Pork tenderloin sandwich. Pic via Shutterstock.

Best Things to Do in Indianapolis

BY Fifty Grande Editors | September 30, 2020

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Indianapolis? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Indianapolis?”

It makes sense that Indianapolis, one of the most Midwestern of cities, is a lot like Midwestern people. It’s polite and inoffensive, a real “how’re ya doin?” type, the kind of city that would stop mowing its lawn to have a neighborly chat about the humidity. But there’s a lot more beneath the surface, a whole lot of culture and ideas and strangeness if you just pull back the curtain — experimental brunch joints, hidden museums, cat cafés and weird twists on bowling. You just have to know where to find them, and that’s why we’re here. These are the best things to do in Indianapolis right now.

 

You’re here for deliciously oversized pork tenderloin sandwiches

Be prepared. These dinner plate-sized, breaded cutlets laugh in the face of regular hamburger buns. And every self-respecting Hoosier lunch spot has its own version.  

Pork Tenderloin sandwich. Pic via Shutterstock
#1
Pork Tenderloin sandwich. Pic via Shutterstock

Steer In Diner

5130 E 10th St, Indianapolis, IN, USA

A down-home roadside diner that serves breakfast and lunch plates. They’ve accumulated a few local awards for best pork tenderloin over the years. 

Edward’s Drive-In in Indianapolis
#2
Edward’s Drive-In in Indianapolis

Edward’s Drive-In

2126 S Sherman Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

This 1950s throwback still offers carhop service and pours handmade root beer. 

And these awesome restaurants

The Midwest might love its chain restaurants and fried foods, but Indy has a criminally underrated culinary scene.

Bluebeard in Indianapolis
#3
Bluebeard in Indianapolis

Bluebeard

653 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

This place is built on a cornerstone of hearth-baked, European-style bread, which put them on the map in the early 2010s. Now, Bluebeard plates up a rotating menu of experimental twists on hearty comfort food.

Goose the Market in Indianapolis
#4
Goose the Market in Indianapolis

Goose the Market

2503 N Delaware St, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

If you’ve never experienced the meat sweats, it’s time. It’s primarily a butcher shop, but they serve cut-to-order meats from Indiana farms and a rotating menu of piled-high sandwiches.

Love Handle in Indianapolis
#5
Love Handle in Indianapolis

Love Handle

877 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis, IN, USA

Some of the best, most go-for-it sandwiches in Indy. Enter the shrine of tender, crispy, smoked pork belly, a staple on their menu. They’ve also got some brunch ingredients that you won’t find anywhere else, like gizzards and beef tongue (don’t worry, they’re amazing).

Milktooth in Indianapolis
#6
Milktooth in Indianapolis

Milktooth

534 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Another brunch spot, and one whose star is rapidly rising among national food critics. It’s home to some truly inventive and Instagram-ready dishes. You have to try the grilled cheese. (I mean, come on, it’s got raclette cheese and black truffle honey, how could you not?) 

 

Nabes to explore

Crack open that polite Hoosier exterior and see all the culture and eccentricity Indy has underneath. 

Broad Ripple in Indianapolis
#7
Broad Ripple in Indianapolis

Broad Ripple

Broad Ripple, Indianapolis, IN, USA

A short drive north of downtown, Broad Ripple is best known for its rousing nightlife. Liquor-slinging mainstays like Tiki Tiki and the Alley Cat are often student hot spots, while Broad Ripple Tavern is more laid-back and less “party the night away.” During the day, you can hit a handful of good lunch spots, like Fire by the Monon, Public Greens and Delicia. 

Fountain Square Cultural District in Indianapolis
#8
Fountain Square Cultural District in Indianapolis

Fountain Square Cultural District

Fountain Square, Indianapolis, IN, USA

For a more funky, artsy scene, you want Fountain Square. Here you’ll find peculiar cafés (like Nine Lives, now with real cats!), boutique hotels, antique shops (try FLUX) and craft cocktail bars (like Hotel Tango).

Mass Ave Arts District in Indianapolis. Pic via Shutterstock
#9
Mass Ave Arts District in Indianapolis. Pic via Shutterstock

Mass Ave Arts District

Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis, IN, USA

The destination for independent art galleries, bookstores (see: Indy Reads Books), theaters, boutique shops and street art. It’s got a fair share of good restaurants too, like “Indianapolis-style” pizzeria Bazbeaux and The Eagle, a fried chicken bar.

 

Find public art on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

On this eight-mile trail, you can hit all six of Indy’s cultural districts in one go. All along the way, you’ll find restaurants and bars (you can even do a food tour) as well as historical sites and family activities. But it’s also lined with nine pieces of public art, like Ann Dancing and Chatham Passage. For bonus street art, stop off in the Fountain Square neighborhood to wander for a bit.

Sip some craft beer

Indy beer doesn’t get enough respect. Try these and you might just put it up there with America’s other craft brewing powerhouse cities.

Sun King Brewing
#10
Sun King Brewing

Sun King Brewing

135 N College Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

One of the Indy craft beer spark plugs, Sun King is still going strong with locations in downtown Indy, Broad Ripple, Carmel, Fishers and Kokomo. Try their Sunlight Cream Ale if you get the chance.

Big Lug Canteen in Indianapolis
#11
Big Lug Canteen in Indianapolis

Big Lug Canteen

1435 E 86th St, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

A colorful brewpub in the Nora neighborhood where servers will help you pair beers with their diverse menu.

Bier Brewery & Taproom
#12
Bier Brewery & Taproom

Bier Brewery & Taproom

5133 E 65th St, Indianapolis, IN, USA

A cozy spot that makes small-batch, German-style beers.

See a piece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy

The day of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Robert Kennedy was in Indy to campaign but spoke about King’s legacy instead, right here in this park. Years later, President Bill Clinton dedicated the “Landmark for Peace” memorial as a lasting remembrance of both men and their Civil Rights contributions. 

Martin Luther King Jr. Park
#13
Martin Luther King Jr. Park

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park

1702 Broadway St, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Scratch your live-music itch

It might not be as renowned as Austin or Chicago, but Indy still has a busy music landscape and some cool venues. 

Hi Fi in Indianapolis
#14
Hi Fi in Indianapolis

Hi-Fi

HI-FI Indy & HI-FI Annex, 1043 Virginia Ave UNIT 4, Indianapolis, IN, USA

The beating heart of Fountain Square’s live music scene. It’s where you’ll catch big-name indie bands and promising local talent.

The White Rabbit Cabaret in Indianapolis
#15
The White Rabbit Cabaret in Indianapolis

The White Rabbit Cabaret

1116 Prospect St, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Looking at the White Rabbit’s calendar is like watching a freewheeling variety hour. One night you’ll get a local headliner.  Next, you’ll find a burlesque show. And then an improv comedy group. 

Chatterbox Jazz Club in Indianapolis
#16
Chatterbox Jazz Club in Indianapolis

Chatterbox Jazz Club

435 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Chatterbox fully embraces its dive-bar persona. And it books local jazz musicians for almost every night of the week. 

Calling all video game lovers! Beer drinkers! Everyone!

Take your favorite bar and wrap it in all the ’80s and ’90s nostalgia you can muster. That’s Tappers. 

Tappers in Indianapolis
#17
Tappers in Indianapolis

Tappers Arcade Bar

501 Virginia Ave #102, Indianapolis, IN

They’ve got 60 retro arcade games alongside 25 pinball machines, and they’re all free to play. And there are 16 rotating taps of local beer, so you can drink Big Lug while you play “NBA Jam,” or sip Sun King while mashing buttons on “Mortal Kombat.”

Drive an IndyCar

Every year around Memorial Day weekend, Indy submits to the rumble of the track and throngs of wild racing fans — the Indianapolis 500, a.k.a. “the greatest spectacle in racing.” If you’re in town any other time of year, you can take a turn driving or riding in an Indycar (it’ll cost you a pretty penny, though). If that’s not for you, the tours are good too. 

Indy Speedway in Indianapolis. Pic via Shutterstock.
#18
Indy Speedway in Indianapolis. Pic via Shutterstock.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

4790 W 16th St, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

With more than 250,000 permanent seats, it’s the world’s largest spectator sporting facility, and a sight to behold all on its own. It’s even cooler when you’re down on the track.

Where to stay

Keep that adventurous spirit alive when you get back to your lodging by staying in one of Indy’s hippest hotels.

Ironworks Hotel in Indianapolis
#19
Ironworks Hotel in Indianapolis

Ironworks Hotel

2721 E 86th St, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

It’s the definition of industrial chic. Exposed brick, dark wood, leather and a personality that says “I work with my hands, but practice cello on the weekends.” Plus, it’s got eight different restaurants, ranging from sushi to steaks. 

Crowne Plaza Hotel in Indianapolis
#20
Crowne Plaza Hotel in Indianapolis

Crowne Plaza Hotel (stay in a train car)

123 W Louisiana St, Indianapolis, IN, USA

At first glance, it might seem like another all-business convention center-slash-hotel. But because it’s inside the historic Union Station, you have the option of staying inside a repurposed train car. 

Play duckpin bowling

There are no ducks involved here. Not even anything shaped like a duck. It’s bowling, but with a smaller ball (about the size of a softball) and shorter pins. And despite what your Indy-born-and-raised friend tells you, nobody’s really that good at it. Duckpin bowling is great if you’ve got the family in tow, or you just feel like impressing your date with a bunch of one-pin frames. 

Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling in Indianapolis
#21
Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling in Indianapolis

Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling

1105 Prospect Street, Indianapolis, IN, USA

The best (and only) place to go duckpin bowling in Indy. It gets busy, so make sure you call ahead.

See historical Indiana

Indiana has some unique history (did you know Kentucky icon Colonel Sanders was actually born here?), and you can hit these spots for a little slice of the olden days.

Indy Market in Indianapolis
#22
Indy Market in Indianapolis

Indianapolis City Market

222 E Market St, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

It opened in 1886 as a place for farmers and more to sell their produce, and it’s still a thriving hub for local goods. Then, descend to the catacombs below to tour 20,000 square feet of space once used to transport and store goods.

Lilly House and Gardens
#23
Lilly House and Gardens

Lilly House and Gardens

4000 Michigan Rd, Indianapolis, IN, USA

Once the estate of famous Indianapolis businessman Josiah K. Lilly Jr., this 26-acre property is now open to the public. The house’s first floor has been renovated to reflect how it looked in the 1930s.

Cool and quirky museums

Want something a little offbeat? Head to these places for eccentric exhibits and niche, “Jeopardy”-question knowledge.

Rhythm! Discovery Center in Indianapolis
#24
Rhythm! Discovery Center in Indianapolis

Rhythm! Discovery Center

110 W Washington St A, Indianapolis, IN

Wherever there’s a drum set, there are people who want to wail on it. At Rhythm! Discovery Center, that’s the point. The center has hundreds of percussion instruments from around the world for visitors to try, along with famous and historic pieces on display, like Neil Peart’s legendary set (sorry, you can’t play that one).

Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library
#25
Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library

543 Indiana Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Indiana is pretty proud of its native satirist, and rightfully so. You can see his typewriter, drawings, first-edition novels and rejection letters from editors who must be kicking themselves now. 

Museum of Psychphonics in Indianapolis
#26
Museum of Psychphonics in Indianapolis

Museum of Psychphonics

1043 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

A super-funky and quirky museum that highlights Indy’s historical connections to African American music and ponders Afrofuturistic themes.