Ladies and gentlemen—start your engines! Known for its incomparable racing, Indianapolis has put a different kind of pedal to the metal with an engaging array of new and updated attractions, experiences, and tastes beyond the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Here’s a short list of the latest and greatest spots to check out during your next visit to the Circle City.
Explore the Bottleworks District
As the city’s newest showplace, the mixed-use Bottleworks District cuts a dashing figure at the northeastern end of downtown’s trendy Mass Ave Arts District. During its 1950s heyday, the complex was said to be the world’s busiest Coca-Cola bottling plant, filling 2 million bottles a week.
As cans became more popular, however, the facility lost steam and was sold in 1964 to Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman, who eventually housed his prized collection of vintage cars there. In 1969, Indianapolis Public Schools purchased the campus to use as a bus service center and central prep kitchen.
The 12-acre property changed hands once again in 2017 when Hendricks Commercial Properties took the reins, embarking upon an ambitious and extensive $300 million renovation to return the local landmark to its former art deco glory. A white terra cotta facade complements stand-out details inside like gorgeous brass ceiling panels, exquisite glazed tilework, and polished terrazzo floors.
The Bottleworks Hotel anchors the district with 139 sleek rooms, starting from $249 per night. Clever touches such as ceiling designs that call to mind fizzy pop and a stairwell that resembles vintage soda fountains hint at the property’s past life. Just don’t expect to find any Pepsi in the in-room minibars.
Offices and other former Coke-era spaces have been reimagined as meeting rooms, event spaces, and gathering areas. The building is also home to Blue Collar Coffee, the Asian-fusion Modita restaurant, and the Woodhouse Day Spa.
To round out a day, night, or weekend getaway, there’s more to explore across the alley, including Pins Mechanical duckpin bowling and the Living Room Theaters, an intimate cinematic experience. Getting hungry? The Garage Food Hall makes dining decisions difficult with a deliciously eclectic lineup of local vendors preparing everything from arepas, lobster rolls, and burgers to poke, pizza, and pakoras.
Get active on new walking and biking trails
To navigate seamlessly between downtown cultural districts, follow the Indianapolis Cultural Trail’s 8 miles of urban pedestrian and bike paths punctuated with innovative public art installations. A $30 million, 2-mile expansion is expected to be completed by May 2023.
Free to use and open 24/7, the Cultural Trail conveniently links some of the city’s most popular attractions, restaurants, and entertainment venues—with the expansion allowing residents and visitors to more easily reach an even greater range of destinations.
The new South Street leg aims to improve access to Lucas Oil Stadium, Stadium Village, the mixed-use CityWay development, and the Indiana Convention Center.
The Indiana Avenue extension will connect to the recently updated Madam Walker Legacy Center in the Indiana Avenue Cultural District, as well as the up-and-coming 16 Tech Innovation district.
“From its inception, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail has been a shining example of how public-private partnerships enhance quality of life for our residents,” said Kären Haley, the executive director of the nonprofit group that oversees the trail. “The Cultural Trail has moved our city forward by integrating cultural and economic development with opportunities to improve community health and vitality.”
Markings on the asphalt identify the trail at a glance, and dozens of strategically placed Indiana Pacers Bikeshare stations make it easy to borrow a set of wheels for a quick ride or for the whole day. Riders pay $1 to access the bikes and 15 cents per minute; annual passes are $133.75.
Look for murals of famous people
While you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled for a growing collection of murals beautifying the sides of downtown buildings. Larger-than-life depictions of native Indy author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and African American poet Mari Evans co-exist on Massachusetts Avenue; legendary Indiana Pacer Reggie Miller lines up a shot on the corner of Michigan and Delaware streets; and Holocaust survivor and peace activist Eva Mozes Kor graces the exterior of the 500 Festival building on Virginia Avenue.
The newest installation, a soaring 5-story painting of Marshall “Major” Taylor, the first African American world champion professional cyclist, recently took shape on the Barnes & Thornburg building just south of Monument Circle as part of the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ Bicentennial Legends mural series.
Take in dinner and a movie
The forward-thinking Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie gives the dinner-and-a-movie concept a thoroughly modern upgrade. Located just off the northeast spur of Massachusetts Avenue in the emerging Windsor Park neighborhood, the Kan-Kan opened to critical acclaim in the summer of 2021 after COVID-19 delays.
The setup allows guests to pop in independently for dinner, movies, drinks—or all of the above. The Kan-Kan screens films you won’t find anywhere else in town, as well as first-run movies and vintage flicks.
Abbi Merriss, a James Beard Foundation Award–nominated chef for 5 consecutive years (2016–2020), runs the brasserie leg of the operation, a buzzy 145-seat eatery featuring elevated Continental starters, small plates, and entrées along the lines of chicken liver pâté, scallops au Provence, tartine, steak frites, and a boudin blanc sausage plate. Don’t miss the signature candy bar cookies with whipped crème fraîche for dessert.
Mixologists behind the bar shake and stir a selection of whimsical cocktails befitting the cuisine. Or choose from a nicely vetted list of craft beers and a few nonalcoholic house-made sodas.
A new home for Van Gogh
Entrancing artworks by Vincent van Gogh have an incredible new home at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which is part of Newfields: A Place for Nature & the Arts.
Unveiled last summer, “The Lume” has been wowing guests with moving 3-D depictions of art by the master himself. The museum’s entire fourth floor has been transformed to accommodate a permanent experiential gallery that includes 150 high-definition projectors, 30,000 square feet of space, a gift shop, and a café.
As visitors stroll through, the shapes and sounds shift to create the feeling of total immersion into Sunflowers, The Starry Night, and other familiar van Gogh pieces. Additional interactive elements provide guests with the opportunity to spend time in a re-creation of van Gogh’s bedroom and to give their own selfies the van Gogh treatment.
While similar van Gogh experiences are popping up around the country, “The Lume” holds the distinction of being the country’s first permanent multisensory exhibition of its kind. The content of “The Lume” will be refreshed annually at Newfields, which also features a garden, an art and nature park, 2 historic houses, and a beer garden on its 152-acre campus.
Feel like a kid again
Indy visitors of all ages now have even more incentive to check out the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, one of the world’s largest facilities of its kind.
“Malala’s World,” honoring Malala Yousafzai, opened as part of the Power of Children interactive display area in September 2021, joining existing honorees Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White. After surviving a gunshot from a Taliban member while riding a school bus in 2012, the Nobel Prize winner drew from her own experience to fight for girls’ and women’s education rights around the world. The new permanent exhibit includes a re-creation of her Pakistani home, as well as a deep dive into her activism.
Elsewhere in the museum, “Stories from Our Community: The Art of Protest” recognizes the 18 Indianapolis-area artists who teamed up to create the Black Lives Matter (BLM) street mural on Indiana Avenue in 2020. Through summer 2023, guests can admire representations of each letter in the mural and the tools used to create them and listen to personal stories and interviews from the artists themselves. The overriding goal of the project? To address social injustices by sharing stories of the Black experience in America.
“If we can reach children with conversations that adults are having, the next generation may not have to go through the hardships that we are going through now,” said Deonna Craig, a visiting artist at the museum and one of the original Indiana BLM mural artists.
In the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience indoor gallery, “Baseball Boundary Breakers” highlights trailblazers like Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Mo’ne Davis, and Jim Abbott, who faced and overcame racial and gender barriers and physical challenges to achieve success.
“We believe this exhibit is an opportunity for children and families to have fun with baseball while connecting bigger ideas and important values, sparking learning opportunities in both sport and life,” said Jennifer Pace Robinson, president and CEO of the museum.
In addition, a pair of dinosaur experiences to be unveiled in March will join a host of other exhibits throughout the museum that focus on space, train travel, the mysteries of an Egyptian tomb, hands-on sports activities, and more. Constantly evolving, the museum renews itself with appealing enhancements to keep guests coming back for more.
Just like Indianapolis itself.
Self-described urban adventurer Amy Lynch has been an Indianapolis resident for more than 20 years.
AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.