The largest city in Indiana and the state capital, Indianapolis offers an array of museums, attractions, shops, sporting events, and world-class restaurants. With so many sights and flavors to sample, it’s important to make the most of your trip to Indy. Find out how to plan your next visit and discover the city’s best-kept secrets and can’t-miss attractions.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana.

Arrive at the Airport

Indianapolis and its surrounding communities are served by the Indianapolis International Airport (IND). For five of the last six years, the airport has been voted Best Airport in North America by Airports Council International. It’s also been voted Best Airport in America by Condé Nast Traveler readers.

Given IND’s high ranking, it should come as no surprise that the airport is easy to navigate and offers an array of amenities for weary travelers.

Since you’ll most likely be headed straight for the exit upon arrival, try to plan your transportation in advance so you know where to head once you leave the terminal. The airport offers eight different car rental options at the Ground Transportation Center on the Terminal Garage’s first floor.

If you want to catch a cab, tax service is located on the lower level of the terminal outside Baggage Claim. Regardless of distance, there is a $15 minimum charge for all taxi fares from the airport. You can also arrange for an Uber or Lyft driver to pick you up at the Ground Transportation Center, or rent a shared ride or personal luxury limo service.

Indianapolis International Airport is one of the few airports in the country offering an electric car-sharing service that connects you to various destinations around the city. BlueIndy “bluecars” are located on the Terminal Garage’s fifth floor, while enrollment kiosks are outside the Pedestrian Bridge on the third floor.

If you’re staying at a hotel nearby, take advantage of the hotel courtesy vehicles. You can also take the bus service from the airport to the greater Indy area.

Early Morning: Grab Breakfast

After a restful night in your hotel room, it’s time to grab breakfast! Indianapolis offers an array of breakfast options ranging from cheap on-the-go bites to filling sit-down meals.

Café Patachou is a local favorite, offering multiple locations in Indy, including one at the Civic Plaza in the airport. Touted as a “student union for adults,” Café Patachou has been a local establishment since 1989, so it wouldn’t be a trip to the city without visiting at least once. Breakfast specialties include the Cuban Breakfast with rice, black beans, and spinach-jalapeno sauce, as well as the Apple Fritter Cinnamon’ed “French” Toast, which is just as delicious as it sounds.

You’ll also find healthy eats at Café Patachou, including whole wheat bagels, avocado toast, vegan granola, and 10-grain porridge. No matter your breakfast preferences, Café Patachou has something to please everyone.

Looking for vegetarian breakfast options? Head to 3 Sisters Café on Guilford Avenue. This cottage-chic eatery serves up a clever twist on American favorites, including biscuits and gravy, corncakes, omelets, and waffles. Try the beer biscuit for something a little different. Or, if you’re vegan or simply enjoy plant-based foods, order the “groovy grains” or tofu scramble.

Other local favorites include Good Morning Mama’s Café on 54th Street, Milktooth on Virginia Avenue, and Ruth’s Pull Up A Chair Café. For even more recommendations, download the Things To Do Indianapolis app from the iTunes store or Google Play Store. You’ll also want to keep your Google Maps app handy in case you get turned around.

Midmorning: Museum Hop

Indianapolis is brimming with museums. In fact, whether you’re interested in art, culture, history, or sports, Indy has the museum for you!

Stop by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis if you’re traveling with kids. As the world’s largest children’s museum, this venue features a diverse sampling of exhibits, from Big Top performers to dinosaurs. Spend some extra time in ScienceWorks, one of the facility’s most popular exhibits, and discover the work of geologists, naturalists, and geologists. The immersive Beyond Spaceship Earth exhibit tells the story of NASA’s space exploration, while Take Me There: China gives kids a glimpse of the Great Wall.

General admission to The Children’s Museum is $19 for adults and $15.25 for youths ages 2 to 17. Kids 2 and under get in free. Plan ahead to take advantage of reduced prices.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Indy without a stop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The on-site museum is one of the world’s most noted facilities dedicated to automobiles and auto racing. Admission is just $10 for adults and $5 for kids ages 6 to 15, but you can get entrance to the grounds free on non-race days. When visiting the museum, be sure to take a guided tour of the grounds, such as the 15-minute Qualifying Lap bus tour.

For those wandering around downtown, visit the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. The facility houses an extensive collection of Western American and Native American art and hosts various events throughout the year, such as the Indian Market and Festival. Current exhibits include Dogs: Faithful and True, which explores the enduring relationship between humans and their furry companions, and the ongoing Western and Native American art exhibits. For the holidays, score a ticket to Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure, which turns the museum, Union Station, Monument Circle, and other locations into a locomotive winter wonderland.

Noon: Sit Down to Lunch

By now, you’ve worked up an appetite, and it’s time for some food. Mediterrano Café on East 86th Street is a popular spot if you’re craving an all-you-can-eat buffet. Garlic hummus, tabouli, lentil soup, pitas, and bean salads grace the buffet, but it’s the falafel that has put this eatery on the map. Regardless of which items you choose, lunch at Mediterrano Café is always a treat!

On a tight budget? Try Thai Paradise downtown. The restaurant may look like a hole in the wall from the outside, with two rows of tables hugging opposite walls as you enter, but the food more than makes up for any lack of décor. The affordable menu consists of chicken satay, crab Rangoon, tempura, coconut milk soup, cashew chicken, pad Thai, and various curries. You can even specify your spice preferences.

You’ll also find incredible food truck options around Indy that serve up everything from warm pretzels to modern comfort food. Citizen Hash is a recognizable black truck usually parked downtown during events. These meals on wheels consist of Korean barbecue tacos served with pickled cucumbers and slaw, all at affordable prices. For an even better value, try the three-for-$10 taco deal and take the leftovers back to your hotel for a snack.

Circle Centre
Circle Centre in downtown Indianapolis.

Afternoon: Shop ’til You Drop

Few places offer retail therapy like Indianapolis. Not only do you have access to the largest mall in the state, but also a variety of eclectic boutiques.

Circle Centre is in the heart of downtown. with multiple skywalks connecting the shopping mall to downtown hotels. The mall is home to more than 100 stores as well as the Indiana Convention Center, making it a bustling city hub. The mall’s anchor shop, Carson Pirie Scott, is an upscale department store offering everything from discounted designer handbags to baby gifts. Other great shops you’ll find in Circle Centre include American Eagle Outfitters, Clarks, Charlotte Russe, Godiva, Oakley, and Teavana.

Shoppers looking to explore Indy’s outskirts should head north to the city of Carmel. The Carmel Art and Design District is known as the place to discover art galleries, interior designers, boutique clothiers, and showrooms. Make your own glass paperweight art, contribute to the community’s mosaic art project, or find the perfect souvenir at The Olive Mill, Silver in the City, or All Things Carmel.

For funky, vintage finds, look no further than Fountain Square, the cultural district just southeast of downtown Indy. This charming district is a hot spot for music stores, antique shops, and art galleries. Discover shops selling comic books, instruments, food, fresh flowers, and thrift finds, all in a convenient, compact location.

Late Afternoon: Enjoy the Water

With its riverside walks and parks, Indianapolis is the place to be to cool off in the summer. White River State Park is America’s only cultural urban state park, offering a blend of green space, cultural attractions, and an outdoor concert venue. Tour the riverside park on foot, via bike, by boat, or on a Segway. Along the way, you’ll discover the IMAX Theater, the Indiana State Museum, White River Gardens, and the Indianapolis Zoo, just to name a few notable attractions.

Indianapolis War memorial
War memorial in downtown Indianapolis.

Dive into Freedom Springs Aquatic Center and experience water fun for the whole family! Freedom Springs is a world-class aquatic destination for all age and features cabanas, concessions, a lily pad crossing, two body slides, a tube slide, a lap pool, diving boards, and a splash-and-play area for toddlers. Day passes are just $10 for non-resident adults and $8 for non-resident children and seniors.

The local parks system also offers aquatic recreation. For example, Indy Island at Raymond Park is an indoor aquatic park featuring two indoor pools, a small water slide, a geysery, a lap pool, a hot tub, and a 150-foot spiral slide. Locker rooms, concession stands, basketball courts, baseball fields, and a walking trail are also available at the park. When visiting, set aside plenty of time to experience everything the Indy parks system has to offer.

Dinnertime: Dine in a World-Class Restaurant

Indianapolis is home to world-class eateries that offer delicious meals and unforgettable views of the city.

For travelers wanting to splurge, make a reservation for Harry & Izzy’s. The upscale steakhouse has been featured on the Travel Channel for having the world’s spiciest dish. Even if you’re not in the mood for a little kick, the award-winning menu features shrimp cocktail, seared tuna, wedge salad, and 100-percent Black Angus steaks raised in the Midwest. Other specialties include Bolognese, veal chop, lobster tails, and pizza.

Fogo de Chão is another upscale restaurant, but this one serves all-you-can-eat meat Brazilian-style. Tableside-carved meats include fire-roasted steak, lamb, pork, and seafood. You’ll also enjoy the shareable, family-style sides like garlic mashed potatoes, caramelized bananas, polenta, and Brazilian farofa.

Other award-winning restaurants include the trendy Bluebeard, the high-end Oceanaire Seafood Room, and the buzzy Union 50.

Indianapolis Canal
Indianapolis Canal walk, a 3-mile loop.

Late Night: Catch a Show

To everyone’s benefit, Indianapolis has no shortage of live entertainment. End the night with a few beers at The Rathskeller, a Bavarian-style beer hall with live music. Check out the Chatterbox Jazz Club, an intimate bar with quirky décor and a wonderful sampling of local jazz.

The former movie house Vogue on College Avenue plays hosts to a number of concerts, dance parties, and burlesque shows, which you can also find at the White Rabbit Cabaret. Prefer a comedy show? Check out Crackers Comedy Club downtown.

Even better, reserve tickets for a Broadway show at Broadway in Indianapolis. “Les Miserables,” “Finding Neverland,” “A Christmas Story the Musical,” and “Rent” are all on the schedule for visitors to enjoy this season.

Where to Stay in Indianapolis

Since Indy is a popular destination for shoppers, business travelers, and sightseers, there are countless accommodations to consider. Take your pick from the best Indianapolis hotels, hostels, and private rentals to plan your dream trip to Indy.

Top Hotels

The best way to immerse yourself in Indy is to stay at one of the downtown hotels. The Alexander is a lovely boutique option that combines urban luxury with a coveted central location. Guest rooms and suites include complimentary Wi-Fi, modern artwork, rich wood floors, and colorful touches to create a warm, inviting space. You can even book an extended-stay studio residence with discounted monthly parking in the hotel’s parking garage.

Hilton Indianapolis Hotel & Suites on West Market Street is conveniently situated near restaurants and the mall. Amenities include an indoor pool, meeting rooms, laundry service, a gift shop, a fitness room, and a GentSpa. Upgrade to a suite for an in-room refrigerator and wet bar.

On a tighter budget? La Quinta Inn & Suites Indianapolis Downtown isn’t as centrally located, but it is within walking distance of downtown attractions, particularly the Wholesale District. Hotel amenities include a free breakfast each morning with warm waffles, free high-speed internet, premium cable channels, and plush pillowtop mattresses.

Best Hostels

Backpackers on a budget may want to consider staying in an Indianapolis hostel. The bad news is there’s only one hostel in Indy, but the good news is it’s a great one!

Indy Hostel on Winthrop Avenue has a friendly, homey vibe that enables you to connect with the locals. You’ll enjoy free lockers, cheap laundry services (free if you bring your own soap!), free Wi-Fi, postal forwarding, and outdoor tours. The hostel is situated along a bus route that leads directly to downtown. There’s also the 30-plus-mile Monon Trail behind the hostel; the trail is perfect for bicycling, hiking, and exploring nature.

Indy Hostel offers dorm rooms, private rooms, and a large family room to accommodate all types of travelers. Meet fellow travelers in the hostel’s common areas, which include an outdoor barbecue grill and patio. Hailed as a hybrid between the classic hostel and a bed and breakfast, Indy Hostel provides the perfect chance to kick back and relax after a busy day of sightseeing.

Coolest Private Rentals

When you’re traveling with the entire family or a large group of friends, it can be difficult to book accommodations together. Fortunately, private rentals offer the space you need at the rates everyone in your party can afford.

Rent a private apartment downtown within walking distance of the Convention Center and Monument Circle. Many hosts own multiple apartments inside one building, enabling them to rent individual units to travelers at rates that are more competitive than hotels. More than that, you’ll get amenities you simply won’t find at area hotels, including modern fixtures, tall ceilings, granite countertops, and personal touches.

You can also save money by renting a private studio apartment. Hosts who live and work in Indianapolis often have detached studios in their backyards that offer more than enough space for a small family. Plus, when you book an apartment in a residential neighborhood, you enjoy the added benefit of quiet streets and a picturesque setting.

For a more modern experience, reserve a loft apartment downtown. Cozy and bright, loft apartments tend to be situated in artsy, eco-minded neighborhoods on quiet streets, offering the best of urban and rural living.

You can also rent an entire home close to downtown at rates that rival downtown hotels! Stay in a cute bungalow within a short drive to Fountain Square and major highways. If you’re traveling with pets, a private house is the perfect option because you have access to a yard and can give Fido plenty of room to run.

Are you ready to take the trip of a lifetime? Plan and book the best Indianapolis trip, from transportation and tours to attractions and accommodations, right here on GoDoTrip.