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Indianapolis, Indiana is unquestionably a sports town. With its deep-set racing roots and its resident pro football and basketball teams, the "Crossroads of America" welcomes fans from around the world eager to witness the excitement of headline-making contests. While loud engines and big games dominate the Hoosier State capital's must-do list, the city's museums, green spaces and family-friendly institutions make for plenty of inviting activities that don't require a scoreboard.
REASONS TO GO:
Car Racing: Perhaps more than anything else, Indianapolis is famous for its internationally beloved automobile race, the Indianapolis 500. Held during Memorial Day weekend, the event draws more than 250,000 fans, making it the largest single-day contest in all of sports. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also hosts the Grand Prix of Indianapolis a few weeks prior, as well as the four-race Super Weekend in late July. The speedway's museum houses the Auto Racing Hall of Fame, with 75 cars and trophies on display, dating back to the first Indy 500 winner in 1911.
Spectator Sports: Colts football rules the city's Sundays between August and January at Lucas Oil Stadium, while the NBA’s Indiana Pacers play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse throughout the year. Minor League Baseball's Indianapolis Indians play at handsome fan favorite Victory Field. Beyond pro leagues, college sports are also popular, especially the Butler basketball program, with the Bulldogs holding court at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Kid-friendly Fun: The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the world's biggest museum of its kind, with five stories containing captivating, hands-on exhibits like the Dinosphere (an imagined Cretaceous dinosaur environment), a planetarium and a circa-1868 steam engine. The conservation-minded Indianapolis Zoo features five different climate-linked habitats that house 3,800 animals, as well as an interactive dolphin presentation and the country's largest shark touch pool.
Parks and Recreation: The grounds of White River State Park contain the Indianapolis Zoo, Victory Field and many more cultural institutions. Not to be overlooked, the park itself is a wonderful place to relax, jog or enjoy the calming waters of its Central Canal with paddleboat, gondola and kayaking options. The city's largest park, Eagle Creek, contains its own marina, bird sanctuary, pistol range and swim beach, offering activities ranging from fishing and sailboating to hiking and zip lining.
In Memoriam: The stunning Indiana War Memorial honors World War I veterans through its military museum and impressive Shrine Room. Three blocks south in Monument Circle, the neoclassical obelisk of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument features an observation level providing panoramic views of the city, while the structure's basement houses the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum.
DAY TRIPPIN’: STROLL THE INDIANAPOLIS CULTURAL TRAIL The eight-mile bike and pedestrian path of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail connects seven distinct neighborhoods, from eclectic Broad Ripple Village to Massachusetts Avenue (known as "Mass Ave"), popular for its theaters, art galleries and boutiques, as well as the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Other noteworthy trail stops include Fountain Square, known for its antique shops, and the transformed Wholesale District, home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra at Hilbert Circle Theater. Art lovers will appreciate the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s 54,000-piece collection, which includes The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park: 100 Acres, featuring meadows, wetlands and a 35-acre lake.
WHEN TO GO: Indianapolis weather is standard for the Midwest region, with hot and humid summers, a mild spring and fall, and cold winters. Events like "Month of May," a precursor to the Indy 500, Circle City IN Pride (June), the Indiana State Fair (August) and the Historic Irvington Halloween Festival (October) are high points of the city’s annual events calendar.
TRAVEL TIP: While the Indy Go public bus system services most of the city, wait times are often upwards of 30 minutes. In true Indianapolis fashion, a car is the easiest (and speediest) way to get around.