Family Road Trip Guide: Indianapolis, Indiana

Family fun is at the heart of what you'll find in this growing city.

Whenever we need a quick getaway, Indianapolis, Indiana, is always on the top of our list. Not only is it a pretty easy drive, but there is always something to do for every member of the family. From museum hopping or a day out in nature, the Circle City has it all!

And it always has fun events and new things going on that make us want to return year after year.

Getting to Indianapolis

At just four and a half hours, the drive from Southeast Michigan to Indianapolis is totally doable. If flying is more your thing, plan your flight to Indianapolis International Airport.

Things to Do in Indianapolis

The Circle City offers plenty of things to do with kids, whether you prefer museum hopping or spending a day with animals. You can pack your entire schedule or take it easy and relax. The choice is totally yours! Here are some of the many activities we enjoy over the years.

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Every time we visit Indy, we HAVE to visit the world’s largest children’s museum! With four floors of fun, it is easy to spend the entire day here. Check out the dinosaurs or trains, learn about STEAM concepts, or watch a show in the theater.  Whatever you decide, the entire family (not just the kids) will enjoy their time here. If you want to get a work out in, the outdoor Sports Legend area is amazing and can easily fill up your day.

Indianapolis Zoo. Located within the White River State Park, the Indianapolis Zoo allows visitors to meet desert animals or African wildlife, explore the ocean environment, or watch orangutans monkey around at the world’s largest orangutan center. Butterfly fan? Once a year, butterflies flutter around the Hilbert Conservatory. Enhance your visit with special animal encounters like feeding a flamingo, a bird, or a giraffe.

Conner Prairie.  Step back in time at Conner Prairie, a Smithsonian-affiliated living history museum. Not only will you be totally immersed in the era with reenactment actors performing chores and living life as it was back in the days, but kids will enjoy going on a tethered hot air balloon ride or exploring the Treetop Outpost.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Start your engines! Cruise around on a shuttle tour around the iconic 2.5-mile oval and get a chance to “kiss the bricks.” Afterwards, head to the museum to find cars, trophies and other memorabilia.

Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. We love sculptures, and this art park has a few great pieces, including Funky Bones and a neat tree branch swing. Take a hike around the lake in search of the cool yellow benches that also double as art.

Newfields. Not only does Newfields have a fantastic art museum with a chance to see the original “Love” statue by Robert Indiana, but the grounds are absolutely beautiful with gardens, the old Lilly estate and a beer garden. And until next summer, visitors can be immersed in a Van Gogh painting – all 30,000 square feet!

Rhythm Discovery Center. Jam on at this spot where guests are encouraged to make music! Find drums and other percussion instruments.

Explore the canal. A canal in the middle of downtown? Yes! At White River State Park, you can rent a surrey bike from Wheel Fun Rentals and bike your way around the canal or better yet take it to the water in a paddle boat and paddle away. While exploring, you can enjoy the many murals throughout or even a pit stop at the super cool Colts Canal Playspace.

Some new activities to try in Indy include bouldering at the new North Mass Boulder creating beautiful glassware glass fusion class where the whole family can create beautiful glassware inside the bright teal Circle City Industrial Complex. Or how about a completely new game called fowling at Fowling Warehouse that’s a mix of cornhole, football, and bowling that was invented in Indy?

Photo credit: Cheryl Eugenio

Where to Stay in Indianapolis

Plenty of lodging choices can be found depending on location preference or budget.

Bottleworks Hotel. The boutique hotel is luxurious and  modern yet stays true to its rich history as the former Coca-Cola admin building. Many of the art deco elements from that era have been lovingly restored. The spacious rooms are gorgeous and we loved and the little details throughout.

Omni Severin Hotel Indianapolis. Located in downtown, the historic and elegant hotel dating back to 1913 is the perfect stomping grounds for families. The all-suite hotel offers enough space for families and kids will love splashing in the pool. Bonus: It’s connected to the Circle Centre Mall if you ever need a quick shopping trip.

Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station. For a truly unique and fun experience, families can stay in converted train cars from the 1920s. The hotel, a historic landmark property, is located on the site of the first Union Station ever built and some of that history can be seen throughout.

JW Marriott Indianapolis. One of our favorite places to stay in Indy happens to be one of the largest JW Marriott’s in the world. Boasting an amazing pool as well as one of the best hotel gyms that we’ve been to. It’s also conveniently located across the street from the White River State Park and just a short walk away from restaurants. Pro-tip: If the minor league Indianapolis Indians are playing you can watch after-game fireworks from your room!

Photo Credit: Visit Indy

Places to Eat in Indianapolis

If there’s one thing we love about the Circle City, it’s the variety of food choices the city has to offer. Foodies will be in heaven! Some of our favorites include:

The Garage at Bottleworks District. Eat your heart out at this food hall with more than 20 food vendors. Grab a lobster roll from J/s Lobster & Fish Market, a poke bowl from Poke Guru, Brazilian street food, and so much more. There’s something for everybody!

Cafe Patachou. For an awesome breakfast, you have to go to Cafe Patachou. Oh, my deliciousness! Kids will love ordering their green eggs and ham. If you prefer sweet over savory, then the croissant French toast was to die for. The omelets are hearty and filling, but the real star is their cinnamon toast with all its cinnamon and butter glory.

Gallery Pastry Bar. New to downtown Indy, this hot spot serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With an open kitchen concept kids can watch chefs work their magic. Definitely save room for dessert – the pastry bar is a must!

Trader’s Point Creamery. Located on Indy’s north side, Trader’s Point Creamery is perfect place to bring the family. Personally, we love visiting here; we’re always treated like family. Kids will adore walking around the dairy farm and meeting the resident farm animals. Afterwards (or before), enjoy the perfectly crafted meal in their barn-like atmosphere.

Why Our Family Loves Indianapolis

If you’re looking for a city escape without being too overwhelming, we love how doable everything is without the crazy traffic. During the holidays, Indianapolis goes all out with tons of holiday events to get everyone in a jolly mood. From lights shows and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus to finding your favorite Christmas tree and having a snowball fight, a visit to Indy during the holidays is sure to leave you filled with joy.

No matter what season you visit, Indianapolis offers something for everyone in your family and will have you revisiting again and again like our family.

Photo Credit: Cheryl Eugenio

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