We’ve all been cooped up for quite some time, and most of us are itching to get out of our routine and into the world once again. Going to a big city might not be at the top of your bucket list right now, but why not consider the outdoor options that many of our nearby Midwestern comrades have to offer? This month we’re digging into Indianapolis, Indiana, a city known for fast cars and tasty bites. While we might not be ready to fully jump back into the world of travel, “The Crossroads of America” is just a two-hour drive from Dayton and offers plenty to do in the realm of open spaces and outdoor activities. During a “normal” summer, we might look to explore the world’s largest children’s museum, the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the city’s James Beard-recognized food scene or one of the best art museums in the country, the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. But this is not a normal summer; so instead we’re taking a look at some of the best ways to explore Indy in a socially distant manner—and what we found is sure to provide a much needed change of pace.
Indianapolis Cultural Trail—Back in 2013, the city took out one lane of vehicular traffic to make way for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a downtown addition that breathed new life into neighborhoods and reinvigorated districts throughout the city. Deemed “the biggest and boldest step by any American city” by Project for Public Spaces in New York City, the 8-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trail now connects all seven of Indy’s cultural districts. From Mass Ave or White River State Park to Fletcher Place and Fountain Square, the trail is a safe, healthy and convenient way to explore the city. From its inception the Cultural Trail was planned as a place for public art. Rather than focusing entirely on the destination, the Cultural Trail encourages you to enjoy the journey along the way. If you’re up for a ride, the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare offers more than 50 stations throughout the city with 525 bikes available for daily rental.
$4 million of public art was commissioned as a part of the Cultural Trail’s original construction, completed back in 2013. Visitors and locals alike can bike or walk along the trail, admiring the iconic fixtures throughout the city. Fan favorites include Julian Opie’s Ann Dancing, Chatham Passage on Mass Ave, the Glick Peace Walk or Swarm Street. Tip: For an even longer trek, the Cultural Trail connects to the Monon Trail, which will take you north through the Broad Ripple neighborhood, where David Letterman grew up.
White River State Park—One stop along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail will take you into White River State Park, the 250-acre greenspace in the middle of downtown Indy. White River State Park is home to several of the city’s top tourist attractions, including the Indianapolis Zoo, The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, The NCAA Hall of Champions, The Indiana State Museum, Indiana Historical Society, a concert venue and Victory Field, home to AAA baseball’s Indianapolis Indians. Aside from the cultural attractions, White River State Park is also a great spot for a leisurely stroll, a picnic or a game of catch on the lawn. Within the park visitors will find the Central Canal, which serves the downtown community as a waterside promenade for walkers, runners, bikers and sightseers. When the weather is hot and the days are long, you may find the canal itself packed with paddleboats, kayaks and Italian-imported gondolas.
If you’re looking for the ideal spot for a picnic, White River State Park has no shortage of options. Consider historic Military Park, the Old Washington Street Bridge, the Celebration Plaza Amphitheatre or the Waterfront Pavilion. Each space provides ample views and unique setups perfect for a sunny summer day in the city.
American Legion Mall—Indianapolis devotes more acreage to honoring our nation’s fallen than any other U.S. city and is second only to Washington, D.C., in the number of war memorials. Visitors could fill an entire day crossing the city and digging into the history and lore of the past.
Along the Central Canal, you’ll find the Indiana 9/11 Memorial, the Medal of Honor Memorial and the USS Indianapolis Memorial, recognizing those who died on the last U.S. ship to sink in World War II.
Located in the seven-block Indiana War Memorial Plaza Historic District, the American Legion Mall stretches between two city blocks, from St. Clair St. on the north to North St. on the south. The mall is flanked by the American Legion national headquarters and the headquarters for the American Legion, Department of Indiana. On warm days you’ll find people playing sports, picnicking or taking a stroll through this revered park. The Vietnam and Korean War memorials flank the American Legion Mall as well, providing different looks into the past.
The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is the physical and spiritual heart of Indianapolis. Monument Circle was originally intended to house the governor’s mansion, but no governor wanted to live in such a public location. Instead it was decided after the Civil War to erect a monument to those who fought. The basement contains a Civil War Museum, and the top is crowned with a statue of Victory. You can visit an observatory for a bird’s-eye view of the city, via 330 stairs; or take the elevator up, for just a buck.
Who knew Indy had so much to offer? And that’s not even including indoor opportunities or dining options—but that might just have to wait until another day.