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Indianapolis is justifiably famous for the Indy 500 car race every Memorial Day weekend. But the city has a much more to offer.
Here’s why you should visit Indianapolis, starting with the chance to get on the track yourself to do hot laps, and a couple of the the best museums on the planet.
Of course, you should visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, where hundreds of racecars are parked, including the 1911 Marmon Wasp that won the first race, in 1911, of course.
The Dallara IndyCar Factory is also at the Speedway complex. Dallara actually designs and produces race cars here, so you are touring a real race car factory, exploring exhibits about the engineering and technology of designing and manufacturing. Part of the fun is to get the feel of what it’s like to race at the famous 2.5-mile oval at the wheel of a real IndyCar, and race using iRacing.
There’s also the chance to strap on a helmet and a special racing suit and slip into an actual Street-Legal IndyCar 2 seater or NASCAR racecar for an actual Victory Lap hot lap on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track, although this is not available on race days or in bad weather.
I did – in an IndyCar – and it was a blast. Literally. That’s me – ecoxplorer Evelyn Kanter – dressed up and ready to roar around the Indy track in my own Victory Lap.
Children’s Museum Indianapolis
This is widely regarded as one of the best children’s museums in the USA.
There are kid-pleasing exhibits on favorites like Barbie and Mr. Potato Head, plus extensive hands-on learning spaces and spaces to crawl through and around, and an antique carousel to ride around. Exhibits are built around a center atrium, at the center of which is a monumental, colorful tower of glass by artist Dale Chihuly (pictured above), something more appreciated by the adults who visit than the kids.
The museum is easy to find — just look for the huge dinosaur guarding the front entrance.
It’s also an eco-friendly museum, with a green roof that saves energy.
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western is a beautiful, modern museum that showcases Native American history, arts and crafts, plus Western art., located in White River State Park, in the heart of the city.
If you appreciate the incredible workmanship and creativity of Native American crafts, including beadwork, masks, pottery, jewelry and totem poles — as I do — you’ll find the Eiteljorg Museum in the same class as the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in New York City and Washington, D.C., the Heard Museum in Phoenix, and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, all of which I have visited and loved.
The Eiteljorg collection includes tribal artifacts from the Southwest to the Northwest.
Head to the Indiana Transportation Museum to see restored, operating examples of steam, diesel and electric rail transportation from the early 1900s.
There’s even the chance to take a ride on a historic former Nickel Plate Railroad. It’s not as fast as an Indy car, but more scenic.
More great things to see and do in Indianapolis
- visit the grave of gangster John Dillinger
- attend a performance at the theater named for Madame CJ Walker, the first female African-American millionaire, who made her fortune in cosmetics and hair products created and manufactured in Indianapolis
- grab your boots and Stetson and head for Cadillac Ranch Indianapolis, to two-step around the dance floor or try your luck on the mechanical bull — or both.
- take a leisurely paddle boat cruise down the scenic White River
- Sing along — or not — with the Dueling Pianos at Howl at the Moon, a popular nightlife destination that’s part club, part concert, and all fun.
For more information about visiting Indianapolis, after the Indy 500, visit Visit Indy, the official Indianapolis website.
This article was published originally in 2016 and has been updated for 2019