Between its low cost of living, job opportunities in healthcare and tech, and friendly Midwest attitude, Indianapolis has been attracting young professionals and families for more than a decade. Circle City locals are also wild about sports, from football to NASCAR, making Central Indiana a fitting home for March Madness this year.
There’s plenty to do in Indianapolis this spring, including the opening of Amp Artisan Marketplace, a 50-acre hub of entrepreneurship, scientific research, and creative spaces, featuring local vendors like Tinker Coffee, Black Orchid Barbers, and Melon Kitchen in repurposed shipping crate containers. The city is booming, with new hotels, restaurants, and even theaters and bowling alleys opening within the last year.
21 Best Places to Go in 2021
Getting to and around Indianapolis
Indianapolis International Airport has some acclaim on its own: it was named the best airport in North American for the eighth year in a row by the Airports Council International. Once you’re here, ride-shares are plentiful but many choose to bike around town. Pacers Bikeshare has 525 bikes in circulation on or near the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the city’s main eight-mile bike path, and can be booked through the BCycle app.
What to do in Indianapolis
Beauty tycoon Madam C.J. Walker—known as America’s first self-made woman millionaire—is one of Indy’s most famous daughters. The Madam Walker Legacy Center completed more than $15 million in renovations in 2020, with plans for a grand reopening in June that includes a family-friendly festival, R&B and gospel concerts, and a Jazz on the Avenue black-tie dinner. In the meantime, visit the Indiana Historical Society’s interactive “You Are There” exhibit to learn more about Walker’s rise to fortune with her haircare empire.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues to be one of the city’s most popular attractions. You can zip around the track at 180 mph with a professional race car driver or take the new basement tour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. You’ll have to relinquish your cell phone (photos are not allowed in the basement), but it’s worth it for a chance to see more than a hundred rare cars in storage, including Michael Schumacher’s Formula One debut car and the 1968 Rislone-Eagle driven by Paul Newman during the filming of “Winning.”
If you’re feeling playful, try duckpin bowling in the old Fountain Square Theatre or fowling—a hybrid of football and bowling—while drinking local beers at the new Fowling Warehouse in the Circle City Industrial Complex, home to more than 100 makers and artists. Taste the single-origin chocolate drinks at SoChatti’s new chocolate tasting room, then try your hand at designing a vivid mosaic at Indy Fused Glass.
In September, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will debut the only permanent exhibit in the world dedicated to Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, a new addition to their Power of Children exhibit, which celebrates young luminaries like Ruby Bridges and Anne Frank.
What to eat
Indianapolis continues to have one of the best under-the-radar food scenes in the country. They may be continually overlooked in national accolades like James Beard, but the city’s chefs, bakers, and bartenders remain committed to their craft.
Over the past year, Indy has undergone a pastry renaissance. Leviathan Bakehouse elevates the city’s bread game with fresh baked loaves daily alongside sandwiches, cookies, cakes, and viennoiserie. Gallery Pastry opened a second full-service location downtown last summer, serving savory fare, macarons, and entremets all day. Try the brûléed Trillium cheese with local honey on a buttery croissant garnished with gold-dusted raspberries. Landlocked Baking Company, renowned for its sourdough croissants, is the newest on the block, next to sister concepts Strange Bird Tiki Bar and Heartbreaker.
The Garage Food Hall is Indy’s newest culinary attraction, with more than a dozen local chefs serving everything from Venezuelan arepas and Peruvian pasta to Hawaiian poke and Indian chapati. Save room for scoops of Lick Ice Cream topped off with a shot of peanut butter whiskey from Hard Truth Distilling next door.
Livery is great for a night out with its lively rooftop and delicious Latin American food. Start with yuca fries and sweet plantains to share. For date night, Vida is a romantic pick with an impressive hydroponic herb wall and regularly changing tasting menu served by the fireplace. James Beard–nominated chef Abbi Meriss of Bluebeard is opening Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie in April, combining arthouse movies with her twist on French food.
Where to stay
Majuscule signage boldly announces the arrival of Bottleworks Hotel, Indy’s newest boutique property, anchoring the new Bottleworks entertainment district on Massachusetts Avenue. The sprawling terracotta building was formerly the largest Coca-Cola bottling facility in the world and reopened as a 139-room hotel and spa in December. Original Art Deco details, including terrazzo tile floors, millwork, brass railings, and doorways have all been carefully restored to 1930s splendor. Don’t forget to gaze up at the rotunda—its spiral staircase and soda bottle cap-inspired ceiling plaster make for an iconic new image that combines the city’s past and present.
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