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Overshadowed by Chicago? Maybe. A city worth exploring? Definitely. Indianapolis welcomes visitors with plenty of attractions, sights and Midwestern charm to warrant a closer look. Plan a long weekend and prepare to be surprised by all it has to offer. These are some of the many experiences you’ll only find here.

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Flickr CC: Josh Hallet

Kiss the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The world-famous Indy 500 is held in May, but it’s worth visiting the Speedway and adjacent museum year round. Car enthusiasts will love extensive indoor exhibits and tours including a stop to “kiss the bricks” as race winners do each year. Fuel up afterward at beloved Mug ‘n’ Bun, a nearly 50-year-old, local fave. This old-fashioned, drive-in restaurant also offers indoor seating where you’ll find homemade root beer, the state’s famous pork tenderloin sandwich, onion rings and much more.

Flickr CC: Payton Chung

Head underground at a legendary foodie mecca
Indianapolis’ City Market boasts 131 years of serving tasty eats to local residents. Original meat and produce offerings have morphed into artisan and ethnic foods from locally-based merchants, with a seasonal outdoor farmers’ market enhancing the selection. You can eat on the spot at the Market or take it to go, but don’t miss the opportunity to head below ground while here, to see the eerie, Romanesque remains of Tomlinson Hall, designed in 1886 and destroyed by fire in 1958. The 30-minute tour along the brick, barrel-vaulted arches and accompanying tales (some of the building’s colorful past and some of fanciful ghost sightings) will have you happy to be back above ground.

Flickr CC: Scott Morris

Duckpin bowl in a historic ‘hood
Travel back in time to Indiana’s first commercial historic district, Fountain Square, featuring buildings dating back to 1871. Amid the restaurants, breweries, art galleries and studios, the Fountain Square Theatre Building remains a neighborhood anchor, serving the community since 1928. This is the only place in the Midwest to try duckpin bowling, which uses smaller balls and pins and slightly different rules. Feast on hearty fare at the Smokehouse after a few rounds, and enjoy impressive city views from the Rooftop Garden Cocktail Lounge in the summer.

Downtown of Indianapolis by Indiana Central Canal

Travel a city canal by gondola
There are many ways to explore the scenic Central Canal, which has snaked through the heart of the city since the early 1800s. Bike or walk the 3-mile loop, kayak or pedal boat amidst the ducks or soak up the surroundings in one of Old World Gondoliers’ public or private rides. Pick up a glass of wine or a cocktail from the Fresco Café prior to boarding and sip and sightsee as you glide along.

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Photo courtesy of the Conrad

Sleep among some of the city’s finest artwork
Indianapolis contains no shortage of museums where you can get your cultural fix, but if you check into the Conrad Indianapolis, art is literally at your fingertips. The $110-million property houses nearly 200 works of art within the first and second floors and is connected to the Long-Sharpe Gallery, featuring work by some of the top names in modern and contemporary art like Picasso, Warhol and Basquiat. Guests and visitors alike can take guided tours by requesting an Art Ambassador at the concierge desk.

Dutch pancake in the oven

Brunch inside an old service station
Make it a point to visit local hot spot Milktooth, a garage-turned-restaurant serving up scrumptious food and libations that are well worth the wait (no reservations accepted). Soak up the neighborhood on the patio or watch the chefs at work while sitting at the kitchen bar. The apple Dutch baby pancake is a not-to-be missed treat.

Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Bring your inner child to the world’s largest children’s museum 
At almost 500,000 square feet and containing 120,000 artifacts, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis offers everything from a carousel and Dinosphere to an international space station exhibit. Kids will also love “Take Me There,” where you can explore another country’s rituals, traditions and lifestyles. Meanwhile, the new 7.5-acre “Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience” inspires activity with indoor and outdoor health, fitness and sports exhibits, including 12 outdoor experiences, such as a pedal car racetrack and a 60-foot-tall Treehouse of Sports, with platforms to four viewing stations and three slides.

A young girl shares a special moment with a dolphin

Have an eye-level dolphin encounter
Located just 1.5 miles from the heart of downtown, the 64-acre Indianapolis Zoo is home to more than 1,600 animals and 23,000 plant specimens. The nation’s only underwater dolphin viewing dome is one way to come face to face with these amazing sea mammals.

Close-up of a smoked meat deli sandwich on paper with mustard and rye bread.

Blow your mind (and waistline) at a century-old deli
It may not look like much from the outside, but cafeteria-style Shapiro’s Delicatessen, located not far from the Lucas Oil Stadium and Indiana Convention Center, makes up for what it lacks in ambiance with an enormous array of offerings. Whatever you crave when you picture a classic Jewish deli is here, from delicious soups and heaping sandwiches to so many desserts you’ll wish you had an unlimited appetite.

Tagged: Midwest

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