Indianapolis has a large variety of activities for those interested in family recreation, for sports enthusiasts and for those wanting active outdoor pursuits as well as for those interested in the arts, music, beer, spirits and food. Make sure to add the following to your list when you are in town:
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: I am not normally a big fan of Children’s Museums, but this one is different. First it is the world’s largest children’s museum and includes a 43 ft. blown glass tower by Dale Chihuly. I was so impressed with its educational component as I walked throughout the exhibitions. Some of the highlights include Beyond Spaceship Earth where one gets a real feel for being on the International Space Station and ScienceWorks where children learn about the scientific process and how they use the five senses plus chemistry, math and technology. Very moving was seeing a young black girl experience, The Power of Children, which tell the stories of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges who was one of the first black students to integrate the white school system in the South made famous by the Norman Rockwell painting and Ryan White, the young teen who fought AIDS in the early 1980’s. The Dinosphere displays rare fossils and full-size skeletons in a dramatic setting. Finally, Take Me There China exposes children to other cultures by showing displays of the people and how they live. 3000 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis Zoo: Located in White River State Park, the Zoo is home to 350 species of animals. A daily dolphin show is one of the highlights. It offers daily activities, lectures and events including musical performances. The three acre White River Gardens is also part of the experience.
NCAA Hall of Champions: Sports lovers will enjoy the NCAA Hall of Champions at 700 W. Washington St. The museum offers exhibits representing all NCAA sports including video highlights and items donated from colleges around the country. The second level has an interactive area with hands-on sports simulators.
Next door is the Indiana State Museum which includes exhibits on the history of the state plus the geology, geography, paleontology and archaeology. You will also find exhibits on RCA televisions, Stutz automobiles and Civil War artifacts and on prominent citizens like Abraham Lincoln. 650 W. Washington St.
The White River State Park also has a summer concert series at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn. Make sure to check their schedule online.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is home to the famous Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. Visitors should check the online schedule for events at the Speedway and visit the Motor Speedway Museum which is devoted to automobiles and auto racing. I enjoyed it on a past trip and recommend going.
The eight mile, bike-friendly Indianapolis Cultural Trail connects five downtown neighborhoods including Fountain Square, the Indiana State Capitol, City Market, White River State Park and the Indianapolis Zoo. You can rent a bike or just walk this great addition to the city. With the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare, it is easy to purchase a day pass and use one of their bikes. I particularly liked the portion of the Trail along The Canal Walk which is along the Indiana Central Canal, which was dug in the early 1800’s. Today, the refurbished Canal Walk is a wonderful waterside promenade stretching north through White River State Park to 11th Street that serves the downtown community as a waterside promenade for walkers, runners, bikers and sightseers. You will see murals, street art and sculptures along the way.
Monon Trail: This eighteen mile walking and biking trail was a former railroad known as the Monon Railroad that connected Chicago to Indianapolis. Today the trail connects the suburb of Westfield to the North to the Cultural Trail in downtown, Indianapolis. I recommend heading to Broad Ripple Village where you can find bars, restaurants, great ice cream, shops and even a hotel along the trail. One of the popular shops is Indy CD & Vinyl for music, vintage vinyl records and live music events. 806 Broad Ripple Ave.
You might check out the schedule for a theater, musical or concert performance at the Indiana Performing Arts Centre located in the historic Athenaeum Theatre at 401 E. Michigan St. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra also performs downtown at the Hilbert Circle Theatre located at 45 Monument Circle. In the summer, the orchestra performs at Conner Prairie for the Kroger Symphony on the Prairie, north of the city in Fishers, IN. Theater lovers should check out the schedule for the Indiana Repertory Theatre that performs at 140 W. Washington St.
I also just read about The Cabaret that is re-opening in a new venue downtown at 924 N. Pennsylvania. They bring in a great line-up of performers and Broadway stars. I can’t wait to try it on my next visit. The NY Times also recommends the White Rabbit Cabaret for touring bands, comedy acts and an in-house burlesque troupe. 1116 Prospect St.
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art: On my most recent trip to Indy, I found and visited the the Eiteljorg Museum for the first time at 500 W. Washington across from the JW Marriott. It was founded by local businessman, Harrison Eiteljorg, to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and indigenous people of North America. The museum has a wonderful collection including the works of N.C. Wyeth, Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe and sculptures by Charles Russell and Frederic Remington. Its collection of Native American contemporary art is also highly regarded. I was there during the weekend of the Indian Market and Festival, which is one of the highlights of the year at the museum, and features a large number of sellers of ceramics, jewelry and art from all over the Southwest. I was very impressed with the fact that the museum is in Indianapolis and not in New Mexico or Arizona, where I would expect such a great museum to be.
Newfields A Place for Nature & the Arts is the name that has united all of the different parts of the Indianapolis Museum of Art Campus that up until this point, have been pinned underneath “Indianapolis Museum of Art.” The IMA, The Garden, The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park and Lilly House will all keep their individual names, and the phrase “at Newfields” has been added to the end of each — the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, for example.
Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields: This is a wonderful museum that should not be missed when you are in town. It has a large collection as well as beautiful gardens to visit and enjoy. The museum was founded in 1883 and is among the 10 largest and 10 oldest art museums in the country, with an encyclopedic collection of more than 54,000 works. It has major holdings of African, American, Asian, European and contemporary art, plus textiles, fashion art and a collection of design arts. I particularly enjoyed the works of Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Frederic Remington, Thomas Hart Benton plus paintings by Renoir, Cezanne, Monet and Seurat. The contemporary design galleries were also impressive. They also feature special exhibitions throughout the year as well as films, classes, talks and special events.
Make sure to leave time to explore the extensive gardens and grounds. Located on 100 acres, adjacent to the Museum, is the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park which includes woods, wetlands, meadows and a 35-acre lake. The Oldfields – Lilly House & Gardens, home of J.K. Lilly Jr. the late Indianapolis businessman, collector and philanthropist, is a restored, historic, 22-room mansion that can be toured during your visit. I also recommend visiting the Greenhouse nearby, which also includes an attractive Beer Garden which is a great spot for a break after your tour.
The Indiana Foodways Alliance: This is “statewide, non-profit organization dedicated to the celebration, promotion and preservation of the authentic food culture of Indiana”. There are 20 different culinary trails to choose from, including the BBQ Trail, the Food Truck Trail, the Hoosier Pie Trail, the Tenderloin Trail, the Ice Cream Trail and the Just Cruisin’ Trail of diners and drive-ins. They also feature monthly events, festivals, walks, tours and tastings.