As far as major U.S. cities go, Indianapolis gets overlooked. Sure it is the capital of Indiana, but some may find it difficult to name much else about the city. It has professional sports teams and a namesake Nascar race, but what else? Dig a little deeper and you may be pleasantly surprised at the number of fun things to do in Indianapolis. From the Cultural Trail to restaurants in converted gas stations and of course the best hotel in the city, this Indianapolis city guide shares how to have one perfect day in the city.
A trip to Indianapolis provides history lessons, as well as a, peek at the future of urban planning. In just one perfect day, Indianapolis reveals itself boldly and unashamedly. By drawing upon the battles of the past, Indianapolis shapes the beauty of today.
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Indianapolis Locals: If you are looking for more ways to explore Indianapolis, look no further than the Indianapolis Cultural Trail – an eight-mile trail that connects six different neighborhoods.
Indianapolis Visitors: Below is what to do in Indianapolis if you have only one day.
One Perfect Day in Indianapolis: The Cultural Trail and Beyond
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Cultural Trail Indianapolis
1. Bike the Indianapolis Cultural Trail
Indianapolis has no shortage of entertainment options. For the active explorer, there is the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. An eight-mile trail that connects six different neighborhoods, the trail is an ideal path to explore the city. The trail encircles downtown Indianapolis, passing through the city’s visitor and business district, its arts and cultural hubs, and its neighborhoods.
There are seven art installations and multiple Pacer bike rentals along the route. One could spend hours traversing the trail when the weather is right. All in all, it is a perfect place to move and take in the sights.
What to do in Indianapolis
If you are looking for a full day of fun in Indianapolis, below are our suggestions for one perfect day in the city including where to eat and our favorite hotel.
2. Indiana State Museum
For those who prefer museums, there are plenty in the city. There are traditional history museums like the Indiana State Museum and more interest-specific museums like the Kurt Vonnegut Library.
3. Kurt Vonnegut Library
An Indianapolis native, the Vonnegut Library provides insight into the man behind novels like Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five. An Indiana native and member of a relatively influential family in the city, the Vonneguts helped shaped Indianapolis.
4. Indianapolis Museum of Art
For those looking for a mixture of the great outdoors and culture, the Indianapolis Museum of Art can’t be beaten. Part of the Newfields complex, this sleek building houses both modern and historic art.
The museum is more than just an indoor gallery.
Near every exit, there are umbrellas to encourage visitors to explore the extensive grounds of the museum. An enormous Lichtenstein sculpture welcomes you to the outdoor gardens with whimsy and familiarity. Exhibits such as the Oldfields-Lilly House and the 52 acres of gardens show that there is as much art in nature as there is in gallery halls. The is one of the things to do in Indianapolis for art aficionados!
Where to Eat in Indianapolis
One of the easiest and most pleasurable aspects of travel is the ability to try new foods. There is no shortage of delectable, regional dishes in Indianapolis. One such dish is sugar cream pie, the Indiana state pie. Dense with a smooth, honeycomb-like texture, this pie is a divine treat that shouldn’t be missed.
While it is available at various bakeries and restaurants around town, the pie at Locally Grown Gardens is consistently recommended by locals. Converted from a full-service gas station into a restaurant and seasonal market, this simple restaurant is a standout in a city of 850,000.
As Indianapolis is quite literally in the middle of farmland, it is the true birthplace of the farm-to-table trend. With hyperlocal food sources, restaurants such as Bluebeard and The Eagle feature rotating menus highlighting the most in-season produce.
Best Hotels in Indianapolis
No trip to a new city would be complete without a fabulous hotel stay. The Omni Severin Indianapolis in downtown Indianapolis combines historical charm with modern comforts. Located steps off of the Cultural Trail and facing Lucas Oil Stadium, the Omni Severin is ideally located for a Colts Game or an event at the convention center. It is also near the museum esplanade of the NCAA Hall of Champions, the Eiteljorg Museum, and the Indiana State Museum.
Built in 1913, the hotel has classic turn-of-the-century elegance coupled with reliable, free WiFi. Rooms are clean and have oversized windows for excellent natural light. Even with a central location in the heart of the city, the rooms are quiet and street noise is nonexistent.
Being able to get some sound sleep and distraction-free work done all in the same place was a great feature. Full-service breakfast and meals are available in the 1913 Restaurant, and an onsite Starbucks allows for quick access to gourmet coffee. The hotel also has a delightfully modern fitness studio and indoor pool.
- If you are looking for a budget hotel option check out Holiday Inn Express.
- If you are looking for a luxury hotel option check out Le Meridien Indianapolis.
- If you are looking for a boutique hotel option check out Conrad Indianapolis.
If you find yourself in the Midwest, Indianapolis is a great option for an affordable city full of culture and activity. While it is not as large as Chicago, it has a Civil War history and much more pleasant weather.
Its thriving Cultural Trail, plentiful museums and restaurants, and identity straddling the Northern and Southern United States make it a place worth exploring.
Many thanks to Visit Indy for arranging the details of my trip and allowing me to experience a perfect day in Indianapolis. As always, all opinions are my own.
As travel today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. If you are comfortable with traveling, please travel responsibly and within regulations, as any travel is at your own risk.
If you do decide to travel at this time, here are a few recommendations:
- Wear a face mask.
- Bring hand sanitizer and wash your hands on a regular basis.
- Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures and status of local businesses.
- Book a hotel with free cancellation in case you need to change your plans at the last minute. I also suggest checking hotel reviews in my favorite site, TripAdvisor.
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Jaime Scilingo hails from and currently lives in Chicago, making her an expert on the Windy City. She speaks French and previously lived in Quebec City as well as Portland, Maine, where she found herself sharing a home with a ghost. When she is not working as a healthcare provider, she is traveling, practicing yoga, or studying language. She currently focuses her writing on purposefully quiet travel for the anxious, aging, or autistic traveler, and hopes to continue providing useful information for those affected by these conditions.