My first visit may have been work-related, but after two days of exploring the Circle City, you can bet my next will allow for even more time to explore downtown and the distinctive neighborhoods and districts that call it home.

The first thing to know is that the entirety of downtown is extremely walkable.

We stayed near the Canal & White River State Park District, which in addition to some of the nicest leisure time in a downtown area I’ve yet to experience, also boasts seven major attractions, festival space, public art, unique cafes and three miles of walkways along the refurbished historic Central Canal.

For racing fans, a trip to the Racing Capital of the World means you simply can’t depart without stepping inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the 101st Indy 500 takes place in late May. But don’t worry—if you miss the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, there are a variety of other racing events hosted at the speedway throughout the year. •••

WHAT TO DO:

GETTING THERE:

You’ll need a playlist that clocks in at about 4.5 hours with traffic, via I-70 W

STOPS ALONG THE WAY:

Columbus & Dayton

BRUNCH:

Milktooth’s rotational menu of exquisitely constructed brunch and lunch specialties—no modifications, thank you—and loft apartment vibe makes the visit feel like a weekly gathering of friends. But the real star of every show here is the painstakingly prepared coffee and espresso.

CHEAP EAT:

Garcia’s Hot Dogs, the inauspicious hot dog cart packs a gourmet punch and is home of Indy’s bacon-wrapped hot dog, just $2.25!

DINNER:

Serving steaks in its downtown location since 1902, St. Elmo’s Steak House is to Indianapolis as Bender’s Tavern is to Canton. Try the “world famous” shrimp cocktail and take home a bottle of cocktail sauce. Looking for something more modern? Stop in at St. Elmo’s sister site, Harry & Izzy’s for a more eclectic take, including our favorite: prime rib pizza with horsey sauce!


COCKTAILS:

Come for the farm-to-table small plates (hello, frog legs!) but stay for the complex handcraft cocktails at Bluebeard, including updated classics and a list of house gin and tonics.

DESSERT:

You’ll have a heck of a time picking a sweet treat from among the Double Chocolate Stout Terrine and the Salted Caramel Pot de Creme at popular dining hot spot Mesh. The restaurant has an impressive list of dessert wines, cognacs and port, to boot.

SHOP:

Head southeast of the city to the funky Fountain Square neighborhood for a bit of everything: antiques, comics, flowers, home furnishings, musical instruments and more.

MUST SEE:

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and Monument Circle area, and the Indianapolis Zoo, featuring the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center.

TOUR:

Art and the art of shopping collide at Mass Ave Arts District. Visit Stout Shoes, the nation’s oldest shoe store, and a variety of theatres, galleries and boutiques. Pick up a sparkly trinket at Silver in the City.