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Your Guide to Indianapolis, the Midwest Capital You Need to Visit

Insider Guides
by Taryn Shorr-Mckee Nov 15, 2023

In a city synonymous with auto racing, basketball, and corn fields, you expect a lot of sports bars, chain hotels, and a perfectly flat landscape. What you don’t expect — and what Indianapolis delivers, in a big way — is James Beard-awarded restaurants, world-class boutique hotels, and hundreds of miles of urban trails.

With Indianapolis in the path of totality for the April 2024 solar eclipse and set to host next year’s NBA All-Star Game, first- and second-round March Madness games, three nights of Taylor Swift, and its signature Indy 500, there’s never been a better time to plan your visit Indiana’s capital city. Here’s where to play, eat, and stay when you come to experience the most fun things to do in Indianapolis.

The best things to do in Indianapolis

Indianapolis Motor Speedway


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It’s no secret that Indy’s history and identity are closely tied to auto racing. In fact, the city is widely known as the “Racing Capital of the World,” attracting hundreds of thousands of race fans each year. The world-renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) hosts the annual Indy 500 and Brickyard Weekend races, plus a host of qualifiers and other events. One particularly notable race is the Indy Autonomous Challenge, the only one in the world dedicated to fully autonomous vehicles.

Even when there’s not a race going on, there’s plenty to do at IMS. Book a variety of tours, including the popular “Kiss the Bricks” tour. This option takes you on a lap around the storied oval and gives you the opportunity to kiss the iconic antique bricks at the start/finish line, a tradition race winners have proudly carried on since 1996. You can also book an IndyCar experience to drive or ride in a real Indy car. The onsite Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is well worth a visit, with race cars and artifacts, plus interactive exhibits such as race simulators and a pit stop challenge. Note that the museum closed for extensive renovations in October 2023 and is expected to reopen in April 2025. Finally, you can golf at Brickyard Crossing, which partially lies within the oval.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 4790 W 16th St, Indianapolis, IN 46222

Bottleworks District


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One of four original “diagonals” the city was designed around, this beautifully restored historic district is one of Indy’s hottest destinations. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Indianapolis, the largest Coke bottling plant in the world for 20 years, once occupied the Art Deco buildings and cobblestone streets. Today, it’s home to wildly popular food hall The Garage, a variety of bustling entertainment venues, the stunning Bottleworks Hotel, and several shops. Catch a movie in The Living Room, get a haircut or spa treatment, enjoy old-school duckpin bowling and 40-plus pinball machines at Pins Mechanical Co., or sample everything from lobster rolls to Venezuelan arepas and cubanos.

Bottleworks District: 850 Massachusetts Ave Suite #190, Indianapolis, IN 46202

Indianapolis Cultural Trail


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The Cultural Trail is an eight-mile network of multi-use paths running right through the heart of Indianapolis. Over the next two years, major expansions will add an additional four miles. Walk, run, or bike some or all of the trail, which connects downtown’s six distinct cultural districts and many local hotspots. These include the Downtown Canal Walk, Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Colts), the convention center, dozens of historic sites, and the Colts Canal Playspace, the city’s largest playground. If you don’t have your own wheels, the Pacers Bikeshare program has over 500 bicycles at 50 stations, many of them along the Cultural Trail. Bikes are available 24 hours a day, and rides start at $1. There are even adaptive three-wheel bikes available for folks with mobility challenges, and e-bikes will be available in 2024.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail: 850 Massachusetts Ave Suite #190, Indianapolis, IN 46202

White River State Park


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The poster child of what an urban park should be, White River State Park sits right in the city along its namesake river. It has quintessential park elements, such as open green spaces, trails, and playgrounds, but it’s also home to some of Indy’s biggest attractions. The Indianapolis Zoo, NCAA Hall of Champions, Indiana State Museum, and Eiteljorg Museum all call the state park home. You’ll also find the city’s AAA baseball team, the Indianapolis Indians, here, along with a state-of-the-art amphitheater for concerts.

White River State Park: 801 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204



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Self-described as “a place for nature & the arts,” Newfields is equal parts botanical garden, historic estate, and art museum. The campus houses the Indianapolis Museum of Art, one of the oldest and largest in the country. You can also explore elaborate gardens and greenhouses, rotating art installations, and walking trails. Catch a live performance, then grab a bite in the cafe—or a brew in the beer garden. If you can time your visit right, don’t miss the jaw-dropping Harvest Nights, Winterlights, or THE LUME, seasonal events that include a variety of immersive sensory experiences and themed food and drinks.

Newfields: 4000 N Michigan Rd, Indianapolis, IN 46208

Day trip to Parke County


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Just over an hour from downtown Indianapolis, Parke County is home to bucolic rural scenery, some of the country’s best state parks, and 31 historic covered bridges — hence why it’s known as the “Covered Bridge Capital of the World.” Attend one of the annual festivals, like the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival in the fall or the maple fair in the spring.

Where to Eat and Drink in Indy


A hip Latin American restaurant within walking distance of the Bottleworks District, Liver has one of those menus that’ll make you want to try everything. Seriously. Order several small plates to share, and definitely don’t miss the cauliflower (promise, it’s different from any other one you’ve tried), street corn, skirt steak. Try to resist the urge to eat the chimichurri sauce by the spoonful.

Livery: 720 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46202


It can be tricky snagging a seat at this trendy, always-bustling restaurant (no reservations accepted), but it’s worth the wait. It’s contemporary, farm-to-table, and a James Beard semifinalist, so expect adventurous twists on classics. The menu changes daily, but there’s always an iteration of the grilled bread app and chop salad. If you’re side-eyeing “grilled bread” in a top-notch restaurant, know that Bluebeard also runs the adjacent bakery, Amelia’s.

Bluebeard: 653 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203

Leviathan Bakehouse

A fairly standard-looking coffee shop, Leviathan is anything but. The food is “local-meets-global,” and everything is baked in house. You’ll recognize old standbys on the menu, but take a chance on something new, like the honey pistachio latte. Throw your calorie count out the window, because the scratch-made pastries are to die for. Try a seasonal hand pie or the quiche du jour, and take a slice of the Basque cheesecake to go.

Leviathan Bakehouse: 1101 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46202

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House

Occupying a Catholic church built in 1880, this is easily one of the most unique spots to grab a beer in Indianapolis. The striking Gothic-style building dominates this stretch of College Ave., setting the perfect scene for a casual meal. It’s mostly pub fare, but it’s very well-executed, and the award-winning beer list is extensive. Try a flight, which gets you four 5-ounce pours of any house or seasonal beers for just $9.00.

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House: 540 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46202

Where to Stay in Indianapolis

Bottleworks Hotel

As its name implies, the Bottleworks Hotel was also a Coke bottling plant. A stunning reflection of the Roaring Twenties, the building featured unique Art Deco architecture and cutting-edge equipment when it opened in the 1930s. Today, walking in feels like you’re stepping into an exclusive party during Prohibition. The luxe interior is filled with bold artwork and rich jewel tones, and the hotel’s original floors still shine. In the guest rooms, marble bathrooms, exposed brick, ultra-thick robes, and velvet sofas make you feel like you’re indulging in a secret guilty pleasure.

Downstairs, grab a picture-perfect, old-school cocktail at the speakeasy-esque Sundry and Vice. If you’re hungry, slip into a velvet booth and treat yourself to a steak at The Fountain Room. Cap off your evening with a selfie in the vintage photo booth or a round of pool. Of course, you can also walk across the street to The Garage or Pins.

Bottleworks Hotel: 850 Massachusetts Ave Suite 100, Indianapolis, IN 46204

How to get there


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Indianapolis has a major international airport, and as a huge bonus, it’s frequently named one of the best in America. The city is also within easy driving distance of several major cities. It’s fewer than two hours from Louisville; just 2.5 from Columbus, Ohio; three hours from Chicago; 3.5 from St. Louis; and 4.5 from Detroit, Milwaukee, and Nashville. It really is the “Crossroads of America.”

Getting around Indianapolis


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As a major city with a relatively compact layout, it’s very easy to get around Indy. The downtown area, in particular, is extremely walkable, largely thanks to the Cultural Trail. There’s also the Pacers Bikeshare program for those who prefer to travel on two wheels. Rideshares and public transportation, including IndyGo buses and taxis, are also widely available.

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