12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Indianapolis, IN

Written by Lana Law and Lura Seavey
Nov 17, 2020

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Indianapolis, a typical Midwest city and capital of Indiana, lies southeast of Lake Michigan on the White River. It is almost exactly in the center of Indiana, on a site selected by 10 government commissioners in 1820 for the new capital of the state. Indianapolis has many things to do, from taking an evening stroll on the Canal Walk after a waterside dinner to sightseeing downtown.

The city's world fame, however, comes from the "Indianapolis 500," the car race held annually on the Sunday before Memorial Day on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is the world's biggest single-day sporting event, drawing hundreds of thousands of motor sport fans.

Discover more great ways to spend your time with our list of the top things to do in Indianapolis.

See also: Where to Stay in Indianapolis

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Children's Museum of Indianapolis | Photo Source: Children's Museum of Indianapolis

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is the world's largest children's museum. It's huge! This is a great place to visit with the whole family and you don't have to be a kid to enjoy it. The museum is full of interesting, innovative, and interactive displays. Some of the displays include topics related to transportation, science, culture, and archeology.

Some of the museum's biggest hits are its dinosaurs - including the brontosaurus who is trying to peek in the top floor. The Dinosphere exhibit recreates the world that the dinos lived in, allowing visitors to experience the sights and sounds of 65 million years ago and even touch a real Tyrannosaurus Rex bone. Among the dinosaurs on display is a recently discovered species named Dracorex Hogwartsia in honor of Harry Potter's alma mater.

Other attractions include a series of interactive exhibits about music, toys, pop culture, science, and space travel.

Address: 3000 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: https://www.childrensmuseum.org/

2. Indianapolis Museum of Art

Indianapolis Museum of Art
Indianapolis Museum of Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art lies to the north of the city center in the spacious Newfields park. The museum's main galleries include works by legends like Rembrandt, Cezanne, Picasso, and O'Keefe.

The Krannert Pavilion is devoted to Asian art and American art, from pre-Columbian times to the present (including Edward Hopper's Hotel Lobby). Other areas of the gallery include the Hulman Pavilion, which houses paintings from the Baroque period through Neo-Impressionism.

The museum grounds are also home to the Lilly House, a 1913 estate that displays authentic furnishings and decorative art. Visitors will also enjoy a stroll through the Gardens, an outdoor space that offers a wide variety of flora, including the Formal Garden, the Ravine Garden, the Rain Garden, and more.

Adjacent to the museum grounds is the hundred-acre Fairbanks Park, home to both natural wonders and temporary installations.

Address: 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: https://discovernewfields.org/do-and-see/places-to-go/indianapolis-museum-art

3. Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway | momentcaptured1 / photo modified

The United States' most celebrated car race, the legendary Indianapolis 500, is run on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, seven miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis. It is only used for this race and two others: the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Race and the Red Bull Indianapolis GP.

The circuit, a-2.5 mile oval, was originally designed as an automobile test track, but the first 500-mile race in 1911 was so successful that it became a regular fixture. In the course of time, the track, which was originally paved with bricks (still used to mark the finishing line), was adapted to cope with ever-increasing speeds.

Accommodation for spectators was also increased, and the speedway can now handle more than 250,000 people in the stands and more than 150,000 on the ground.

Address: 4790 W 16th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: http://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/

4. Walk along or Paddle down the Central Canal

Indiana Central Canal
Indiana Central Canal

The Central Canal runs through White River State Park, built in the early 19th century to help bring goods in and out of the city. No longer an industrial waterway, the fully updated canal is now full of paddleboats and kayaks, which give visitors a new perspective on the downtown area; rentals can be found just across the canal from the Eiteljorg Museum.

Along the water is the three-mile Canal Walk, a well-kept pedestrian way that stretches from 11th street into the park, flanking both sides of the water. The space is popular with tourists and locals alike, providing easy access to many of the city's shops, attractions, and restaurants.

Address: 801 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: https://www.visitindy.com/indianapolis-canal-walk

5. Monument Circle

Monument Circle
Monument Circle

The Soldier's and Sailor's Memorial is located in Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis and is the city's most important landmark. Completed in 1902 after a five-year construction, this limestone monument commemorates the lives lost in the Civil War.

To the north of the monument sits the Mausoleum and Memorial Hall, and three blocks to the south is the large Circle Center Mall. The memorial includes several sculptures honoring past leaders, the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, and an observations deck.

The Indiana World War Memorial is another important tribute. This imposing square monument stands as a silent reminder to the folly of war and honors the fallen soldiers. The Shrine Room on the 3rd floor symbolizes peace and unity, as it is constructed with building materials from around the world.

Also in the war memorial is a museum dedicated to the soldiers of Indiana. Exhibits include an AH-1 Cobra Attack helicopter, military uniforms and weapons, and other military-related artifacts and information.

Address: 51 E. Michigan Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: http://www.in.gov/iwm/

6. See the Sights in White River State Park

White River State Park
White River State Park

White River State Park is a great place to escape from the fast pace of the city. Once in the park, you would be hard pressed to believe that you are in downtown Indianapolis.

White River State Park boasts expansive green spaces and is home to some of the city's top tourist attractions, including Indianapolis Zoo, a baseball park, the Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana State Museum, an Imax theater, NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial. The Canal Walk along Central Canal is also part of White River State Park.

Official site: www.whiteriverstatepark.org

7. Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art | susi.bsu / photo modified

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art is located at the entrance to White River State Park. The museum displays a remarkable collection assembled by the Indianapolis businessman Harrison Eiteljorg.

Exhibits include painting and sculpture of the west from the early 19th century onwards, including works by the landscapists Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran, and pictures and sculpture by the leading Western artists Frederick S. Remington and Charles M. Russell. Also on display is an extensive collection of works of the Taos Society of Artists and Indian arts and crafts from all over North America.

Address: 500 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: http://www.eiteljorg.org/

8. Indianapolis Zoo

Indianapolis Zoo
Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo opened in 1964 and today plays a major role in worldwide conservation and research. Located in White River State Park, it contains not only a zoo but also an aquarium and botanical garden. The botanical garden covers three acres and includes both permanent and changing gardens that represent flora from around the world.

The Oceans aquarium features multiple tanks, including a coral reef ecosystem. The zoo's animals are divided among the various habitats, which were re-created to give both visitors and the animal residents the sense of a natural environment.

The Plains animals are among the zoo's most popular, including some of the biggest and most dramatic animals, like giraffes, elephants, rhinos, and zebra. The Forests habitat allows visitors to walk beneath soaring birds and see animals like the mischievous red panda looking out from the trees.

Address: 1200 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: www.indianapoliszoo.com

9. Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site

Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site | jimbowen0306 / photo modified

Benjamin Harrison, who was elected President of the United States in 1888, died in Indianapolis in 1901. His house at 1230 North Delaware Street, with its original Victorian furniture, is open to the public. Benjamin Harrison's sixteen room Italianate Victorian house, built in 1874-75, figured prominently in his campaign for the presidency.

Visitors can learn about Harrison's skills as a lawyer, the cases he took before the U. S. Supreme Court, his reputation as a military leader of men, his conservation efforts, his expertise in foreign affairs and his expansion of the U. S. Navy.

This home of the 23rd President of the United States is also full of Harrison's personal items. The home also hosts several special events throughout the year including a President's Day celebration.

Address: 1230 N. Delaware Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: http://www.presidentbenjaminharrison.org/

10. Rhythm! Discovery Center

Djembe drum African percussion instrument
Djembe drum African percussion instrument

Founded in 2009, the Rhythm! Discovery Center is a museum of percussion instruments. Exhibits explore every aspect of percussion, from its historical and cultural role in shaping music to the physics of sound waves. The museum also has a collection of artifacts from all over the world, giving visitors the chance to see unique and long-forgotten instruments.

In addition to the "Groove Space," where you can play hundreds of instruments, exhibits include interactive experiences that explore topics like the evolution of electronic percussion, "found" percussion, and experimentation with sound. The museum also hosts educational programs and concerts.

Address: 110 W. Washington Street, Suite A, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: http://rhythmdiscoverycenter.org/

11. Indiana State Museum

Indiana State Museum
Indiana State Museum | Alan Levine / photo modified

Located in downtown Indianapolis' White River State Park, the Indiana State Museum features a variety of exhibits and experiences that explore the natural and cultural history of the state.

The museum's first floor focuses on the state's natural history, including its geology and long-extinct residents. Here, you can walk through an "ice" tunnel that reproduces the experience of being inside a glacier and get a look at an ancient mastodon.

The second floor is dedicated to the region's cultural past, beginning with an extensive exhibit that shows the lives and traditions of the native populations. You will also find exhibits that address more recent Hoosier history, including Civil War artifacts and other important cultural topics.

The museum also houses a hands-on naturalist's lab and hosts regular puppet shows.

Address: 650 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: www.indianamuseum.org

12. Eagle Creek Park and Nature Preserve

Eagle Creek Park and Nature Preserve
Eagle Creek Park and Nature Preserve | Serge Melki / photo modified

The Eagle Creek Park and Nature Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States, covering an area of 5,300 acres that include recreational facilities for both land and water. In addition to a small beach, visitors can rent watercraft at the marina, including kayaks, pontoon boats, and canoes, and even take sailing lessons in the summer.

Eagle creek is also a popular fishing spot, known for its walleye and largemouth bass. For kids and families there is a playground, beach volleyball, and a treetop adventure course with ziplines. There is a 36-hole golf course at the Eagle Creek Golf Club, and the park hosts regular concerts throughout the summer.

Address: 7840 W 56th Street, Indianapolis, Indiana

Official site: http://eaglecreekpark.org/

Where to Stay in Indianapolis for Sightseeing

Whether visiting Indianapolis for the Indianapolis 500 NASCAR race or just to see the sights, downtown is the best place to stay. Families may want to stay a bit to the west to be near the Indianapolis Zoo, but cultural mavens and history buffs will want to stay in the Wholesale District close to the museums, memorials, and the state capitol. Sports fans will likely want to be positioned slightly to the south near Lucas Oil Stadium. Below are some highly rated hotels in great locations:

  • Luxury Hotels: In the heart of downtown, Le Meridien Indianapolis is one of the city's premier luxury hotels. It occupies a prime location and is connected via skyway to Circle Center mall.

    The Conrad is a 23-story hotel offering 5-star luxury and is only a quick stroll from the city's famous Monument Circle.

    For an upscale boutique option with an eclectic art collection, head to The Alexander, a half-mile from the Amtrak station and within walking distance of Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: The Hampton Inn Indianapolis Downtown is housed in the beautifully restored 1929 Chesapeake Building, once the headquarters of the Big Four Railroad. It's in the Warehouse District, the city's lively entertainment area.

    Families may want to consider the Hilton Indianapolis Hotel & Suites, with large rooms, an indoor pool, and only a 1.5-mile walk from the zoo.

    Directly behind the State Capitol Building, the Courtyard Indianapolis at the Capitol has a prime location, with walking trails along the canal right around the corner and cheap parking rates.
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