For more than 100 years, the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, has been synonymous with fast cars and world racing records set at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The roar of racecars is a fundamental part of the fabric of Indy, but if anyone thinks that motor sports are all there is to the city, buckle up your seat belt and come along for a great ride.
The Indianapolis Children’s Museum is recognized year after year as one of the top children’s museums in the world and certainly in the US. Two three-story high dinosaurs on the streets in front of the museum and a delicate Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the lobby let you know that this is not your typical museum. Here kids (and adults) learn how to blow glass like Chihuly, dig for dinosaur bones, climb a rock wall, talk to a refrigerator, launch a rocket into outer space and learn what happens if you don’t wash your hands.
Until November 2014, this is the only place in the U.S. where you can see China’s Terra Cotta Warriors, believed to be the 8th Wonder of the World. And look for the Anne Frank tree, a cutting from the chestnut tree that she could see from her Amsterdam window during her family’s years of hiding. A permanent exhibit in the museum honors this brave child.
This year, the Indianapolis Zoo celebrates its 50th birthday with a new International Orangutan Center. How cool is this – you can actually play computer games with the orangs! At night, your furry buddies flight on the lights of a new 150-foot tall Beacon of Hope, visible for miles around central Indiana. The dolphin pavilion is also pretty cool – the only place in the Midwest where you can swim with the dolphins.
The zoo is located in the middle of White River State Park, meandering green space along the banks of the White River that includes three museums, a minor-league baseball stadium and dozens of activities, no matter what the season. You don’t have to go to Venice, Italy, to ride a gondola; that’s another fun activity at this exciting park. Indianapolis has miles of biking trails, so rent a bike or a surrey for the whole gang at Wheel Fun Rentals in the park.
The author Kurt Vonnegut was from Indianapolis, so if you want to stir your literary passions and pick up a few books banned in some public facilities, visit the memorial library that bears his name at 340 N. Senate Street. You’ll learn so much about that author that often gets overlooked in the fury over his most controversial book – Slaughterhouse Five. Did you know he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, won a Purple Heart and buried the dead after the Allied firebombing of Dresden? Yep, you need to visit this library.
Another famous guy from Indianapolis was John Dillinger. He’s buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery, but one of his favorite haunts in Indy was The Slippery Noodle, recognized as the oldest bar in the state of Indiana. Dillinger and his gangster friends used to shoot up the walls in one of the back rooms. Yes, you can still see those bullets and bullet holes. The Slippery Noodle dates to 1850 and plenty of original artifacts remain, including the tin ceiling and some of the mirrors. They think the bar is original, but that’s not been verified.
The Slippery Noodle is known for live blues seven nights a week, with two bands on two separate stages on Friday and Saturday nights. Lots of famous folks have taken the stage here: Pinetop Perkins, Country Joe McDonald, Edgar Winter, Dan Akroyd and so many more. Allison Kraus got her first recording contract after being discovered on stage at The Slippery Noodle.
And you thought Indianapolis was all about racecars. Go for the cars, but stay long enough to see what’s beyond the roar of the engines.
Which one of these fun Indianapolis activities would you try first?