Because I blog about educational travel, I received free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, and other benefits for some of the hotels and attractions we visited throughout the trip. Many attractions we toured are free to everyone. I paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I whole-heartedly recommend. If you notice any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love a particular hotel, attraction, or restaurant enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.
We left Louisville early and drove 114 miles to Indianapolis. As we entered the city, we noticed many clumps of people, all walking the same direction. A sporting event at the stadium? No, the people were walking past the stadium. Weird. Another block and it was people everywhere. Thousands of people. It turns out that our first day in Indy was the final day at GenCon.
Over 80,000 people were in town for the convention. Oops! I normally do a better job of researching local events so that we don't find ourselves visiting a city when something major like that is going on.
The crowds meant that we couldn’t park where we’d intended near the convention center, so we continued to our hotel
. It was too early to check in, but the staff was very accommodating and helpful. We parked the car at the hotel and walked a few blocks to the pick-up location for Indy Fun Tours
. No crowds; everyone in town was apparently at the Convention Center!
We guessed, correctly as it turned out, that starting our time in Indy with a trolley tour would be a great way to get acquainted with the city.
Tim, who is the owner of Indy Fun Trolley Tours
, kept us entertained the entire 2+ hours. (The tour was billed as 11:00-12:15 with no mention of stops. We went 11:00-1:10 with two stops and narration the entire time.) Tim clearly loves storytelling, loves entertaining, and loves his adopted city of Indianapolis. Not only did he show us all the tourist attractions, he showed us pretty much everything! I was furiously scribbling notes the whole time because Tim kept mentioning favorite restaurants, interesting places to go, unique things to see, etc. He said that his goal was to show us a movie where instead of the pictures moving, we would. And at the end of the movie, we’d know a little bit about every single thing in the city. Mission accomplished, I’d say!
Stop #1 was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
. Our family would be touring it thoroughly later in the day, so we used the 20 minute stop to take photos outside and get a brief overview.
They had an amazing selection of candy, but with the number of candy shops we'd visited on the trip, candy was pretty much the last thing we needed. It was still fun to look around.
They had a ton of interesting sodas, too.
has been on our must-try list for awhile, so the three of us shared a bottle. Trevor loved using the bottle opener by the door. And we all loved the Cheerwine. It was refreshing on such a hot day.
We all enjoyed our Indy Fun Tour
. We learned so much about Indianapolis and were thoroughly entertained the whole time. After we got off the trolley, we went to a late lunch at one of the restaurants Tim recommended, Dawson's on Main
Dawson's was already on my radar; someone had told me you HAVE to go there and get their soup
. As it turns out, they don't serve soup on Sundays. This was disappointing, but the wedge salad I got instead was fantastic.
Steve got the house specialty: "Crispy hand-breaded choice pork tenderloin fried to a golden perfection served with Dawson's signature sauce on a fresh brioche bun." It was indeed perfection.
After eating, we headed back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
None of us know anything about car racing, but the museum was extremely interesting even for non-fans.
I particularly liked seeing the winning Indy cars on display. It was fascinating to see how the cars from the early 1900's compared to those from the early 2000's.
I also loved timeline around the room that had stats on the average winning speed for each year. Our regular freeway speeds would win the Indy 500 if we’d competed in 1911!
I didn’t expect to enjoy this museum nearly as much as I did. It was awesome. By the way, Trevor is sitting on his knees for this photo.
Here's what it looked like when he was sitting.
There were signs on the car saying that it may be a tight fit and that it can be difficult to get out, so don't get in unless you're confident that you can extract yourself later. Sure enough, the seat isn't exactly roomy! And it was indeed difficult to get out, because you can't just stand up and there isn't room to bring your feet under yourself. But I got out without trouble, and so did Steve.
There was a lot to see at the museum.
(affiliate link) is on display!
After looking at everything in the museum, we went outdoors and climbed the berm to look at the track. I knew it was big, but I hadn’t really understood just how large. We learned that Vatican City, the White House, Yankee Stadium, Churchill Downs, the Rose Bowl Stadium, Liberty Island, the Roman Colosseum, and the Taj Mahal can simultaneously fit inside IMS ... with room to spare. Check out this map
In fact, you can only see a small portion of the track no matter where you are sitting. There are no seats where you can see more than fraction of it at a time. Attendees watch most of the race on huge monitors.
We stopped by for a slice. It's a sweet custard pie, with a flavor that reminded me of a donut. We all liked it, though we were glad to have three of us sharing one piece. It was very rich.
We started our second day in Indianapolis with the Urban Adventure Quest
. That was a good decision. By 9:00 am, it was already quite warm outside. We'd save the air-conditioned Capitol and museum visits for the heat of the afternoon.
As usual, the Quest was a ton of fun and brought us to places we otherwise might have missed.
We especially loved the Quest challenges that took us along the downtown Canal Walk
It was getting really hot out by the time we finished the Quest. We were happy to duck into the Capitol
and look around.
We loved the stained glass rotunda and the gorgeous wood inlaid table in the governor's office.
An honorary Hoosier!
After thoroughly exploring the Capitol, we walked a few short blocks to the City Market
The market has about 25 vendors on the main floor, with plenty of seating upstairs.
We shared pizza and a fruit smoothie. It hit the spot.
Our next destination was Rhythm! Discovery Center
It was, in a word, AWESOME.
The center is filled with percussion instruments from around the world. There are videos interspersed to teach about the types of instruments in each room, then examples on display, and others for playing. The rule is that anything behind ropes or on a raised platform is for looking only, but everything else can be touched.
This drum kit? Go for it!
We tried following the instructions to play two notes at a time with one hand. It's harder than it looks.
These had a great sound that filled the room.
We were fortunate in that there were not many other people at Rhythm! while we were there. Although the space is very well-designed to separate various sections of the discovery center, I imagine it can get a bit loud when many guests are trying every single instrument simultaneously. Particularly in this area, where you can play pretty much everything including the kitchen sink.
They have sound-proofed practice rooms with adjustable acoustics. That was really cool.
We really enjoyed our time at Rhythm! Discovery Center
. It's so unique and a great place for kids and adults to explore percussion.
Just steps away from Rhythm! is Weber Grill Restaurant.
Every time we'd passed it, it smelled amazing, so it was an easy choice for dinner.
Everything they serve is cooked on big Weber grills, which are part of an open kitchen.
Grills are a major part of the decor.
The food was as good as it smelled. Maybe even better, if that's possible. So delicious!
We started our final day in Indianapolis, and the final day of the 17-day adventure, at the Indiana State Museum
The museum is huge, with a little bit of everything from Indiana's history.
Many of the exhibits are hands-on. Here Trevor and Steve are trying out an activity that simulates splitting wood. Trevor had to cut far more soft wood to heat his cabin than the amount of hard wood Steve needed to cut.
We ate lunch at the museum's Farmers Market Cafe
. Oh my gosh - the corn chowder. Soooo good.
When you visit the museum, don't forget to see the Hoosier Art Salon, which is separated from the main area by a long corridor.
Hoosiers are awesome.
Next door to the Indiana State Museum is the NCAA Hall of Champions
. I don't follow college sports (or professional sports, or any sports at any level), so I wasn't sure how interesting this would be. As it turns out, we loved it and highly recommend a visit.
Check out the diver artwork.
And the famous Flying Wedge.
The main floor has an introductory video, the Hall of Fame, and a large exhibit dedicated to each of the NCAA sports.
There are hands-on activities related to each of the sports.
There are some fun challenges to complete, too.
The NCAA Hall of Champions was a great way to end our time in Indianapolis. What a great city!
We absolutely loved our midwest adventure. We had a fantastic time and came home with wonderful memories. We're already looking forward to our next trip exploring the United States!