There's more to the Circle City than, well, the Circle - both Monument Circle downtown and that oval track over on the Westside. Whether you've got friends and relatives visiting this summer, or find yourself wanting to explore more than your neighborhood, here's our recommendations for the best Indianapolis has to offer.
Crown Hill Cemetery
700 W. 38th St.
Dillinger is buried here. Sunlight filters through old-growth trees on row after row of Civil War dead. Kurt Vonnegut said that, as a boy, he liked going to Crown Hill to shoot crows. This, in other words, is a place with plenty of history. It is also a rolling, bucolic refuge at the heart of the city, where it's not unusual to spy a deer or two. Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley's grave marks Indianapolis' highest point and affords a splendid view of downtown.
Indianapolis Museum of Art
1200 W. 38th St.
The IMA has undergone a major revival in recent years, adding a significant contemporary art dimension to a collection already strong in such areas as Asian and African art. But what really sets the IMA apart from other museums is its extensive grounds and gardens, which serve to lend what's found inside the building a truly gracious Midwestern sense of place.
40 E. St. Clair St.
Indianapolis-Marion County's Central Library building is an architectural landmark that bridges past and future, combining Paul Cret's neoclassical building from 1917 with Evans Woolen's extensive new addition, completed in 2007. Both pieces are gems that provide visitors with opportunities for personal reflection and public engagement, not to mention state-of-the-art information technology and services. The recently installed sculptures by Peter Shelton, thinmanlittlebird
, utilizing pedestals Cret created, have added an animating flourish and provided the city with its most important public art since the Monument was installed on the Circle following the Civil War.
The War Memorial
431 N. Meridian St.
Originally built to honor those who fought and died in the First World War, the War Memorial has gone on to commemorate the contributions made by the U.S. military in wars before and since. But even pacifists can be moved by the scale and deco imagination that inform this remarkable building. They simply don't make things like this anymore. Visiting the War Memorial is like stepping across a threshold into another dimension. Admission is free.
13400 Allisonville Road
Our part of the Midwest isn't known for its battlefields or bad guys (John Dillinger notwithstanding). Our history, like our landscape, is too easily overlooked. A visit to Conner Prairie is a great way to set the record straight. One of the nation's top living history museums, in a class with Colonial Williamsburg, Conner Prairie allows visitors the chance to understand the different human forces that have shaped this place, as well as the ways in which the natural world shaped them.
1119 E. Prospect St.
Rock fans will argue about their favorite local clubs - you'll hear a strong chorus favoring the Melody Inn on Illinois Street, for example - but most agree none combine up-close intimacy and class quite like Radio Radio in Fountain Square. Owned by the legendary bass player Tufty Clough, of Zero Boys and Bigger Than Elvis fame, Radio Radio presents top drawer touring acts, experimentalists and local artists. The bar is a visual blast and to top things off, the place is non-smoking.
The Jazz Kitchen
5377 College Ave.
Indianapolis is justly proud of its storied jazz tradition. And though you can't go wrong at Dave Andrichik's Chatterbox on Massachusetts Avenue, we have to say that another Dave, Allee, has created the city's premier jazz showcase at the corner of 54th and College. The Jazz Kitchen is a real nightclub, featuring top local artists and excellent touring acts. Where else can you make yourself this comfortable and hear a big band, like Buselli Wallarab's Midcoast Swing Orchestra, every Tuesday night? What's more, Allee's extensive menu of New Orleans-inspired dishes is excellent.
2450 S. Shelby St.
A Southside treasure, Garfield Park provides an array of delights, from its recently revived sunken gardens, to art exhibitions at its cultural center, frequent ethnic festivals and the simple pleasures of walking or biking through its gracefully undulating landscape. Plus, the park's close proximity to Fountain Square means that plenty of great dining options are available once the fresh air has piqued your appetite.
Indianapolis Art Center
820 E. 67th St.
Start with the building: a Michael Graves original, which is a small masterwork of functional design, with working studios for glassblowing, sculpture and other visual arts, not to mention exhibition galleries and a library. Then there are the grounds, the IAC's Artspark, where an array of sculptures shares space within shouting distance of the White River and the Monon Trail. And did we mention the neighborhood? Broad Ripple, which puts you just a stroll away from great shops like Big Hat Books, Indy CD & Vinyl and Artifacts, brew pubs, cafes and more.
501 W. Maryland St.
Home to the Indianapolis Indians, and voted one of the Best Minor League Ballparks in America by none other than Sports Illustrated
, the city's ballpark is also one of its best destinations. Plopped smack dab in the middle of downtown Indy, the stands offer a remarkable view of the city's skyline. Add in affordable tickets, picnic areas and cheap beer, and it's the perfect place for a summer night. There are dozens of home games throughout the summer season; check the Web site for dates and tickets.
Children's Museum of Indianapolis
3000 N. Meridian St.
Kids of all ages can delight in any number of exhibits and activities at the world's largest museum designed specifically with children in mind. This summer Star Wars: The Clone Wars
promises to be a big hit, though it is the arrival of King Tut and friends that promises to be the cause of the loooooong lines. More than 130 Tutankhamun artifacts are part of the exhibit, which opens June 27.
Indiana Live Casino
OK, this one's for the grown-ups. Particularly those among us who are tired of having to board a riverboat to spend some time with one-armed bandits. There's also poker, black jack and roulette for the high rollers. And, just like Vegas, there's plenty of opportunities to drink, dance and meet new friends. Twenty minutes west of Indy, but a lot closer than Nevada or Monaco.
Canal and White River State Park
The epicenter of Indianapolis attractions, White River State Park is home to the Indianapolis Zoo, NCAA Hall of Champions, Indiana State Museum, Canal Walk plus a good amount of greenspace and paths for walking, cycling, even Segwaying. Each museum/attraction has its own admission, hours and Web site. Start at www.discovercanal.com for a good overview.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
4790 W. 16th St.
This one's pretty standard for first-time visitors to the city, and it's a good one for hometown folks too (though we recommend going any time OTHER than the month of May if you can help it). Home to 100 years of IMS history, including some of the coolest race cars from every era, there are also tours of the track area itself.