One Day in Indianapolis, Indiana

Things to do in Indianapolis during one day
The Indiana State Capital Building is made of Indiana limestone and white oak. See how you can get a guided tour here.

While visiting family in Ohio, we detoured for a one day visit to Indiana, a state I needed to see to achieve my 50 before 50.

We visited the capital, Indianapolis, which has a population of almost a million. Indianapolis is a sports city with 11 professional sports teams and a race track within the city limits.

Did you know that Indiana has some of the best limestone which is used all around the world. Indiana’s limestone can be found in the Pentagon, National Cathedral and Empire State Building, as well as many capitol buildings around the US. Walking around town you will see many buildings made of this cream material.

The city is well-designed to draw its citizens and visitors outside with many parks and plazas, as well as a canal travelling though the downtown.

Read on for how we spent our one day in Indianapolis.

Canal Walk

One day in Indianapolis

A canal was built in the 1800s in Indianapolis to help with commerce. It has been rehabilitated and is now a wonderful spot on which to take an easy 3-mile walk. Along the way you will see museums, such as the Indiana State Museum, the Indiana Children’s Museum and the Eiteljorg, a museum about Native Americans and their art. There are also many art installations and things for children to interact with, such as a pair of bronze mastodons.

You can buy ice cream from carts, rent a kayak or paddle boats on the canal.

What to do in Indianapolis
There are artistic surprises under the bridges.

Explore on Foot

Just a few blocks off the canal you can deviate to see the Indiana Capital Building. We also took a ten-minute walk in search of some interesting ice cream. Although it didn’t make my list of the world’s best ice cream, SubZero, a custom nitrogen ice cream shop was worth the walk. It is also in front of the very beautiful Old National Centre, formerly known as the Murat Shrine Temple and is now used as a theater venue.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Visiting the Indy Speedway
The view of the Indy Speedway from the starting line. The pit is on the right.

When I went to Lexington, Kentucky I had such a wonderful time learning about something I previously had no interest in, but the locals are crazy about– horse racing.  So when we came to Indianapolis we had to visit the speedway!

It was built in the early 1900s as a spot to test and race cars in the place where the most US cars were made at the time. Although they are not a major car producer anymore, the race track has been a huge success, annually holding the Indy 500 and the Indy Car Grand Prix, among other races.

See an Indy Race

If you are lucky enough to be here in Indy race season, you can get a lawn ticket for under $50! The stadium actually holds over 350,000 people– that’s more people than live in the country of Iceland! You can look for tickets here.

Visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

The museum is actually on the inside of the speedway track, so to get to it you drive under the speedway. That was pretty cool.

It has two large rooms full of cars with a replica of a garage. There were many docents around ready to share their love of racing. In the first room are all the cars that have won the Indy 500 over the years.

In the second there are interactive exhibits, like the opportunity to get into an Indy car and touch an engine. It is bizarre how deep you sink into the Indy car!

Explore tickets and hours to the museum here.

Do you know the difference between an Indy car and a NASCAR?

Indy cars are open-cockpit cars with wheels on the outside. At this race track they can go up to 235 mph!

A few interesting facts I learned at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

  • The first race at the speedway was a balloon race.
  • The second was motorcycle race.
  • Finally, the third was an automobile race.
  • There are actually two race tracks. The 2.5 mile track on the outside is the Indy 500 track. On the inside of the track is a windy road race track for the Grand Prix.
  • The two tracks travel in opposite directions– the road race track travels in the direction that English drive, as that is where road races started.
  • There is a golf course on the grounds.
  • The original track was paved with dirt and tar.
  • This proved so unsafe that it was soon changed to brick.
  • In the 1960s it was almost completely paved, except for the starting line, which is still brick– the same bricks.
  • Almost all the old bricks are still under the asphalt.
  • They have done a lot over the years to make racing safer, but have lost over 50 drivers on this track. There is even a staffed medical building on race days.
  • IndyCar gas tanks only hold about 18 gallons of gas and get 4.4 miles per gallon. And I though my car got bad gas mileage!

Take a Ride on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

There are two ways to do this, one very expensive, yet exciting and one very reasonable and fun, but not exhilarating.

Take a tram ride around the speedway with a Kiss the Bricks Tour

Best things to do in Indianapolis, Indiana
We were not offered a glass of milk, but did get to kiss the bricks like a winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

We loved this guided tour which takes a loop around the speedway at a speed of about 20 mph. At the end you can kiss the bricks and walk on the asphalt. This option includes your ticket into the museum.

Pay about $500 to ride with a real racer in a real car on the track

This sounds incredible, would be a bucket list item and I would love the chance to try this. It would probably be super-scary though, even though they only travel about 185 mph. You even have to wear the fireproof suit and share the track with other cars.

Book your Indy Experience here.

How Long Will I Spend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum?

We did the Kiss the Brick Experience and spent about 3 hours, with about 2 of those in the museum. If you read every placard the visit may take you 5 hours at most. There is not food, nor concessions at the museum.

Can I Explore Indianapolis with a Long Layover?

Travel on the highway is pretty easy here, so Indianapolis is a good city to explore if you have a long layover. You can take an Uber from the city or racetrack to the airport in under 1/2 an hour for under $30 when I visited.

Where to Stay in Indianapolis

Stay somewhere downtown, near the Canal Walk, so you can leave your car and walk to your destination. Every hotel I looked at charged for parking.

We stayed in the group of Marriott Hotels, which includes the Marriott Downtown, Courtyard by Marriott and Fairfield Inn and Suites. They are all right next to each other and conveniently located, just at the terminus of the Canal Walk and across the street from the baseball stadium and Convention Center. Book your room now.

If I had it to do again and it was available, I would stay in the Residence Inn by Marriott on the canal. The water view rooms overlook the canal and they have a canal side bar. Book your room at the Residence Inn by Marriott.

Enjoy your time in Indianapolis! Let me know in the comments what Indy fun you found.


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3 thoughts on “One Day in Indianapolis, Indiana”

  1. That’s it! You’ve convinced me! I’ve thought about visiting the Canal ever since we moved to Indiana. We’ve been pretty busy over the last few months with home renovations, but now that we finally finished the last thing on our to-do list and so now I’m ready to get outside and it looks like I need to get over to the canal! Thanks for sharing!


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