More than a century ago, a ragtag group of racers strapped on cloth-and-leather helmets and hopped into racecars—some without seatbelts—to compete in the first Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The first winner’s time? Six hours and 42 minutes. The Indy 500 has come a long way since then: more than 400,000 fans crowd the seats each Memorial Day weekend, and the winner typically clocks in at under three hours. Yet there’s more to Indiana’s capital than revving engines and peeling tires. Stroll through the city’s half-dozen cultural districts, such as Broad Ripple and Fountain Square, to find artists’ workshops, vintage thrift stores, and record shops, or bring the kids .
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum: Even if you don’t make it into town for the big race, you can tour the track and visit the Hall of Fame Museum to see the first victorious car—a bright-yellow Marmon Wasp.
- Take a gondola down the river with a gondolier clad in a striped shirt and straw hat at White River State Park. You can also rent multi-person bikes to navigate waterside pathways adorned with colorful murals.
- Monument Circle marks the center of downtown Indy. Climb to the top of its centerpiece, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, to get a bird’s-eye view of the city.
- Broad Ripple Village: International restaurants and ephemeral boutiques help shape this neighborhood’s eclectic character.
- Ride an antique carousel and feast your eyes on a floor-to-ceiling sculpture made of blown glass at the interactive science exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
Where to Eat
- Colorful food trucks post up throughout the city into the wee hours, when you can still grab bites of barbecue, grilled cheese, and gourmet cupcakes.
- Bazbeaux started in a tiny little house and has since blossomed into one of Indy’s most beloved pizza parlors. Chefs garnish pies with such experimental toppings as albacore tuna and chorizo that’s made in-house.
- The Rathskeller is pure Deutschland. Diners can pair award-winning schnitzel with their choice of more than 60 imported beers. On select nights, live polka tunes fill the stately 19th-century building.
- Yats: Founded by a New Orleans native, this laid-back joint keeps it simple. Chalkboard menus display such Cajun favorites as jambalaya and chili cheese etouffee. Top it off with a slice of homemade peanut-butter cream pie. Locations throughout Indy.
Where to Stay
- For easy access to downtown: The Alexander Hotel is pure swank, from its signature cocktails to its sleek decor. Lucas Oil Stadium and Monument Circle are a short walk away.
- For a home-cooked breakfast: Nestle Inn B&B brings old-fashioned hospitality to a restored Victorian mansion downtown, where chefs whip up inventive dishes such as egg lasagna and banana-stuffed waffles.
- For a pool with a view: City lights illuminate the rooftop pool and lounge area at the Sheraton Indianapolis City Centre Hotel, which places the 285-foot Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument practically at eye level.