What are the top activities in Indianapolis? To begin with, let’s ask if Indianapolis even is a tourist destination? According to Visit Indy, they are. In 2016, Indianapolis hosted more than 28.2 million visitors who spend almost 5 billion dollars. I guess there is more than little pink houses in Indy, but where to start?
Recently, Coleman Concierge attended Bloghouse Indianapolis and was hosted by Visit Indy and Visit Hamilton County. We had an in depth tour of the area from the locals who know best and learned quite a bit about Indianapolis activities and restaurants. We also have our personal experience with Eagle Creek Reservoir, Hamilton County and just how hip Indy really is.
We are paying homage to Indianapolis’ very own master of top ten lists David Letterman with tonight’s top ten list. This Broad Ripple bard was a great childhood inspiration of mine. Not only did his comedic irony and deadpan delivery inspire my Midwestern pride, he also taught me the fine art of forcefully musing my hair. And now, from the home office in San Diego, we have our top ten Indianapolis activities……
Indianapolis Cultural Trail and Canal Walk
Indianapolis grew up at the confluence of the White River and Fall Creek and the first thing the city did was to build a canal to increase commerce on the White River. Now, modern Indianapolis revitalized the downtown with a world class eight mile bike and pedestrian path called the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. This trail features eight different paths that connect the historic downtown neighborhoods and any number of public art displays. If you want to keep riding, the Cultural Trail connects to the Monon, the Pleasant Run, and the White River Wapahani Trails for your cycling pleasure.
Our favorite path was the Canal Walk, that travels along either side of the canal to form a 3 mile loop. If you would rather, you could travel the canal by paddle boats rented at the Indiana State Museum or even gondola a la Venice.
Another great way to explore the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is through the Pacer’s Bike Share. We found the bikes to be well maintained and easy to ride. They even come equipped with a light sensitive headlight. One downside is that you only have 30 minutes rental time between timeshare stops. However, you have unlimited daily rentals and 29 bike share stations to choose from. It’s a ride a little, look a little, adventure for sure.
Explore Downtown Off the Cultural Trail
The Cultural Trail provides access through downtown but if you don’t get off the path, you’re not seeing it all. There are foodie delights and special sights a plenty, so we’ll just highlight a couple. Monument Circle is a park that surrounds the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument with a much catchier name. It’s a cool example of Neoclassical architecture and generally just a neat place to walk around. We also loved how the Central Library had a carousel of books just waiting for people to pick up.
Take a Beer Bus or Booze Bike
The Indianapolis craft beer scene is hopping with around fifty different breweries in town. If you want to do the brew with your crew with a little style, we have some heady suggestions for you.
- Take a brewery tour and leave the driving to your guide. Options include The Indy Brew Bus, which is a converted school bus, and Brewery Tour of Indianapolis that features a luxury package. They take you to four different breweries with ample samples and purchase packages for your favorites.
- Try a pedal powered pub like The Handle Bar or Pickled Peddler. You and over a dozen of your friends can take advantage of Indianapolis’ liberal open container laws and pedal around downtown the downtown beer scene at the same time. Talk about exchanging spandex for suds.
Go to a Museum
We visited the Children’s Museum and loved it so much we want to return with our little nieces. They would be blown away by The Power of Children exhibit. It tells the the stories of Anne Frank (Holocaust victim), Ruby Bridges (first wave of students in desegregated New Orleans) and Ryan White (AIDS patient in the early 80’s). All of these amazing children faced extreme prodigious with courage and changed the world. Their stories aren’t told with flat placards. The exhibit takes you into their world, literally. You walk into replicas of Anne Frank’s annex, Ruby Bridges’ classroom and Ryan White’s bedroom replete with live theatrical performances. The other exhibits in the Children’s Museum are just as interactive and informative with an absolute attention to detail.
Indianapolis has more museums to offer including:
- Indianapolis Museum of Art – Could this be the best place to fall in love in Indianapolis?
- Indiana War Memorial – did you know that Indianapolis is second only to Washington DC for Veteran’s Memorials?
- Indianapolis State Museum – more than just paddle boats on the canal.
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum – The full history of going fast and turning left in the Circle City. Which brings us to our next entry…
Race to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
With a seating capacity of more than 400,000, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest sporting venue in the world. Indianapolis is the home of IndyCar racing as well as the NASCAR Brickyard 400, Formula 1, Grand Prix, motorcycle racing and even marathons. With the largest seating capacity comes the largest purses, which, in turn, attracts the best drivers. No wonder Indianapolis is called the Racing Capital of the World.
Dare to Try the Indy Racing Experience
Next time we go to Indianapolis, we are going to do the Indy Racing Experience. First, you get your choice of car between IndyCar or Stock Car. Then, you choose if you want to drive or ride along as a passenger. Now you are ready for two laps on the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway at speeds in excess of 180 MPH.
Catch an Event at Lucas Oil Stadium
This mecca of sports entertainment is home to the Indianapolis Colts, B1G Ten Championships (Our honor defend, So we’ll fight to the end) and many other premier events. You can even take a tour of Lucas Oil Stadium almost any weekday or catch a Colts game.
Head to Eagle Creek Reservoir for Outdoor Adventure
Eagle Creek Reservoir is one of America’s ten largest municipal parks with over 1,400 acres of water, 3900 acres of land, and 14 miles of trails.
Park activities include:
- Amphitheater – Home to Jazz in the Park and many other outdoor concerts.
- Go Ape Treetop Adventure – A legit ropes course. Great for everyone 10 years old and up (Tree top Jr . for 6 years old and up)
- Bark Park – Where dogs and their owners come to play.
- Boat ramp and slips – If you have to ask, you probably can’t back the trailer up anyway.
- Cross-Country Skiing – There’s more to skiing in Indiana than just Terre Haute.
- Fishing areas – A lot of people like fishing at Eagle Creek.
- Eagle Creek Golf Club – 36 holes of golf in a natural setting. No wonder Golf Digest rated this course a “place to play” in Indiana.
- Ornithology Center – This hub of bird nerds features their Meet a Raptor program and an observation deck over the Marsh and Bird sanctuary where you might see bald eagles, great blue herons, double-crested cormorants, grebes or some of the other 265 bird species in the park.
- Earth Discovery Center – A 3.4 million dollar installation that brings that opens the classroom of nature.
- Eagle Creek Outfitters – If you need a boat or a bike, you can rent one here. From all of your personal powered craft to pontoon boats to sailboats, they have you covered.
- Sunset and Full Moon Trips – Water is magical in and of itself. Combine that with a blazing sunset or shimmering moon and watch out. You might find yourself at the Museum of Art Proposing in no time. Eagle Creek Outfitters offers guided and self guided trips.
- Swim Beach – A no kidding beach with sand volleyball, water bouncy toys, and lifeguards.
- Rowing – Home to the Indianapolis Rowing Center, Eagle Creek has hosted NCAA Championships and Pan Am Games.
Did you know that the Indianapolis Zoo was the first facility to be certified as a zoo, an aquarium, and a botanical garden? It’s located on 64 acres on White River State Park and receives over a million visitors a year.
The zoo is organized along biomes, or habitat areas of forests, deserts, oceans, plains, and commons. Our favorite exhibits were the Dolphin Adventure Pavilion (with the Midwest’s only in water dolphin interaction) and the 21 million dollar International Orangutan Center.
Included in your zoo ticket is entry to the White River Gardens and the Hilbert Conservatory. This three acre facility is adjacent to the zoo and definitely worth a visit.
Cue Paul Shaffer and Toss the Index Card
To be fair, we aren’t ranking these in order of 1-10, just one of ten, but, it was either a top ten list or stupid travel writer’s tricks so which one do you think we’d chose? One writer’s trick we are choosing to employ is….wait for it….yes wait for it. More top ten lists!! You will have to wait for the food and cool stuff. We promise we won’t make you wait long, and it will be worth the wait. Until then, in the words of John Green – don’t forget to be awesome.
Can’t Miss Indianapolis FAQs
What is Indianapolis best known for?
Indianapolis is known as the racing capital of the world.
What food is Indianapolis known for?
One of the most well-known Indy food is the pork tenderloin sandwich.
What do you call someone from Indianapolis?
The people of Indiana have been called Hoosiers for over a century.
Places to Stay in Indianapolis
Ready to Book Your Trip? These Links Will Make It Easy:
- Find low fares and book your flight with Expedia, WayAway, CheapOair, or Trip.com
- Grab your airport parking reservation from The Parking Spot
- Stay overnight at an airport hotel and park for free with Park Sleep Fly
- Enjoy your time at the airport at a Priority Pass Lounge
- Need to rent a car? Discover Cars will get you on the road without breaking the bank!
- If you are brand loyal, you can also book directly through Alamo Rent-A-Car or Thrifty Rent-A-Car
- From hotels to private homes, find the perfect accommodation with Hotels.com, VRBO, Expedia, or Booking.com.
- You can also book direct through Hilton Hotels
- Save on tickets to attractions, sightseeing tours, and more with Tiqets
- Get Your Guide and Viator for guided tours/excursions, day trips, and activities
- Want to learn a city from the ground up? Take a small group walking tour with Walks – 5-star rated with a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence
- Want to book an epic adventure experience with top-notch companies like Intrepid Travel, G-Adventures, or Backroads? Check out Travelstride
- Find information on local trails with the All Trails App.
- Need something else to plan your perfect trip? Visit our Resources Page for more trusted partners
Disclaimer: Although our experience was complimentary, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own.