Soldiers and sailors monument at dusk

Every sunset is a show over Indianapolis. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Discover Indianapolis, Indiana’s Culture and Culinary Scene

Indy, as locals call it, used to be known for one thing: very fast cars. But Indianapolis, Indiana, has moved in another direction and is now known for its world-class museums, farm-to-table restaurants, hip dive bars and cutting-edge art galleries.

Still, do allow time for checking out the checkered flags at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Hit the Cultural Trail (and More)

Aerial view of downtown Indianapolis
There’s something to do around every corner in Downtown Indianapolis. (Photo: Getty Images)

To orient yourself in Indianapolis, spend a good portion of the day strolling the Cultural Trail. Opened in 2013, this 8-mile-long path for walkers and bikers connects all six of the city’s cultural districts. It passes by historic neighborhoods, public art pieces, museums, monuments, restaurants, bars, cafés and shops.

If you’re in need of a breakfast recommendation, check out the “Omelette You Can’t Refuse” (bacon, white cheddar, sour cream and potatoes) at the hip Café Patachou. Keep an eye out for some of the great public art along the way, including pieces by Julian Opie, Donna Sink and Sean Derry.

The trail is essentially a big loop around downtown with three different spurs, encompassing the Wholesale District, Fountain Square, Indiana Avenue, Market East, Massachusetts Avenue and White River State Park. Take your time exploring the street life, cultural attractions and boutiques.

All that ambling is certain to build up an appetite, and luckily for you, there are ample eateries along the way. Good ones, too: The stylish Flatiron on Penn, for instance, serves up excellent salads, sandwiches and burgers, along with live music.

Did you say you have a hankering for a locally brewed beer? Just steps away from the Cultural Trail is Brew Link Brewpub, a lively spot that serves up tasty tacos, variations on the theme of mac and cheese, wings and barbecued ribs — not to mention beer made right on the premises.

Saturday: Enjoy a Day at the Museums

Exploring everything from art to history to science, the museums in Indy are all excellent — and worthy of a whole day spent browsing them.

Start at Eiteljorg, the super-accessible museum with the super-hard-to-pronounce name. The museum specializes in the art of Native American people and the American West — and it is one of the few cultural institutions to do so on this scale. Among the artists whose work is in the permanent collection are Georgia O’Keeffe, Thomas Hill, Charles Russell and John French Sloan.

At the three-story Indiana State Museum, visitors learn the history of the Hoosier State, with a timeline that begins with the tooth of a saber-toothed tiger (please touch!). The museum also houses an IMAX theater, a café, a tea room and a shop selling all sorts of Indiana-centric merchandise.

White river skyline view
Hit the bike trails along the White River. (Photo: Getty Images)

For lunch, take a walk over to High Velocity, a restaurant nestled in the JW Marriott Indianapolis for American fare and a brew. From there, you aren’t far from White River State Park, where you can rent a bike and follow the trails along the water. Or take a ride on a gondola for another angle of the city.

In the evening, try the Rathskeller, a humongous German beer garden and beer hall, serving up both local and Teutonic brews. Sip a foamy one while enjoying sausages, schnitzel and huge haunches of pork. Prost!

Sunday: Learn the History of Race Car Drivin

Race cars on Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Learn about Indianapolis’s race car history. (Photo: Getty Images)

Today is the day to indulge in the sport that first put Indianapolis on the map: race car driving. First, head downtown to catch breakfast at Good Morning Mama’s Café. It’s a bit of a drive from your first activity of the day, but the former gas station turned breakfast spot has diner charm and a killer stack of pancakes.

Once you’ve finished up, hop in the car for a 12-minute drive to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. There are permanent exhibitions of the legendary cars that won the Indy 500, including the 1911 Marmon Wasp and the 1938 Maserati. And, selfie alert, you can sit in an actual Indy car and have your photo taken.

For lunch, try the “Hoosier tenderloin” at the nearby Dawson’s on Main, a quick walk from your next stop. This family-owned restaurant is located on, you guessed it, Main Street. It’s worth a post-lunch stroll before you dive back in to your afternoon of race car history.

If you’re still feeling the need for speed, check out the Dallara IndyCar Factory. There, you can get behind a simulator that will give you an almost-real-life experience of what it’s like to be an Indy driver. There is also a factory tour where you can witness IndyCars actually being assembled in real time.

For dinner, take a load off at Rick’s Café Boatyard, a waterfront eatery that serves cocktails, steak and locally caught fish overlooking the Eagle Creek Reservoir.