Though it’s known worldwide for the Indy 500 race that takes place each May, Indianapolis offers plenty of things to do that don’t involve motor sports. A gorgeous esplanade known as the Canal Walk snakes through downtown, passing cultural institutions such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which offers free admission to its collection of Asian, European, American, and African-inspired art. Nearby, the turn-of-the-century Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument marks the very center of the city with a nearly 285-foot-high limestone statue with an observation deck at the top. And farther north, the famed Children's Museum of Indianapolis draws more than a million visitors per year.
The area's agricultural legacy has helped instill a farm-to-table ethic that has spawned exceptional chef-driven restaurants throughout Indianapolis. These establishments complement the bustling bar scene in Broad Ripple, a cultural district 6 miles north of downtown that’s rife with art galleries, bakeries, and vintage stores. Be sure to stop at one of the city’s family diners as well to try a breaded-pork-tenderloin sandwich, a Hoosier specialty.
Because it’s the country’s 12th-largest city by population, Indianapolis has also attracted a fair share of sports. With a capacity of more than 250,000 spectators, the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway allows rocket-shaped Indy cars to hit speeds upwards of 230 miles per hour. Keep an eye out for a yard of bricks near the start/finish line, a leftover from the track’s original surface in 1909. Adjacent to the speedway, the Hall of Fame Museum showcases 75 vehicles, including more than 30 that nabbed the Indy 500 trophy. Basketball fans can watch the Indiana Pacers hit the court at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Nearby at Lucas Oil Stadium, you can watch quarterback and rising star Andrew Luck lead the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.
A handful of Indianapolis’s gems are hidden inside White River State Park. Though its 250 acres encompass the trails and fields of an average park, White River is better known for unusual tenants such as the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Chock full of Western and Native American artwork, the museum is a rare find in the Midwest, since there’s only one other west of the Mississippi that pays homage to both Native American and Western artists. From works by Georgia O’Keeffe to pieces by Andy Warhol, Eiteljorg’s extensive collection touches on myriad views and artistic approaches.
White River State Park also holds the Indianapolis Zoo. Five biomes emulate different climatesand entertain habitat-appropriate critters. In the oceans biome, slide your fingers along the spine of a real shark, or observe dolphins from a submerged viewing dome. In the desert, enjoy a rare glimpse of the Grand Cayman blue iguana, an endangered lizard that was first successfully bred at the Indianapolis Zoo.