Not all travelers have leisure time. Perhaps you're on business and can only step out at lunch, or you have an airport layover and you're looking for a way to kill a few hours. If you find that these or other circumstances are cramping your desired itinerary, know that you can still get a taste of Indianapolis.
Pick one (or as many as you can) of the destinations below—each can be experienced in 80 minutes or less. There are options to fit any season. And no matter your travel style—whether you like historical sites or prefer to hang out in the great outdoors—we have you covered.
QUICK VISIT 1
Crown Hill Cemetery
Who says cemeteries have to be creepy? This breathtaking destination commingles art, nature and history. It got its start back in 1863 when landscape architect Frederick Chislett moved into a cabin on the grounds. Today, Crown Hill is the country’s third largest cemetery, originally cobbled together with land from three farms.
Famous residents range from President Benjamin Harrison to gangster John Dillinger; local notables include poet James Whitcomb Riley. More than 1,000 Confederate soldiers and a dozen generals of the Civil War are also interred here.
Nature lovers tread this National Historic Register site to spot deer, squirrels, raccoons, fox and red-tailed hawks and to examine more than 250 species of trees and shrubs. Crown Hill also hosts frequent and fascinating public tours of the grounds on a variety of topics, as well as fun events annually.
QUICK VISIT 2
We could spend hours (nay, days) exploring all there is to see and do in White River State Park. But nothing makes us happier than checking in on our animal friends at the Indianapolis Zoo. Open since 1988, this was the first zoo ever to be triple accredited a zoo, an aquarium and a botanic garden. The zoo’s five designated areas contain more than 250 species of animals: Oceans, Deserts Dome, Forests, Plains, Flights of Fancy, along with the White River Gardens. To get the most out of your trip, we suggest visiting the newest zoo babies: an orangutan, a giraffe and a white-handed gibbon—so cute! For a relaxing view, grab a ride on the gondola-style Skyline or the White River Junction Train.
QUICK VISIT 3
Indiana War Memorial
It’s a tricky balance, honoring the service of veterans (and sacrifices of those back on the home front) while also decrying war and fervently hoping for peace. The solemn, imposing edifice on downtown’s Veterans Memorial Plaza does a good job, with twin missions of educating visitors about Hoosier participation in armed conflicts from the Battle of Tippecanoe up to present-day engagements, and also urging a “spirit of brotherhood binding the people of the United States with the nations of the world” to produce a lasting peace for all future generations.
So much history lies within these walls, but for a short visit, we recommend taking in the collection of patriotic and propaganda posters, stopping to chat with the super-knowledgeable volunteers manning the USS Indianapolis nuclear submarine control room—and pausing for contemplation in the hushed Shrine Room.
QUICK VISIT 4
Sightseeing can make you hungry, and if you're traveling with a group, pleasing everyone's palate can be difficult. But, at City Market you don't have to compromise. Vendors sell everything from fresh-made tamales to delicious scones. Open May to October, this gathering spot has been a favorite for Indy natives since 1886, when it first opened as a meat and produce market. Over the years it expanded and now even includes a popular tap room on its upper level.
QUICK VISIT 5
Christ Church Cathedral
Just off Monument Circle, the historic Gothic Revival interior of Christ Church Cathedral provides sanctuary from the madding crowd. Pictures alone give reason enough to stroll over to this historic building. Brochures outlining a self-guided walking tour are available just inside the church's doors, which are almost always open for prayer and worship. Also be sure to check out the church's events calendar for information on outdoor concerts, holiday celebrations, organ recitals and theological discussions happening throughout the year.
QUICK VISIT 6
Straight as an arrow, Mass Ave shoots out from Monument Circle (at E. New York and N. Delaware) and dead ends just west of Interstate 70. There’s much to see and do along this spunky, home-grown avenue. We love to shop places like Homespun and Trailside General Store, where the goods are crafted by talented local makers, presenting out-of-the-box items you just need to buy. Case in point: The adorable two-inch square Make Waves kinetic sailboat sculptures by day, by night or by Jolly Roger at Homespun. Another personally cherished hangout is Indy Reads Books where we pick up the latest in fiction, travel and memoir. For a treat, we limit ourselves to one or two chocolate creations (the milk chocolate dipped marshmallow or the peanut butter cup, usually) from The Best Chocolate In Town. Along the way, weI enjoy revisiting displays of public art, from Julian Opie’s iconic and perpetually moving “Ann Dancing” to larger-than-life street murals of author Kurt Vonnegut and poet Mari Evans.