The Midwestern U.S. is gleefully overtaken with autumnal color and crisp, cool temperatures come October and at the heart of the region, there's Indy. The central capital city of Indianapolis, Indiana, sets its fall season in motion with a month of Oktoberfest celebrations, a popular race, NFL football games, pub crawls, and—of course—a host of Halloween events.
In 2020, many events have been canceled or altered. Check the websites of organizers for updated information.
Walk or Run(317) Through Fountain Square
Fountain Square is one of Indianapolis' quirkier neighborhoods, with its vintage storefronts, vinyl shops, and offbeat nightlife scene. Every October, the traveling charity race Run(317) comes to this cultural hub—the oldest historic district in the state, in fact—to benefit Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, a nonprofit. The name of the race honors both one of the city's area codes and the 3.17-mile distance of the annual run/walk. Of-age participants can enjoy complimentary craft brews after the race, plus live music and food. 2020's Fountain Square Run(317) is October 8.
Hear Ghost Stories in a Cemetery
There's perhaps no spookier activity than listening to a ghost story in a cemetery—at night, to boot. Storytelling Arts of Indiana holds a graveyard story session every October with food trucks and a separate-ticket RIP Reception featuring a buffet, decorated pumpkin auction, and more. Guests are welcome to bring a picnic and sprawl out on the grass for some chilling stories. In 2020, the event has been relocated to Tibbs Drive-In to allow for more social distancing. Ghost stories will precede a screening of "The Addams Family" and then "The Ring" on October 23.
Join a Halloween Bar Crawl
For the 21-and-over, there are a host of Halloween-themed bar crawls to join across Indianapolis. One is organized by Landsharks, a dance club along the Broad Ripple Avenue strip, and another is put on by Chicago-based events planner Be Social Scene. The former has been canceled in 2020, but the latter will take place on Halloween night, October 31, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. The theme is Paint The Town Halloween Red and guests are encouraged to come in costume and will be treated to themed cocktails throughout the night. The best costume usually wins a $1,000 grand prize.
Celebrate Like a German
Around the world, the season is celebrated in a quintessentially German way: Oktoberfest. Indianapolis is no different. The Athenaeum, Indianapolis’ center of German heritage (located near the Indianapolis Cultural Trail public space), hosts its own version dubbed GermanFest every October. It typically includes wiener dog races, an OktoberFAST 5K run/walk, a booze-themed competition known as the Durstig games, and a strongman competition. Of course, you can also enjoy German beer and food while dancing to live music. Lederhosen is encouraged.
In 2020, the festival has been reimagined as a German-style farmers market (with virtual wiener dog racing), taking place October 3. Proceeds from the event go toward the care of the historic Athenaeum, a former German clubhouse and gymnasium built in Germanic style in 1893. The building received a National Historic Landmark designation in 2016.
Fall is synonymous with football watching, and in this Indiana city, people cheer for the Indianapolis Colts. The home team plays at Lucas Oil Stadium, a seven-level facility with a retractable roof and skyline views worthy of a visit themselves. The stadium seats nearly 70,000 people and on game day, it's packed—the energy is infectious. Lucas Oil Stadium covers approximately 1.8 million square feet and receives almost a million visitors each year. In 2020, the only October home game is against the Cincinnati Bengals, October 18 at 1 p.m. Be sure to learn about the stadium's new safety precautions before attending.
Honor the Day of the Dead
The Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Community Celebration held at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art in White River State Park educates and entertains attendees about Latin culture through musical and dance performances, beautiful ofrendas (altars), and parades. The event also presents opportunities to create art and shop at the mercado (marketplace), among other activities. It's free and will be held virtually in 2020. Tune into international acts on the organizer's website between October 28 and November 2.
Show Some Pagan Pride
Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day has warranted an annual gathering at the Marion County Fairgrounds since 1997. Here, the local Pagan community—holding different beliefs from those of main-world religions—gives back to the larger metropolitan area through charity. Rather than charging admission fees for the event, organizers ask that canned and dry goods or toiletries are donated to other organizations. It's a fun and engaging festival that features dancing, art, drumming, an auction, and educational workshops. In 2020, the event has been made virtual and will feature streaming music and art performances.
Watch Caber Tossing at The Scottish Highland Games & Festival
Indianapolis is more than 3,000 miles away from Scotland, but the Celtic culture is celebrated in this Midwestern city anyway. The Scottish Highland Games & Festival is a charity event that takes over German Park every October with Scottish traditions, history, face painting, live Celtic and Irish music and dancing, and other entertainment. The day's highlight is the caber toss—in which a large tapered pole is tossed—and other competitive traditional Scottish Highland sports like the hammer throw. In 2020, the festival has been canceled.
Get Into the Indy Car Scene
As the famous home of the Indy 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this city is a mecca for car racing. The sport mostly takes place during the summer months, but Caffeine and Chrome at Gateway Classic Cars of Indianapolis is one last chance car-related hurrahs. There's no actual racing involved, but autophiles can admire classic cars in a showroom setting (while drinking coffee and eating donuts) for free. The event would normally take place on the last Saturday of October, but in 2020, it's been canceled.
Venture to the Indiana Renaissance Faire
A 35-minute drive north of Indy, Noblesville is home to a statewide celebration of the Golden Age of Queen Elizabeth I. The Indiana Renaissance Faire packs music, juggling, knighting ceremonies, acrobats, costumed characters, and more than 70 artisans and vendors into a single day of revelry. Between the oversized turkey legs and jousting presentations, there's plenty to entertain kids and kids-at-heart alike. In 2020, however, the Indiana Ren Faire has been canceled.