For all the car culture that surrounds Indianapolis when it's time for the Indy 500 or the Brickyard 400, you might be surprised that one of best ways to explore this midwestern city is on foot. Do double-duty on your explorations about town by heading to the city’s best neighborhoods, which just happen to be pedestrian-friendly. You’ll get a street-level view of the shops, restaurants, and sites that make each area shine, along with a soul-restoring dose of exercise and fresh air! Here, three of our favorite districts to explore on foot. Here's where to go if you just have one day:
Morning: Broad Ripple Village
Fifteen minutes north of downtown, stroll the main drag of this hip, vibrant enclave. Its reputation as a nightlife magnet for the young and trendy holds true (with popular bars like Brothers Bar & Grill and Union Jack Pub), but daytime offers plenty, along busy strips and leafy side streets. Hike or bike the adjacent Monon Trail. Shop for yourself or a friend at Artifacts (fine craft gallery), Just Pop In (gourmet popcorn), Bebe Gate (Euro clothing and gifts for kiddos), and The Bungalow (great gifts, accessories and home décor). Grab a bite at Canal Bistro Mediterranean Grille or La Chinita Poblana, and take in the 12-acre interactive sculpture park at the nearby Indianapolis Arts Center.
Afternoon: Massachusetts Avenue
A healthy walk northeast from downtown gets you to Mass Ave., a diagonal swath of restaurants, bars, shops, theaters, and galleries, as well as some great public art installations. Indulge in a little retail therapy at Chatham Home, Crimson Tate, Indy Reads Books, and Silver in the City; when you need refreshment, a sweet treat from The Best Chocolate in Town or SubZero hits the spot. After dark, join the happy crowds wining and dining at Mesh, Bakersfield, and Bazbeaux. If you decide to go no further than this fine neighborhood, then cap the night with some great live music at The Chatterbox Jazz Club.
Evening: Fountain Square
Drive (but then park!) southeast of downtown to this funky neighborhood, centered on the cast-iron fountain of the goddess Hebe (nicknamed “Lady Spray”) at the intersection of Virginia Avenue, Prospect Street, and Shelby Street. Recent revitalization has been led by artists who live and work in the district. Among the worthy stops: dining at Santorini Greek Kitchen, Revolucion, and Pure Eatery; entertainment at White Rabbit Cabaret (burlesque and comedy) and Atomic Bowl Duckpin Bowling (with small, light balls perfect for kids); and contemporary art shows at iMOCA.