Indianapolis Attractions

Home to the world’s fastest car races, this “Crossroads of America” has seen major changes that have revitalized the city, while still maintaining its rich historic culture and architectural elements. Riverfront development projects have spawned a new and exciting urban terrain filled with restaurants, entertainment venues and shopping that take full advantage of their unique locations, and landmarks like Monument Circle, home to the 284-foot Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, pay homage to days past. As a city that celebrates its ethnic and racial diversity, Indianapolis also offers a host of special exhibits and institutions such as the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, a grandly designed structure that houses indigenous art and artifacts. There’s also plenty of space for outdoor adventure within city limits inside downtown parks and the on the trails that wind along its corridors.
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Broad Ripple Village

Broad Ripple and College Avenues
Creativity and culture abound in Broad Ripple Village, a neighborhood that’s often called Indianapolis' version of Greenwich Village. From art galleries, restaurants and boutiques, to some of the city’s best nightlife, there’s a little something for everyone in this district that sits along the riverfront. See inspiration in bloom at The Indianapolis Art Center (820 E. 67th St.) – one of the area's true gems – that is home to eight exhibition spaces and serves as a host to cultural events, or find unique jewelry at Artifacts Gallery (6327 Guilford Ave.). If you’re feeling thirsty (or hungry), head over to the Broad Ripple Brewpub (840 E. 65th St.), a local favorite that has plenty of brew on tap and a decent menu. Big name musicians and local bands alike can be seen at The Vogue (6259 N. College Ave.), a dance club and live performance venue that was a movie theater before it became one of the city’s after-dark hotspots.

Children's Museum of Indianapolis

3000 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208-4716; Tel. 317.334.3322
It seems fitting that a life-sized model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex greets visitors at the entrance to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. With more than 110,000 artifacts, it is home to the largest children’s museum collection on the planet. Installations are divided into three major areas: the Natural World Domain that includes specimens from animal fossils to precious gems; the Cultural World Domain where folk toys and other objects are on display; and the American Experience Domain, a collection of artifacts that span more than 150 years. Many of the exhibits are hands-on and encourage learning through play. The newly opened “Dinosphere” exhibit immerses visitors in the world of dinosaurs, featuring a collection of skeletons and other artifacts, complete with the sounds and surroundings of the Cretaceous Period – a must see. While there, don’t miss the “All Aboard” exhibit that features a 19th-Century steam engine and a sizeable collection of toy train sets, as well as “Story Avenue,” an exhibit dedicated to the African American oral tradition.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

500 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204; Tel. 317.636.WEST (9378)
Housed in a marvelous architectural design inspired by the pueblos of New Mexico, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art’s collection possesses the extraordinary crafts and artistry of Native peoples, as well as works by artists compelled by the culture and landscape of the American West. Opened in 1989, the museum is one of only two repositories for both Native and Western Art east of the Mississippi. The Native American exhibition halls include textiles, jewelry and other artifacts – both old and new. Of particular note, this area is home to a significant collection of relics created by tribes of the Plains and Southwest. The highlight of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is the collection of works produced by the Taos Society of Artists – a New Mexican artist collective – that includes paintings by Ernest L. Blumenschein and Indiana’s own Victor Higgins.

Fountain Square Theatre Building

Virginia Avenue at Shelby and Prospect Streets; Tel. 317.686.6010 ext. 2 (Theatre)
The days of old are alive and well in the Fountain Square Theatre Building, a converted theater located in the heart of one of the city’s historic shopping districts. Erected in 1928, the theater building underwent restoration in 1993, and is now home to a variety of independently owned shops and entertaining excursions. Action Duckpin Bowl and Atomic Bowl Duckpin feature back-in-the-day-style bowling lanes complete with miniature pins and bowling balls. Located on the fourth floor of the building, Action Duckpin Bowl also features great views of the city. The Fountain Diner, which once served as a luncheonette inside F.W. Woolworth’s (a former occupant of the building) until the late '60s, serves up hand-dipped shakes, malts and diner fare, while the ShelBi Street Diner offers a modern menu in casual surroundings. Though the view from inside the building is worth seeing, the most breathtaking vantage of the city’s skyline is from the Rooftop Garden where you can enjoy drinks and order from the ShelBi Street menu.

Garfield Park Conservatory and Public Gardens

2505 Conservatory Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46203; Tel. 317.327.7184
Tucked inside the city’s oldest park, the Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens have been a major city attraction for more than 75 years. A major restoration project during the 1990s has helped to revive the landmarks to their original splendor in the 1920s. The 10,000 square foot conservatory is open throughout the year and features a lush variety of tropical plants in full bloom throughout the year. The conservatory also hosts a series of seasonal installations that include themed foliage and decorative exhibits. The Sunken Gardens feature a formal landscape modeled in the European tradition. The magnificent fountains of this area are a major highlight of Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens, and can often be seen alight with color.

Indiana State Museum

650 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204; Tel. 317.232.1637
The story of the Hoosier State past and present is housed inside the walls of the Indiana State Museum. Situated alongside the White River, this institution commemorates all things Indiana, from architecture (the Oscar McCulloch School No. 5 façade replica) to living legacy (Indiana’s Faces photo exhibit). Also central to the museum is the history of the state within a natural/environmental context. Inside the biology exhibits, where more than 47,000 artifacts are amassed, wild creatures and skeletal remains tell the story of Indiana wildlife through the ages. The decorative arts and Americana exhibits document the culture of Indiana residents and feature home furnishings, clothing and locally manufactured objects like television sets and broadcasting equipment. Not to be missed is the fine arts collection that highlights works by native artists and the pop culture artifacts where vintage clothing and accessories, toys and personal grooming items are on display.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hall of Fame Museum

4790 West 16th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222; Tel. 317.492.6700 (Indy 500 Tickets), 317.492.6784 (Museum)
No visit Indianapolis is complete without making a stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a landmark that annually attracts visitors from around the globe when it hosts the biggest single-day sporting events in the world, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. If you won’t be around during the summer months to take advantage of these one-of-a-kind sporting events, you can still visit Indy's Hall of Fame Museum. The museum is open every day of the year with the exception of Christmas. Here, a distinctive collection of prize-winning Indy 500 race cars, trophies, equipment and racing memorabilia are on display. Visitors can also get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s competition-day action via the Grounds Tour that visits the Bombardier Pagoda, Gasoline Alley garage and victory platform, amongst other areas of the historic racing facility.

Indianapolis Museum of Art

4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis IN 46208-3326; Tel. 317.920.2660
An impressive collection of diverse works that span the centuries are at the Indianapolis Museum of Art – a surprisingly distinctive repository of some the nation’s best fine arts collections. Most notable is the European Collection that includes formative works by Gaugin and members belonging to the School of Pont-Aven, in addition to Neo-Impressionist paintings with works by Seurat and other prominent artists. Both collections are considered to be amongst the largest and most exquisite of their kind in the country. African Art also stands out at the museum. Works in this area span both time and place, representing the vast diversity of the African continent from ancient Egypt to Zimbabwe. Also on The Indianapolis Museum of Art grounds is the Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens, a 22-room mansion once belonging to Indianapolis businessman, philanthropist and collector, J.K. Lilly, Jr.

Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens

1200 West Washington Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222; Tel. 317.630.2001
The zoo and gardens pair of attractions is a popular destination for locals and one of Indianapolis' best places to enjoy the outdoors. Divided into five major biomes, the Indianapolis Zoo is home to thousands of animals from every corner of the world. The Waters Biome has Indiana's largest aquarium and includes a sea horse exhibit made just the right size for young visitors to observe the sea creatures in motion. Visitors to the Indianapolis Zoo are encouraged to make contact with animals in the Encounters Biome where animals like rabbits and llamas interact with humans. The White River Gardens located inside the Indianapolis Zoo is a peaceful refuge amidst all the wild beasts. While there, be sure to see the “Midwestern Panorama,” a mural depicting plants and gardening through each season of the year, in the Bud Schaefer Rotunda.

President Benjamin Harrison Home

1230 North Delaware Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202; Tel. 317.631.1888
The President Benjamin Harrison Home is the former residence of the 23rd U.S. Commander-in-Chief. The front end of the home is enveloped by grand porches that extend from the first and second floors, and is a fine example of Italianate Victorian architecture. Converted into a museum, the residence holds of a collection of artifacts and political memorabilia dedicated to the legacy of Harrison – the Centennial President who was inaugurated 100 years after Washington. The museum contains thousands of books and specimens that once belonged to he and his family, including some of the home’s furnishings. Ten rooms are open for public view and the third floor, originally used as a ballroom, features rotating exhibits pieced together from the museums own collection, as well as borrowed items. The President Benjamin Harrison Home also hosts a series of special events that include music, performance art and seasonal celebrations.
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--Indianapolis attraction reviews by Joy Howard