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Racing cars and rustic parks blend in the Hoosier State’s biggest city

Indianapolis is a city of contrasts. You’ll find all the perks of big-city living—major league sports, cultural attractions and a dynamic downtown area—along with a slew of outdoorsy pursuits.

For example, the city becomes the center of the racing world in each May during the Indianapolis 500, held in the city’s iconic Brickyard. On the other hand, 250-acre White River State Park gives city dwellers a rustic respite right on the banks of a beautiful waterway. It’s differences like these that make the city worth visiting again and again.


Presidential Ties

Indiana became a state in 1816, and some of its most important historical milestones are celebrated at the Indiana State Museum, located just west of downtown Indianapolis in White River State Park. This amazing institution boasts scores of exhibits dedicated to the Hoosier State’s past, including images and artifacts devoted to the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. The display includes signed copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Follow the trajectory of the young politician, from his family’s move from Kentucky to the Hoosier State, to his dizzying ascent to the White House, to his tragic assassination.

Another Indiana resident with links to the White House is Benjamin Harrison, a Civil War general and an Indianapolis attorney, who served as America’s 23rd president between 1889 and 1893. The Benjamin Harris Presidential Site, housed in a building dating back to 1874, features exhibits and events, including historical re-enactments and naturalization ceremonies welcoming new U.S. citizens.

The Need for Speed

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, also known as the Brickyard, annually hosts the Indy 500, the world’s largest single-day spectator sporting event. Held every Labor Day Weekend, this open-wheeled racing event attracts top drivers from around the world and is considered by many to be the greatest spectacle of racing. Visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, housing priceless memorabilia, including more than 75 racing cars.

Want to play a round of golf with a racing twist? Try booking a tee time at Brickyard Crossing, an 18-hole course with four of its holes located in the infield of the speedway.

Of course, the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts and the National Basketball League’s Indiana Pacers both have stadiums in town. If your Indianapolis visit isn’t during either football or basketball seasons, you can still visit nearby shops to pick up officially licensed team apparel.


Greenspace in the City and Beyond

When its early planners mapped out the future landscape of downtown Indianapolis, they must have had some hint of the potential for the area flanked by the White River. What is now White River State Park is home to many of the city’s premier attractions and a significant link to the culture and history of Indianapolis. Visitors can walk along the gentle waters on paved walkways for a pleasurable blend of city and nature.

Within its 250 acres, the park boasts several museums, the Indianapolis Zoo, an IMAX Theater, a concert venue and the White River Gardens. Gondolas float along Historic Central Canal, and the White River Promenade invites leisurely strolls along its half-mile trek. On this path, a turn of the corner may reveal a waterfall as well as embedded artwork carved into limestone blocks.

The park’s museums include the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, which shares with its visitors the history, art and culture of Native Americans through various exhibits and programs. For college sports fans, there is the NCAA Hall of Champions, with hands-on displays featuring all 23 sports of the NCAA. The park is also home to Indianapolis Indians Baseball at Victory Field, a 14,500-seat ballpark named “Best Minor League Ballpark in America.”

The Historic Old Washington Street Pedestrian Bridge, originally built in 1833 as part of U.S. 40, is now a pedestrian crosswalk that can take visitors right to the entrance of the Indianapolis Zoo. Along the way, enjoy viewing the biennial Art Sculptures in the Park experience. With ecosystems mimicking nearly every corner of the globe, a visit to the zoo and White River Gardens is a virtual trip around the world. Ever wanted to pet a shark? Visitors can experience that and more at the zoo’s exclusive exhibits, including the world-famous Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center.

Lovers of sculpture should amble over to University Park, built on land that once served as a drilling ground for Union Troops during the Civil War. Here, you’ll find statues of American presidents Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison. The five-leveled Depew Fountain shouldn’t be missed.

After a day of exploring, sample some of the city’s fabulous restaurants, ranging from world-class eateries to down-home burger joints and pizza parlors for the whole family.

For More Information

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Indiana Office of Tourism Development