10 Tips to Escape the Tourist Crowds in Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis | © tpsdave / WikiCommons
Indianapolis | © tpsdave / WikiCommons
Photo of Courtney Johnston
1 February 2018

Are you looking to visit Indy, but not looking forward to standing in line? Indianapolis has a smaller downtown area than most cities, but that doesn’t mean parts of it don’t get congested with tourists. If you’re looking for a low-key way to explore the city, skip the usual stops and consider these helpful tips.

Walk, don’t drive

If you hate waiting in traffic, try to find attractions that are all in one area and walk or bike instead. Indianapolis has downtown bike-shares you can enjoy so that you can avoid the traffic and still get to your destination, without the headache. Most areas of Indy are extremely walkable, so if you can walk from your hotel or Airbnb, stretch your legs and take in some scenery.

Cultural Trail | © Eric Fischer / Flickr

Visit different districts

Instead of planning out your trip, try visiting a different district each day and creating your own tour. Walk up and down Mass Ave to explore small art galleries, shops, restaurants, and other unique attractions. Then, spend the day in Fountain Square, a perfect setting for art lovers and creatives. Move on to Broad Ripple if you’re looking for more of a night out with plenty of bars to choose from—always ensuring you’ll find a less crowded place to go.

Fountain Square | © Dustin Batt / Flickr

Skip the big landmarks

Maybe you came to see the Indianapolis Speedway, the Indiana Museum of Art and Gardens (now Newfields), or the Children’s Museum. But, unless you’re okay with waiting and dealing with crowds all day, you might want to skip these attractions and opt for less crowded spots. Try lesser-known museums such as Rhythm! Discovery Center, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, or the Indiana Medical History Museum. As for food, grabbing a bite to eat at the dive bar down the street will still give you an awesome taste of the local cuisine, without the long wait times.

Indianapolis Children’s Museum | © Daniel Schwen / WikiCommons

Plan your trip during winter

Late spring and summer is the peak time for tourists in Indianapolis, so if you’re hoping to spend some time at a popular attraction, visit during the wintertime. Since it’s off-peak, you’ll find fewer tourists at Indy’s hottest spots. It can be brutally cold in late December and January, so dress warmly. Plus, a snow-covered Indy is a beautiful sight.

Go out on weekdays

Since most attractions are brimming with people on weekends, try visiting during the week to skip the long lines. Go during the day when most people are in school or at work to get the full Hoosier experience without the crowds.

Indianapolis IMA Gardens | © Serge Melki / Flickr

Book a private tour

Many popular places in Indianapolis offer private tours or eating experiences if you plan ahead. For instance, if you’re looking for a personalized adventure, the Indianapolis Zoo has one-on-one animal encounters that you can book. Likewise, if you’re going to a favorite restaurant, be sure to book a reservation to avoid long wait times.

Indianapolis Zoo | © Rob Annis / Flickr

Go underground

Well, not literally. Ask friends or locals around the city what places you should explore. They’re probably awesome local attractions you’ve never heard of, and the chances are that most other tourists won’t be there. You can also find some pretty fascinating underground spots, such as The Ruins in Holliday Park, the Museum of Psychphonics, the Painted Rainbow Bridge, or John Dillinger’s grave.

Discover local music

Large venues like the Murat might be packed, but there are always incredible shows happening around the city. Skip the larger venues and headlining tours and opt for a smaller performance at White Rabbit, Radio Radio, Square Cat, the Hi-Fi, Tin Roof, or the Vogue. You’ll help support local music while uncovering some fresh, new talent.

The Vogue | © PunkToad / Flickr

Book a private helicopter tour

If you really want to see all that Indianapolis has to offer, get far away from the crowds with a private helicopter tour of the city. You’ll get to experience the Circle City from a new angle and see some of its most famous buildings without having to wait in line.

Search for rural attractions

Indianapolis has a fun and eclectic downtown area, but that’s not all that this city has to offer. Explore some lesser-known parks and gardens, such as the stunning Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden that are outside of the crowded downtown areas. Dog parks and community gardens are great places to unwind and soak in the local culture and offer a completely different glimpse of this bustling city.