Indianapolis, Indiana is well-known for sports and the Indy 500, the annual car racing competition. However, it’s also home to awesome barbecue, eclectic art displays, underground ruins, and cultural trails. Book a stay at one of numerous Indianapolis vacation rentals, and explore these hidden gems, so your vacation can be a truly unique experience.
1. The Ruins
Although the three men statues that make up the Ruins aren’t actually ancient Roman relics, they have that classical look. They’re actually part of what was once a New York skyscraper. Now they sit at Holliday Park in Indianapolis, perpetually holding up a building that’s no longer there. After admiring the artistry of the Ruins, head to the park’s nature center and take a stroll along the trails and boardwalks. The park’s open from sunrise to sunset with free access to the Ruins and a playground for the little ones.
2. Indianapolis Moon Tree
The Indianapolis Moon Tree spent time on the moon as a seed, taken up by Apollo 14 astronauts. It was then returned to Earth where it has since grown into a 30-year-old sycamore. This is one of 50 moon trees around the country. It resides on the grounds of the Indiana Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis. After viewing this very ordinary, overlooked tree, visit the popular White River State Park and Gardens nearby. The Indiana State Museum and Eiteljorg Museum both lie down the block from the Statehouse, so make an afternoon of exploring the entire area.
3. City Market Catacombs
What many tourists don’t know when visiting Indianapolis is that spooky catacombs lie just beneath the popular City Market, a place where artisans, merchants, and food growers unite. Before shopping for some fresh produce for your vacation house or finding a souvenir of your trip, take a tour down below to the historical catacombs, the remains of 19th-century Tomlinson Hall before it burned down. Tours happen on the first and third Saturdays of every month between May and October with something extra-spooky on Halloween.
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4. Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens
Garfield Park, which lies in south Indianapolis, includes 3 acres of sunken gardens and a conservatory. Built in the early 1900s, the gardens take you back to an earlier era. Not only can you stroll the manicured lawns and gardens, you can also explore the conservatory where regular events are held. Learn about edible herbs and plants with the Herbs with Kids event, enjoy the orchid show, and get your child involved with spring crafts and stories. The gardens also host events and regular concerts, summer field trips, and master gardener guided tours. While there, explore the other activities Garfield Park has to offer such as the Burello Family Center and Garfield Park Arts Center.
5. Traders Point Creamery
If you travel to northwest Indianapolis where the suburbs give way to the rural areas, you’ll hit Traders Point Creamery. This creamery isn’t just a place to pick up the best cheeses; it’s also a historic site. The four 19th-century barns are the centerpieces of the creamery, adding pastoral charm. Before settling down at the Loft Restaurant for some great food — much of which comes from the farm itself — take a tour of the farm. You can go on a self-guided farm walk, a private tour, or a cow-milking tour. Afterwards, stop at the Dairy Bar for super-fresh ice cream and milkshakes. Don’t leave without taking home your weight in artisanal cheese, milk, and yogurt.
6. Black Market
Speaking of food, Black Market is one of the hidden treasures (thanks to its plain facade) boasting modern farmhouse cuisine such as Welsh rarebit, apple brined pork chop, and braised lamb shoulder with some sour cream-lemon cheesecake for dessert. Better yet, you can rub elbows — literally — with the locals at the communal tables which add to the farmhouse feel. If you trend toward drinks, there’s an entire menu of rum and cocktails, beer on tap, and wine. Located not far from the downtown area, Black Market is right next to Indy Reads Books if you want to peruse the shelves afterwards.
7. The North End
The North End is a restaurant located in northern Indianapolis, away from the lights and hubbub of downtown in which you can relax with true connoisseurs of both barbecue and bourbon. Memphis baby back ribs, pan fried catfish, and Texas brisket are some of the more popular dishes, although it’s not always about the barbecue. For instance, the smoked portobello sandwich is a a local favorite. You can opt for a private dining room for you party or mingle with everybody up front.
8. The Cultural Trail
The Cultural Trail is downtown Indiana’s way to help visitors and locals alike easily navigate the area. It takes you through five historic neighborhoods, greenways, and cultural districts for a unique view of the Indianapolis and easy access to all the best spots. For instance, you can take the trail to the Indianapolis Zoo and White Gardens, and then head to the Indiana State Museum, Indiana History Center, and Indiana State Capitol (where you can view the Moon Tree). Stop for a bite at the Flying Cupcake before continuing on. You can walk the trail or use the Indiana Pacers bikeshare program.
9. IMA 100 Acres
The IMA 100 Acres, also known as the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, is an area that combines unique art with nature. Located in northern Indianapolis, it’s physically off the beaten path, but definitely worth the drive. Besides, with its location in the suburbs, you’re likely to get a vacation rental close by. Walk the wild grass labyrinth, or view Funky Bones art display. There are also gardens, nature trails through woodlands and wetlands, a visitors pavilion, and a lake.
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