors to explore its woodlands, meadows, and the shoreline of their lake.
With thousands of wildflowers, the nature park is a pleasant sight to see. Fairbanks Park also added nesting platforms to draw in birds of prey, perfect for some bird watching activities with your children.
Address: 1850 W 38th St, Indianapolis, IN 46228
White River State Park is one of the best Indianapolis attractions that features must-visit museums, such as the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art and the NCAA Hall of Champions.
But what captures the attention of everyone is the White River Gardens. The 3.3-acre garden features the DeHaan Tiergarten, a landmark collection of small gardens that provides visitors with impressive gardening ideas, inspirational garden designs, and various plant information.
What’s interesting about this area is that the gardens are always updated so you can get the best garden design ideas that can be safely replicated in your home lawn.
It also showcases a shade garden, a water garden, a sun garden, and a wedding garden. Another feature of the state park is the Heritage Garden, where you can find a host of traditional plant varieties such as the hollyhock and purple coneflower.
The Hilbert Conservatory is also a must-see while you are in the area. The 5,000-square-foot glass centerpiece contains lush, tropical greenery that is truly one of a kind. Kids can even get close to butterflies at the Butterfly Kaleidoscope.
Address: 801 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
The Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and serves as a National Historic Landmark.
Apart from the historic home, the place also features a garden with a rich history.
Designed by the Olmstead Brothers, the garden is a sight to behold. Trivia: the firm was also responsible for designing Central Park in New York City.
It has an elm-lined alley that ends at a sunken garden with symmetrical planting beds on a fountain pool.
It has a perfect blend of informal and formal gardens. One of the main highlights of the place is its wild garden located in a 40-foot deep ravine.
Address: 4000 N Michigan Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46208
There are many more things to do in Indianapolis, such as sampling craft beer, wine, and mead (yes, Indianapolis has a craft meadery--New Day Meadery) or attending one of the city's many ethnic festivals. Your Indianapolis experience depends on you and what you want your trip to the Circle City to involve.