Traveling from the Windy City to the Circle City is much easier and more affordable and convenient than you might think. In fact, the two metropolitan regions are less than 200 miles apart, making it entirely possible to day-trip between Chicago and Indianapolis if really you want to (but with so much to see and do, you’ll probably prefer to settle in and spend a few days getting to know the friendly cosmopolitan capital of Indiana).
We've outlined some of the most popular ways to get between the two cities. When making any transportation decisions, the main pros and cons you’ll want to consider are timing, convenience, and budget. Because Midwestern weather can be rather unpredictable—especially during the winter months—you’ll want to keep a close eye on the forecast and be aware of any potential impacts on travel planning.
With gate-to-gate times of less than an hour, flying from either Chicago O’Hare International Airport or Midway Airport into the Indianapolis International Airport is obviously the quickest way to go. It’s also the most expensive; expect to spend around $200 for a round-trip ticket. When you factor in the time spent getting to the airport, going through the check-in process, and navigating security and delays, you could drive from Chicago to Indy in about the same amount of time it takes to fly start to finish.
Amtrak’s daily Hoosier State train service between Chicago and Indy ceased in 2019, but the Cardinal line covers the same route three days a week with one-way prices starting at $33; a connecting bus option increases availability on other days. Greyhound and MegaBus service is another way to go, and requires about the same time commitment as a train journey at a comparable fare. Both buses and trains offer the advantage of free Wi-Fi for those who need to stay connected during the journey, and give passengers the opportunity to sit back, relax, and let someone else do the driving.
How to Get From Chicago to Indianapolis
- Train: 4 hours, 30 minutes; from $33 one way
- Flight: 45 minutes, from $200 roundtrip
- Bus: 4 hours, from $16 one way
- Car: 3 hours, 180 miles
Most major and regional airlines fly multiple legs throughout the day and evening between one of Chicago’s two main airports (O’Hare and Midway) and Indianapolis International Airport. It’s a quick trip, with gate-to-gate flight times of less than an hour and actual in-flight time of just over 30 minutes. A round-trip ticket will usually cost around $200, but cheaper deals can often be found online. You’ll also need to think about how you’ll get to and from the airport, figuring on time and money for parking, Blue Line fees, car rental, or a ride share.
Amtrak’s Cardinal line that links Chicago’s Union Station and New York City passes through Indianapolis three days a week with ticket prices starting at $33. Routes at other times may incorporate connecting bus service. Expect the Chicago-to-Indy stretch to last anywhere from four to six hours, depending on whether or not you transfer through Champaign, Illinois or skirt along I-65 down through the northwest Indiana region. The free Wi-Fi service is a welcome bonus.
Regularly scheduled Greyhound bus service runs daily at various times, leaving from Chicago’s Harrison Street station and arriving at the South Illinois Street station in Indy with no transfers needed in between; one-way rates start as low as $16. Another option is the MegaBus, a whimsically painted double-decker vehicle with free Wi-Fi and onboard electronic entertainment. It makes the Chicago-to-Indy run several times each day for rates as low as $20 one way.
For those who prefer the comfort, the familiarity, and the convenience of having their own wheels readily available, driving between Chicago and Indianapolis is fairly easy and convenient. Simply take I-94 east out of the city and across the Indiana state line, then head south on I-65 all the way to Indy. The interstate is smooth going for the most part, taking you through flat terrain that features peaceful Hoosier farmland and a patch of wind turbines just north of Lafayette. Hot tip: If you can, wait to gas up until after you get out of Chicago and into Indiana, where prices are often lower than they are in the big city.
What to See in Indianapolis
A major conference/convention destination, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the Circle City, starting with an exploration of Indy’s proud racing heritage. Pay homage at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, open year-round. During the month of May, you can spend an afternoon at the track watching drivers practice for the Indianapolis 500 (held each year on Memorial Day weekend). Other local sporting attractions include Indianapolis Colts games and tours at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Pacers in action at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and Triple A-affiliated Indianapolis Indians baseball games at Victory Field.
The Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an eight-mile pedestrian/bike path accented with public art installations, makes navigating between five downtown cultural districts a breeze. Grab a Pacers Bikeshare two-wheeler to zip around the trendy boutiques and restaurants along Mass Ave, live music venues and craft breweries in Fountain Square, and the world-class museums of White River State Park. If you’re in the mood for some serious exercise, hop on the Monon Trail and ride north to charming Broad Ripple Village, Carmel, and points beyond.
Indy’s arts scene brims with concerts, theater, and cultural venues to check out, including the (world’s largest) Children’s Museum, the Newfields Indianapolis Museum of Art galleries, and the Conner Prairie living history site.