I recently took a very quick 2-day trip to Indianapolis. Being that Indianapolis is known as the Racing Capital of the World, it probably makes sense that it was such a speedy trip!
Before planning my visit, I did not know much about the city of Indianapolis, and I was definitely pleasantly surprised that there was so much more to do there than I originally thought, I kept thinking that maybe my trip shouldn’t have been such a speedy one. Indianapolis is the capital and largest city of the state of Indiana. It’s the third most populous city in the Midwest behind Chicago, Illinois and Columbus, Ohio and it’s also the fourth most populous state capital in the US. It’s higher than my city of Boston, which comes in sixth, I found this very surprising! Being such a large and populous capital city, the downtown area was full of energy, with plenty to see and do.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
As the Racing Capital of the World, no trip to Indianapolis is complete without a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which is located in a suburb of Indianapolis, conveniently called Speedway, Indiana. As someone who has never watched a car race in my life, I can honestly say it is worth visiting even if you are not a race car fan. Located inside the speedway is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. Open daily, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the museum is the spot for race fans and a great place for the non-race fans to learn a little about racing.
There are a number of exhibits located in the museum, one can’t miss exhibit is a film about the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 2.5-mile-long oval racetrack was built in 1909 after Indianapolis businessman, Carl G. Fisher wanted to build a facility for car racing after seeing that racing was very popular in Europe. The speedway was met with tragedy from the very first race series in August 1909 with a driver, 2 mechanics and 2 spectators suffering fatal injuries at the event. It was determined that the original gravel track was unsafe, so it was then paved with over 3 million bricks which is how the speedway earned its nickname of “The Brickyard”. Racing was back and much safer starting in 1910.
In 1911, the famous Indianapolis 500 took place for the first time. This premier racing event is held annually at the end of May during Memorial Day weekend. There are several qualifying events the week leading up the big race. Thirty-three cars compete in the main event for 200 laps on the 2.5-mile-long track to win the 500-mile race.
For the car lovers, there is an exhibit featuring the Winning Cars of the Indianapolis 500 in the Winner’s Gallery. It was really interesting to see the older cars from the early 1900s compared to the cars from more recent years.
Across from the Winner’s Gallery is the Second exhibit, featuring the stories of the second-place drivers. It was crazy to read just how close some of the races were. Every time I would read a second-place finish time being just fractions of a second behind the first-place driver, I would end up seeing one that was even closer. The record for the closest finish was held by Scott Goodyear in 1992, when he came in just .043 seconds behind winner Al Unser, Jr.
One of the most fun exhibits is definitely the Traditions exhibit. In this exhibit, you can see the Borg-Warner Trophy which each winner has their face and name engraved on.
This exhibit has stories about some of the speedway traditions. One such tradition is the winner drinking milk after they finish. This tradition started when the 1933 winner requested a glass of milk after winning the race. When he won again in 1936, he requested it once again and the American Dairy Association took notice and decided this should be an annual tradition.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Well, you are in luck, they have simulators available for you to get your chance to race the Indy 500. This was a lot of fun, but it made me realize, that I would probably crash right into the wall very quickly, guess I won’t be quitting my day job to become a race car driver! lol
When you look at the Indy cars, you can see just how low to the ground they are, but have you ever wondered just how low the drivers are sitting? Here you have your chance, there is a car available for a photo op that you can get into. I just kneeled down in fear I wouldn’t be able to stand up if I actually sat in the low seat. I really wasn’t meant to be a race car driver! Definitely a fun photo op though.
You can tour the museum on your own or if you would like you can book a guided tour of the museum. They also have a Basement Collection Tour where you can see rare artifacts.
If you would like to get out on the racetrack, there are a number of tours you can book:
- Kiss The Bricks Tour – This 30-minute tour will take you on a bus ride around the 2.5-mile racetrack with a stop at the finish line where you an kiss the historic bricks just like the winners do.
- View From the Top Tour – This 30-minute tour will take you to the victory podium and the top of the 153-foot-tall Pagoda for an ariel view of the racetrack.
- Golf Cart Tour – This 90-minute tour combines the experiences in the other two tours with more behind the scenes experiences like Gasoline Alley and the Snake Pit
If you’re a runner, a really fun way to experience the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is to run the Indy Mini Half Marathon which is held the first Saturday of May each year. Starting and finishing in Downtown Indianapolis, this race includes a lap around the racetrack and was definitely one of my favorite half marathons that I have run.
White River State Park
From the suburb of Speedway, I headed back downtown to begin exploring Indianapolis. My first stop was White River State Park. This urban park covers 267 acres and is home to plenty of outdoor and indoor attractions, including:
- Greenspaces – White River State Park includes many different greenspaces for all to enjoy. Military Park is a 12-acre park in the shape of a military badge that is home to festivals, charity events, races and farmers markets. TCU Amphitheater is home to concerts, fundraisers, graduations and conference events. Celebration Plaza and Amphitheater is a great open space featuring beautiful views of downtown and even a waterfall.
- Canal Walk – Located in White River State Park is a 3-mile loop canal. This is the perfect place to go for a walk or run along the canal. You can also rent bikes and surreys. If you would like to get on the water, there are also gondolas and swan paddle boats to rent.
- Museums – While I personally did not have time to visit any museums while in Indianapolis, there are a few museums located right in White River State Park. If you are a fan of college sports, the NCAA Hall of Champions is located in the park as part of a three-building complex that also includes the NCAA corporate headquarters. The Hall of Champions features two floors of interactive exhibits. For the history lovers, there is the Indiana State Museum cover the history of the state from the Ice Age to the 21st Century. The museum covers the science, art and culture of the state. As a lover of history, I really wish I had time to visit this one! The Eiteljorg Museum features Native American art, culture and history. As one of the few museums east of the Mississippi that celebrates the art and culture of indigenous people in America, it’s a must visit. This museum sounds very similiar to alot of the museums you can visit in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- Indianapolis Zoo – Also located in White River State Park is the Indianapolis Zoo. This is the perfect spot for a family to spend the day. Not only is this a 64-acre zoo, but they also offer some really great experiences where you can get up close to animals like dolphins, elephants, sloths, rhinos and aardvarks.
- Art – Aside from the art that you can see at the Indiana State and Eiteljorg Museums, there is also plenty of free art to see throughout the park. Along the canal walk, there are numerous murals under the overpasses that you definitely must check out if you are a street art lover. Also scattered throughout the park are numerous sculptures. Swipe below to see some of the gorgeous art in White River State Park.
Indiana State Capitol Building
Being that Indianapolis is the capital of the state of Indiana, a visit to the Indiana State Capitol Building is a great idea. Located in downtown Indianapolis, the capitol building is open Monday – Saturday, see their website for the most up to date hours and information. The building can be viewed as part of a guided tour or if the hours of the tours aren’t convenient, you can pick up a brochure and take a self-guided tour on your own.
Even if you do not have time to see the inside of the building, I recommend at least taking a walk around the capitol grounds. I loved seeing the details in the architecture of the building and there were numerous sculptures and monuments outside the building as well. There was even a sign to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train which went thru Indianapolis on its way from Washington DC to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.
Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument
I love seeing monuments around the world and there are many cities that have Soldiers and Sailors Monuments to honor those that served. The Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument was incredibly impressive to me. The monument recognizes Indiana residents that served in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War and the Spanish American War.
The monument was built in 1902 and stands 284 feet tall. The details on the monument were stunning, including the statues located at the four corners of the monument which represent Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Navy.
The monument is open Fridays-Sunday from 10:30am – 5:30pm. It’s free to walk the 330 steps to the observation level at 230 feet. Or for a couple of dollars, you can take an elevator the majority of the way up but will still need to walk the final 49 steps. There are also 37 steps outside to get to the elevator.
Even if you are unable to go up the tower to the observation level, seeing the outside of the monument is definitely worth it. The monument also seemed to be somewhat of a meeting spot downtown, there were many people sitting outside meeting up with friends and family when I visited.
This was just a fraction of the things to do in Indianapolis. If I had more time, I’m sure I would have found even more to do in this beautiful and lively city.
Time to plan your trip to the Racing Capital of the World!
6 thoughts on “Speedy Visit to Indianapolis”
What a great post. We were thinking of going to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum this summer on our road trip. Thanks for the preview, even though we’re not 100% sure of where exactly we’re going this summer.
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The Indianapolis 500 is such a famous race so interesting to see the history and background to the race. Also interesting to learn about the many buildings, monuments and parks in the surrounding area. Thanks for sharing.
Love this! I have a couple of friends who were involved race car events many years ago and won awards.
In all my years of travel, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped in Indianapolis (and I grew up in Ohio). Thanks for all the great tips! My husband would love the NCAA Hall of Champions.
Great blog post! I’ve never been to Indianapolis before, but after reading about your experience, I definitely want to plan a trip there soon. I love that there is so much to do in the downtown area and that there are plenty of attractions for people who aren’t necessarily race fans. My question for you is, out of all the places you visited in Indianapolis, which one was your absolute favorite and why?
Great post, sounds like such a fun day out, I’ve never been to Indianapolis before but I’ll definitely be saving this post for future travels. Thanks heaps