Indianapolis Guide: Planning Your Trip

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Home to some of the world's best restaurants, a growing craft beer scene, and funky art galleries, Indianapolis is quickly becoming one of the coolest cities in the Midwest. Add that to the city's already-established and beloved museums, parks, Indianapolis Colts, and world-renowned Indy 500 race, and you've got a city that has a little bit of everything for everyone.

To help you find the best things Indy has to offer, we've put together a guide to help you plan a trip to Circle City. Hoosiers are some of the most welcoming people you will ever meet, so you will feel right at home when you get there.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: The weather is best at the end of May and early June, and during September and the beginning of October. If you are wanting to attend the Indianapolis 500, though, you should plan your trip for May.
  • Language: English
  • Currency: U.S. dollar
  • Getting Around: Until recently, you needed a car to get around in the "Crossroads of America." You can rent one at the airport or call an Uber or Lyft to get around. Alternatively, you can take the Red Line, which IndyGo recently introduced. This rapid-transit line travels 13 miles and runs from Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis. Another option is to get a bikeshare, which costs $1 a ride, plus an additional 15 cents every minute.
  • Travel Tip: You need to be prepared for all types of weather in Indianapolis. The weather shifts in unpredictable ways, and if you come in the spring or fall, it's a good idea to pack for all four seasons.

Things to Do

Trailing Washington, D.C., in having the country's largest number of war memorials, Indianapolis undoubtedly has an interesting history that's waiting to be explored. Dive into the city's history at one of its many museums—but if history isn't your thing, no worries. There are a bunch of family-friendly activities to enjoy, including the Children's Museum of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Zoo. And that's not to mention the city's budding culinary scene and growing number of beloved breweries.

  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway: The Indy 500 is the biggest event of the year—but even if you aren't in town for it, you can still visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Here, more than 25 cars that have won the race are on display, as well as the Borg-Warner trophy, and other memorabilia. You can also take a ride around the famous track and "kiss the bricks."
  • The Children's Museum of Indianapolis: This is the largest children's museum in the world, and you don't even need to have kids to enjoy it. Here, you can discover dinosaurs and an Egyptian tomb, and explore everything from an international space station to a 35-foot-long steam engine. There's even a gigantic playground—complete with musical instruments and an underwater pond habitat—for children five and under.
  • White River State Park: This park is home to many downtown attractions: the Eiteljorg and Indiana State Museums, the Indianapolis Zoo, and the NCAA Hall of Champions. In the park itself, you can find public art sculptures, outdoor concerts on the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn, and a lovely promenade along the Central Canal.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the best things to do in Indianapolis and the best free things to do.

What to Eat and Drink

If Indiana had a state dish, it would be the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich: It's a giant cutlet of pork loin that has been pounded thin, coated in breadcrumbs or saltine crackers, and deep-fried. In order for this to truly be a pork tenderloin sandwich, though, the meaty portion has to essentially dwarf the hamburger bun that holds it all together. Although Indiana isn't exactly known for its seafood, the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo Steak House is another crowd-pleaser.

Craving sweets? The sugar cream pie (also known as Hoosier Pie), is a state staple. It's exactly what it sounds like, a delicious concoction of sugar and milk, cream, or half-and-half. If that's too sweet for you, try persimmon pudding, a moist cake topped with ice cream, whipped cream, or crème anglaise. And be sure to pick up some gourmet popcorn while you're in the area. If you prefer to drink your calories, Indianapolis is home to a wealth of incredible breweries, so try a craft beer or two during your visit.

Explore our articles on the best restaurants in Indianapolis and the best breweries.

Where to Stay

If you want to be right in the heart of things and intend to check all the sights off your list, you should book a hotel downtown (also known as Mile Square). It is close to all the main attractions and is very walkable—although the hotels here can be more expensive.

If you're less into history and museums and more into trendy spots, book a stay in the historic Fountain Square. With an eclectic range of restaurants, shops, and live entertainment, this quirky neighborhood has transformed into an artsy enclave in recent years. Likewise, Broad Ripple is a good option if you're looking for another great selection of restaurants, art galleries, artisan and vintage shops, and a buzzing nightlife scene.

Explore the different neighborhoods you can stay in, and our recommendations on the best hotels.

Getting There

If you are flying, book a ticket to Indianapolis International Airport to kick off your trip. To reach downtown, your best option is to rent a car, but you can also take an airport shuttle, bus, or a Lyft or Uber to get there.

There is also a Greyhound station at the Indianapolis Bus Station. You can get to and from every major U.S. city with this option. Or, you can take an Amtrak into the city.

Money Saving Tips

Indianapolis is one of the cheaper cities in the the U.S., but there are still ways to cut back.

  • Many museums participate in Free Museum Days, which take place throughout the year. You can usually get free entry to most places on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while others offer free admission on Presidents Day, Smithsonian Museum Day, and more.
  • From 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, you have to pay a parking meter; however, parking is free on Sundays.
  • You can find free live music throughout the city and surrounding suburbs in the summer.
  • The oldest family-owned winery in Indiana offers free tours at 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. on weekends. Afterwards, you can taste seven different wines for $5.
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