Andy Perkins / flickr
IntroductionThink of Indianapolis, and you think of car racing. It's that simple. Since AAA established its national driving championship and sanctioned the first Indy 500 in 1911, millions of people around the world have watched the checkered flag come down at the Brickyard. But there's so much more to see—the stately homes of presidents and poets, stunning art collections, one of the largest children's museums in the world. Visitors to Indiana's capital are surprised to find a canal inspired by the waterways of Venice, a Grecian shrine modeled after the ancient mausoleum at Halicarnassus and a spacious urban park often compared to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In fact, the city was laid out by Alexander Ralston—apprentice to Pierre L'Enfant in designing the federal capital—and his vision of broad avenues radiating out from a central hub gives Indianapolis an Old-World feel.
Intiaz Rahim / flickr
In DepthCapital and largest city in the state, Indianapolis pulses with the activity forged by its high-tech industries, governmental and educational sectors and sports and cultural institutions. Progress has been the catalyst behind its growth from a wilderness camp in 1820 to a Midwestern giant today.
Indianapolis owes its start to location. In 1820 state legislators in Corydon asked 10 commissioners to find a new site for the capital. The commissioners headed for the center of the state and decided on Fall Creek, then a swampy little settlement on the shallow White River. Alexander Ralston, assistant to Pierre L'Enfant in the designing of Washington, D.C., mapped the new town, and settlers began to arrive.
In 1825 the state government brought in many jobs and people, and the National Road (US 40) stimulated more growth when it came through in 1834. However, not until the Central Canal was built on the White River in 1836 did industry come to town. The canal provided the transportation link and water power needed to run factories, paper mills and sawmills. But the soft, muddy shores of the White River were too fluid to maintain the canal, and without a water supply, the mills and factories left.
With the arrival of the railroad in 1847 manufacturing concerns that did not have to rely on inexpensive water power or transportation also began to arrive. By the turn of the 20th century Indianapolis had become a sophisticated city with sidewalks, streetlights, streetcars and musical and literary organizations.
A major new industry emerged as entrepreneurs set up factories to produce automobiles. In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 was held, setting a Memorial Day tradition that has become the largest single-day sporting event in the world. Although it kept its race, Indianapolis eventually lost the automobile industry to areas that could provide steel and coal more economically—by water.
Since the World Wars Indianapolis' industrial progress has been in technology. Eli Lilly and Co., a pharmaceutical giant, more than 100 computer software companies and several enterprises that specialize in automation equipment and robotics are based in Indianapolis. But with all of its technology, Indianapolis is still a Midwestern city, and as such it serves as one of the country's leading grain markets and a major livestock and meat processing center.
As notable as high-tech industries are the many academic institutions, the largest of which is Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. The Indiana University Medical School is one of the largest in the nation, and Purdue is noted for its research in the areas of computers and automation. Butler University, Marian University and the University of Indianapolis, all private colleges, also are part of the city's educational environment. Martin University was founded by Rev. Boniface Hardin in 1977 to serve minorities and low-income groups.
The effects of industrial growth have not always been positive. Indianapolis was proclaimed one of America's dirtiest cities in the 1960s. A major cleanup and revitalization project resulted, and by the late 1970s Indianapolis was considered one of the nation's cleanest urban centers. Of the country's 50 largest cities, it has one of the lowest crime rates. Urban blight has been counteracted by an unusual Unigov structure of government, a consolidation of city and county agencies that work cooperatively to perpetuate the city's renaissance.
A resurgence in the arts has accompanied this revitalization project. Home of a nationally acclaimed children's museum and museum of art, Indianapolis also claims a respected symphony orchestra, ballet and opera companies as well as several theater groups.
The city also has grown into a major sports center and is home to the national governing bodies of seven sports. It is still best known, however, as the home of the Indianapolis 500, the jewel in the automobile racing crown.
By CarBoth I-70, a major east-west superhighway spanning two-thirds of the country, and I-65, the Lake Michigan-Gulf of Mexico link, pass directly through downtown, enabling travelers to reach the city's center from the suburbs in 15 to 20 minutes.
I-74, connecting several important highways, angles toward Indianapolis from Cincinnati to the southeast and from the Quad Cities area to the northwest; it merges with part of the Indianapolis bypass route, I-465. I-69 brings in traffic from central and southern Michigan.
Approaches serving local traffic include east-west routes US 40 (which closely parallels I-70), US 36 and US 52, and north-south highways US 31, US 421 and SRs 37 and 67. The beltway, I-465, encircles the city and provides direct access to all main approaches and to all parts of Indianapolis.
Street SystemThe Indianapolis street system is a grid with four broad avenues branching at angles from a central circle. Meridian Street runs in a north-south direction and divides the city into east and west. Washington Street runs in an east-west direction and divides the city into north and south. Street addresses emanate from the junction of Washington and Meridian, beginning at 0/0. Numbered streets are generally found north of Washington Street, with the numbers corresponding to the distance in blocks from Washington Street.
Most north-south routes are named avenues, roads or boulevards. The four angled avenues—Virginia, Massachusetts, Indiana and Kentucky—can be disconcerting to first-time visitors, who might find the I-70/I-65 inner beltway more convenient. The city has several one-way streets, and during rush hour many left turns are prohibited. Consult a good city map and plan to avoid rush hours, 6-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. Speed limits generally range from 25 to 45 mph.
ParkingOn-street metered parking is often difficult to find. Rates begin at $2 for 1 hour. There are many parking lots and garages in the city, and most hotels provide parking for their guests. Lots and garages cost between $1.50 and $8 per hour, with a maximum of $6 to $28 per day. The Pan American Plaza next to Union Station provides convenient parking.
Sales TaxIndiana's statewide sales tax is 7 percent. Counties may impose a 1 to 2 percent food and beverage tax. Restaurant tax is 9 percent, lodgings tax is 3 to 10 percent and rental car tax is 6 percent.
Police (non-emergency)(317) 327-3811
Time and Temperature(317) 635-5959
HospitalsIndiana University Hospital, (800) 248-1199; St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital, (317) 338-2345; and Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital, (317) 880-0000.
NewspapersThe city's major daily newspaper is the Indianapolis Star.
RadioIndianapolis radio station WXNT (1430 AM) is an all-news/talk station; WFYI (90.1 FM) is a member of National Public Radio. For a complete list of radio programs consult the daily newspaper.
Visitor InformationIndianapolis Convention & Visitors Association 200 S. Capitol Ave., Suite 300 INDIANAPOLIS, IN 46225. Phone:(317)262-3000 or (800)323-4639
City guides, maps and brochures are available at two downtown locations: the Indianapolis Artsgarden at Illinois and Washington streets; and the White River State Park Visitors Center at 801 W. Washington St.
Air TravelThe city is served by Indianapolis International Airport (IND), just outside I-465 on the southwest edge; the drive to downtown is via I-70 and takes about 12 minutes.
Embarque Indiana, (866) 444-2144, offers shared-ride car service to and from downtown; the fare is $30 per passenger. Many hotels also provide limousine service between downtown and the airport. For airport information phone (317) 487-9594.
Rental CarsHertz, (317) 243-9321 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
Rail ServicePassenger train service is available through Amtrak, which departs from Union Station, 350 S. Illinois St. For details phone (800) 872-7245.
BusesGreyhound Lines Inc. bus connections can be made at 350 S. Illinois St.; phone (317) 267-3074 or (800) 231-2222.
TaxisThe major cab company is Yellow Cab, (317) 487-7777. The average fare is $3 per pickup and $2 per mile.
Public TransportationIndyGo operates 29 city bus routes serving downtown and most of Marion County. The fare is $1.75; 85c (ages 0-18 and 65+). A day pass is $4; $2 (ages 0-18 and 65+). Multiday and multi-trip passes also are available.
Schedule and trip planning information is available; phone (317) 635-3344 Mon.-Fri. 7-7, Sat. 9-noon.
Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / flickr
EssentialsStroll along the Canal Walk, a 3-mile loop running through the heart of downtown, between 11th Street and the White River. On leisurely tours of the area, gondoliers serenade photo-happy passengers while plying the waters of the 1830s Central Canal. If you're feeling energetic, rent a bike or kayak and do a bit of exploring on your own.
Spend the afternoon at White River State Park , one of the focal points of the Central Canal. Here are urban lawns, walking paths, cultural and sports museums, a zoo, a baseball stadium—plenty to entertain the whole family, rain or shine. Don't miss the Indiana State Museum , jam-packed with fun exhibits ranging from a hands-on naturalist lab to a re-created pioneer log cabin.
Pay tribute to Indiana's veterans at the Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument , the centerpiece of Monument Circle. Check out the Civil War museum on the lower level of this imposing structure completed in 1901, then climb 330 steps (or take the elevator) to the observation deck.
Step into the past at Lockerbie Square, the oldest surviving residential district in downtown. The seven-block district, with its cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks and charming Victorian houses, is a mile northeast of Monument Circle. James Whitcomb Riley, who wrote such poems as “Little Orphant Annie” and “The Raggedy Man,” lived here at the height of his career; the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home and Visitor Center is the preserved Italianate-style edifice in which the Indiana-born writer resided for 23 years.
See the city by night on a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride. Companies are stationed along Illinois and Maryland streets, or you can arrange for hotel pickup.
For a shopping bargain, look for fresh produce, flowers, cheese and pastry at the historic City Market, open since 1886. If designer labels are more your style, the glass arcades of Circle Centre enclose department stores, movie theaters, restaurants and the Indianapolis Artsgarden, a showplace for live performances and exhibitions.
Take a grounds tour of Indianapolis Motor Speedway . Get your adrenaline pumping on a bus ride around the famed 2.5-mile oval, then make a pit stop at the Hall of Fame Museum, where everything from equipment to winning Formula One cars to racing trophies are displayed. If you won't be in town for the celebrated Indianapolis 500 —a Memorial Day weekend event first held in 1911—don't rule out that trip to the grandstand yet. Two other exhilarating annual races take place here, too: NASCAR's Brickyard 400 in late July and MotoGP's Red Bull Indianapolis GP in August.
Explore The Children's Museum of Indianapolis , the largest of its kind in the world. Dinosaur bones, a giant water clock and a vintage 19th-century carousel are a few of the highlights at this 400,000-square-foot playground.
Admire the genius of Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O'Keeffe and Louis Comfort Tiffany at the Indianapolis Museum of Art , which has a permanent collection of more than 50,000 treasures. Situated on the former estate of J.K. Lilly Jr., a pharmaceutical industrialist whose family started Eli Lilly and Company, the museum complex includes the 100-acre Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park as well as Lilly's 22-room mansion, built in the early 20th century.
Andy Perkins / flickr
Inspector 564 / AAA
Top Picks for Kids
Top Picks for Kids
Top Picks for Kids
Top Picks for Kids
Under 13Travel back 65 million years to the world of the dinosaurs, explore the wonders of space or go on a flight adventure at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis , the world's largest children's museum. Examine recreations of a pirate's shipwreck site and a mummy's tomb, hop behind the wheel of a real Indy show car or climb aboard a 55-ton steam engine.
Visit the inhabitants of the deserts, forests, oceans and plains at the Indianapolis Zoo , where approximately 250 species of animals and more than 2,000 varieties of plants live together in simulated habitats. Pet a dogfish shark, feed a giraffe or see if you can outrun a cheetah. Ride a roller coaster or view the zoo from 50 feet in the air on the Skyline, then relax and catch the dolphin presentation, All Star Dog Challenge or an action-packed show in the 4-D Theater, where surprising special effects add to the 3-D experience.
There's more than mac 'n' cheese on the kid's menu at The Old Spaghetti Factory. Little ones can sit in a railroad car as they dine on their favorite pasta dish and garlic bread, and every kid's meal comes with a choice of spumoni, vanilla ice cream or a juice bar.
Youngsters and the young at heart will find aisles full of fun at Mass Ave. Toys, which offers a large selection of unique playthings, educational toys and retro games in an old-fashioned toy store atmosphere.
TeensLive your dream of being a drummer at the Rhythm! Discovery Center . See drum sets from major percussionists in music history and find your own rhythm on one of hundreds of instruments from around the world.
Revel in the excitement of college sports at the NCAA Hall of Champions . Experience the trials and triumphs of student athletes in an NCAA original high-definition, wide-screen film. See your favorite college team's memorabilia and test your trivia knowledge in the Arena, which houses displays for each of the 23 NCAA sports. In the interactive Play gallery, you can take a shot at the free-throw line or try a simulated downhill ski run.
Swing like Tarzan and zoom down zip lines at Go Ape in Eagle Creek Park, a 20-minute drive from downtown. This course includes 39 crossings in five sections, each going higher into the forest canopy and finishing with an exciting zip line.
Valerie Everett / flickr
Choose from dozens of gourmet cupcake flavors as well as cookies, bars, and brownies at the Flying Cupcake. Or keep an eye out for Petunia and Penelope, the Flying Cupcake's instantly recognizable pink trucks, which can be found parked downtown at lunchtime.
Take a spin around the track in an Indy car or a tour bus at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and view memorabilia from a century of racing at the Hall of Fame Museum. Visiting in May? Be a part of the excitement as the world's greatest open-wheel drivers compete in the Indianapolis 500 , billed as “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The Indianapolis 500 Festival takes place throughout May and includes a mini-marathon, a Kid's Day and the IPL Festival Parade, where celebrities, costumed characters, floats, giant helium balloons and marching bands fill the streets to celebrate the race.
Mug N' Bun in Speedway is a classic American drive-in where your family can eat together in the car or gather around a picnic table and enjoy burgers, dogs and fries paired with homemade root beer.
Katie Broome / AAA
ShoppingThe center of Indy’s downtown retail district is Circle Centre Mall (49 W. Maryland St.). Anchored by Carson’s, this four-level shopping center has the usual suspects—Express, Gap, Forever 21 and H&M—in addition to specialty stores like Clarks, Eddie Bauer and a Colts Pro Shop. If the weather is less than ideal, this mall is a great place to wander, as it’s connected to quite a few hotels, restaurants, a movie theater, the convention center and even Lucas Oil Stadium (via a network of skywalks and underground passageways).
At Hard Rock Cafe (49 S. Meridian St.) those in search of rock 'n' roll merchandise can pick up T-shirts, collectible pins, jewelry and other items sporting the cafe's logo. If fresh produce and cheeses are more your thing, make your way to City Market (near Monument Circle at 222 E. Market St.), where vendors sell all sorts of fresh goods inside a restored brick building. A weekly farmers market draws crowds on Wednesday mornings.
Just a short walk away is Mass Ave, a fun and funky district located along Massachusetts Avenue. You’ll want to spend an afternoon (or more) window-shopping and walking around this district; walk northeast from the intersection of Delaware and New York streets so you don’t miss the good stuff.
Stout’s Footwear has held down its Mass Ave location since 1886; look for the red and green neon sign out front. The shoe retailer measures each customer individually, and a resident parrot greets shoppers on the way in. While strolling the avenue, be sure to check out the repurposed items at Arts A Poppin’ (425 Massachusetts Ave.), the quirky gifts (think bacon-flavored lip gloss) at Silver in the City (434 Massachusetts Ave.), and all sorts of games and toys for every age group at Mass Ave Toys (409 Massachusetts Ave.).
A few blocks northeast is another cluster of shops, including trendy women’s boutique Boomerang BTQ (845 Massachusetts Ave.) and Chatham Home (517 E. Walnut St.), a two-story showroom featuring furniture, décor, housewares and unusual gifts.
A must-visit for antique-lovers is Midland Arts & Antiques Market (907 E. Michigan St.), housed in a brick warehouse—complete with cracked windows and creaky wood floors. You could easily spend a few hours hunting furniture and other relics from the more than 200 independent vendors inside. (Hint: We recommend visiting Midland on cooler days, as there is no air conditioning—only industrial fans—inside the warehouse.)
The “indie” side of Indy shopping can be found in Fountain Square, about 2 miles southeast of downtown near the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Shelby and Prospect streets. This artsy district is home to a handful of independent retailers selling everything from antiques to vintage clothing to locally made “I-Heart-Indy” items. Grab coffee from Funkyard Coffee Shop & Gallery (1114 Prospect St.), then browse the local offerings.
If you can’t go without a trip to the mall (and you don’t mind a bit of a drive), put The Fashion Mall at Keystone (8702 Keystone Crossing) on your itinerary. The 95-store complex features Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom, Restoration Hardware, Saks Fifth Avenue and Williams-Sonoma, among other high-end retailers. Just a few miles away is Castleton Square Mall (6020 E. 82nd St.), another shopping hotspot with JCPenney, Macy’s, Von Maur, Sears and more than 100 other stores.
Farther outside the city limits are several plazas and malls worth a stop. Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood has JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears and Von Maur among its more than 120 stores. Clay Terrace in Carmel is a popular outdoor shopping center with Eddie Bauer, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Orvis and about 60 additional retailers. In Zionsville, shoppers can browse through fashionable specialty shops in a restored 19th-century village.
Katie Broome / AAA
Clothing boutiques in Broad Ripple are aplenty. Check out Broad Ripple Vintage (824 E. 64th St.) for dresses, suits and accessories from the 1940s to 1980s at reasonable prices. 8Fifteen (815 E. 65th St.) has designer brands that are sure to please sophisticated fashionistas. Other nearby women’s clothing stores to browse: Lucky B Boutique (918 Broad Ripple Ave.); Niche (916 Broad Ripple Ave.); and Pitaya (842 Broad Ripple Ave.).
Katie Broome / AAA
NightlifeWhether you're in the mood for a local brew or a live performance, Indianapolis offers no shortage of things to do after dark.
Plan to check out a few landmark spots near city center, including the swanky 1933 Lounge, upstairs at St. Elmo Steak House , 127 S. Illinois St. The restaurant's famous shrimp cocktail dish (aka the “Patron Saint of Clear Sinuses”) will put hair on your chest. Phone (317) 635-0636.
Downtown nightlife is centered on Meridian Street (between Lucas Oil Stadium and Monument Circle) and ramps up on weekends, when the convention crowd comes out in full force. Live blues every night of the week is the standard at Slippery Noodle Inn, 372 S. Meridian St., one of the oldest bars in the state. The historic building has a storied past; it's said to have been a brothel, a speakeasy, a stop on the Underground Railroad and even a spot for target practice for Prohibition-era gangs led by John Dillinger and Al Brady. Today, musicians take the stage nightly at 8:30 for jam sessions; phone (317) 631-6974.
Massachusetts Avenue (called Mass Ave by locals) is a bustling nightlife district located northeast of downtown; it's about a 15-minute walk or a short taxi ride from city center. We recommend a stop at Ball & Biscuit, 331 Massachusetts Ave., where the cocktails are expertly prepared and oh-so-delicious, or Bakersfield Mass Ave , 334 Massachusetts Ave., where house margaritas pack a powerful punch. Another option is the speakeasy-themed Libertine Liquor Bar , 608 Massachusetts Ave., where dressed-to-impress bartenders shake up specialty drinks. Phone (317) 636-0539 for Ball & Biscuit, (317) 635-6962 for Bakersfield or (317) 631-3333 for Libertine Liquor Bar.
Katie Broome / AAA
Southeast of downtown is Fountain Square, an up-and-coming cultural district with an artsy, retro vibe. Grab a drink at one of the local watering holes; we recommend hipster hangout The Brass Ring Lounge, 1245 Shelby St., with sophisticated drinks and outdoor bocce courts, or Thunderbird, 1127 Shelby St., a newcomer to the Fountain Square scene with craft cocktails and Southern fare. Phone (317) 635-7464 for the Brass Ring Lounge, or (317) 974-9580 for Thunderbird. Once you're fueled up, check out the latest indie bands at Radio Radio, 1119 Prospect St., or catch a burlesque show at White Rabbit Cabaret, 1116 Prospect St. Phone (317) 955-0995 for Radio Radio, or (317) 686-9550 for White Rabbit Cabaret.
Less than a 20-minute drive north of downtown is Broad Ripple Village, a fun and funky district that's popular with the college-age crowd. Originally opened as a movie theater in 1938, The Vogue, 6259 N. College Ave., is now a nightclub and music venue; phone (317) 259-7029. A little more relaxed is The Jazz Kitchen, 5377 N. College Ave., where live performances entertain an older audience most nights of the week. Reservations are recommended for The Jazz Kitchen, as the venue fills up quickly; phone (317) 253-4900. Enjoy brews on the outdoor patio at Broad Ripple Brewpub, 842 E. 65th St., a cozy neighborhood bar with a family-friendly atmosphere; phone (317) 253-2739.
Note: NUVO, a free alternative newsweekly that comes out on Wednesdays, has extensive arts and entertainment listings and is available all over town.
iStockphoto.com / PeopleImages
Performing ArtsThe arts are a priority in Indianapolis, as the city is undergoing a sustained cultural renaissance. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performs in the renovated Hilbert Circle Theatre at 45 Monument Cir. The regular season runs from September through June and includes classical, pop and family series as well as morning coffee and Yuletide concerts; phone (317) 639-4300 or (800) 366-8457.
In the summer the symphony presents its free Concert in the Park programs. Summer also brings the Marsh Symphony on the Prairie series to Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in nearby Fishers, where music is combined with picnics and sunsets. For ticket and performance information phone (317) 639-4300.
Local chamber groups play on a regular basis at Butler University, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the University of Indianapolis. National and international chamber group performances include the Festival Music Society of Indiana's June and July series at the Indiana History Center; the Ensemble Music Society's concerts at the Indiana History Center, October through April; and the Ronen Chamber Ensemble's season at the Hilbert Circle Theatre and other venues, November through April.
The American Pianists Association presents nationally known jazz pianists throughout the year at various venues; phone (317) 940-9945 for tickets.
The Indianapolis Artsgarden, run by the Arts Council of Indianapolis, has various other performing arts presentations and a celebration of song at Christmas. The Artsgarden, in Circle Center on W. Maryland Street, also has family shows, art exhibits and Art & Soul, a celebration of African-American in the arts from January through February; phone (317) 624-2563.
Concerts regularly take place at Clowes Memorial Hall on the Butler University campus, phone (317) 940-6444; at Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, phone (317) 776-8181; at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, phone (317) 927-7500; and at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 125 S. Pennsylvania St., phone (317) 917-2500. Local jazz groups perform frequently at the Madame Walker Theatre Center, 617 Indiana Ave.; phone (317) 236-2099.
Opera buffs can enjoy presentations of the Indianapolis Opera at Clowes Memorial Hall, 4600 Sunset Ave. Phone (317) 283-3531 for information or (800) 745-3000 for tickets.
Katie Broome / AAA
The MacAllister Center for the Performing Arts, in Garfield Park, hosts open-air theatrical performances and concerts throughout the summer; phone (317) 327-7066 for information. The Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, 9301 Michigan Rd., presents well-known entertainers in concert and in Broadway musicals all year; phone (317) 872-9664.
Dance Kaleidoscope offers contemporary dance by nationally known choreographers; most performances are held at the Hilbert Circle Theatre at 45 Monument Cir. Phone (317) 940-6555.
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Bus and Carriage ToursA popular way to see the area at night is on a horse-drawn carriage ride offered by companies stationed along Illinois and Maryland streets: Blue Ribbon Carriage Co., (317) 631-4169; or Yellow Rose Carriages, (317) 634-3400. Carriages also pick up passengers on request at hotels in the downtown quadrant bounded by North, South, East and West streets.
Walking ToursAn especially interesting area for a walking tour is Lockerbie Square, a seven-block district bounded by Michigan, New York, Fulton and East streets. Dating to 1847, the city's oldest surviving neighborhood is noted for its Victorian renovations. Italianate, Greek Revival and Federal-style houses and cottages—including the home of James Whitcomb Riley—line the cobblestone streets. Here you can see limestone mounting blocks used for horse-drawn carriages. The neighborhood is about a mile northeast of Monument Circle.
The Old Northside was the place to live for business and civic leaders at the turn of the last century. Bounded by I-65 and 16th, Pennsylvania and Bellefontaine streets, the neighborhood features Victorian mansions and grand homes in Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Queen Anne and other styles. As wealthy residents migrated farther north, the neighborhood became known as the “old” northside; more than half of the dwellings were demolished before the area could be declared a historic district. Galleries, cafes and coffee shops are on the southern edge.
Another interesting area for a stroll is Broad Ripple Village, a neighborhood north of the downtown area along the White River. The village became the center of commerce in 1839 with the opening of the Central Canal. Similar to New York City's Greenwich Village, this trendy area contains boutiques, art galleries, sidewalk cafes, antique shops and ethnic restaurants. Among the restored cottages and bungalows are several Sears kit homes.
Irvington used to be a country address, but this neighborhood is now considered part of the city's east side. Named after Washington Irving, the historic enclave between 10th, Emerson and Arlington avenues and Brookville Road features cozy Craftsman bungalows and American Foursquares nestled against Tudor, Colonial and Georgian Revival mini-mansions. Ellenberger Park was designed in 1909 by architect and urban planner George Edward Kessler.
A relatively new addition is the Canal Walk, a portion of the historic Central Canal that has been renovated into a pathway popular with walkers, joggers and downtown workers. The junction of Ohio and West streets is a good starting point. At Walnut Street and Senate Avenue is the USS Indianapolis CA-35 National Memorial, a granite memorial to the sailors who died when the USS Indianapolis sank in World War II.
Katie Broome / AAA
An observation tower atop the City-County Building offers a 360-degree view from more than 300 feet above street level and includes exhibits and binoculars; phone (317) 327-4345. Commemorating Civil War and Spanish-American War veterans, the Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument at Monument Circle also provides a panorama of downtown.
Another good vantage point is Crown Hill Cemetery at 3402 Boulevard Pl., where such notables as James Whitcomb Riley, John Dillinger, President Benjamin Harrison and three vice presidents are buried. Covering 555 wooded acres, the cemetery is one of the largest in the country.
Katie Broome / AAA
Indianapolis in 3 DaysThree days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Indianapolis.
Day 1: MorningJump-start your day with the fast cars, grand trophies and high-octane excitement of Indianapolis Motor Speedway . Spectators experience a rush of adrenaline during such racing events as the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 .
When cars aren't speeding around the 2.5-mile oval, tour buses provide inside peeks at the track, while grounds tours (available mid-March to late November) give zealous fans the chance to kiss the “Yard of Bricks” at the finish line.
Day 1: AfternoonFor traditional pub grub—sandwiches, fried appetizers and burgers—make a pit stop at Union Jack Pub . Packed with automobile-racing memorabilia, the restaurant also serves sandwiches, wraps, Chicago-style pizza and a variety of fresh salads.
Catch a bus to the Indianapolis Museum of Art , showcasing everything from Asian sculpture to 12th-century European paintings. Save time to investigate the entire 152-acre site, which also comprises a nature park and the Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens . Within the 22-room French chateau-style dwelling, delve into the former owner's collection of books, coins, miniatures and nautical items.
Day 1: EveningWhether you're craving a Stromboli or tuna tataki, lively restaurants abound south of the White River in Broad Ripple Village (see Sightseeing for more neighborhood information). Enjoy Italian specialties at Bazbeaux Pizza or Asian cuisine at Naked Tchopstix . The latter also offers an extensive drink menu. Order a ginger cinnamon cooler to go, or sip hot sake at the colorful sushi bar.
After dinner scour the eclectic neighborhood—bounded by Evanston Avenue in the east, Meridian Street in the west and Kessler Boulevard in the south—for vintage fashions, delicious organic treats, and funky art and furniture. As the night wears on, shoot some pool while listening to live music at one of countless hip taverns.
Day 2: MorningBreathe in an aromatic blend of maple syrup, sizzling bacon and freshly brewed coffee at Patachou on the Park , located across from the Indiana State House . While their breakfasts are rumored to be among the best in the country, a steady string of local awards certifies the café as a perennial Hoosiers' favorite.
Rain0975 / flickr
Nearby draws include the South Bend Chocolate Factory, the Hilbert Circle Theatre and the 1857 Christ Church Cathedral. The Military Museum at the Indiana World War Memorial , an architecturally striking edifice, is just north on Meridian Street. The memorial includes a verdant five-block stretch incorporating monuments, fountains, sculptures and a 100-foot-tall obelisk.
Day 2: AfternoonJust south of Monument Circle, browse four levels of shops at Circle Centre. Nearby dining options include Palomino Restaurant , a chic bistro known for its Roma-style pizzas smothered in mozzarella and herbs, and P.F. Chang's China Bistro , where you can nibble on spicy chicken lettuce wraps and kung pao shrimp. After lunch, check out the Artsgarden, a domed atrium connected to the mall. Positioned 17 feet above the intersection of Washington and Illinois streets, this beautiful steel-and-glass structure regularly presents free art exhibitions, dance performances and concerts. Close by is Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the National Football League's Indianapolis Colts.
Day 2: EveningBefore attending a show in Indianapolis' arts and theater district—branded “Mass Ave” by residents—reserve a table at one of the neighborhood's fashionable restaurants. Enjoying German fare at Rathskeller is a tempting option.
Day 3: MorningPair a homemade muffin, fresh fruit or an omelet with a steaming cup of espresso at historic City Market. On Wednesdays between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., an on-site farmers market also lures bargain hunters (May to October).
Day 3: AfternoonAbout a 20-minute walk west will bring you to White River State Park , which boasts the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial , the Indianapolis Zoo , the NCAA Hall of Champions and White River Gardens . Seamlessly blending into the natural landscape are the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art , with its dolomite and sandstone exterior, and the Indiana State Museum , which is partially constructed of Indiana limestone.
If you'd prefer to catch a baseball game (and maybe a few foul balls), also on the grounds is Victory Field, where the minor-league Indianapolis Indians play (April to September). Or, admire outdoor artwork while roaming lush expanses and waterfront pedestrian paths.
Day 3: EveningTraverse Indianapolis in a horse-drawn carriage, glimpsing such city landmarks as the Central Canal or Lockerbie Square's Italianate-, Federal- and Queen Anne-style houses beneath a starry sky.
AttractionsIn a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”
Often compared to the National Mall, White River State Park covers 250 acres in the heart of the city. Pedestrian paths lead along the White River and the Central Canal to some of the city's best-known cultural sites, including museums, monuments, art galleries, the zoo and botanical gardens. Here too are public lawns, sports venues and Victory Field, ranked one of the best minor-league ballparks in the country. You can rent a bicycle, surrey or paddleboat to explore; the visitor information center on Washington Street provides maps and brochures.
On the north side of the park, the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial features 27 curved glass walls etched with the names of recipients of the nation's highest award for military valor, dating back to the Civil War. A good time to visit is at dusk, when lights illuminate the walls, one at a time, and a half-hour recording tells soldiers' stories.
Across the canal is Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art , a AAA GEM attraction. Indianapolis businessman Harrison Eiteljorg began traveling in the Southwest in the 1940s, and this pueblo-inspired building houses his life-long collection of paintings, sculpture, pottery, basketry, beadwork and weavings. Later acquisitions have made the museum one of the finest of its kind in the world, with signature pieces ranging from Frederic Remington's bronze “Bronco Buster” to treasured objects from Indiana's indigenous tribes.
Discover more heritage and culture next door at the Indiana State Museum . Here is hands-on history—not the dry and boring stuff—with more than 400,000 artifacts, dozens of multimedia displays and a six-story IMAX Theater. Highlights of this AAA GEM attraction include art, fossils, clothing, furniture, toys, minerals and prehistoric tools. The modern building, made of native limestone, is itself a work of art.
Exotic animals roam 64 acres in the western half of White River State Park at the Indianapolis Zoo . This AAA GEM attraction is recognized for its conservation programs and cageless habitats. You'll see lions and tigers and bears, of course, but also more unusual exhibits like the meerkat desert biome and the underwater dolphin-viewing dome. White River Gardens , part of the zoo, is an oasis of flowered pathways, fountains and horticultural displays. Experts are here to answer your gardening questions (are you over-watering your dieffenbachia?), and colorful butterflies drift through the Hilbert Conservatory from late March through Labor Day.
Sports fans at the park will make a hundred-yard dash to the NCAA Hall of Champions . Interactive kiosks, games, exhibits and theater presentations focus on what it takes to be a successful college athlete. Take your pick of 23 sports, from baseball and basketball to water polo and wrestling. You can even practice your jump shot in a 1920s-era gymnasium.
Indianapolis became the state's official capital in 1825, and the Indiana State House is a stately symbol of Hoosier pride. The 1888 Renaissance Revival building, which anchors the 9-acre capitol complex, is home to all three branches of government. You can take a tour of the State House with a guide—and see the Governor's Office, the House and Senate Chambers and the Supreme Court—or pick up a self-guiding brochure and wander the marble halls on your own. Visitors are encouraged to view the statues, portraits, murals and architectural details on all three floors. As you stand in the rotunda beneath the art-glass dome, look for a poem by William Herschell entitled “Ain't God Good to Indiana.”
A few blocks east of the capitol complex is Monument Circle and the city's most famous landmark, the Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument. Commissioned after the Civil War, this massive limestone tower is big enough to hold a museum in its base. The monument itself is 284 feet high (just 3 yards shy of the Statue of Liberty), with a surrounding series of heroic bronze sculptures. Locals know the statue of Lady Victory at the top as “Miss Indiana.” During the holidays, the light-strung monument becomes one of the world's largest Christmas trees. You can climb 330 steps or take an elevator to the observation deck for a panoramic view of the city.
The Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument honors Indiana soldiers who fought in conflicts before World War I, and the chronology of fallen heroes continues at the Indiana World War Memorial. Due north on Meridian Street, this neoclassical plaza covers five city blocks. The main building, modeled after the ancient mausoleum at Halicarnassus, contains a military museum and a stirring shrine to patriotism. Outside is the statue “Pro Patria,” one of the largest bronze castings ever made. A 100-foot obelisk and fountain anchor the Veterans' Memorial Plaza to the north. Monuments to Hoosiers killed or missing in action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam stand on the mall outside the national headquarters of the American Legion.
Home to the nation's 23rd president, the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site preserves the 16-room Italianate mansion of the “centennial president,” who was elected 100 years after George Washington. Harrison built his family home in 1875 and lived here, when he wasn't fighting in the Civil War or serving as president, until his death in 1901. The house, a AAA GEM attraction, contains thousands of political mementos and personal belongings, including fashions worn by the first lady and her daughter.
The poet who immortalized Hoosier dialect made Indianapolis his home for 23 years, and his residence in the Lockerbie Square District remains exactly as he left it. The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home and Visitor Center contains its original wallpaper, the furnishings, even a photograph of the writer's dog—named “Lockerbie,” of course. The 1872 house, a AAA GEM attraction, is thought to be the only late-Victorian preservation (not restoration) in the country. Riley is best remembered for his children's poems, including “When the Frost Is On the Punkin” and “Little Orphant Annie,” but perhaps his most famous line was, “When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”
Moving farther north of downtown (and you'll be getting excited directions from the back seat) is The Children's Museum of Indianapolis . The largest of its kind in the world, this giant playground covers five floors, 400,000 square feet and 13 acres—you get the picture. Eleven major galleries explore the physical and natural sciences, history, world cultures and the arts. Kids will remember the 9-foot-tall polar bear, the giant water clock, the working Dentzel carousel and the mastodon skeleton unearthed from an Indiana farm.
A treasure trove for grown-ups, the Indianapolis Museum of Art sits on the former estate of J.K. Lilly Jr., whose father founded a pharmaceutical empire. Four pavilions display paintings, sculpture, drawings and textiles from around the world, some dating to the Renaissance. On the grounds is Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens , which contains original furnishings, decorative arts and Mr. Lilly's collections of books, coins, military miniatures and nautical items.
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in nearby Fishers reflects the lives of Indiana pioneers along the White River. Restored buildings include the 1823 Federal-style home of fur trader, entrepreneur and legislator William Conner. Visitors to the 1836 Prairietown can watch costumed villagers in the real-life business of elections, weddings and funerals; a Lenape Indian camp reflects the history of the Delawares. Crafts, family games and farm chores are all part of the old-fashioned fun.
After you've seen a 19th-century horse race, there's only one place left to go: Indianapolis Motor Speedway . Built as a testing ground for the state's fledgling auto industry, the track hosted its first 500-mile race on May 30, 1911. (Trivia answer: Ray Harroun won in the Marmon Wasp for a purse of $14,250.) The tradition of drinking milk in Victory Lane supposedly began in 1936 when Louis Meyer asked for buttermilk instead of the customary champagne. Inside the 2.5-mile oval is the Hall of Fame Museum, which displays racing memorabilia and more than 75 winning cars. Visitors can take a bus tour of the track when it's not in use. Here you'll see Gasoline Alley, the 13-story Bombardier Pagoda control tower and the 36-inch strip of original brick at the starting line that gave the track its “Brickyard” nickname. The speedway complex, a AAA GEM attraction, is 5 miles northwest of downtown.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.
RestaurantsOur favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
Uncle Max Shapiro always said, “Cook good. Serve generously. Price modestly.” That sensible formula has worked well for Shapiro's Delicatessen & Cafeteria since 1905. With its linoleum floors and fluorescent lighting, this is not one of your fancy-schmanzy restaurants. Everyone in Indianapolis knows that Shapiro's is the place to go for breakfast or lunch if you're hungry. A perfect lunch here starts with Matzoh ball soup, then corned beef on rye (enough meat on this sandwich to feed a family) and a slice of oh-so-decadent cheesecake. Ah, better than eating kreplach with an angel!
In carnivorous Indianapolis, where it seems there's a steakhouse on every corner, St. Elmo Steak House has been a dining fixture since 1902. You can see this history in a gallery of photographs on the walls of the lounge and dining room. Along with high, tin-plated ceilings and densely-spaced tables, the pictures create a unique dining atmosphere. Try the signature shrimp cocktail with fiery horseradish sauce, then a loaded baked potato with a 14-ounce rib eye steak.
In 1894, the imposing brick building at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Michigan and New Jersey streets was known as Das Deutsche Haus, a cultural center for the city's large German community. Rechristened the Athenaeum during the “Halt the Hun” era of World War I, it now houses the Rathskeller. This charming German restaurant is, you might say, the best place for wurst. You can enjoy a dinner of kassler ripchen (smoked pork chop) and a stein of beer in a dining room of brooding Teutonic elements, including carved woodwork, stuffed animal heads and a massive fireplace.
Designed to resemble the sleek Art Deco décor of a 1930s ocean liner, The Oceanaire Seafood Room offers the best seafood in Indianapolis. The menu changes daily to reflect fresh catches, but you'll always find a wide selection of premium seafood, from grilled Copper River salmon and Hawaiian striped marlin to Chesapeake Bay crab cakes. All of the fish is simply prepared: brushed with sea salt, virgin olive oil and lemon, then grilled or broiled. The oyster bar has an ever-changing selection of East Coast and West Coast mollusks.
Bazbeaux was the nickname given to a court jester by the French king, Louis XI. After Louis' death in 1483, Bazbeaux moved to Florence, where he worked as a chef for the great Renaissance ruler, Lorenzo the Magnificent. Today, Bazbeaux's tradition of whimsical culinary innovation lives on at Bazbeaux Pizza in the canalside village of Broad Ripple. The crusty pies are topped with a wide variety of interesting ingredients. Try the Tchoupitoulas pizza with Cajun shrimp, roasted red peppers, fresh garlic and andouille sausage. During warm weather, enjoy al fresco dining on the rooftop or the patio. There's also a location in the Mass Ave district.
For diners with expansive appetites and expense accounts, Eddie Merlot's can prove to be an interesting indulgence. The Prime-beef steaks are large, as are the side dishes. House specialties include a peppercorn filet mignon, a Cajun-style rib eye and Chateaubriand for two. A half-dozen seafood dishes are also on the menu, including cedar-planked salmon with fingerling potatoes. The elegant dining room features framed, oversize abstract art and massive wooden columns resembling champagne glasses.
Sangiovese Ristorante Italiano has seven dining areas, each with a warm, cozy atmosphere. Seated in a quiet little room before a fireplace decorated with a boar's head and an antique blunderbuss, you can imagine you're in a villa somewhere in the Tuscan countryside. The menu offers a risotto and ravioli of the day, such classic pasta entrees as lasagna ala Bolognese and a number of veal and seafood dishes.
See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.
EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
The city's signature event, the Indianapolis 500 draws more than 300,000 auto racing fans to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend.
Preceding the race is the Indianapolis 500 Festival , a monthlong celebration that includes a festival queen contest, a children's day, a gala ball and a grand parade. The event kicks off the first weekend in May with the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon , considered the nation’s largest half-marathon. Runners line up at West and Washington streets, heading northwest past the zoo for a full lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and back to downtown. Memorial Day weekend begins with a stirring remembrance for fallen veterans at Monument Circle. On Saturday, thousands line the 2-mile parade route along Pennsylvania and Meridian streets to see floats, marching bands and giant balloons.
The race itself is a little like Mardi Gras—a rowdy street party starts on Georgetown Street the night before and lasts into the wee hours. Fans who've waited in line all night are rewarded with a prime parking spot when the gate opens at 4 a.m. From here, it's one big tailgate party in the 224-acre infield—and one of the biggest days in motorsports.
There’s more on the city's events calendar than just Indy 500 fetes, of course. For starters, there’s June’s Vintage Indiana Wine & Food Festival in Military Park, where you can attend workshops on cooking and wine pairings and taste free samples from wineries across the state. Manicotti, antipasto, spumoni, cappuccino—no one goes hungry at the Italian Street Festival , a 2-day June event featuring traditional food, music and dances. In the evening, a religious procession leads to the steps of the Holy Rosary Church.
Indianapolis continues its celebration of cultural heritage in June with the Eiteljorg Museum Indian Market and Festival , showcasing the works of more than 150 artists from 60 tribes across the United States and Canada. Dancers, storytellers, craft demonstrators and food vendors are part of the fun at the 2-day event; museum admission is included. In mid-July, the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration highlights African-American achievements, commerce, artists and culture. More than 300,000 people attend this 11-day event at the Indiana Convention Center.
Honoring the state's agricultural heritage since 1852, the Indiana State Fair is a perennial August favorite. Here's all that's great about the Midwest fair: midway rides, livestock judging, harness racing, fiddle contests, homemade food, celebrity shows. The fair is famous for its cream puffs, but don't miss the deep-fried Oreos. The 4.5-acre cattle pavilion—where you can also see llamas, alpacas and pygmy goats—is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
August also brings the Indianapolis Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Church in nearby Carmel.
September has two popular ethnic celebrations: Oktoberfest at German Park and Indy's Irish Fest in Military Park. The Penrod Arts Fair , held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on the first Saturday after Labor Day, is a festival of arts and crafts. Live entertainment—including opera, theater, ballet and mime—is provided by Indianapolis' performing artists. For 10 days in mid-September, the sultry strains of jazz, blues, funk and soul fill Opti Park and venues around town during the Indy Jazz Fest , which features performances by regional and national artists.
In late September or early October, the Circle City Classic , one of the largest bowl games between historically African-American colleges, is played at Lucas Oil Stadium and is complemented by events like a cabaret, a comedy jam, a tailgate party and a parade.
The Indy International Festival each November at the Indiana State Fairgrounds is the state's largest and most diverse celebration of cultural treasures, people and traditions from around the globe.
After Thanksgiving, the Circle of Lights marks the illumination of the Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument, transforming it into the world's tallest Christmas tree. White River State Park is decked out for Christmas at the Zoo , with some 700,000 twinkling lights and more than 180 animated characters and scenes.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
iStockphoto.com / Ron Thomas
Amateur Sports CapitalAlthough Indianapolis is most often associated with professional sports-car driving, it's fast becoming the Amateur Sports Capital of the World. The Indiana Sports Corporation (ISC) was formed in 1979 to promote the city as a national and international sporting venue. Since then, Indianapolis has hosted more than 400 high-profile events and now serves as the headquarters for more than a dozen governing bodies, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the American College of Sports Medicine, the Black Coaches Association and the National Institute for Fitness & Sport.
As the base for five USA sports federations—track and field, gymnastics, diving, synchronized swimming and rowing—Indianapolis plays a vital role in American amateur athletics. Olympic trials and national championships here have included diving, gymnastics, judo, kayaking, rowing, swimming, table tennis, track and field and volleyball.
The city boasts a roster of state-of-the-art facilities, from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium and Victory Field to the Indiana University Natatorium, Michael A. Carroll Track & Soccer Stadium and Major Taylor Velodrome. When amateur athletes aren't competing, five professional teams take the spotlight: the NFL Colts, the NBA Pacers, the WNBA Fever, the CHL Ice and the AAA Indians (minor-league affiliates of the Pittsburgh Pirates).
The NCAA's move to Indianapolis in 1999—and construction of the NCAA Hall of Champions in White River State Park—was a three-pointer for the city's sports economy. Each year, NCAA events generate an estimated $64 million in revenue.
In 1987, the Pan American Games brought nearly 4,500 athletes from 38 countries to Indianapolis. To commemorate the most important sporting event in its history, the city built the Pan American Plaza on Capitol Avenue. This sports powerhouse now holds the offices of the ISC, the national headquarters of four USA sports governing bodies and the Indiana/World Skating Academy, a training center for amateur and professional athletes in figure skating, hockey and speed skating.
Josh Hallett / flickr
Places in Vicinity