Perhaps best known for its annual motor race, Indianapolis, Indiana, also offers a dash of sophistication and culture. The 13th-largest city in the nation also boasts the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, one of less than 20 American orchestras that perform year-round; the Indiana Museum of Art, one of the nation’s oldest and largest art museums; and the highly regarded Indianapolis Zoo.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was originally built as a test track in 1909. It hosted its first 500-mile race in 1911 and has grown into the world’s largest single-day sporting event. What’s more, the speedway will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in 2011.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum houses one of the world’s largest collection of race cars (including more than 30 past winners of the Indianapolis 500), as well as the famous Borg-Warner Trophy. Bus tours around the oval are available year-round. The museum is open 363 days a year, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Founded in 1964, the Indianapolis Zoo plays a major role in worldwide conservation efforts -- and, with the addition of neighboring White River Gardens, became the nation’s first institution to be accredited as a zoo, an aquarium and a botanical garden. The zoo’s Oceans exhibit features the world’s largest shark touch tank, while the Dolphin Adventure offers a totally submerged dolphin viewing experience and, if you pre-register, the chance to climb into the tank.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art is located on 152 acres of gardens and grounds with a permanent collection of more than 50,000 works, including one of the nation’s largest and most significant collections of Asian art. Elsewhere on the grounds, visitors can tour the historic Oldsfields estate, then stroll through gardens designed in the 1920s by the famous Olmstead Brothers landscape design firm. In summer 2010, the museum opened a new 100-acre contemporary sculpture park.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest children’s museum in the world, a five-level playground that attracts over 1 million kids and parents each year. Among the interactive attractions are the Dinosphere, featuring life-size dinosaur skeletons and simulated fossil digs, a 43-foot sculpture by glass artist Dale Chihuly and a fully restored antique carousel.
Constructed from limestone, sandstone and other indigenous materials, the Indiana State Museum building is an exhibit unto itself, its walls and grounds including artworks representing each of the state’s 92 counties. Inside, the museum gives a three-story overview of Indiana’s history. In addition to permanent and changing exhibits, the museum houses a six-story IMAX movie screen and two restaurants -- one of which recreates the decor and menu of the Ayres Tea Room, a long-gone city eatery. The museum also mounts major exhibitions of Abraham Lincoln-related artifacts every two to three years.
If you fly to Indianapolis, it’s likely you’ll find it a pleasant experience. The Indianapolis International Airport, which completed a $1.1 billion terminal in 2008, was ranked the best small airport in North America by travelers in a J.D. Power & Associates poll.
The downtown area is home to one of the most eye-catching and unique hotel properties. The big, blue striking Marriott Place is a 1,600-room complex that offers four hotel brands at four price points.