There’s a lot to see and discover in Indianapolis.
Photos and story by Kasey Jackson
Have you ever played tourist in your own hometown? You’d be surprised at all the hidden gems you’ll find and the fun people you’ll meet when you head out with only one goal in mind: adventure.
Over the years, I’ve taken my three kids on countless adventures around our city. If you come to Indianapolis for the 2022 Kiwanis International Convention, maybe you’ll have some time to escape to find your own corners of the city.
Here are some of our favorites.
The Downtown Canal Walk is located along White River State Park and offers great views of the skyline above. In the summer, there are paddle boat rides and an ice cream stand. Places of note: Victory Field (home of Indianapolis Indians baseball), Indiana State Museum, NCAA Hall of Champions, Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis Zoo, numerous colorful art pieces, an urban wilderness trail and more.
While you’re here, you’ll also find memorials aplenty — second in the United States only to Washington, D.C. Spend some time on Monument Circle at the 284-foot-tall Soldiers and Sailors Monument, completed in 1901 by German architect Bruno Schmitz. If you’re brave, attack the stairs for a view from the observatory at the top (or take the elevator for a small fee). Another of my family’s favorites is the Indiana War Memorial & Museum, which boasts the largest bronze casting sculpture ever made in the United States. Other memorials include U.S.S Indianapolis CA 35, Indiana 9/11, World War II, Vietnam and Korean War, Veterans Memorial Plaza and Medal of Honor.
Shopping and eating along Massachusetts Avenue makes everyone’s list of things to do in Indianapolis. And why not? It’s filled with character, fun and a ton of action. Lots of people. Lots of local businesses to support.
Bonus find: Don’t miss the art inside The Alexander, a hotel at 333 South Delaware Street. There’s some inside its parking garage as well.
Take a walk back in time in the Fountain Square Cultural District. It’s a fun and funky experience, full of shopping, eating and entertainment opportunities. My friends and family love duckpin bowling at the restored, 1930s-era alley inside the Fountain Square Theatre. We also enjoy perusing art at the Murphy Studios. You’ll find plenty of interesting things — including lots of local eateries — in Fountain Square.
Bonus find: Music lovers should absolutely check out Arthur’s Music Store, named a top dealer in the U.S. by the National Association of Music Merchants.
Want to escape for dinner somewhere different? We love Traders Point Creamery, a working farm where you can visit the animals before heading inside to shop for cheese while you wait for a table for dinner or some ice cream. It’s farm-to-table dining with a view.
Crown Hill Cemetery
Yes, a cemetery makes our list of favorite places in Indianapolis. My kids and I love to explore cemeteries, taking in the beautiful memorials and the amazing history. Crown Hill is special in many ways, one of which is its size. As the third-largest non-government cemetery in the U.S., it’s a place to get lost in green spaces and beauty. You’ll also find 130 different species of trees, the Gothic Chapel and Gothic Gate and notable burial plots of President Benjamin Harrison, poet James Whitcomb Riley, Col. Eli Lilly and gangster John Dillinger.
Bonus find: James Whitcomb Riley is interred on the “crown” of Crown Hill Cemetery, the highest point in Marion County. You can even see the downtown skyline from there.
Outside — that is absolutely my family’s favorite place to go for adventure. And we’re lucky to have several fantastic places to explore. One favorite is Holliday Park, filled with numerous one-of-a-kind finds. The best of the best might just be The Ruins, moved to Holliday Park from the St. Paul Building in New York City in the 1950s. The Ruins depict “the Races of Man” and offer a striking backdrop for photos. The park also has gardens, trails, the White River, playgrounds and a nature center.
The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park at Newfields is a fancy name for what everyone around here calls 100 Acres. My kids’ hands-down favorite is Funky Bones, a huge fiberglass skeleton lying in the grass. It’s easy to find — it’s where all the kids are playfully jumping from bone to bone. Another favorite here is called Free Basket, a colorful Cuban installation that’s right in the parking lot. Bring a basketball — this interactive sculpture invites you to play!
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
No visit to Indianapolis is quite complete without a visit to the Speedway. In fact, you can take a tour around the track with other visitors and explore the museum filled with some old (and fast!) cars.
This story originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of Kiwanis magazine.