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A Visitor’s Guide to Indianapolis

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A Visitor’s Guide to Indianapolis

Founded in 1821, Indianapolis is more than just the birthplace of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and the Indy 500. As the capital of the Crossroads of America, Indianapolis has a long history of art and culture and a spirit of human progression.

Indianapolis is the 15th largest city in the United States with an estimated population of 855,164 residents. Carmel, a city of approximately 90,533, has been rated as the number-one most livable city in the United States in 2017 and is only a short drive away. With thousands of cities in the United States, that’s a pretty impressive score.

Ready to check out all the fun and exciting things to do in highly affordable and diverse Indianapolis? Our travel guide to Indianapolis help you choose where to go, what to do and how to live life to the fullest like a true Hoosier. Keep reading our insider guide to Indianapolis for all this and more.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Indianapolis?

Deciding when you want to take a trip to Indianapolis depends on a variety of factors. Is there a particular festival you want to attend? Would you rather avoid Indy 500 crowds? First, determine whether or there’s an event you can’t miss.

Next, consider the weather. Fall is the most comfortable time of the year to visit Indianapolis, and you won’t have to deal with the summer crowds. The average high in September is 78 with an average low of 56, and the average high in October is 65 with a low of 45.

Summer is the most popular time of the year for tourists because the city is alive with festivals, fairs and sporting events. Temperatures range from the high 60s to the mid-80s on average, and high humidity can make the outdoors slightly uncomfortable. You may want to avoid May, which is when hotel prices spike to accommodate racing fans.

Unless you have your heart set on attending a Christmas-themed event, or you plan to visit family for the holidays, you’ll probably want to avoid trekking out to Indianapolis in the winter. Winter in Indianapolis can be pretty cold, with temperatures averaging in the low 20s to the high 30s from December until March. You can expect a fair amount of rain or snow during the winter months, too.

Overall, early fall takes home the prize for the best time to visit Indianapolis as the tourist season winds down, and the weather is pleasant. So, if you can plan your trip to take place in September, we say go for it.

How to Get There and Get Around

Getting to Indianapolis isn’t too hard. After all, it is located in the center of Indiana with several major highways running through it. If you’re planning to arrive on a plane, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find affordable airfare. Indianapolis is one of the business hubs of the Midwest and is home to the best airport in North America. Check out these sources to book your flight on a budget:

  • Google Flights
  • KAYAK
  • DealRay

You can find inexpensive transportation from Indianapolis International Airport too. The Go Express Airport Shuttle costs only $10 to get downtown. If you are arriving late in the night, you can borrow a BlueIndy electric car 24/7 for a low cost and then drop it off at a downtown charging station. There is also the option of taking a bus ride using the IndyGo public bus system or catching a cab to take you downtown for around $35.

population

Once you’re in the heart of the city, getting around is easy, especially if you booked a room downtown. You’ll find you can hit major attractions simply by walking.

For example, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an eight-mile path that runs through downtown Indianapolis, allowing pedestrians and bike riders to get around without the threat of traffic or parking fees. The Pacers Bikeshare program makes it even easier to rent a bike and see the city in a fun, affordable and healthy way.

If driving is more your thing or if your hotel is a little out of the way, that’s no problem either. Here are some other transportation options:

  • The BlueIndy all-electric cars
  • Uber and Lyft
  • Train and bus services including Amtrak, Greyhound and Megabus

Sorry, no racecar rentals available for downtown touring just yet.

Where to Stay

Hotel stays in Indianapolis range from 40-some dollars a night to four-hundred-some dollars a night. The JW Marriott was ranked as the number-one hotel in Indianapolis by TripAdvisor travelers. However, expect to pay over $200 a night for hotel excellence.

Ask yourself how much time you plan to spend in your room and the level of luxury you require to enjoy your trip. Also, how important is the location for you? It’ll be helpful to have an idea of the attractions you hope to see before booking your room, so you don’t find out the hard way that you’re located in an inconvenient spot. It might be worth spending a few extra dollars a night on a centrally located room to save on transportation costs. You’ll also spend less time traveling and more time enjoying the sights and sounds of Indianapolis.

Here are a few of our hotel suggestions. These hotels receive good reviews, are located downtown and cost less than $200 a night:

  • Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station. In this former train station, you can stay in a train car hotel room.
  • Omni Severin Hotel. This hotel is located three blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • Hampton Inn Indianapolis. These accommodations are only 0.3 miles from the Indiana State Museum and located across from the Circle Centre Mall.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton. This hotel features an indoor pool and billiard room, and it’s conveniently located two blocks from an Amtrak station.

For a more budget-friendly hotel experience, here are a few recommended places that cost as low as $45 a night but require some driving to get downtown:

  • Value Place Indianapolis Lawrence. 10 miles to city center.
  • Days Inn Indianapolis Off I-69. 11 miles to city center.
  • WoodSpring Suites Indianapolis Greenwood. 11 miles to city center.
  • Super 8 Indianapolis. 7.9 miles to city center.
  • Red Roof Indianapolis South. 6.2 miles to city center.

For less conventional yet highly affordable accommodations, also consider:

  • Indy Hostel. Located in the Broad Ripple neighborhood, you can stay in a dorm-style room for under $30 a night. There are also private rooms for a higher cost.
  • Airbnb. Rent a private, comfortable home or room for half the price of a hotel stay. Airbnb is an economical choice for families.

No matter what your travel budget allows, Indianapolis is a great city for accommodating a wide range of individual needs.

What to Do in Indianapolis

Now that you know how you’re going to get there and where you’re going to stay, it’s time to explore your entertainment and sightseeing options. There is so much to see and do for everyone in Indianapolis, but we’ve narrowed down our favorites.

  1. Shopping

Shopping lovers rejoice! Indianapolis is a city that offers an array of artsy handmade gifts, antiques and all-around quirky goods. Brand-name lovers and high-end shoppers can find what they’re looking for, too. Put on your most comfortable shopping shoes and head to one of these places for a day of buyer’s bliss:

  • The Fashion Mall at Keystone. Get lost on two floors of top-brand shopping, from Saks Fifth Avenue to The Apple Store.
  • Mass Ave Arts District. This downtown cultural district was designed to lead to the heart of Indianapolis in 1821. It features five blocks of unique gift shops, art galleries and theaters. Mass Ave is the place to shop, dine and browse.
  • Broad Ripple. This neighborhood is located 20 minutes north of downtown and offers a variety of offbeat shops. Whether you’re looking to browse a vinyl collection or pick an art gift for someone special, Broad Ripple won’t disappoint.
  • Fountain Square. This hip neighborhood, southeast of downtown, offers an eclectic shopping experience for the bohemian in us all. Here you can find anything from musical instruments to fresh flowers.

Other notable shopping spots to check out include:

  • Midland Arts and Antiques Mall. Voted the best antique store, Midland Arts and Antiques Mall is located near the center of downtown and features the products of over 200 independent art and antique dealers.
  • Indianapolis City Market. Located at East Market Street and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Indianapolis City Market has something for everyone — from locally grown fruits and vegetables to ethnic foods and handmade jewelry.
  • Silver in the City. Located on Mass Ave, this is the place to go for one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Here you can find all kinds of Indianapolis memorabilia, from a Kurt Vonnegut enamel pin to an Indiana state park t-shirt.

airport

  1. Entertainment, Nightlife and Festivals

All year long, Indianapolis is grooving to the beat of a live band, dancing with friends at a festival or clapping hands at the end of a well-crafted theatre performance. In this city, entertainment isn’t hard to find. To start, ask yourself this question — what’s your entertainment preference? Do you like live jazz? Independent cinema? Art shows? Keep reading to find the perfect event for you!

Theaters

In the mood for a thought-provoking play or an uplifting musical? Get inspired at one of these Indianapolis theaters:

  • Indiana Repertory Theater (IRT). IRT takes pride in entertaining and challenging crowds with original plays that evoke emotions and ignite conversation.
  • Phoenix Theatre. This not-for-profit theatre has been producing shows, some award-winning, for 33 years. Phoenix Theatre has a mission to touch their audience and “inspire the human spirit.”
  • IndyFringe. This theater has the goal of supporting independent artists of all levels and inspiring creativity.

For Broadway entertainment, check out:

  • Booth Tarkington Civic Theater
  • Beef and Boards Dinner theatre
  • Footlite Musicals

Live Music

Who doesn’t enjoy a few drinks and a good band? Here are a few well-loved music venues to consider if you’re looking for quality tunes and a memorable atmosphere:

  • Chatterbox Jazz Club. Located on Mass Ave, this is the place to go for a daily dose of live jazz. Jazz is free five days out of the week.
  • Slippery Noodle Inn. Established in 1850, this famous joint makes it possible for you to enjoy live blues as well as a bite to eat. And yes, you can order slippery noodles like chicken alfredo here too.
  • Hi-Fi. Located in the Fountain Square area, this venue offers a chance to catch an indie rock show and chill out to the hip vibe.

Festivals

No matter what season you take your trip to Indianapolis, you’ll have a chance to attend a festival. Traveling to the city at the end of November? Take the kids to see the world’s largest Christmas tree at the Circle of Lights festival downtown.

In May, race fans can see one of the nation’s largest parades during the 500 Festival — a month-long celebration leading up to the Indianapolis 500.

Summertime is when visitors can celebrate the achievements of African Americans at the Indiana Black Expo or fill up on treats at the Indiana State Fair.

Even in the fall, you will find Hoosiers enjoying local festivities. Fall is the time to get artsy at the Penrod Arts Fair, held at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

500-festival

  1. Arts and Culture

Indianapolis is an art-lover’s dream. With a host of museums and galleries, inspiration seems to be around every corner. The most well-known spot may be the Indianapolis Museum of Art, but there are plenty more creative venues to explore. You can visit:

  • The Eiteljorg Museum. View Native American art as well as art of the American West.
  • Indianapolis Artsgarden. This seven-story-tall glass and steel dome houses free public exhibits and performances.
  • Landmark’s Keystone Art Cinema. Here, you can watch independent, foreign or 3D films.
  • The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library. Visit for a chance to look at his doodles and personal items such as family photos and his actual typewriter.
  1. Family Fun

Taking the kids along on your Indianapolis excursion? Don’t worry — they won’t get bored. There are tons of fun things for the young ones to enjoy, including a trip to the largest children’s museum in the world.

  • Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. This award-winning museum was built to create outstanding learning experiences for kids. The museum offers a wide variety of activities and exhibits to make it a positive experience for everyone. For example, kids can dance like a star in front of a green screen or experience what it’s like to be a circus performer.
  • Indianapolis Zoo. Kids can explore wildlife and habitats from the desert to the sea at this zoo, located in White River State Park.
  • Action Duckpin Bowling. Have fun with vintage 1920s bowling in Fountain Square.
  • Rhythm! Discovery Center. This interactive percussion museum lets kids pound out their energy and enjoy the sweet sound of a good beat.
  1. Sports

Indianapolis is a haven for sports lovers. Whether you want to catch a minor league baseball game or witness world-famous auto racing, Indianapolis is the place to be. Here are a few Indianapolis must-sees for sports fans:

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Take a trip this speedway, open since 1909, to partake in an Indy 500 race. Plan to reserve your seat at the racing capital of the world.
  • NCAA Hall of Champions. Support college sports with a trip to the hall of champions.
  • Lucas Oil Stadium. Catch a game at the home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. Baseball fans can head to Victory Field to watch the Indianapolis Indians.
  • Richard Petty Driving Experience. During this driving experience, you’ll get the chance to drive a real NASCAR race car.
  1. Nature Adventures

There are plenty of green spaces in Indianapolis for a breath of fresh and a break from all the city excitement. Here are some of the top spots to unwind with mother nature:

  • Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden. For only two dollars per person, you can view tropical plants year-round. Opened in 1916, the sunken garden consists of three acres of European classical formal gardens complete with fountains, flower beds and concrete urns.
  • Indiana Central Canal. Walk along the canal for a downtown waterside stroll.
  • Eagle Creek Park. Go birding or boating at this park, the sixth largest metropolitan park in the United States, with 3,900 acres of land and a 1,400-acre lake.
  • Fort Harrison State Park. This former military base features 1,700 acres of trails and is a great location to view wildlife.

childrens-museum

  1. History

Indianapolis is a city with an intriguing past. Originally home to Native Americans and later an economical, artistic and automotive center, Indianapolis has seen it all. From gangsters like John Dillinger to Civil War soldiers, many people have called this city home. Take the opportunity to learn what it means to be a Hoosier and have lots of fun in the process when you check out the following sites:

  • Indiana State Museum. This museum offers unique exhibits that help tell the story of Indianapolis.
  • Indiana Medical History Museum. Located on the grounds of a former state hospital, this hospital allows visitors to explore an autopsy room and a museum of preserved brains.
  • Soldiers and Sailors Monument and Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. These are must-sees for Civil War buffs.
  • Hook’s American Drug Store Museum. Take a step back in time.
  • Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Museum. Visit to check out a collection of aircraft engines.

Where to Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Indiana is known for pork tenderloin sandwiches, but Indianapolis offers many mouthwatering choices for food and beer lovers. With dozens of breweries to choose from and even more eateries, how does one decide where to go? Here are a few ideas to help you narrow down your options:

  • Midwest at Papa Roux. Have a Cajun experience when you bite into a breaded alligator po-boy and enjoy three free sides with your sandwich, from bread pudding to red beans.
  • The Tamale Place. For less than four bucks a tamale, you can satisfy your tamale craving and experience authentic Mexican food made with pride.
  • Lick Ice Cream. Do you scream for ice cream? Try innovative ice cream flavors at Lick like gorgonzola candied pecan or rosewater pistachio brittle.
  • Schakolad Chocolate Factory. Chocoholics can get their fix and create their own box of chocolates.
  • Deviate Brewing. If you’re thirsty for a tasty brew, stop in for a peanut butter IPA.

Where to Go to Please the Pizza Lover

Did we mention that Giordano’s is your go-to spot for Chicago-style pizza in downtown Indianapolis? Ok, we know our Chicago location is less than four hours away, but let us save you the trip. You can enjoy deep-dish pizza, baked fresh and custom-made in two convenient Indianapolis locations.

Whether you’re craving hearty traditional dishes like lasagna or a world-famous slice, give us a call. We’ll be happy to deliver the best pizza in town to you and make your inner pizza lover feel right at home.