5 Reasons You Didn’t Know You Need to Go to Indianapolis

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When you hear “Indianapolis,” what immediately comes to mind?

Most likely you first think of the Indianapolis 500 – the famous automobile race that's been dubbed “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

And that's fair. But I'm here to let you know that Indy is much more than just the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Downtown Indianapolis
Scene from Indy in summer
Hotel Tango in Indianapolis

I recently spent some time in Indianapolis for a blogger workshop called Bloghouse, and got the chance to get a feel for the city during my few days there.

And all I can say is Indy is super cool.

Like many Midwestern/Rust Belt cities, Indianapolis is undergoing a bit of a renaissance right now. There's more going on in the city than ever before, and I'd encourage you to visit before the secret about Indy really gets out.

5 reasons to visit Indianapolis

Car racing aside, here are all the other reasons you didn't know you needed to visit Indy:

1. The Indy food scene

Milktooth in Indianapolis
Brunch at Milktooth

Indy's food scene is exploding. From food trucks to fine dining, you'll find just about everything in Indianapolis. And not only is the food affordable, but it's also GOOD. Like, really good.

In 2015, Jonathan Brooks, chef/owner at Milktooth, was named one of the best new chefs in the country by Food & Wine magazine. And in 2016 Indy was named one of the hottest foodie cities in America by Zagat.

Cocktails at Hotel Tango in Indy
Drinks at Hotel Tango (which is actually a bar, not a hotel)

That's pretty high praise, people.

Some of my favorite eats in Indy included:

  • Pizza at Napolese
  • Brunch at Milktooth
  • A farm-to-table lunch at Mesh
  • Cocktails at Hotel Tango
  • Dinner at Bluebeard (probably the BEST meal I've had in a long time!)
Pizza at Napolese in Indy
Pizza at Napolese – also delicious!

You can also check out Public Greens, a non-profit “urban cafeteria and microfarm;” Metazoa, a pet-friendly brewery; and Locally Grown Gardens for a slice of Indiana's famous sugar cream pie.

2. White River State Park

Indy at sunset
Sunset at White River State Park

If it's green space you're craving, look no further than White River State Park, which covers 250 acres in downtown Indianapolis. It features canals, sculptures, a summer concert venue, and some of the best views of the city.

You can see the park by bike, paddle boat, on foot, or even by Segway. And if you're headed to the Indianapolis Zoo, it's located at one end of the park. Definitely head down here at least once to catch a sunset.

3. The Children's Museum

Children's Museum in Indianapolis
You can't miss this museum!

Fun fat about Indianapolis: it is home to the largest children's museum in the world! And the Children's Museum isn't just for kids, either. With exhibits on American pop culture, dance, space, and more, it's a place the whole family can enjoy.

Children's Museum

They also have an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils, including a mummified Brachylophosaurus and a first-of-its kind fossil that the museum and local community got to name.

They named the dragon-esque dino Dracorex hogwartsia. And yes, that's a Harry Potter reference. And yes, they got JK Rowling's permission! (She said it was one of the coolest honors she's ever received.)

Dracorex hogwartsia at Indy Children's Museum
Harry Potter dino!

Being the largest children's museum in the world, though, I would caution families to check out the exhibits online ahead of time and create a game plan. If you have young kids, there's no way you'll see everything in the museum in one visit!

Indianapolis has some other unique museums, too. Such as:

  • Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
  • NCAA Hall of Champions
  • Indiana State Museum

4. War Memorial Plaza

Indianapolis Veterans Memorial Plaza
Veterans Memorial Plaza

Another thing you probably didn't know about Indy? It's second only to Washington, D.C. for the number of war memorials it has.

The largest memorial is the Indiana World War Memorial, which stands more than 200 feet tall.

Inside the Indiana World War Memorial
The World War Memorial also has a HUGE flag inside.

And also recognizable is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which sits on a circle that marks the physical center of the city of Indianapolis.

Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Indy
Soldiers and Sailors Monument

War Memorial Plaza covers seven city blocks; no other city in the United States dedicates more acreage to America's fallen.

5. The Cultural Trail

Indianapolis Cultural Trail

Winding through Indianapolis' neighborhoods and cultural districts is the Cultural Trail, a bike and pedestrian-friendly path that connects some of the coolest spots in the city.

Pick up a bike from the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare program, or hit one of the paths on foot. Along the way, keep an eye out for artwork and architecture.

Bonus: Midwestern hospitality

And, lastly, you can expect to find the world-famous Midwestern hospitality in Indianapolis. It's a stereotype that Midwestern people are super nice – but I'm convinced that the stereotype has its roots in cities like Indy.

Downtown Indianapolis

Indy is also a very SAFE city. Even when walking around by myself after sunset, I never once felt unsafe downtown.

RELATED: 7 Cities in the Midwest You Need to Visit

Where to stay in Indianapolis

1. JW Marriott

JW Marriott Indianapolis

The JW Marriott was “home” for us during Bloghouse. The hotel hosts tons of conferences and meetings each year and is quite large. But it's also a beautiful hotel with great service and comfortable rooms.

It's located right next to White River State Park and is within walking distance of lots of downtown attractions.

Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here

2. B&B in Old Northside

B&B in Indianapolis' Old Northside
Outside the Stone Soup Inn

If you want to branch out from downtown Indy, consider a bed and breakfast in Indy's Old Northside neighborhood. This tree-lined neighborhood is filled with gorgeous old Victorian homes and has a very quiet, laid-back vibe.

I stayed for one night at the Looking Glass Inn, which is a comfy B&B in an old historic house.

You can also check out:

(And you can grab dinner or drinks at Tinker Street Restaurant & Wine Bar on E. 16th Street – I had an AMAZING burger here!)

Looking Glass Inn in Indianapolis
Inside the Looking Glass Inn

Overall I was really pleasantly surprised by my short time in Indianapolis. The city is much cooler than I expected, and I can definitely see myself returning for a longer visit in the future.

Hopefully this post has given you some reasons to visit Indianapolis!

Have you ever been to Indianapolis? Would you want to visit?

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*Note: This post is brought to you in conjunction with Bloghouse and our great 2017 sponsors, which included Visit Indy, Visit Indiana, and the JW Marriott Indianapolis.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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20 Comments on “5 Reasons You Didn’t Know You Need to Go to Indianapolis

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  1. I love Indianapolis 3 of my children live there for over 20 years and I am from Georgia. Visit Indy at least 3 times in a year. Never a dull moment!!!!!!! Still haven’t seen all the attractions. An awesome city to visit. Will Continue to visit. Thanks Indianapolis for everything you offer. Gloria

    Great post! I didn’t realize that Indianapolis had a scene for foodies! The pictures look great so I will definitely have to check out your recommendations next time I am in town. I’m happy to see Indianapolis being portrayed in a way that allows people to realize it’s more than just the Indy 500. Thanks for sharing!

      Oh yes, the food scene in Indy is so impressive! So many great restaurants to try.

    All great reasons to love Indy, but I gotta say, it was number one that sold me!!
    Had so much fun with you!! 🙂

      It was definitely the food that sold me, too (and I’m not even a foodie)!

    Not what I expected, the city looks so clean with a lot of open spaces. Seems to have a charm of it’s own and good to hear the food scene is blossoming!

      The food scene in Indy is so impressive; I love seeing cities re-invent themselves like this!

    I’m convinced! It looks like a lovely place to visit, and even though I’m not normally a fan of children’s museums; the one in Indianapolis looks pretty great!

      I really liked the vibe in Indy. And yes, I surprisingly had a really good time at the children’s museum!

    I’d been hearing that good stuff was happening to the cities in the Midwest! I would love to visit Indy, as well as Cleveland and Milwaukee and Cincinnati and all the other cities you’ve written about. They seem perfect for someone like me who finds huge cities like the typical tourist cities of NYC or LA a bit too much xD

      If you don’t like the big cities on the coasts, the Midwest might be just right for you! So many exciting things are happening there right now.

    So wonderful to see you in Indy and explore this amazing city with new friends. Will definitely have to get to Hotel Tango next time. PS: Go Olympus EM5 Mark II users! 🙂

      Camera twinsies, unite! Haha. It was great exploring Indy with you, too!

    I went to Purdue for grad school, so I visited Indy all the time. I would also add the neighborhood of Broad Ripple to your list; it’s filled with great restaurants and bars and is really walkable and quaint.

      Yes! I didn’t make it to Broad Ripple, but I have indeed heard great things.

    The food trucks sound super appealing Amanda. As does the food scene. Seems like food trucks are popping up in urban centers all over the country. Swarming like flies here in NYC. For good reason; they dish out some tasty fare! Amazing stuff, really. Thanks for the 5 reasons to get our behinds to Indy.

      Yeah Indy is not immune to the food truck phenomenon! There aren’t as many as in some larger cities, but they certainly are popular. I went to a food truck gathering for a late lunch one day and nearly all the trucks had already sold out!

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