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Indianapolis Canal, IN | © Serge Melki / Flickr
Indianapolis Canal, IN | © Serge Melki / Flickr
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11 Things to Know Before Visiting Indianapolis, IN

Picture of Courtney Johnston
Updated: 31 January 2018
If you’re planning to visit Indianapolis this year, you may be curious about what to expect during your trip. Whether you’re passing through for work, stopping during a road trip, or visiting friends or family, there are a few things you may want to know about Indy.

Indy is a small city, bursting with attractions

The downtown area of Indianapolis may be on the smaller side, but it’s packed full of great restaurants, museums, sports centers, and niche attractions. You may have to drive a bit to get to some key sights (such as the state fairgrounds, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), but they’re well worth the trip.

Downtown Indianapolis, IN | © Serge Melki/Flickr
Downtown Indianapolis, IN | © Serge Melki / Flickr

It’s called the Circle City for a reason

In the heart of Indianapolis, you’ll find a cobblestone street circle from which Indy derives its nickname. In the center of the circle is a large war memorial you can take a tour of, which is decked out in lights every Christmas season.

The weather is always unpredictable

The Midwest is well known for its severe weather, and Indianapolis sits at the center of it all. One day it could be 70°F (21°C) and sunny, and the next it could be close to freezing and raining. Warm and cold temperatures also can fluctuate throughout the day, so always bring layers of clothing to add or remove as needed.

Indianapolis IMA Gardens, IN | © Serge Melki/Flickr
Indianapolis IMA Gardens, IN | © Serge Melki / Flickr

It’s easy to navigate

The city’s design is easy to navigate, with just about every road going north to south or east to west. It creates an incredibly simple grid structure that makes it pretty difficult to get lost. However, you should be aware that there are a lot of one-way streets, so while it’s easy to know where you are, you may be driving for a few more minutes if you miss a turn.

Traditional public transportation is scarce, but you don’t need a car

You won’t find subways or monorails around this city, but you will find buses to help take you to your destination. Downtown Indianapolis is extremely walkable, but it also has some unique methods of transportation. You’ll find several bike-shares located throughout downtown Indy that you can rent. Indianapolis is also home to BlueIndy electric car shares, which allow you to rent a car at one hub and drop it off at one close to your downtown destination. The Cultural Trail, which connects Indy’s downtown districts, is also a fun way to walk or bike around some of the most famous parts of the city.

The local food is unique

Indianapolis is teeming with innovative and award-winning restaurants, so you’ll always find a diverse selection of food from which to choose. However, you can’t visit this city without trying the beloved state food, the Indiana tenderloin, which is thinly hammered pork, breaded, seasoned, and fried. This sandwich tops the menu at most American, German, Irish, and traditional restaurants around the city.

Indianapolis City Market, IN | © Richie Diesterheft/Flickr
Indianapolis City Market, IN | © Richie Diesterheft / Flickr

Craft drinks are king

Indianapolis is full of craft beers, meads, and wines, and most of the restaurants support local brewers. Some restaurants don’t even offer traditional domestic beers or wines, so be open to trying new drinks when you’re out to eat.

…but you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays

It’s true—in Indianapolis (and the rest of Indiana), it’s illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays. While you can indulge in a drink at a bar or restaurant, you won’t be able to leave with alcohol. So, it’s a good idea to plan ahead.

The city is one giant community

While Indianapolis is a city, the downtown area is divided into smaller community-like districts that offer a small-town feel in an urban setting. You’ll feel right at home walking into local stores, eateries, and markets.

Downtown Indianapolis, IN | © Jimmy Baikovicius/Flickr
Downtown Indianapolis, IN | © Jimmy Baikovicius / Flickr

People from Indianapolis are called “Hoosiers”

Everyone from the state of Indiana is called a Hoosier, not an Indianan. The story behind this seemingly baffling name choice is rooted in confusion. The general premise is that the response of “Who’s there?” was heard as “Hoosier,” and it somehow took root. Regardless, you’ll see the word Hoosier throughout the city. Just know that this is the official name of anyone from Indiana.

People really are friendly here

Indiana is known for its hospitality, and Indianapolis is a mecca for friendly, down-to-earth people. If you’re lost or looking for a particular restaurant or attraction, go ahead and stop the first person you see. The residents here are always happy to lend a helping hand.

Indianapolis Canal, IN | © Serge Melki/Flickr
Indianapolis Canal, IN | © Serge Melki / Flickr