Venturing through the Midwest on your next vacation? Head towards the crossroads of America and dig into all the best things to do in Indianapolis. The capital city of the state of Indiana, Indy doesn’t shy away from standing out of the crowd with iconic points of interest, an unbound love of racing, and finger-licking food.
Among the top tourist attractions in Indianapolis lie historical landmarks, beautiful public parks, world-class museums, and—let’s not forget!—its famed annual race, the Indianapolis 500. Food & drink fanatics will also find plenty to love in Indy as they comb through the city’s delightful restaurants and craft breweries.
Looking to kick-start your search for what to do in Indianapolis? Plan the ultimate itinerary through Indiana’s capital with this guide to the best places to visit in Indianapolis, IN.
Best places to visit in Indianapolis, IN
Searching for outdoor activities within a stone’s throw of Downtown Indy? Set your compass for the Indianapolis Zoo. Perched upon the banks of the White River, the zoo is the perfect spot to launch your Indianapolis itinerary, especially if you’re traveling to Indy with kids.
The Indianapolis Zoo is the epitome of diversity. Here, you’ll find 1,300 majestic beasts of 230 different species wandering their habitats. Highlights of the zoo include African elephants, African lions, Amur tigers, and wildebeests.
While animal habitats at the Indianapolis Zoo are spectacular, save time during your visit to check out the aquarium and botanical garden. Be mesmerized by the hundreds of aquatic animals at the aquarium, or take a relaxing walk through the botanical garden, admiring its 47,000 plant species.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Visiting Indy with the little ones? Spend an afternoon browsing The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. As the largest children’s museum in the entire world, this massive interactive museum is one of the most popular places to go in Indianapolis for families.
If you’ve got the time, you can expect to spend a good two to three hours at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. With numerous hands-on activities and interactive exhibits to keep them busy, your kids won’t get bored here!
Slide over to the SCOOBY-DOO™ Mansion Mayhem to solve tough mysteries. If your kids are into Jurassic Park, don’t leave without experiencing the Dinosphere. Or explore the world through the lens of science at ScienceWorks.
Although the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is chock-loaded with indoor activities for a rainy day, there’s also an extensive outdoor health and fitness area. Gather the whole family for a round of golf, hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball, and more!
White River State Park
Straddling the riverbanks in Downtown Indy, White River State Park is one of the most surprising points of interest in Indianapolis. Unlike most Indiana state parks, this 250-acre green space offers a melange of both natural and cultural attractions.
Unwind from the city buzz at White River State Park on the Urban Wilderness Trail. Walk along the trail, admiring native Indiana flora and wildlife along the way to a backdrop of the sparkling Indianapolis skyline.
After you’ve doused your stress, pop into some of the top Indianapolis tourist attractions within the park’s bounds, including the Indianapolis Zoo, Indiana State Museum, White River Gardens, and the Eiteljorg Museum.
Be sure to check the urban park’s events calendar to see what’s on during your visit. White River State Park hosts a variety of special events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and film screenings.
Laid out in 1821, Monument Circle has long been the cultural (and literal) heart of Downtown Indy. The traffic circle spans 4.5 acres, centered around the 284-foot-tall Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Ringing Monument Circle are several historical Victorian-era and Art Deco buildings that add to the eclectic architectural charm of Mile Square, the downtown’s original square-mile plot.
On your visit to Monument Circle, save time in your itinerary to scale up to the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Burn your quads with a walk up 330 steps to marvel at stunning views over Downtown Indianapolis from the monument’s 231-foot-tall observation tower.text
Eagle Creek Park
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of Indy at Eagle Creek Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. Located 20 minutes northwest of downtown, this massive park cover 3,900 acres of land and 1,400 acres of water to offer nature lovers nearly every type of outdoor activity imaginable.
Trekkers will love tackling Eagle Creek Park’s 16 miles of hiking trails, winding through mature forests and open meadows. Burn off even more calories with a stroll along the Fitness Trail. Located at the north end of the park, the trail includes 20 exercise stations for a total of 32 unique exercises.
For off-land fun, take to Eagle Creek or Lilly Lake to engage in water activities like kayaking, canoeing, sailing, or boating. Or hop onto the launch ramp north of Rick’s Boatyard and test your fishing skills.
Indiana State Museum
One of the 12 official museums spread throughout the state, the Indiana State Museum is the biggest of the bunch and one of Indianapolis’s must-see museums. Whether you’re traveling solo or with the family in tow, exploring the three floors of this popular museum is one of the must-do activities while visiting Indy.
Prepare for a history lesson that doesn’t have you snoring! The Indiana State Museum covers the entire history of the Hoosier State, from the ancient times of mammoths and mastodons to the 21st century.
If history isn’t your family’s thing, let the kids loose at the fun, engaging, and informative hands-on exhibits in the Naturalist’s Lab. Or put up your feet for a while and watch an interesting documentary on the state’s largest IMAX screen.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum
If you’re a car and racing enthusiast, nothing beats a trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Located at the city’s iconic racetrack, this popular museum features a vast collection running the entire course of racing history.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the racing capital of the world is home to one of the planet’s largest collections of vehicles. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, you’ll dance through an impressive collection of NASCAR, Formula One, and IndyCar racing cars, along with luxury sports cars from top producers like Mercedes, Ferrari, and Duesenberg. You’ll also find several motorbikes and dragsters at the museum.
Don’t keep the adrenaline rush locked away! Daredevils don’t have to sit back and just watch the races. You can book an exclusive opportunity to ride or drive an INDY car on the weekends!
Or, if you’re visiting on Memorial Day weekend, try to get a ticket to the world-renowned Indy 500, known as the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Lilly House & Gardens
For a taste of how the other half lived in Indy in the early 20th century, add the Lilly House & Gardens to your Indianapolis travel itinerary.
Also known as Oldfields, the grand mansion was built by Hugh Landon in 1907, inspired by the French Chateau architectural style. In 1932, Josiah Lilly Jr. bought the mansion, expanding the estate to its current size. The Lilly House & Gardens, after undergoing extensive renovations, is now open to the public and has been declared a National Historic Landmark.
Be transported back to the 1930s as you wander through the first floor of the Lilly House. Admire the period furnishings and unique decorative art pieces before ducking down to the garage on the lower level to marvel at the early-20th-century vintage car.
Ever paused to think about what the mix of nature and art in one place would look like? You don’t have to imagine when you can simply visit Newfields. Located north of the city center, Newfields is one of the coolest places to go in Indianapolis for nature lovers and art enthusiasts alike.
Enter the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields to be teleported to an artist’s paradise. With pop-up art exhibits and permanent collections that display creativity, methods, and concepts over the years, you’ll likely be welcomed with new inspirations every few months at this famed art museum.
Experience nature in all its splendor at the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Straight from the Free Basket in the parking lot to Bench Around the Lake, the notable public art sculptures here are truly a sight. Step into the park through the Park of Laments, a chilly concrete tunnel, before relaxing on the Funky Bones, a series of bone-shaped benches.
After admiring the outdoor sculptures, take a break and enjoy a cold one at the Beer Garden at Newfields. Located in the Garden Terrace, the beer garden offers a wonderful selection of local craft beers and international brews.
Fort Harrison State Park
Had your fair share of culture? Take the 20-minute drive northeast of the city to Fort Harrison State Park. Spanning 1,700 acres, this green oasis blends nature with a dash of history for an experience like none other around Indianapolis.
Embark on your day trip to Fort Harrison State Park in the wee hours for an early morning jog on its walking & jogging trails. Or pack up the family for a picnic under the shade of trees to a soundtrack of tapping woodpeckers before enjoying some fishing at Fall Creek.
If you’re a history buff, pencil in a visit to the Museum of 20th Century Warfare for an inside look at the fort’s military history. The state park is home to other historical gems, including a former Citizen’s Military Training Camp and a former World War II prisoner-of-war camp.
Looking for a unique way to experience Downtown Indy? Take a quiet stroll along the blissful Canal Walk. Meandering along the Indiana Central Canal, the refurbished canalside pathway is a popular spot for locals to get in their exercise, from walking to running to cycling.
Venture onto the Canal Walk on foot or on a bicycle to enjoy fantastic views over the downtown skyline. For an extra special treat, rent a paddle boat at the Indiana State Museum and pedal your way along the canal.
Located north of the city center, Holliday Park offers some fun things to do in Indianapolis for nature lovers. The 94-acre park teems with fun outdoor activities for the entire family, from playgrounds to hiking trails.
On your visit to Holliday Park, save time to visit the 13,000-square-foot nature center. Kids will love learning about the natural history of Marion County through a variety of fun hands-on exhibits and activities.
Twitchers and animal lovers can pencil in a jaunt to the bird and wildlife observation area to catch a glimpse of the park’s resident bird life and wildlife. In spring, visitors can marvel at the expansive wildflower gardens.
Garfield Park Conservatory
Occupying 10,000 square feet within the city’s oldest urban park, the Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the most beautiful places to see in Indianapolis. The botanical garden dazzles visitors with hundreds of tropical plants, from palms and ferns to bromeliads and orchids.
Outside of Garfield Park Conservatory, marvel at the breathtaking Sunken Garden. Designed in 1916, these formal European gardens feature three fountains connected by brick walkways lined with benches for quiet contemplation.
No visit to a US city is complete without taking in America’s favorite pastime. On your Indianapolis trip, pencil a baseball game at Victory Field. Located just outside of White River State Park in downtown, Victory Field is the home turf of the Indianapolis Indians minor league baseball team.
Deemed one of the top minor league stadiums in America by Sports Illustrated, Baseball America, and Midwest Living, Victory Field is an Indianapolis must-visit for baseball fans. Cheer on the Indians alongside the raucous home crowd while enjoying stunning views over downtown.
Besides baseball games, Victory Field hosts several special events throughout the year. Check the stadium’s event calendar to see what’s up during your trip.
Located in the town of Fishers, Indiana, 25 miles north of Indianapolis, Conner Prairie is one of the nation’s finest living history museums. Opened in 1934, the outdoor museum presents Indiana’s history and culture through a series of interesting, hands-on exhibits and immersive experiences.
Within Conner Prairie’s 800 acres, visitors will explore unique cultural attractions, including an 1836 Prairietown, Lenape Indian Camp, and an 1863 Civil War Journey. You’ll also discover the William Conner House, one of the state’s oldest brick homes, owned by the park’s namesake.
Aside from its usual indoor & outdoor experience areas, Conner Prairie hosts special events throughout the year, like the Headless Horseman Festival, Corn Maze, and A Merry Prairie Holiday.
Indianapolis Art Center
Enjoy spellbinding views of the White River as you get your art fix at the Indianapolis Art Center. Occupying a 12-acre riverside campus, this art gallery & museum is a must-visit for art lovers.
Feel like your inner artist is struggling to get out? The Indianapolis Art Center offers art classes and workshops to help you hone your artistic skills in a variety of mediums.
The extensive collections and year-round exhibitions at the Indianapolis Art Center—featuring local, regional, and national artists—are also sure to ignite your creative soul.
Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
History buff visiting Indianapolis? Jump into the life of America’s 23rd president at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. Located on North Delaware Street in the Old Northside Historic District, the late 19th-century home and garden celebrate the only American president to hail from the state of Indiana.
Hop onto a guided tour of the Italiante-style home to marvel at its three floors, filled with original Victorian-era artifacts and period furnishings belonging to the Harrison family.
Where to stay in Indianapolis for sightseeing
For most sightseeing, the top choices for where to stay in Indianapolis include Mile Square, the Warehouse District, and Lockerbie Square. These areas and neighborhoods are home to many of Indy’s top hotels and let you get close to many of the main points of interest.
Enjoy modern accommodations in the heart of the city, without breaking the break, at this snazzy downtown hotel. Fuel up with a free breakfast in the lounge before heading out the door and crawling through the many attractions, restaurants, and bars within short walking distance.
Enjoy a slate of superb amenities by booking a room at this wonderful hotel on West Market Street. After a day of sightseeing, relax with a massage in the on-site spa, take a dip in the indoor pool, or grab some appetizers and drinks at the on-site 120 West Bar & Grill.
To add a dash of culture and luxury to your vacation, spend your nights in one of the stunning suites at this delightful 5-star hotel. Browse the hotel’s impeccable fine art collection, including pieces from Dali, Picasso, and Warhol. Savor a glass of vino at the on-site wine bar or indulge in relaxing spa treatments to end your day in peace and tranquility.