This post may contain affiliate links, which means I make commission (at no cost to you!)
if you purchase through the link. Read our affiliate disclosure here.
We recently went to Nashville to witness the great eclipse of 2017. (You can read all about that misadventure here.) Since we live in Michigan, we drove through Indianapolis to get to Nashville and were pleasantly surprised by what a great town Indianapolis is! The last few times we’d been to Indy were for softball tournaments with our youngest daughter, which were fun times for sure, but there was never time to explore, softball hotels are typically terrifying not the greatest, and our time was consumed by games, laundry and hanging out with the team. This was different for a couple reasons: no kids (ours or other peoples’) and no laundry. Already we are off to a good start. 😉
We didn’t have a lot of time in Indy, but we did our best to make the most of it. The people of Indianapolis were friendly and welcoming and the town itself is very clean and tourist-friendly. It is a great overnight or weekend getaway if you are in driving distance.
Our first stop was the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
This beautiful museum is internationally renowned and features over 54,000 works of art. You could spend days here and not see everything! Located on 152 acres, the IMA is dedicated to combining nature and art, and the grounds are nothing short of gorgeous. If you are visiting on a nice day, be sure to carve out some time to stroll the grounds. The day we visited the weather was beautiful and we spent more time outside than in! Did I mention there is a beer garden? This is a *great* museum, and practically reason enough to visit Indy. Inside you will find works by Gauguin, Hopper, Degas, Van Gogh, Monet and O’Keefe, to name just a few. There are also extensive collections of African and Asian art, too. I love visiting art museums in different cities because while they are alike, they are all so incredibly different, too.
Next, since it was such a nice day, we took a stroll along the canal. The canal loop is 3 miles long and popular for walkers and joggers. You can rent paddle boats and even take a gondola ride, which looked like a lot of fun and a nice way to relax on the water. We stopped at Fresco café, which is a very casual restaurant on the canal where we could dine al fresco, and shared a sandwich for a late lunch.
After lunch, we headed towards our hotel and the heart of the downtown area. We checked out Monument Circle, which honors soldiers and sailors, and also houses the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum on the ground level. The monument has stairs to the top (and an elevator) observation deck. The line was long, so we did not make the climb to the top, but it is tall enough to tell that the view of the city would be terrific. The circle area hosts events year-round, so be sure to check out the calendar of events when planning your trip to see if there is anything of interest to you.
There is a mall just south of the Circle, if you’d like to do some mall shopping. Just northeast of the Circle is the Indianapolis City Market, which has everything from locally designed jewelry to flowers to authentic ethnic food. We will definitely stop here for lunch on our next trip! There are over 30 merchants, so take some time to wander around. This would be a great place for dinner, too, as there is something for everyone.
By this point, we were pooped! We headed over to the Hilton to check in, rest for a bit and freshen up for dinner. The Hilton Indianapolis Hotel & Suites is located in the downtown area, just west of the Circle. It is a lovely, moderately priced hotel with a pool and on-site spa, if that is your thing. The rooms were clean and comfortable and perfect for an overnight.
From the Hilton we walked over to Harry & Izzy’s for dinner. Reservations are recommended, as this is quite a popular restaurant! (You can reserve a spot with OpenTable. Not familiar with OpenTable? Check out this mini-post on how to earn rewards booking reservations through OpenTable! We use it whenever possible and enjoy the Amazon gift cards!) Harry & Izzy’s is known for their steaks, which is what we enjoyed. I had a mouthwatering filet, and Hubby opted for the ribeye. We rarely order the same thing so we can have a taste (or swap entirely, lol!) of each other’s. We ordered the mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts as sides and were not disappointed. Dinner was fantastic and while we make an effort not to dine at the same restaurant more than once in cities we visit, we will be tempted to dine here again on our next trip. It was *that* good! Sadly, we were too full for dessert.
Our final stop before calling it quits for the night was Howl at the Moon. It was a quick walk from the restaurant, and for some odd reason I cannot resist dueling pianos, so much to Hubby’s dismay, I dragged him along. (I don’t call him Old Man River for nothing!) The live music, played by fantastically entertaining musicians, is always a blast. We only stayed for one drink and a handful of songs, but it was fun! If it had been earlier in the evening we would have stayed longer, but knew we wanted to be on the road to Nashville at a decent hour the next day.
On our way out of town we stopped at the iconic Long’s Bakery. Founded in 1955 by Carl Long, Long’s Bakery is an Indianapolis institution and a real, live “from scratch” bakery. It is not fancy. In fact, it probably hasn’t changed a whole lot since the 50’s. There is no seating, so don’t plan on hanging out there. What it is is nothing short of fantastic! With donuts, danishes, cakes and pies, be prepared to wait in line (and bring cash) because this is where locals and visitors alike get their baked goods. You will not be disappointed! We may have bought enough for the next few days…. They may not have lasted that long…. So good. So, soooo good. The pecan rolls are to-die-for, and at $.63 each the applesauce donuts are melt-in-your-mouth good.
All in all, Indianapolis was great! It was better than I was anticipating and I probably should have planned a little better. It was a quick trip and I would love to go back for a full weekend. I would choose summer or early fall again since we like to be outdoors and walk around. I would definitely want to spend more time at the art museum and city market. What are your favorite things to do in Indianapolis? We’d love to hear from some locals who know about the hidden gems that are sure to be found!
Travel Tips & Tricks:
- Do you need a passport? It’s kind of important! US residents can check out this article on obtaining (or renewing) a passport.
- The best travel advice I have ever received is “take half as much clothing, twice as much money.” Ain’t that the truth?! I am a chronic over-packer and adhering to this has been a challenge. I was able to pull it off on our last vacation, which was great because then I had room for all of the stuff I bought with the “twice as much money” part of this equation. <heh heh>
- The second best travel advice I have ever received is that if you are traveling with a group or another couple, build in downtime for yourself or you and your spouse. Too much “together” can take its toll. Nothing says that because you are vacationing together you have to do everything together. If you’re a foodie and your friends are not, go out to dinner with your partner. If you want to read and they want to rent wave runners, stay behind and read. This is your vacation, so make it one you have the best time possible during.
- Airlines have cracked down on luggage sizes and weights, and the fee for an overweight bag can be astronomical. If your luggage is older, consider upgrading to a set that is guaranteed to be the correct size for carryons and is also lightweight. I bought this Travelhouse 3-piece luggage set for my daughter’s recent vacation. The largest piece weighs just 9 pounds, it has spinner wheels and a TSA approved lock. It also comes in several colors, which is my third tip: If you’re purchasing new luggage, consider luggage that is a color or pattern – in other words, not black! It will be so much easier to spot your bag on the luggage carousel. This is especially handy when traveling with kids whose luggage you also need to find. No one wants to hang out at the airport checking every black bag that passes by! Is that it…no…is that it…no…I think that’s it…nope. A new luggage set can solve a lot of headaches, for a pretty reasonable price!
- TSA approved bottles for liquids are another must-have when planning a big trip. These squeezable silicone bottles are 2 and 3 ounces and can be refilled each time you travel. Yes, you can check larger sized containers, but for items you want access to throughout your flight, these bottles are perfect!
- Take comfy shoes, even if you think you won’t do a lot of walking. You never know what adventures will pop up and buying shoes you already have at home is an expense that is easy to avoid.
- Save on hotel stays by choosing hotel groups, such as Intercontinental Hotels, that regularly offer deals and discounts.
If you want to read more about our recent travel adventures, you can check out these posts:
And also some of our “travel dreaming” posts here:
Our Comprehensive Guide to Fiji: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know Before You Go To Fiji
Five Amazing Waterfalls You Won’t Believe Are In Michigan
I Dream of Iceland: 10 Things to See and Do on Your Dream Vacation
Still need more inspiration? Our Wanderlust board on Pinterest has over 1,000 inspirational pins!