Although Indianapolis is a major urban metropolis, this friendly Midwestern capital preserves lots of natural green space. Not only do the city's pleasant parks boast fresh air and a wide range of recreational opportunities, Indy has dedicated 25 acres to war monuments and memorials honoring American veterans; with the exception of Washington, D.C., Indianapolis has more monuments on display than any other U.S. city.
Ready to explore? These are ten of the best parks and green spaces in town.
A collection of world-class museums—including the Indiana State Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the NCAA Hall of Champions—makes its home in this 250-acre state park in downtown Indy. The open Military Park space hosts a number of well-attended festivals and events during the year, and the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn is prime territory to catch major outdoor concerts and touring musical artists on hot summer nights. The picturesque canal that runs through the park stays busy with joggers, bikers, and paddle boats from late spring into fall.
This westside Indy landmark is one of the 10 largest municipal parks in the country, clocking in at an impressive 3,900 acres. Radiating out around a scenic reservoir, the expansive grounds accommodate zip line and high-rope courses, hiking and running trails, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and more. A beachfront area lures swimmers and sunbathers during the sunny summer months, while a bird sanctuary and ornithology center attract fans of fine-feathered friends all year long. Wildlife sightings are common, including deer, raccoons, squirrels, waterfowl, and, yes, bald eagles.
Established in 1889, Garfield Park is the oldest—and one of the most beautiful—parks in Indy. The spectacular sunken gardens are a popular site for weddings, concerts, and outdoor events. Meanwhile, a 10,000 square-foot conservatory houses gorgeous tropical plants and foliage for idyllic self-guided tours year-round; during the holidays, it transforms into a winter wonderland, featuring model trains, Christmas trees, and poinsettias galore. Elsewhere in the park, visitors are welcome to explore tennis courts, an arts center, public pool, walking trails, a children’s playground, and a seasonal farmers market.
This 94-acre stunner showcases a unique structure designed to look like ruins, which serve as a beautiful backdrop for weddings, picnics, concerts, and events. The three Indiana limestone statues atop the ruins were relocated to the park in the 1960s; they came from one of New York’s first skyscrapers, built in 1896. There’s also a series of wooded hiking trails running down to the banks of the White River, along with a nature center, picnic spaces, and a playground.
Families with young kids flock to this beloved Broad Ripple Village fixture on the White River to enjoy the small playground, a fitness trail punctuated with exercise stations, an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and more. The family center facility at the park’s entrance hosts a wide variety of fun programming that ranges from Zumba classes and martial arts instruction to arts and crafts activities.
Although it’s not technically a park, this downtown historic district incorporates some of Indianapolis’s most meaningful green spaces. This six-block downtown area was constructed as a tribute to World War I veterans. Anchored by the handsome neoclassical Indiana War Memorial building, the district includes University Park, Obelisk Square, and the American Legion Mall. It stretches right up to the steps of the Indianapolis Central Library, where you’ll find one of the best downtown skyline views in town.
A true four-season amenity, this park is located on the former Fort Benjamin Harrison United States Army post, established in 1904. These days, visitors frequent the 1,700-acre property to golf, canoe, bike, hike, fish, ride horses and picnic. It also includes one of the best sledding hills in town. The on-site Museum of 20th Century Warfare details the life and times of the soldiers that were once stationed here, and a dog park welcomes guests with four-legged friends in tow.
A quiet respite in Indy’s Holy Cross neighborhood, Highland Park commemorates the spot where Governor Noah Noble’s family home stood through the 1800s. Transformed into a park upon the death of the governor’s daughter, the four-acre spread is now a bucolic place to take a load off. Here, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the downtown skyline, thanks to its status as the second-highest elevation in town. Not coincidentally, it’s also a great location for watching the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.
The Idle: A Point of View
Unveiled in 2018 as a tiny urban spur off the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, this funky little rest area is a recent addition to Indianapolis’s green space lineup. Featuring a short path lined with benches and native Indiana plants, it opens up into a vantage point overlooking the I-70/I-65 south split; visitors are encouraged to sit and enjoy the surprisingly hypnotic sights and sounds of the highway traffic passing by. A couple rows of orange stadium-style seats were sourced from the now-defunct Bush Stadium baseball field.
The Landmark for Peace Memorial marks the site where Robert F. Kennedy announced news of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination to a shocked crowd of campaign supporters on April 4, 1968. These days, the small urban park presents space for quiet reflection as well as a swimming pool, basketball courts, and a small playground.