Things to do in Indianapolis

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Indianapolis, Indiana may be best known as the home of the Indianapolis 500. But this midwestern capital is also rich with museums and cultural activities for all ages.

Indianapolis Museums

Things to do in Indianapolis Eiteljorg Museum
Eiteljorg Museum. Photo by Visit Indy

Eiteljorg Museum

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is located in the White River State Park. It is within walking distance to other museums, hotels and attractions.

The museum is dedicated to sharing diverse stories about the history and cultures of Native Americans and the American West. It celebrates artists, past and present, in a stunning array of galleries and exhibitions.

Marvel at works by Frederic Remington and Georgia O’Keeffe depicting people and places. Many also find themselves drawn to works by Native Americans, both traditional and contemporary. The diversity of the people is represented here.

The Native American art collection demonstrates the continued resilience of Native peoples, cultures and arts. Each item tells a story. It is a connection to the community that created it.

Enjoy the café and shop then stroll outside to see sculptures and walk along the Central Canal.

Stay warm on your evening or fall day walk with layers from SCOTTeVEST. With over 11 concealed pockets on each clothing piece, you can easily store all your travel essentials and still look great. Check out their selection here.

There are more things to do in Indianapolis than the famous Indy 500. Here's a list of cultural activties, performing arts and fun for kids. #Indianapolis #thingstodoinindianapolis

Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

Now through May, THE LUME is featuring, THE LUME: Van Gogh. This 60-minute digital presentation of Vincent van Gogh’s most iconic art is accompanied by music and sound effects.

As you explore 30,000 square feet of floor-to-floor projections, you see his genius and his sadness. The beauty of it is quite literally all around you. This is the largest exhibition in Newfields 137-year history.

Don’t wrap up your visit just yet. Be sure to explore gallery after gallery of European and American artists. Works by Rembrandt, Turner, Cezanne, Picasso, Hopper, Calder and more await as well as the iconic “LOVE” sculpture from Indiana-born artist Robert Indiana.

Newfields has much to offer. In addition to the Art Museum, you can explore the Lilly House. This is a National Historic Landmark and an excellent example of a 20th-century country estate.

Also, 100 acres of garden and art encompassing the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. There are numerous places to dine and shop as well as a beer garden.

Things to do in Indianapolis Children's Museum
Indianapolis Children’s Museum. Photo by Visit Indy

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is an adventure for children and adults alike. The collection here has over 130,000 artifacts and specimens that bring the museum to life with over 80 years of history. 

Many come for the dinosaur exhibits, which delight audiences, as does the historic Carousel. Dating back to 1917, the Carousel seems magical. Detailed painted animals salvaged from an original carousel that operated in Broad Ripple Park are a highlight.

Beyond Spaceship Earth is an immersive exhibition telling the story of NASA’s Project Mercury program A program that sent the first Americans to the International Space Station.

Here, you can explore artifacts from astronauts as well as learn about how they perform experiments and live their daily lives in space. You can even try on space gear. The Indiana Astronaut Wall of Fame highlights Hoosier’s who have made an astronomical impact.

New to the museum is the only permanent exhibit in the world dedicated to Malala Yousafzai. Malala was a young Pakistani activist who was shot by the Taliban in her fight for female education.

She survived and went on to become the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Her story opens on September 18th as part of the Power of Children exhibit. There’s also a shop and food court in the museum.

Other museums include the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, the USS Indianapolis Museum and the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home.

Fun Things to Do in Indianapolis

Things to do in Indianapolis
Find the beat in Indianapolis

Rhythm! Discovery Center

Founded in 2009, the Rhythm! Discovery Center is the world’s only interactive drum and percussion museum. Featuring interactive exhibits that highlight its collection of artifacts and instruments. It’s a place where the history of percussion is celebrated for all ages and promotes its role in world cultures.

Explore different exhibit spaces including Evolving Sounds. Here you can learn about their celestaphone, made of meteorites. You can also trace the history of percussion instruments in an orchestra and learn how they are used in cultures throughout the world.

Things to do in Indianapolis
Central Canal. Photo by Visit Indy

Explore Downtown Indianapolis

Indianapolis has a walkable downtown. White River State Park offers many acres of walking space dotted with art and attractions. The Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana State Museum/IMAX Theatre and the NCAA Hall of Champions are all located along the Central Canal.

You can rent pedal boats, take a gondolier ride or spend some time in Military Park. Further into White River State Park, you will find more green space, a concert venue and the Indianapolis Zoo.

Elsewhere downtown, head to Monument Circle to take in the impressive Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Explore shops and restaurants in the area and admire the Statehouse Building.


Then head to the Circle Centre Mall for more activities. Also, the Indianapolis Artsgarden features free performances and monthly art exhibitions from central Indiana artists. It is owned and operated by the Arts Council of Indianapolis and is celebrating its 25th anniversary. 

The Madam Walker Legacy Center uses its historic building as a venue for celebrating cultural diversity primarily through art from the African American perspective. Madam CJ Walker was the daughter of former slaves. She went on to become one of the twentieth century’s most self-made and successful women entrepreneurs.

Today, the Center provides cultural education, promotes social justice and empowers the leaders of tomorrow. Check in advance for upcoming programs and events.

Indianapolis ballet
Indianapolis ballet

Performing Arts in Indianapolis

Performing arts is another reason to visit Indianapolis. The city is home to the Indianapolis Ballet, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

This December, “The Nutcracker” returns to the stage of the Ballet. Plus the Symphony Orchestra will be presenting, AES Indiana Yuletide Celebration. This will feature Broadway-style showstoppers and Tap-Dancing Santas.

Finally, the Chamber Orchestra (located at Butler University) performs “A Baroque Christmas” on December 12th.

Just south of downtown is the Fountain Square Cultural District. Packed with shops, artists, restaurants and more. You’ll also find artists at work in this vibrant community.  Whether vintage or vino is your vibe, you’ll find it here.

Book This Trip

Ready to explore the treasures of Indianapolis? Start planning your trip with hotel or VRBO accommodations, local restaurant reviews, best shops to visit and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.

For a museum or cultural break, Indianapolis is a destination worth exploring. For more information, visit www.visitindy.com.

Author Bio: Mary Casey-Sturk is a travel and features writer based in Greater Cincinnati. Her work has appeared in Hyde Park Living Magazine, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Nashville Arts Magazine, Smoky Mountain Living Magazine, the Tennessean, Cincy Magazine, Long Weekends Magazine and more. Her book, “Eating Cheese Curds with Strangers: The Misadventures of a Travel Writer” is available now on Amazon

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