10 Things to Do in Indianapolis With Kids (That Don’t Involve Racing)

Indianapolis has long been considered a racing town, best known for the Indy 500 car race held each May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, there’s much more to the second largest city in the Midwest.

But first, it’s worth noting that it’s a cinch to get to Indianapolis thanks to 50+ non-stop flights that come in and out of Indianapolis from a range of cities, like Seattle and Boston. So you can hit the ground running once you’re wheels down on the tarmac (center city is just 15 minutes from the airport). Here are my favorite things to do in Indianapolis with kids. Have fun.

1. Grab Lunch at the Indianapolis City Market

Make the Indianapolis City Market your first destination. It’s home to more than 30 locally-owned food stalls, a farmers’ market and a tap room with 19 craft beers, all brewed in-state. It’s a popular meeting spot, but there’s more there than you know.

This historic landmark from the late-1880s hides a network of underground passageways once used to store produce, meats and dairy products in the days before refrigeration. Guided tours on the first and third Saturday from May to October share the history of these catacombs.

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2. Engage in Family Art Activities at Newfields

Known as Newfields, the Indianapolis Museum of Art features rotating exhibitions, delightful outdoor gardens and hands-on activities to inspire a love of arts and culture in visitors of all ages, like gallery art hunts and sing-alongs. There are orchid care classes for adults.

Inside the museum, a well-appointed café features seasonal salads and hot sandwiches (they even offer a gluten-free bread option for an extra $1). Refuel before exploring the verdant outdoor gardens. In early-winter, check out Winterlights.

3. Spend the (Entire) Day at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Start your day at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis It’s an epic destination where kids can dig up dinosaur fossils, explore pop culture, like comic books and TV classics, and decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Outside, the massive Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience gives children the opportunity to try out different sports, like hockey, soccer, tennis and golf. Stroll the Avenue of Champions to be inspired by individuals who’ve made their marks on sports history.

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4. Ride a Bike Along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

The five-year-old Indianapolis Cultural Trail welcomes visitors with eight miles of safe and easily navigable bike and pedestrian paths that connect vibrant neighborhoods, cultural districts, and entertainment options all across the city.

This urban greenway has rejuvenated the city with colorful public art projects, thoughtful landscaping, and convenient bike-share locations. It’s easy to spend an entire day simply biking neighborhood to neighborhood as a family.

5. Explore White River State Park

White River State Park is a 250-acre swath of green space that sits on the west side of downtown. Explore the park by bike, on foot or by boat. Wheel Fun Rentals a variety of modes of human-powered transport, including pedal boats, kayaks and four-wheel surrey bikes.

Photo Credit: Visit Indy

The park boasts cultural attractions aplenty too. Stroll the Indianapolis Zoo, explore the history of the Hoosier State at the Indiana State Museum and get your fill of college sports at the NCAA Hall of Champions. In summer, pack a picnic and take in an outdoor concert.

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6. Pose With an NDY Sculpture

Indianapolis has gotten into the selfie scene thanks to NDY sculptures around town, even at the airport, that let you pose as the letter “I” to make INDY (it all makes sense now, right?).

Photo Credit: Visit Indy

The city encourages you to pose and post with the hashtag #loveindy. On Instagram alone, there are more than 160,000 hashtagged posts (along with another 34,000 using #indylove) so it’s definitely become a thing in Indianapolis. 

7. Take a Trolley Tour

I hate to say trolley tours are my thing, but I do love to get my bearings when arriving in a new city with a trolley tour. In Indianapolis, Indy Fun Trolley Tours runs a 75-minute trolley tour around town, stopping at more than 20 city attractions, including the iconic Soldiers & Sailors Monument.

Photo Credit: Visit Indy

It’s worth noting, however, that while many trolley tours are hop-on, hop-off, this one does not, so if you get off, you may need to Uber back to your hotel. The trolley runs six days a week with three set departure times (11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm).

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8. Explore the Indianapolis Zoo 

Sure, most cities have a zoo, but there’s just so much to love about the Indianapolis Zoo, and kids seem to power up when they see exotic and furry animals (really, any kind of animals). Here, your kids can explore oceans, savannahs, plains and frozen tundra. So fun.

Photo Credit: Visit Indy

In March and April, the zoo welcomes a colorful spring festival called xZOOberance. It’s new this year and expects to wow with vibrant flowers, outdoor music, flying kites and plenty of kids crafts and activities. Don’t miss out on seeing new zoo babies or feeding flamingos.

9. Dig Into Living History at Conner Prairie

Just outside town, in Fishers (about a 30-minute drive), you’ll find Conner Prairie. It’s a living history museum that offers a re-enactment of life in the 19th century along the White River called Prairietown. Check out a one-room schoolhouse, learn apprentice skills and chat up characters in period costumes about life in 1863.

Photo Credit: Visit Indy

Beyond Prairietown, kids will love the petting farm, four-story treehouse, craft corner and indoor workshop. Discovery Station is also a huge hit with the 8 and under crowd. It’s an indoor play area just right for climbing, dress up, block building and being device-free.

Related article: 15 Fun Things to Do With Kids in Chattanooga 

10. Go Duckpin Bowling 

Duckpin bowling is kind of a must-do. For one, the bowling balls are smaller – about half the size of a regular bowling ball – making much easier for kids to bowl. By themselves, that is. That noted, make a beeline for Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling.

Photo Credit: Visit Indy

There are eight lanes of duckpin bowling (which also uses smaller pins) plus a café. The equipment is retro, like from the 1950’s and 1960’s, which your kids may dig too. Fun fact, Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling offers the only authentic duckpin bowling in the Midwest.

Okay, if you really do want to check out fast cars, go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For one, the racing museum is pretty cool and you can even see the actual (at least I think it’s the “actual”) Borg-Warn Trophy for winning the Indy 500.

Get out on the speedway by way of a guided bus tour or race next door at the Indy Racing Experience, which offers multiple ride or drive experiences. A bucket list experience, for sure.

What are some are some of your favorite things to do in Indianapolis with kids? Let me know in the comments section below.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Visit Indy. However, I was not compensated for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.