Lying smack dab in the middle of Indiana, Indianapolis is both the state capital and its largest city. Indy quickly outgrew its original square-mile plan to become one of the nation’s main transportation hubs and is now commonly referred to as the “Crossroads of America,” due to the six interstates that service the area. The city that once relied on mule-drawn carts for transportation is now also known as the Racing Capital of the World, thanks to its world-famous Indy 500, the largest single-day sporting event on the planet. Winters are, more often that not, bitterly cold, while summers tend to be less hot and humid than in other Midwestern cities.
The City’s Culture
Dubbed “Naptown” in the early 1900s because of its sleepy vibe, Indianapolis has experienced a resurgence in recent years, although locals still sometimes refer to themselves—with more than a bit of irony—as “Naptownians.” As the birthplace to Wonder Bread and, some claim, Raggedy Ann, Indy is an all-American city that prides itself on its Hoosier hospitality. In addition to its racing heritage, Indy is also home to the NCAA Hall of Champions, honoring college athletes. The pride of the city and host of the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has the highest seating capacity of any sports facility in the world. Each summer, gaming enthusiasts descend in droves for Gen Con, one of the largest conventions in the country.
The Indiana Children’s Museum—the world’s largest of its kind—features a dragon-like dinosaur skeleton whose scientific name, Dracorex hogwartsia, was inspired by the Harry Potter series. At the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the exhibition area extends outdoors, with 100 acres of woodlands and wetlands in the adjacent park, while the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art has the rare dual mission of documenting both the American West and Native America. Indy’s eerie side is showcased year round at the Indiana Medical History Museum, which contains a room of bottled brains, and each Halloween at the Indy Scream Park Haunted House, voted among the best in the country.
Where to Explore
Much of the city is divided into cultural districts, four of which lie within downtown’s borders and all of which are connected via the Cultural Trail, a pedestrian- and bike-friendly path heavy on public art. Indiana Avenue showcases the city’s African-American heritage and former jazz culture that local residents celebrate in regular festivals. A mile and a half from downtown lies Fountain Square, a district known for its renovated warehouses now bursting with restaurants and nightlife. Before the sun goes down and nighttime revelers begin barhopping, the area of Broad Ripple brims with bakeries and shops, including beloved indie bookstore Big Hat.