Indianapolis in Indiana is an energetic city that’s bursting with awesome attractions and amazing activities! It’s no surprise that visitors get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things to do in Indianapolis. Rest assured that ours is the definitive list of what to do in this epic city!
From sprawling parks to a historic library, Indianapolis is full of beautiful public spaces! There’s also a number of incredible museums and galleries that will blow your mind away. Whether you’re learning to throw an axe or tasting the best beers in the city, there are also so many quirky activities to experience in Indianapolis!
With so many fun places to discover, this may be your best holiday yet! To find out why ‘Indy’ (as locals fondly call their city) is such a cool city, stick close to our wonderful list of things to do in Indianapolis!
- Top Things to Do in Indianapolis
- Unusual Things to Do in Indianapolis
- Things to Do in Indianapolis at Night
- Where To Stay in Indianapolis
- Romantic Things to Do in Indianapolis
- Best Free Things to Do in Indianapolis
- Things to Do with Kids in Indianapolis
- Other Things to Do in Indianapolis
- Day Trips From Indianapolis
- 3 Day Itinerary in Indianapolis
Top Things to Do in Indianapolis
Our top 10 things to do in Indianapolis, you will see everything from marveling at world-class art to pretending to be a CIA agent!
Due to its high quality and great diversity, local cuisine is one of the top Indianapolis attractions!
Indianapolis’ food scene is heavily influenced by the legacies of immigrants. There’s also a strong contemporary element, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients. These two traditions both come to life around Massachusetts Avenue, where you can find over 20 restaurants!
Rathskeller is the oldest running restaurant in Indy and is the ideal place to sample the German contribution to local cuisine! You should also try a pork tenderloin sandwich, a local specialty, which you’ll find on menus all around the city!
2. Explore the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis is well-known for its motor racing, with the renowned Indy 500 taking place in the city! Pop by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to learn more about this popular local sport.
The Indy 500 takes place in May but if you visit Indy at other times of the year, you can still admire the splendid stadium. The in-house museum, 500 Museum, will also help bring this colossal event to life through exhibits on the history of the sport and this particular event!
3. Wander Through Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens
Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens is a spectacular place to visit in Indianapolis! This beautiful landmark is inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the perfect place to while away an afternoon!
This estate was once the home of Indianapolis businessman and philanthropist J.R. Lilly Jr. The house boasts many gorgeous architectural features typical of the 1930s and has been restored to reflect the lifestyle of that period. Additionally, the house is surrounded by 26 acres of landscaped gardens to appreciate!
Wherever you are in Indianapolis, you can be sure that there’s an escape room nearby! Locals love this activity and tourists are quickly catching on — you’ll soon see why!
You could play at being CIA agents or stop an evil doctor from poisoning the world. In fact, there is such a variety of escape rooms in Indianapolis that you’ll have a hard time choosing just one to visit!
5. Marvel at Art in the Indianapolis Museum of Art
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is home to a top-notch collection of art from around the world and across the centuries! It lies in the gorgeous Newfields Park so it’s also often called ‘Newfields’.
There are four sections to explore! The Krannert Pavilion houses American art from before Columbus to the contemporary, while the Hulman Pavilion safeguards treasures from the Baroque to the Neo-Impressionism Era.
The Clowes Pavilion houses art by many famous artists, such as Turner, while the Lily Pavilion hosts furniture and precious metalwork!
6. Honor Indiana’s Soldiers
One of the most popular Indianapolis activities, especially for Americans, is honoring the war dead. Indianapolis is home to an impressive number of these equally impressive memorials, with the Indiana War Memorial the most important!
The Shrine Room on the third floor is of particular interest. It was built to symbolize global peace and unity by sourcing materials from around the world! There’s also a small (and free!) museum that displays uniforms and weaponry, including a military helicopter!
Unlock the The Broke Backpacker’s GREATEST Travel Secrets
Sign up for The Broke Backpacker Newsletter to receive weekly tips on how to travel on a budget + a FREE copy of The Backpacker Bible!
Indianapolis is a very energetic city so it’s no surprise that games are some of the most popular activities in Indianapolis with tourists and locals! Scavenger hunts are particularly popular.
These games work like Amazing Race. Groups download an app onto a phone which provides clues to the next destination! The game is usually centered around the major places to visit in Indianapolis so it’s a fun way of orientating yourself in the city and learning about local history!
8. Admire American Indian Artworks
It may be part of the Indianapolis Museum of Art but the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is of such importance and popularity that it’s often visited as a separate attraction in its own right!
This gallery displays a large collection of Western art from the early 19th century to the present day. The highlight, however, is its unique collection of American Indian Art! The pieces come from all over North America and are beautiful things to see in Indianapolis!
9. Ride the Monon Rail Trail
The Monon Railway was built to connect Chicago and Indianapolis by train but today the route is a popular recreational trail! You’ll find people running, walking or skating along the railway but the best way to experience it is to cycle!
Exploring the Monon Rail Trail is one of the most popular things to do in Indiana! The easiest point to access the route from Indianapolis is just off Massachusetts Avenue.
10. Relax in Garfield Park
Garfield Park is the oldest park in Indianapolis, having been established back in 1889! It’s one of the best places to go in Indianapolis to relax!
This lovely green space boasts picnic shelters, a sunken garden, and a conservatory! Visitors can also explore the Arts Center or meander along a tranquil walking trail. Other facilities onsite include a swimming pool, a sledding hill, tennis courts, and a gym. It’s your one-stop leisure zone in Indianapolis!
Unusual Things to Do in Indianapolis
Indianapolis, Indiana, is full of unusual activities that will make your vacation so much more enjoyable! Whether you’re passionate about sports or history, there are some truly quirky attractions for you!
11. Throw an Axe
Learning to throw an axe is one of the most unusual things to do around Indianapolis! However, this quirky activity is a traditional Canadian hobby that’s getting very popular in America!
Bad Axe Throwing Indianapolis is the perfect spot to learn this unique skill! The center hosts expert coaches who can teach participants of any level, and also has first-class safety measures in place. Even one class can teach you enough to impress (or scare) your friends back home!
12. Find Famous Tombs at Crown Hill Cemetery
A cemetery certainly isn’t on everyone’s list of places to see in Indianapolis but reading about Crown Hill Cemetery should definitely put it on yours!
Crown Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for many famous Americans. You can find artists like James Whitcomb Riley and Otto Stark. The main group of celebrities, though, is the politicians! Expect to find the tombs of American vice-presidents and senators scattered throughout the grounds.
Crown Hill Cemetery is also incredibly beautiful! Many of the graves feature stunning works of art to commemorate the esteemed dead and the cemetery offers superb views of Indianapolis!
13. Set out on a Treetop Adventure
Visiting Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course is a great thing to do Indianapolis if you’re looking for a fun challenge!
This treetop obstacle course and zip line is a unique outdoor experience that gives participants a new perspective on the forest, as well as the opportunity to feel like Tarzan! There are 40 obstacles to overcome in the course, climbing to a height of 40 feet!
The minimum age to participate is 10 years old so it’s something you can do with your older kids, as well!
Safety in Indianapolis
Indianapolis is a very safe city! Nevertheless, there are precautions you can take to keep it that way!
While you aren’t in any physical danger in downtown, there is a risk of theft. Keep your belongings close, especially in crowded areas or on public transport. Also, avoid making cash withdrawals in the downtown area and don’t walk around late at night!
Custom-designed BY the Broke Backpacker FOR broke backpacking, the Active Roots Security Belt will keep your valuables safe no matter where you go.
It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash or a passport copy. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to.)Check on Amazon
Things to Do in Indianapolis at Night
Wondering what to do in downtown Indianapolis after dinner? There are tonnes of fun stuff to do in Indianapolis come nightfall!
Indianapolis is home to a thriving beer scene which is definitely worth checking out while you’re there!
Indiana was historically a popular home for German and Irish immigrants, something which has only enhanced the beer scene in Indianapolis downtown! You’ll find the trendiest bars around Massachusetts Avenue.
The best place to visit for beer is St. Joseph Brewery & Public House. It’s a former Catholic church that went through a major renaissance into the city’s trendiest beer garden!
15. Dine at the Indianapolis City Market
If you’re wondering what to do in Indianapolis that’s both fun and fills your stomach, head down to the Indianapolis City Market!
The market opened in 1886 as a farmer’s market and has since grown into a trendy, cosmopolitan leisure zone. This means it’s perfect for a fun night getting to know downtown Indianapolis!
There’s a wide variety of meals to choose from, as well as many delicious coffees and desserts, and an all-Indiana craft beer bar!
16. Enjoy Live Music
This city has so many amazing local artists and vibrant small venues. Go ahead and pay a visit to one of these dynamic, independent establishments — it’s one of the best things to do in Indianapolis!
Most shows offer a variety of music genres so there’s something for everyone! The White Rabbit, The Vogue, and Hi-Fi are your best bets. To hear some of Indiana’s best jazz performers, try The Chatterbox, where you can enjoy the legends rehearse for next to nothing!
Where To Stay in Indianapolis
Wondering where to sleep, wash and fornicate in Indianapolis? Well check out our top selections.
Best Hostel in Indianapolis – The Indy Hostel
Indianapolis’s one and only hostel is located close to Broad Ripple. Solo travelers can book a dorm bed whilst families can enjoy the three-bed private room. With comfortable, shared living quarters you’ll feel right at home in this quiet hostel.
They even host live music events and run yoga classes.
Best Hotel in Indianapolis – Embassy Suites Indianapolis
This star hotel provides a spa, wellness centre, sauna and an indoor pool. All rooms and suites are impeccable and there is an on-site bar and restaurant if you don’t fancy eating out.
The hotel offers an express check-in and check-out feature, a car rental service and a tour desk.
Best Airbnb in Indianapolis – Modern, Mid Century Vibes – 1br with city views!
This sleek apartment in the coveted south Mile Square neighborhood comes with some extremely boutique decor. It has an inviting private balcony with awesome views overlooking the skyline and the canal.
There’s a state of the art gym and even a rooftop infinity pool! The whole space is for rent. It’s also considered one of the best Airbnbs in Indianapolis, so you’ll definitely be in for a treat.
Romantic Things to Do in Indianapolis
With the city’s gorgeous natural scenery, there’s no shortage of romantic things to do in Indianapolis, Indiana!
17. Picnic in Eagle Creek Park
One of the best Indianapolis things to do as a couple is to picnic in Eagle Creek Park! This oasis is both pretty and peaceful, making it perfect for a date!
Spanning over 3900 acres, Eagle Creek is one of America’s largest public parks so there’s plenty of tranquil corners to choose from! Buy some snacks at the nearest grocery store and bring along a blanket for a quiet afternoon.
If you and your partner are more active, you can also hire a boat or canoe to explore the 1400-acre lake!
18. Stroll Along Central Canal
Meandering along the Central Canal is one of the loveliest things to do in downtown Indianapolis! There’s lush greenery and the area is full of birds so it’s a very peaceful and beautiful activity for a date!
The most charming time to visit the canal is at night when the twinkling stars and city lights are reflected in the dark water! You won’t even notice the cooler air as you walk and snuggle up together!
Do You Need Travel Insurance?
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Best Free Things to Do in Indianapolis
On a budget and racking your brain over what to do in Indy? Don’t worry; there are some incredible things to do in the city that needn’t cost a thing!
19. Admire Indianapolis Central Library
Visiting the Central Library is one of the loveliest Indy things to do — and it’s free!
This beautiful neoclassical building was completed in 1917 and is on the American National Register of Historic Places! It’s since been renovated to combine the best of historic charm and modern sophistication!
The gorgeous architectural features include a massive atrium where visitors can enjoy exhibitions, alongside a cafe. There’s also a beautiful six-story Tower Building which always garners sighs!
20. View Beautiful Artworks
Indianapolis is home to a number of stellar art galleries, such as the Long-Sharp Gallery at the Conrad Hotel. This gallery is totally free to visit and has plenty of famous names in its collection!
The gallery is focused on modern and contemporary art. You can find 20th-century masters like Picasso and Salvador Dali, alongside Andy Warhol and Joan Miro! The gallery has also invested in striking mixed media and sculpture works by contemporary artists like David Datuna and Gino Miles.
It’s a gorgeous space so don’t miss it!
21. Attend an Event at the Indianapolis Artsgarden
The Indianapolis Artsgarden is a breathtaking feat of modern architecture that also hosts plenty of free events!
The Artsgarden is housed in a seven-story building made of steel and glass. This unique space is an architectural highlight in Indianapolis! It’s designed to host public events, with free lunchtime concerts and exhibitions taking place most days of the year.
With these attractions, spending time at the Artsgarden is one of the best free things to do in Indianapolis!
Books to Read in Indianapolis
The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
Sometimes a Great Notion – A tale of a hardheaded Oregonian logging family that goes on strike, leading the town to drama and tragedy. Written by PNW legend, Ken Kesey.
Walden – The transcendental masterpiece by Henry David Thoreau that helped modern Americans rediscover nature and her beauty.
To Have and To Have Not – A family man gets involved with the drug smuggling business in the Key West and ends up in a strange affair. Written by the great Ernest Hemingway.
Things to Do with Kids in Indianapolis
With the host of fun stuff to do in Indianapolis, kids will have plenty to do! In fact, moms and dads will also enjoy these great activities!
One of the most exciting things to do in Indy for kids is to discover the city while preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse! This kind of game is sure to appeal to children’s wild imaginations!
The game is set in Indianapolis crawling with zombies. Players need to run around the city to find survival items like food and shelter! There are also a number of trivia questions that earn players virtual weapons to use against the zombies!
23. Explore the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
The fascinating items on display at the Children’s Museum will keep children busy and excited for hours on end — and with little need for prompting from moms or dads!
Most children will agree that visiting the Dinosphere is one of the most fun things to do in Indy! This area recreates the habitat of these mammoth beasts, with the same sounds and sights you would have seen 65 million years ago!
You can even touch a real Tyrannosaurus Rex bone!
Other Things to Do in Indianapolis
Still wondering what is there to do in Indianapolis? No problem, we’ve got your back with more awesome Indy things to do!
24. Drive a Racecar
Just beside the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the Dallara IndyCar Factory. This center is one of the best Indianapolis tourist attractions for anyone who’s sporty!
The factory focuses on providing edutainment to visitors by providing information about how racecars are built through interactive activities! One of the most fun things in Indianapolis is sitting in a real racecar and racing up to seven drivers through the use of non-professional driving simulators!
25. Become a College Sport Champion
For sporty visitors, the NCAA Hall of Champions is an Indianapolis must-see! Americans take college sports very seriously and this is the perfect place to learn all about the best college athletes!
The first level at the Hall of Champions is dedicated to the history of college sports. There are video highlights, current team rankings, and artifacts from colleges around the country. You can also take part in a fun novice to historian trivia challenge!
The top floor, however, is where the good stuff is! Here, you can pretend to be a sports champion by competing hands-on and practically with sports simulators!
26. Try your Hand at Duckpin Bowling
If you’re looking for one of the most unique things to do in Indianapolis, IN, look no further than duckpin bowling at Action Duckpin Bowl & Atomic Bowl Duckpin.
Duckpin bowling is an East American spin on traditional ten-pin bowling that was invented in the early 20th century. Today, it’s very popular with states in the eastern part of America. In fact, Action Duckpin Bowl & Atomic Bowl Duckpin is the only duckpin bowling facility outside the eastern states!
27. Watch a Football Game at Lucas Oil Stadium
Attending a game at Lucas Oil Stadium has to be one of the greatest things to do in downtown Indy! The stadium is home to the Indianapolis Colts and regularly hosts matches.
It’s not just football matches that you can catch at the stadium — it often hosts concerts for the likes of Taylor Swift! (You’ll find a calendar of events on the stadium’s website). It’s also worth taking a tour of this state-of-the-art facility, which boasts panoramic views of the Indianapolis skyline!
Day Trips From Indianapolis
Indianapolis is surrounded by some incredible places to visit in Indiana! With canoe trips and long hikes on the shoreline, there really are some great things to do near Indianapolis!
Just under a two-hour drive from Indianapolis is Fredericksburg where you can hire a canoe from the Old Mill Canoe Rental to explore the Blue River! Undoubtedly, the Blue River is one of our favorite attractions near Indianapolis!
The Blue River flows through one of the most scenic landscapes of Indiana. You can look forward to enjoying quiet farmland and lush forests along the way! There is also a lot of limestone around the river that forms “half canyons” and caves to marvel at.
Canoeing along the Blue River can be difficult, due to a large number of submerged rocks. If you’re not an experienced canoeist, it’s probably best to join a guided canoe trip!
When you’re visiting Indianapolis, hiking in the Dunes National Park is one of the most amazing nearby things to do! The park is about a two-hour drive outside of Indianapolis and boasts a stunning landscape!
The national park comprises an unspoiled coastline and sand dunes along Lake Michigan. Further away from the lake, you can also find wetlands, marshes, and fields of pretty wildflowers!
Indiana Dunes is the perfect territory for hiking, due to its peacefulness and beauty. You can also stop by some of the birdwatching spots to appreciate the stunning variety of species found in the park!
3 Day Itinerary in Indianapolis
Now that you know all about the fun things to do in Indianapolis, it’s time to put these Indianapolis points of interest on your itinerary!
Today’s all about orientating yourself in Indianapolis, as well as ticking some major Indiana attractions off your bucket list! Start at the Indiana War Memorial in the city center before taking a 6-minute walk to the beautiful Indianapolis Central Library!
Next up is the Indianapolis Museum of Art which is a 35-minute bus trip away. You can catch bus 34 at the St Vincent stop, a ten-minute walk from the library!
Just 20 minutes from the Museum of Art is Crown Hill Cemetery where you can find the graves of famous Americans and enjoy some splendid views!
Start your day by exploring Massachusetts Avenue’s trendy shopping and food scene! After that, head out of the city center to the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There isn’t any direct public transport so you’ll need to take bus 5 before walking for 40 minutes. It may be worth splurging on a taxi for this one!
Once you’re back in the city center, enjoy one of the lunchtime events at the Indianapolis Artsgarden. Then grab a late lunch at the Indianapolis City Market which is just a 10-minute walk away!
The Children’s Museum has so many fascinating exhibits that you’ll probably spend all morning exploring it! From there, you’ll need to take a taxi to the fabulous Eagle Creek Park since there isn’t any public transport.
Spend your afternoon at Eagle Creek Park where you can have a picnic lunch, as well as take part in fun water activities! After freshening up at your hotel, head to one of Indianapolis’ small music venues for a fun night out! The Chatterbox is the most centrally located since it’s right on Massachusetts Avenue.
More Great Resources
With lots of sporting events, plenty of fabulous parks and fascinating museums, Indianapolis is one of America’s most fun cities! Whether you’re looking to spend an afternoon in nature or a couple of hours listening to live music, you’ll find it all on our definitive list of things to do in Indianapolis!
No matter how long you’re staying in the city, Indianapolis, IN, won’t disappoint you. Whether you visit with friends, children or by yourself, Indianapolis will have something to entertain you! There are so many great activities to enjoy in Indianapolis on our list, that you’ll never again need to ask what to see in Indianapolis!
Find out how YOU can support the site.
We work hard to put out the best backpacker resources on the web for free! It’s all about helping out our tribe of awesome backpacker readers (that’s you!). Please visit the link to find out how you can help keep the site going 🙂
For the sake of transparency, some of the links in our content are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a piece of gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only link to stuff that members of the Broke Backpacker team has actually used and never endorse products or services that are not up to scratch. Thanks for your support!