Is there any better way to explore a city than to use your own two feet and wander the streets, unaware of the next hidden gem you may come across? While visiting Indiana’s capital – Indianapolis, our time there was limited but we both knew that getting out of our car and exploring the downtown district was the best approach to see this beautiful city! Deciding to take a walk around downtown Indianapolis really opens your eyes to a city that offers a nice combination of history and modern-day architecture.
After heading past Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts NFL team, we made our way down the main street and parked by the Indiana World War Memorial Plaza. For anyone heading to ‘Indy’, this is a great spot to park, it’s cheap at only a couple of dollars per hour and you have great access to the main landmarks in the city!
Indiana War Memorial Plaza
Built to honor the war veterans of Indiana, this plaza district consists of two war memorial museums and a plethora of monuments, statues, sculptures and gorgeous fountains providing a perfect historic setting to remember those lives that were sacrificed in the World Wars.
The Indiana War Memorial Museum, in particular, is a great FREE experience that depicts detailed exhibits of the various wars that Indiana veterans fought in. The museum consists of three floors, though the upper floor is the stunningly beautiful Shrine Room which idyllically symbolizes the peace and unity following the Great War.
One of the most interesting features is the AH-1 Cobra Helicopter that is on display near the end of the self-guided museum tour. Dependent on which wars you have most interest in, there is something for everyone here and even if history is not really your thing, this is still worthy of your time to see such fascinating, intricate details that make up these exhibits.
Some of the other leading monuments inside the Indiana War Memorial Plaza include the 100ft Obelisk that is located inside the Veterans Memorial Plaza. Other tributes can be found here to provide memories of the Korean War veterans along with Vietnam and other tragic warfare.
Many war memorials provide a somber feeling as you reflect on the lives that have been lost, but this plaza really provides a more surreal, positive outlook on life with the beautiful architecture presented here.
Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Heading north from the Indiana War Memorial, located in Monument Circle, is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument which is a global, iconic structure remembering those veterans that fought in the Revolutionary War and Civil War among others.
Comparable in size to the Statue of Liberty, this monument is yet another example of architectural genius and contains not only a gift shop and observation deck but also the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum.
Indiana State Capitol
Of course, state capitols are always impressive buildings and Indiana’s located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis is certainly no different!
Even though we didn’t participate in one of the guided tours available here, it is definitely a structure worth gazing at for a few minutes before heading on to the next stop on your walking tour.
NCAA Hall of Champions
Indianapolis is all about those Indiana Hoosiers but what better place to get into the spirit of a college town that by visiting a museum devoted to college sports history. Located in White River State Park and also home of the NCAA national offices, the NCAA Hall of Champions offers not only a museum but also a great riverfront, canal walk with gorgeous scenery.
A tour of the NCAA Hall of Champions is definitely worthwhile and with admission priced at only $5 per adult, it offers cheap entertainment value for the family. Learn all about the various college sports offered by the NCAA along with a variety of interactive exhibits such as throwing a football and measuring your vertical leap (plus you can shoot some hoops in the full-size basketball court!).
Located beside the NCAA Hall of Champions and the Indiana State Museum is the Eiteljorg Museum which is home to a series of exhibits devoted to the history of American Indians and Western Art. Learn all about the Native American tribes and see a variety of traditional objects, along with a personal collection from the founder of the museum Harrison Eiteljorg.
I was pleasantly surprised at just how interesting downtown Indianapolis was. There is a lot to see and you can easily spend a full day here exploring just the museums and various sculptures that are strategically positioned around the downtown area.
Have you visited Indianapolis? What attractions are most appealing to you? Do you enjoy taking self-guided walking tours of a city?
What a great walk around 🙂 I love wandering around cities when I arrive, and getting from a to b and seeing all the things in between. My favourite city to walk around, so far, has been Barcelona, all of the incredible architecture.
we also enjoy walking around a city, in fact I hate the hassle of the traffic in a unknown city. Good point for the parking spot, I always try to find one before heading to a big city (one of the lessons learnt when you come from a city where parking is very expensive).
Shere y Paul
The traffic in Indianapolis was actually pretty good but regardless of that it was nice to have a good selection of parking options available! We were there around 11AM Saturday morning and spent about $6 for 3-4 hours which was enough to explore everything we listed in this post. But I definitely agree that doing your research pre-trip is the best advice you can give anyone heading to a city they know very little about.
There are so many landmarks and attractions here, it seems so clean and well maintained…the architecture is also stunning!
I am glad you noticed how clean it looks and honestly Noel that’s stereotypical of all downtown Indianapolis, not just on the pictures that I chose to include on this post! Many cities that you visit around the world have that ‘dirty’ look to them but Indy really seems to go above and beyond to maintain that clean look. I was very impresssed by this and it is very noticeable!
Excellent blog with stunning pictures, what makes a huge difference is the colour of the sky on each one!
We picked a really good day to visit Indianapolis! The weather really made the experience even more enjoyable but that’s usually the case wherever you go 🙂
You know Chris, I absolutely love discovering a place like this. I far prefer to go in blind, with little or no knowledge about a destination and feel it and let myself be drawn wherever the desire takes me. I am not a fan of rigid touring and the must do’s and see’s. I do include them in my own guides, but that’s because lots of people like to be told what they should see and do. The photos here are lovely, I never get bored of seeing impressive architecture set against an azure sky.
Thanks for the kind comments Jackie, the beautiful weather really does help when taking pictures! The Indianapolis skyline and architecture really do make for great shots though. Indianapolis really is one of the lesser known cities here in the States but I would highly recommend anyone taking a trip here to learn more about the history and you may just be surprised at exactly how much there is to do here! And of course, I just covered the downtown district, not to mention everything else there is to do in the suburbs!
always the best way to explore a city – have done this in paris, venice and washington! Really interesting piece – naively I didn’t realise how much history there was, as I think I’ve only heard about the Indy racing, thanks for the insight!
We have experienced both Paris and Washington DC on foot and really enjoyed both of them! In fact, most cities we venture off to we tend to just get out and start exploring, the downside to this is if you are pushed for time because depending on how the city is layed out it could take quite a while to get from point A to point B. Undoubtedly one of the best cities for walking though has to be Boston!
Cheers for the article.. We’re looking at touring the states one day and Indianapolis sounds like a place we might enjoy 🙂
Hope you get to Indianapolis Nick because I am convinced you will have a great time there!
I didn’t realize that Indianapolis had so many monuments and museums in it’s capital. Looks like an interesting city to plan a visit some day.
We spent just a few hours in Indianapolis Carmen en route to Cincinnati and other spots on our Ohio River Road Trip but we were able to see plenty to justify stopping there and will likely return at some point to explore some more of the monuments and museums that we didn’t have time to see. Definitely would recommend anyone visiting here at least once!
I admit I’ve never given much thought to Indianapolis but their downtown has some pretty cool memorials and buildings
We were definitely pleasantly surprised at how many cool attractions there are in Indianapolis. It really is a city that you have to get out of your car and walk around though because there seems to be a monument on every other street corner.
I’ve tried to put the links (weekend wanderlust) on my blog but that doesn’t seem the work so you don’t have to comment because that would be unfaire 🙂 sorry for the inconvenience
What is the problem that you are experiencing Axelle? Are you not able to click the ‘Add Your Link’ blue button?
I was very pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of attractions in Indy after reading this. The NCAA museum sounds like a lot of fun and is a proper dedication to the amateur US athletes who entertain audiences and their schools throughout the year. The Eiteljorg Museum is new to me and appears quite impressive. I admittedly am not familiar with Western art, but the Eiteljorg would be the ideal place to start…right after I got my filling of sports history.
Thanks for this tour of Indianapolis, Chris! So many monuments to see! I hadn’t a clue of things to do in this region before reading this post. Thanks for enlightening me 😉
I love being able to walk around a place and explore! Thank you for the tour of Indianapolis – I really had no idea what types of things were there before reading your post! 🙂
I’m a big walker when I travel- best way to get around! I like the War and Soldiers/Sailors monuments….we have a large one here in Ottawa and I always like to stop and spend a moment at the ones I find while travelling. A great tribute to the heroes.
I’ve only heard of Indianapolis because of the Indy500 races before (won by Dutch man Arie Luydendijk in the past) so thanks for telling more about this city! The Eiteljorg Museum sounds like an interesting place, also love the name, sounds a bit nordic. War monuments are always impressive, no matter which war it is about. It reminds me that we should be happy that we are free to travel around without any trouble…
Very cool – monuments can really make a city interesting; all of the history and stories behind each different monument – I love it! Truly a great way to immerse yourself into a new place!
I’m dying to visit The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMIndy), they’re great folks and it’s a beautiful looking city! I’d be interested in the war memorials, too. Gotta explore Indiana someday! We wrote about TCMIndy a while back: http://outboundadventurer.com/dig-paleontology-digs-united-states-childrens-museum-indianapolis/
I had no idea that Indianapolis was home to such stately architecture! It’s not a place I would have ever thought of visiting before, but it looks like it would make for an interesting weekend trip 🙂
We used to love losing ourselves in London’s streets. And we know Las Palmas de Gran Canaria better because we’ve pounded its pavements. One day, we’ll give Indianapolis’ sidewalks a good going-over.
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I also spent a really good time there during my last journey and came back with great experience.