Think the appeal of Indianapolis begins and ends with a certain car race held on Memorial Day weekend? Not even close. Keep reading for great travel ideas because this heartland city packs a surprising number of amazing attractions within its boundaries. Here are a just a few of the things of tap for anyone who pays a visit to the Hoosier capital city, Indianapolis.
• Indianapolis Zoo: A Midwest marvel in its own right, the Indy Zoo features a $21.5 million International Orangutan Center (and skyride!), a shark-stroking experience (so leathery!) and 12-foot-tall underwater dolphin viewing dome (hi, Flipper!). The zoo recently opened two new exhibits on the opposite ends of the “cuddly continuum.” On one end is the new MISTery Park with its adorable sloths, while on the other is the Deserts Dome snake exhibit. Pro tip: Buy more than one $3 ticket the first go-around. Visitors will immediately want to do it again.
• Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art: Contemporary Western and Native American art is the bread-and-butter of this canal-side museum that counts Georgia O’Keeffe and Andy Warhol pieces among its collection. Pop by in December for the annual “Jingle Rails” train showcase that turns Indianapolis landmarks such as Lucas Oil Stadium and Monument Circle into miniature railside sets. And check the events calendar: the Summer Concert Series features a bit of everything, running from blues to jazz to rock.
• Soldiers and Sailors Monument: There’s plenty to explore at this iconic 284-foot white limestone spire on Monument Circle. Climb 331 steps to an observation deck at the top of the monument, designated a National Historic Landmark, or an elevator will bring visitors 90 percent of the way. Built between 1887 and 1902, it celebrates Hoosier veterans from all wars prior to World War I. The Col. Eli Lilly Civil War Museum is on the lower level. Admission is free. The inside of the monument is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
• Broad Ripple Brew Club: The cozy, family-friendly English pub in the heart of Broad Ripple is also the OG for craft beer in Indiana. It’s the state’s first brewpub and the oldest operating brewery. And the best part is that it has hardly changed. Find a spot with a dog on the patio in the summer months or curl up next to the fireplace for some winter hygge. The menu has everything from stick-to-the-ribs comfort dishes to fresh vegan burgers and salads. The best beer choice is the classic IPA or an Extra Special Bitter cask ale.
• Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra: One of the country’s best orchestras, the versatile Indianapolis Symphony is known for its precise interpretations of classical works and its swinging renditions of pops. Most of its season, which includes the nationally renowned IPL Yuletide celebration in December, is performed at the Hilbert Circle Theatre on Monument Circle Downtown. Try to catch maestro Krzysztof Urbański before he leaves after the 2021 season. If around during the summer, hit up a Kroger Symphony on the Prairie concert at Conner Prairie.
• Indiana State Fair: Around 900,000 people go to the fair each year—and it has something for everyone. Like animals and don’t mind the smell? Step inside the Swine Barn. Thrill seeker? Try the amusement games and rides along the Midway. Gourmand— but not too picky? The fair offers a range of treats from lemon shakeups to grilled corn to all things fried, including butter. In the exhibition halls, visitors can marvel at their neighbors’ ability to paint a sunset, bake a cake or grow a gourd. No wonder there are more than two weeks to take it all in.
• The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon: Visitors don’t need to be a world-class athlete, or even in particularly great shape, to participate in the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, the informal start of Indianapolis 500 activity. The race, on the first Saturday of May each year, draws thousands of weekend warriors who want to gain the satisfaction of completing 13.1 miles. The course includes a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, giving more than a few participants stop to kiss the bricks as they pass the famed Pagoda.
Racing to Indianapolis to partake of all the excitement on offer sounds like a great idea—and one well worth the trip.
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