Things to do in Indianapolis
While staying in Indianapolis for Release Notes this October, we hope that you’ll take some time to sample the local flavor. While Indianapolis was once derisively referred to as “Naptown” for its sleepy character, those days are long gone. Today, Indianapolis is a bustling city with great restaurants, a vibrant cultural scene, and nightlife options to suit any taste.
We’re sure that you’ll have fun while attending Release Notes, but Indianapolis is a great city to visit even for those not attending a conference. If you decide to bring your family, we think that they will find there’s plenty to keep them occupied during the day while you enjoy the conference sessions. You may also want to consider extending your stay. An extra weekend in Indianapolis opens the door to some great day trip options that you won’t want to miss.
The guide below is organized by distance from the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the conference will take place, with a special section dedicated to after hours activities. If you find this guide valuable, you can download it as a PDF so you can take it with you on the go.
Have fun, and we hope that you enjoy your time in Indianapolis!
Within Walking Distance
Dinner at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse
In its original location since 1902, St. Elmo’s Steakhouse is a pillar of the Indianapolis dining scene. More than just a place to get the best steak in town, for generations St. Elmo’s has been the place where real business gets done. Countless business and political deals have been sealed in their hallowed halls. If you visit St. Elmo’s, don’t miss their famous (and spicy!) shrimp cocktail.
St. Elmo’s Steakhouse 127 S. Illinois St. Indianapolis, IN 46225 (317) 635–0636
Get Your Morning Fix at Bee Coffee Roasters
Just steps from the conference hotel, Bee Coffee Roasters is a local small batch coffee roaster that serves some great coffee. Many regard Bee Coffee Roasters as the best coffee in Indianapolis. If you’re a coffee drinker, they are definitely worth the short walk.
Bee Coffee Roasters 201 S. Capitol Ave. Suite 110 Indianapolis, IN 46225 (317) 426–2504
Shopping at Circle Centre Mall
With over 125 shops and restaurants within its four-story structure, Circle Centre Mall offers the most extensive shopping and dining options in downtown Indianapolis. Featuring stores like Carson Pirie Scott, Banana Republic, Coach, H&M, LOFT, Kay Jewelers, The Limited, and more, Circle Centre offers something for everyone.
Have a Pint at Tomlinson Tap Room
Located on the Mezzanine level overlooking the historic City Market, Tomlinson Tap room offers a comfortable and charming space to enjoy a pint and unwind. And since they serve the widest selection of Indiana craft beer that you’ll find, you can get a taste of all that Indiana has to offer, without ever leaving your bar stool.
Tour Monument Circle
Monument Circle is the geographic and spiritual heart of Indianapolis, and no visit to Indy would be complete without seeing the street that lent “Circle City” its name. While in Monument Circle, consider taking one of the free tours offered by Indiana Landmarks that explains the art and symbolism of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument that lies at the center of Monument Circle. After the tour, visit the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum below the monument, or climb to the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument for a panoramic view of the city skyline.
Indiana Landmarks Monument Circle Tours (317) 639–4534
Soldiers and Sailors Monument Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum
Take a Walk on the Canal
Located on the West side of downtown, and originally built in the 1800’s as a canal to move freight into Indianapolis, the Central Canal has been renovated into a park and is now an official Cultural District as well as one of the best places in Indianapolis to take a walk or go for a run. Explore the shops, museums, and restaurants along Canal Walk’s 3-mile loop on foot, or rent a kayak and paddle the Central Canal if you’re feeling adventurous.
Read a Book at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
Born November 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, and author of titles such as Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is without a doubt the city’s best known native author. To memorialize his life and work, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library was established in 2011. Today you can visit the library to learn about the author and his work, read a collection of hilarious rejection letters from short-sighted editors, and even type away at the same typewriter that Vonnegut used during his lifetime. But be careful what you type, as the typewriter Tweets everything that’s pecked out on its keys!
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library The Emelie Building 340 N. Senate Avenue Indianapolis, IN 46204
Shoot Some Hoops at the NCAA Hall of Champions
Indianapolis has long been known as the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World,” and in recognition of Indianapolis’ dedication to amateur sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association moved its headquarters to Indianapolis in 1999. At its headquarters, the NCAA has created a visitor’s center and exhibit space known as the NCAA Hall of Champions that can be toured. On the first floor you can learn more about the history of the NCAA and collegiate athletics. The second floor features an interactive area where you can test your skills, a media room for watching up to seven games at once, and a 1930’s retro gymnasium where you can take part in Indiana’s favorite pastime, basketball.
NCAA Hall of Champions 700 W. Washington St. Indianapolis, IN 46204 (317) 917–6084
Visit the Indiana State Museum
Established in 1869, the Indiana State Museum is a gem of Indianapolis. As you might suspect from its name, the State Museum is a natural history museum, and in it you’ll find some of the exhibits you’d expect, like mastodon skeletons and recreated village scenes from local Native American tribes. The real beauty of the State Museum, though, is the delightfully eclectic temporary exhibits that rotate through the institution. On any given day, you might find an exhibit about Indiana gangsters during Prohibition, Indiana Civil War battles, or even a collection of models and props used during the filming of Star Wars. Be sure to check their website to see what exhibits will be available during your visit.
Just a Cab Ride Away
Have a Tenderloin at Chatham Tap
The tenderloin sandwich – pork loin pounded thin, then breaded, fried, and served on a bun – is a regional specialty and the unofficial State Sandwich of Indiana. Just about every restaurant and bar you visit in the area will have one on the menu, and every one will be a little bit different – some thick, some thin; some breaded, some battered. There are lots of great tenderloins in the Indianapolis area, but one of the best can be found at Chatham Tap, a locally owned pub on the Northeast side of downtown. Stop in for lunch and see what all the fuss is about!
Chatham Tap 719 Massachusetts Ave. Indianapolis, IN 46204 (317) 917–8425
Monkey Around at the Indianapolis Zoo
Who can resist a chance to visit the zoo? And Indianapolis has a pretty good one – for its size. The Indianapolis Zoo isn’t as grand as the zoos in San Diego or Columbus, OH, but it makes the most of what it’s got. The dolphin show is a lot of fun, and the baby walrus is so cute! The Indianapolis Zoo is also a serious research facility, with the world’s first successful artificial insemination program for elephants, and the new International Orangutan Exhibit that just opened in 2014, which houses the zoo’s orangutan conservation program.
Take Your Kids to the Children’s Museum
Indianapolis is lucky to have an extraordinary resource for kids in the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. In fact it’s the largest children’s museum in the world. It truly is world class, and if you’ve brought your children with you to Indianapolis, this should be considered a required stop. With hands-on exhibits covering topics like trains, dinosaurs, and space exploration, the Children’s Museum is sure to please kids of all ages.
Go for a Ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
If there’s one thing in this world that Indianapolis is known for, it’s “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500. The Indy 500 is run every year in May, but in the off-season the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (or “Brickyard”) is still a fascinating place to visit. Grounds tours can be booked in advance that will allow you to visit seldom seen areas that are normally closed off to the public, like the timing-and-scoring suite in the Pagoda, the Media Center, Victory Podium, Gasoline Alley garage area, and the world-famous “Yard of Bricks” at the start/finish line. If you can’t make an advance reservation for a grounds tour, you can still visit the IMS Hall of Fame Museum where you can learn about the history of auto racing, see dozens of vintage race cars, and even take a bus tour around the 2.5-mile oval track. For the more adventurous, you can book an Indy Racing Experience that will allow you to drive or ride along in a specially modified Indy racing car as it zips around the Brickyard at racing speeds. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
Discover Mass Ave
Massachusetts Avenue, or “Mass Ave” as it’s universally referred to, is a designated cultural district of Indianapolis on the Northeast side of downtown. With lots of theaters, trendy shops, and small bistros, Mass Ave is a great place to walk, shop, and spend an afternoon.
Explore Local History at Conner Prairie
Forty minutes Northeast of downtown Indianapolis in Fishers, Indiana, Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum brings history to life by presenting life on the William Conner homestead as it existed 200 years ago on the Indiana frontier. Explore three different parts of the park representing three distinct time periods: The Lenape, or Delaware, Indian camp; the Conner Homestead circa 1836; and the Civil War raids of 1863. As you tour the park, costumed interpretive staff share the story of their time period and perform chores like chopping wood, tending animals, and blacksmithing. Although the park is interesting for visitors of any age, Conner Prairie is a particularly attractive day trip if your children will be joining you in Indianapolis.
Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum 13400 Allisonville Road Fishers, IN 46038 (317) 776–6006
Enjoy the Fall Colors of Brown Country
Travel an hour South of Indianapolis to Brown County and enjoy the stunning Fall foliage for which the area is famous. A visit to Brown County makes a great day trip, or you can extend your trip by overnighting at a bed & breakfast in Nashville, Indiana – a quaint little town nestled in the hills of Brown County that’s known for the population of artists and artisans who have taken up residence. Whether you stay one day or two, plan to make a stop at Oliver Winery on your way back for a tour and a taste of the variety of wines produced onsite.
Outlet Shopping in Historic Columbus, Indiana
If you get the itch to do some serious shopping, consider driving 40 minutes Southeast of Indianapolis to the Premium Outlets in Edinburgh, Indiana. This outlet mall features 85 outlet stores from brands like Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Coach, DKNY, Gap, and more. After shopping, consider continuing another ten minutes to Columbus, Indiana to enjoy the art and architecture of the city. Columbus may seem like an odd location to get your daily dose of culture, but Columbus has a long history of taking art, especially architecture, very seriously with dozens of public buildings designed by notable architects like I.M. Pei, Eero and Eliel Saarinen, Cesar Pelli, and more.
Edinburgh Premium Outlets 11622 N.E. Executive Drive Edinburgh, IN 46124 (812) 526–9764
”Columbus, Ind.: A Midwestern Mecca Of Architecture” by Susan Stamberg National Public Radio
Enjoy a Martini at Nicky Blaine’s
Situated in the shadow of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Nicky Blaine’s is a full service nightclub and lounge, well known for its martinis and wide selection of scotch. Voted one of America’s Best Bars by Esquire Magazine, Nicky Blaine’s is a great place to have a drink and settle in for an evening of conversation.
Closes: 3 AM Mon-Sat, Midnight Sunday Distance: Walkable
20 N. Meridian St. Indianapolis, IN 46204 (317) 638–5588
Have a Wee Dram at MacNiven’s
MacNiven’s Scottish American Restaurant and Bar is a cozy pub offering hearty Scottish & American fare and boasting an impressive craft beer selection as well as an impressive selection of single malt and blended scotch. Located in a 100 yr old building with exposed brick walls, high ceilings and hardwood floors, MacNiven’s offers a relaxed atmosphere, with friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Closes: Midnight Mon-Fri, 1 AM Fri-Sat, 11 PM Sunday. Distance: Take a cab
39 Massachusetts Ave. Indianapolis, IN 46204 (317) 632–7268
Celebrate Oktoberfest at The Rathskeller
Located in the historic Athenæum building that once served as a German cultural center for what is now the Mass Ave neighborhood, the Rathskeller has been in continuous operation since 1894 and is Indianapolis’ oldest restaurant. The Rathskeller continues to celebrate the traditional German culture of the neighborhood with a menu that highlights traditional German fare like Sauerbraten, Schnitzel, and Spätzle, in addition to more modern fare. Make a trip to The Rathskeller for dinner, and plan to linger afterwards to celebrate Oktoberfest in their outdoor biergarten.
Closes: No set closing time. Distance: Take a cab
401 E. Michigan St. Indianapolis, IN (317) 636–0396
Blues at the Slippery Noodle
The oldest bar in Indianapolis, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Slippery Noodle Inn is best known today as the place in Indianapolis to check out live blues acts. With live music practically every night, you’re always bound to find something good, and something new, at the Slippery Noodle.
Closes: 3 AM Mon-Sat, 12:30 AM Sunday. Distance: Walkable
372 S. Meridian St. Indianapolis, IN 46225 (317) 631–6974
A Final Nightcap at Taggart’s
As the hotel bar at the Crowne Plaza, Taggart’s is the last stop if you’re staying at the conference hotel.
Closes: Midnight Distance: Walkable
Crowne Plaza Hotel 123 W. Louisiana St. Indianapolis, IN 46225 (317) 631–2221