photo of Indianapolis

Skyline at sunset in Indianapolis, Indiana. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Indianapolis

Build it and they will come certainly holds true for this heartland USA town, which had the foresight to construct arenas and stadiums that convinced several major athletic organizations to call the city home. As a result, Indianapolis is host to top annual sporting events and has first-rate athletic facilities, many of which are open to the public at select times. Cool off from the hot, Midwestern summers by skating at the indoor Olympic Rink, Indiana/World Skating Academy, or by swimming laps at the Indiana University Natatorium.

Ever since the first cars rounded the curves on the Indianapolis 500 track in 1911, the race has become a Memorial Day tradition. See the most-recent victorious racecar as well as up to 75 other sleek, shiny, and select vehicles at the nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. If your kids want to brag that they rode the Indy, then board the bus for a narrated trip around the track that comes with a close-up view of the stands, work pits, and the famous finish line.

Allow at least a half-day to explore the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the world's biggest with more than 400,000 square feet of exhibits. The new crowning touch, "Fireworks of Glass," the largest ever sculpture by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, is located in the central atrium. Underneath the 43-foot sculpture, kids can fashion their own masterpieces from molded polyvitro shapes. Additional highlights: Dinosphere, home to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Gorgosaurus, and other fascinating 65-million-year-old relics; ScienceWorks, where kids dig for fossils, design machines, and crawl through "dirt" like earthworms; and Playscape, an area for tots to six-year-olds to experiment with water, shapes, and sand.

Stroll or bike the three-mile path on the Canal & White River State Park, home to the Indianapolis Zoo, flower-filled White River Gardens, Indiana State Museum, Eiteljorg Museum, and the NCAA Hall of Champions. Dolphins star at the Indianapolis Zoo, which features what's billed as the world's first totally submerged Dolphin Adventure Dome, from where you can observe these playful mammals in their element.

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art houses a top-ranked collection of paintings, pottery, baskets, and other crafts. Grab a Family Adventures Pack for questions and exercises that lead kids to exhibit highlights. Kids are intrigued by the museum's cowboy paintings and beautifully beaded moccasins, and are sure to enjoy the hands-on activities like leather stamping or teepee building that occur every other Saturday.

For those dreaming athletes in your family, the NCAA Hall of Champions offers a film about and tributes to student athletes, plus memorabilia from various national college sporting championships. It's also the place to get souvenir-hungry kids official NCAA T-shirts or sweats.

Tip: At Conner Prairie, a living history museum six miles north of Indianapolis in Fishers, explore 19th-century life by talking with costumed interpreters and even sleeping overnight at a farmhouse.

Recommended Side Trips: Bloomington (Indiana), Louisville (Kentucky)

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