Yes, we all know about the Speedway, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and the world-renowned Zoo. Those are just some great local Indianapolis attractions that are worth a first, second, or even eighth trip, certainly! If you haven’t checked them out, do. But, if you’re looking for new or new-to-you fun things to do in Indianapolis, Indiana, then we’ve found your some unconventional gems.
It’s time to explore Indy in a whole new way.
Look Up Events
First, it might be a good idea to find out if there are any fun things to do in Indianapolis today or this upcoming week that will spark your interest. The convention center often has something cool going on! Use one of these super-local calendars to scope out events in Indianapolis today or the cheap and free things to do in Indianapolis this weekend:
- For The Big Stuff: The Official Indy Visitors’ Bureau’s Event Listing
- For Downtown Indy Events: Downtown Indy Event Listing or Visit Indy Events
- For Lots of Specific Stuff for 20- and 30-somethings: IndyHub’s Comprehensive Events Calendar
Even if nothing piques your interest as you scroll through the lists of Indianapolis events, today, you can find no excuses for being reclusive: There are always plenty of things to do. Indianapolis is full of wacky stuff, weird places, and cool things to see. In Indianapolis, there’s a huge variety of adventures you can go on!
If you’re looking for some great, conventional places to visit in Indianapolis, consider visiting the aforementioned sites (like the Children’s Museum), the massive library, one of several art museums, or just exploring monument circle. They’re great! (Scroll down to the end for more resources and typical recommendations!)
But if you really want to “do it like the locals do” and see a new side to Indy, check out our list of the top things to do in Indianapolis that are weird, fun, and totally unconventional.
Here’s our on point list of offbeat Naptown adventures.
1. Pretend to be Indiana Jones in Indianapolis during the Catacombs Tour.
Photo: Brandon Knapp (Source: Indianalandmarks.org)
Want to know a secret? Indy locals love haunted stuff. We love it. (You’ll see as you scroll down this list.)
But, all right … these aren’t really “catacombs.” They don’t hide tombs or anything. They’re the Roman-looking remains of Tomlinson Hall in Whistler Plaza, which burned in 1958, resulting in a huge underground storage labyrinth. But they’re still friggin’ cool, huge, and beautiful – certainly a fun place for you, and your imagination, to play around in. The tours happen on the first and third Saturdays of every month.
2. Chill with Civil War ghosts in Crown Hill Cemetery.
Photo: Jack Boucher (Source: U.S. Library of Congress)
Remember how Indianapolis locals love haunted things? Well, this is reportedly one of the most haunted places in Indianapolis, if not one of the most haunted places in the U.S.; that certainly has a high chance of that being true, as it’s the third largest cemetery in America.
With more than 200,000 graves, many of which are the final resting places of leaders as well as Civil War soldiers, Crown Hill is positively paranormal. Even if you don’t catch Casper, it’s a beautiful walk that overlooks much of the city. It’s also home to some of our own Tucker relatives!
Check out the official events and the private and public walking tours; “Skeletons in the Closet” is one of our favorites!
3. Let it go! Let it go! See the magic of Veal’s Ice Tree!
Photo: Bob Welling (Source: Instagram)
A family tradition turned important city winter pastime, the ice tree pulls water from a nearby pond to create a massive sculpture out of ice. It appears in the middle of miserable winter; exactly when you’re wondering to yourself, “What is there to do in Indianapolis?” Well, this. Here’s where it is.
4. Feel reality slip away at Gravity Hill.
Video: Interesting Ted (Source: YouTube)
Stop by this locally famous roadside attraction if you want to mysteriously roll uphill. Is it an optical illusion? Ghosts? Aliens?
5. Bring a whovian to the largest Dr. Who warehouse this side of the Atlantic.
Photo: Michelle Pemberton (Source: The Star)
From DVDs to costumes to games to dalek miniatures, this is the Disneyworld for Dr. Who fans – a trove of intergalactic treasures! And, they have the best weapons in the world: books!
6. Find the beat at Rhythm! Discovery Center.
Video: Wndy (Source: YouTube)
Want to bring your children somewhere where they can bang drums wildly? Mess with weird percussion instruments? Let out their energy? Actually learn stuff? This is simply one of the best things to do in Indianapolis for kids. And, to be quite honest, it’s fun for adults too. (Hey, if the world’s foremost percussion and drum museum can’t help you find the beat, nothing will.) They’re open year round and also have cool events, including community drum circles.
Rock on, Indy!
7. Admire brains in jars at the oldest surviving pathology laboratory.
Photo: Huw Williams (Huwmanbeing) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Gross and engrossing, the Indiana Medical History Museum includes laboratories for bacteriology, anatomical specimens, awesome preserved brains in jars, and more! It’s a great idea for your morbid teen or horror-loving friends. They’re open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
8. Observe the strength, stamina, and savagery of the Naptown Roller Derby. (These girls mean business.)
Photo: Tom Klubens (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Here’s a simple truth: If think you’ve already done the most important activities in Indianapolis and you have not yet seen the roller derby girls get insanely competitive and attempt to knock each other out of the race, then you have not done one of the most important activities in Indianapolis. Get on that.
These girls are a national treasure.
Video: WFTDA (Source: YouTube)
9. Show off your moves with the preferred local dance: swing!
Video: Naptown Stomp (Source: YouTube)
Get swingin’ on Friday nights at the Fountain Square Theatre or join Naptown Stomp Lindy Hop Society, a local non-profit devoted to spreading the love of all things swing, at one of their other events. Scared to show off? Take some lessons to get started!
10. Feel like a giant at the Museum of Miniature Houses.
Photo: 5frys (Source: TripAdvsior.com)
The detail that goes into painting and creating these micro-buildings is astonishing. Stop by Carmel, IN, to see it. Remember to pack your reading glasses, if you need them, and maybe a magnifying glass!
11. See if the Hannah House is really haunted.
While the historic Hannah House is one of the most beautiful places to go in Indianapolis any time of the year, it’s most renowned for being a hotbed for paranormal activity. Yes, due to its history in which hiding slaves burned to death in the basement, it’s known for being one of the most haunted houses in Indianapolis.
But is it really haunted?
We’ll leave that up to you.
Video: Ryan18658 (Source: YouTube)
12. Try the local flavor of bowling: duckpin.
Photo: Valerie Everett (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
A cousin of candlestick bowling, duckpin bowling features shorter, fatter pins and a ball that’s slightly larger than a softball; it’s arguably a bit more difficult than the normal variety. Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling has the vintage local flavor.
13. Go out on a crafty Indianapolis date night with booze and paint.
There are many options for when you want to add booze to the process of painting. It’s popular, and why not? It’s among the most romantic, fun things to do in Indianapolis for couples. Our favorite is Craft + Cork.
14. Or create your own beer at Great Fermentations.
Photo: Eric Ivie (Source: visithendrickscounty.com)
Take classes to learn how to make your own beer, wine, or cheese. Warning: You may totally fall in love with this and spend hundreds of dollars on home brewing equipment. Luckily, you’ll be able to show off your own brew afterward.
15. Learn about the Speedway’s history at the 500 Museum.
Photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo (Source: Flickr)
The Speedway is one of the most often-cited Indianapolis points of interest, and, yes, if you live there, you should go.
But when the crowds die down, there’s still plenty to explore and learn. And adult tickets are only $10.
16. Tourists love the Speedway. Locals love the Speedrome.
Video: all4us5 (Source: YouTube)
There are a lot of local racing events in Indianapolis that don’t get as much love as the 500, but certainly deserve a mention: monster truck racing, thundercars, and of course the school bus figure eight.
17. Bike across downtown with Pacers Bikeshare Program.
Photo: Gene Ford (Source: iuhealth.org)
Bikeshares have become more popular around the U.S., but it’s really taken root in Indianapolis. Things to do today downtown? Why not just bike there? It’s healthier for your heart and it’s super fun to get up-close and personal with the canal.
18. Tour around the 100 acres. Don’t forget to say hi to Funky Bones.
Video: Indianapolis Museum of Art (Source: YouTube)
Visiting Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park is possibly one of the best free things to do in Indianapolis, Indiana, if not the very best. The park is completely free, open from dawn until dusk, and full of contemporary art installations around a 35 acre lake. This is the place you’ll likely come back to again and again, as its tranquility and creativity leaves so much to explore.
Also, The Fault in Our Stars fans should be sure to visit Funky Bones.
Photo: Indianapolis Museum of Art (Source: imamuseum.org)
19. Step backwards in time at the Holliday Park ruins.
Photo: Carptrash (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
A portion of a demolished 1890s New York City skyscraper plopped into a local park, this is another go-to spot for those hoping to retrace scenes from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Tour through the park to see the three statues, which are meant to represent three different races (Caucasians, Asians, and African-Americans) working together.
20. Escape “The Escape Room.”
Video: WTHR (Source: YouTube)
There are several options for local escape-type games: The Escape Room, Breakout Games, Escape the Room, Escape Indy, Twisted Room Escapes, and The Key Haunted Escape Rooms. The Escape Room has a large number of options. Just don’t panic; keep a good head on your shoulders!
21. Go stargazing at the Holcomb Observatory & Planetarium.
Photo: Peetlesnumber1 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
One of the largest public observatories in the world happens to contain one of the best free date ideas in Indianapolis: It’s free to enjoy the telescopes and only $5 for adults for the planetarium show. When the skies are clear, couples can have a lovely night of stargazing.
22. Lock yourself away in the world’s first, and only still operational, spinning jail cell.
Photo: Don O’Brien (Source: Flickr)
Indiana has had some interesting crooks over the years, but these spinning cells were meant to really trap people: There was only one opening. The unfortunate consequence was that limbs often got trapped between the bars. Today, though, the Rotary Jail Museum houses art classes, murder mystery dinners, summer camps, and a host of special events.
23. Take an old-timey promenade through the Garfield Park Conservatory & Gardens
Photo: victorgrigas (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The beautiful tropical plants here are sure to get gardeners and botanists alike interested in Indianapolis real estate. Snap a few Instagram-worthy photos while you’re there. There are plenty of programs and events for kids as well.
24. Chill with real lions and tigers at the Exotic Feline Rescue.
It might be about an hour’s drive, but seeing a lion in person in the center of Indiana is worth it. Too far for a day trip? Don’t worry; you can stay overnight.
25. Visit the largest historic preservation in the U.S.
Photo: MSWoolman (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Roughly $19 million was spent to renovate this historic building, which is now often rented out as a venue space. Stop by on the first Fridays of May through October (except July) to get a free tour (6-9 p.m.).
26. Sweat during Workout Wednesdays.
Photo: Adam Wolfbrandt (Source: The Star)
This list has a lot of things to do in Indy this weekend, but if you’re looking for a great way to get out of your sedentary lifestyle in the middle of the week, attend one of the workouts that happen every Wednesday at noon on Georgia Street, presented by Anthem BlueCross BlueShield.
27. No game at the Luke? No problem. You can go on a guided tour at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Photo: Josh Hallett (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
You can tour the massive complex on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
28. Enjoy all things odd at the Sideshow Art and Odditorium.
Photo: Dan Grossman (Source: Nuvo.net)
From medical ink drawings to puffball brooches to 50s-style eyewear, this bizarre bazaar has it all. Check out their Facebook page to see if there are any upcoming “meet the artist” days.
29. See the movies under the stars, 50s-style.
Photo: J Bar (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Go to the drive-in theater for a really unique (and often much cheaper) movie-going experience. Visit Tibbs (which has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary), The Skyline (which has fun horror nights, “Drive-Insanity” events, and a monster movie fest), CenterBrook (which has been around since 1950), or the Canary Creek Cinema (which has a mix of outdoor and indoor screens). With all of these drive-in theater options you may even get lucky enough find Indianapolis homes for sale that are close enough to tune in to the movies from your living room.
30. Smash buttons at one of Naptown’s retro arcades (and donate to charity while you’re at it).
Tappers Arcade Bar makes for an excellent Indy date night. It’s free to play and has a host of regional craft beers. It’s got all the classics: Galaga, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Frogger, Street Fighter II, and more. Check out the full list of games here.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for kid-friendly, family fun in Indianapolis, check out Rupert’s Kids Arcade & Party Room. A cheap entry fee of $5 per hour or $10 per day will go to the Rupert’s Kids charity, a mentoring program organized by Survivor celebrity Rupert Boneham.
31. Take your competitiveness to the next level at paintball.
Photo: Stefan Krause, Germany (Source: Wikimedia.org)
Go outdoors with White River Paintball, Paintball Indianapolis, Indy Acres Paintball, or Indy Paintball Battleground. Or, one a rainy day, when there are generally fewer things to do around Indianapolis, you can stay indoors at Dark Armies.
32. Play putt-putt. Or play miniature golf. Know that there is a difference, and locals take that pretty seriously.
There are some pretty cool tiny golf courses in the area, some of which even glow in the dark! For a local favorite, though, visit Rustic Driving Range & Miniature Golf, which has been around since the 1930s and offers true miniature golf (that is golf, in its miniature) with 30-foot-long holes and an average par of four.
33. Get moving with go-karts.
Speed and racing are integral to local culture and Indy is home to about nine different go-kart facilities. If you’re looking for things to do in Indy this weekend for kids, rev your engines at one of the indoor or outdoor tracks at Fastimes, K1 Speed, Speedway Indoor Karting, or one of the other local favorites.
34. Or get moving the natural way … with horses.
Photo: Kayleen Reusser (Source: visithendrickscounty.com)
Natural Valley Ranch offers guided trail rides along the bend of White Lick Creek. They also have a petting zoo and pony rides for kids.
35. Dream of catching bad guys at the Indiana State Police Museum.
Do you have a tyke who wants to be a police officer someday? Well, this happens to be one of the free things to do with kids in Indianapolis. You can look at old-timey police cars, learn about the interesting history of the local force (such as the fact that one of them invented the Breathalyzer) and about crooks like the infamous John Dillinger. Did we mention that admission is free?
36. Taste the nectar of the gods on a wine tour.
Photo: Wendy Schotsmans (Source: Flickr)
37. Or do the less classy, more fun version of that: the brew bus.
Photo: Emily Ross (Source: Air-Tan.com)
Get together with your friends and climb aboard the HandleBar or the Pickled Pedaler, self-propelling pubs that tour about Indy. If you don’t feel like pedaling, go an awesome tour on the Indy Brew Bus.
38. Or get really serious by having some Prohibition-era, old-timey liquor.
Photo: Taylor Ellis (Indianapolis Monthly)
Enjoy the very vintage, national-award-winning cocktail, the Hooch, at the Ball & Biscuit, visit one of Esquire’s best bars in America, The Libertine Liquor Bar, or visit a swanky speakeasy, like the 1933 Lounge above St. Elmo Steakhouse. While you’re at St. Elmo’s, be sure to try their famously sinus-clearing shrimp cocktail. The Wiseguy Lounge at Goodfellas Pizzeria is also quite legitimate.
You can get up close and personal with some real history at the Slippery Noodle Inn, where you can see bullets from a shootout between the Al Brady and John Dillinger gangs still embedded in the walls.
39. Go on a public art hunt.
Photo: Matt Kryger (Source: The Star)
The Arts Council of Indianapolis has invested a great deal into the art of public spaces, especially for downtown. Look them up here and see how many you can find in one afternoon. You might notice something that you’d normally walk right past!
40. Explore subcultures you never knew about at the Museum of Psychphonics.
Photo: Seth Johnson (Source: Musicalfamilytree.com)
Find the place that explores the music of the mind and dedicates itself to Afrofuturism, little-known Indianapolis history, and American underground cultures. Finding the museum might be as adventurous as exploring the mysteries within!
41. See if you experience the world-famous, mysterious Kokomo hum.
Video: Thoughty2 (Source: YouTube)
It might be a bit of a drive from Naptown, but those interested in weird tales, unexplained phenomena, mass delusions, and possibly conspiracy theories should take the trip to see if they hear the rumbling, low-frequency hum that’s been giving Kokomo, IN, locals headaches since 1999. While an investigation was launched in 2003, and the supposed source of the noise, a local plant, was fixed, the hum continued rattling on for many individuals. While some write it off as a mass delusion, the problem continues for many people there.
If you hear it, don’t worry.
It’s probably just aliens.
42. Go on super-spiritual day trips to New Harmony or Camp Chesterfield.
Photo: Sarah Ewart (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
For more eye-opening weird stuff, there are some strange places shortly outside of Naptown. Camp Chesterfield is known as the home of Spiritualists, those who believe in communication with the dead through a medium. There you can get tours, medium readings, and prayers. Be sure to visit the labyrinth.
Meanwhile, in the opposite direction is New Harmony, IN: an attempt at a utopia and now the site of many strange areas, like the roofless church, Harmonist cabins, and their own labyrinth made from shrubs.
43. Go on a food quest to retrace the steps of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
Follow Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives Indianapolis tour to enjoy a food-loving adventure. Cheap Indianapolis activities don’t get more delicious than this! Guy liked Steer-In, Zydeco’s, 3 Sisters Cafe, and The Tamale Place, but Adam Richman of Man Vs. Food preferred Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream, Edward’s Drive-In, and Gray Brothers Cafeteria. Naptown has been depicted in numerous shows. Plan a couple of weekends to find your favorite places to eat.
44. During the holidays, enjoy some local pastimes.
Photo: Serge Melki (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
This might not fit the bill for local Indianapolis things to do today, but consider these attractions if Christmas or Halloween is coming up. For the holidays, check out what’s called the “world’s largest Christmas tree” by some, the “circle of lights” by others: the strung-up and lit Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. For the more spooky time of the year, consider visiting what’s hailed by some as the best haunted house experience in the nation: Scream Park.
45. Be legit about lit at the Kurt Vonnegut museum.
Photo: wplynn (Source: Flickr)
Tour the library of Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and other great American novels. This museum badly needs support, and continues to educate, promote free expression, and encourage peaceful coexistence.
46. Support local theatre or local acting troops.
Photo: Bob Hall (Source: Flickr)
Besides the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT), Phoenix Theatre, Theatre on the Square, Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, and Actors Theatre of Indianapolis, there are also local troops like IndyFringe, the improv team of Indy Comedy Sportz, and the burlesque dancers of The White Rabbit Cabaret.
47. Journey down the cultural trail.
Photo: Eric Fisher (Source: Flickr)
A beautiful, planned path through the city, the cultural trail takes you along some of the best places to see in Indianapolis, is landscaped for your viewing pleasure, and crosses paths with numerous public art spaces as well. You can use Pacers Bikeshare Program, which was mentioned earlier on this list, or just take a stroll with a loved one. Guided bike tours are $35.
So hopefully that helps answer the question of “Whats happening in Indianapolis?” But don’t forget to visit these more commonly mentioned attractions once again!
More of the Popular Things to do in Indianapolis:
- Children’s Museum: Yes, it’s worth the hype. Don’t have kids? That’s fine. Check for possible upcoming Adult Swim events.
- Indianapolis Zoo: This is one of the most well-kept zoos in the country.
- Newfields: It’s only $18 for adults to get in, and absolutely massive.
- Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art: Explore native cultures in a respectful and inspiring way.
- NCAA Hall of Champions: Basketball fans must stop by.
- Conner Prairie: A living history farm and museum with plenty of places to explore, this is ideal for family activities in Indianapolis.
- Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum: It’s hidden in the base of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument of Monument Circle.
- Christ Church Cathedral: Dating back to 1837, the Gothic-Revival style of the Little Church on the Circle is particularly cool when paired against the backdrop of skyscrapers.
- Indiana State Museum: You never know what you might learn!
- The Canal: You can take a kayak, a paddleboat, a classic, Italian-style gondola, a segway, or a bike along the canal, which is fun to explore no matter how you do it.
- Eagle Creek Park and White River State Park: Both excellent parts are littered with outdoor venues. You can even take a zipline!