5 Top Daytrips From Indianapolis

All it takes is a tank of gas to explore these diverse locales.

Indiana holds treasures far beyond the boundaries of the city of Indianapolis. Options abound but these quick road trips bring some charm to any traveler’s itinerary without breaking the budget on gas.


Just 30 miles outside Indianapolis, Shelbyville rings the recess bell for grown-ups. The Indiana Grand Casino lures gamblers with slots and tables promising big wins, while live entertainment, superb dining, and horse racing at nearby Indiana Downs wows spectators with its overarching glitzy, Vegas vibe. Whether you’re out for the night with Lady Luck or staying for the weekend, good times are never in short supply. Catch live music at Center Bar, try a delicious steak at the award-winning restaurant Center Cut or pick a winning thoroughbred at the track. 

Lake Ogle in Nashville
Lake Ogle in Nashville (©Serge Melki/Flickr, Creative Commons)


When you need to get out of the city and long to play among lush greenery and fresh air, head to Nashville—no, not Music City, south in Tennessee. Find outdoor adventure in this Brown County gem, a tucked-away region featuring horseback excursions—or pony rides for tykes—hiking trails of varying difficulty and zip line tours. Camping is popular among overnight visitors, especially at Brown County State Park, but this country town also offers rustic inns for a cozier, cover-overhead retreat. 

Indiana University Eskenazi Museum of Art
Indiana University Eskenazi Museum of Art (©Kevin J.S. Zollman/Wikimedia Commons)


Southwest of Indy sits the college town of Bloomington, a bustling place despite its diminutive square acreage. Filled with Midwestern charm, Bloomington boasts a thriving arts scene with galleries, museums and public art sprinkled about town, in addition to diverse live music offerings. Bloomington’s dining culture alone is worth the visit thanks to abounding international flavors and gustatory celebrations such as summer’s Taste of Bloomington.

Columbus Courthouse
Columbus Courthouse (©Valerie Everett/Flickr, Creative Commons)


Pack a camera when visiting Columbus, which proudly plays home to more than 75 unforgettable buildings designed by internationally renowned modernist architects. One of the most acclaimed sites is the mid-century modern marvel the Miller House and Garden that offers tours and is a can’t-miss stop on your explorations through Columbus’ revered feats of infrastructure. But that’s not all this town has to offer: Family fun comes in large doses with massive playgrounds that border on public art, rock climbing, waterfalls, a petting zoo, miniature golf and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.

Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory in Louisville, Kentucky
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory (©iStock)

South of the Border

On Route 65, 115 miles due south, the Midwest meets the South in Louisville, Kentucky, where cultural currency exchanges beer, bacon and basketball for bourbon, burgoo and baseball. The Derby Festival means visitors get an unadulterated taste of Kentuckiana. This border city is rife with things to explore, starting in Old Louisville, a historic Victorian preservation district boasting 48 walkable blocks of brick row houses, stained glass and amazing architecture.

The Highlands neighborhood along Bardstown Road is a hot after-dark destination for its clubs, live music venues and locally owned upscale restaurants. Fair weather welcomes outdoor pursuits like the Falls of the Ohio State Park, where visitors can explore 390-million-year-old naturally exposed fossil beds.

Popular summer music festivals include The Beatles-inspired Abbey Road on the River and the Forecastle Festival headlined by major acts including X Ambassadors, Cage The Elephant, Weezer and more.