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Surprising Indianapolis

From sleepy midwestern town to walkable city with plenty to do

It wasn’t too long ago that tourists in Indianapolis would walk around the city’s central Monument Circle, and then look around for something else to do. Which wasn’t much.

What a difference 25 years make. Today, the still-unfortunately nicknamed “Nap Town” has turned into one of the truly walkable American cities, along with Chicago, Boston, New York and Seattle.

The turnaround started with the arrival of the Indianapolis Colts in 1984, then the city’s hosting the Pan American Games in 1987 and the opening of the Circle Centre Mall in 1995, according to local observers.

Most of the tourist-worthy venues are located centrally. The keystone is White River State Park, which until the 1950s was a less than inspiring industrial area, clotted with meat packing plants and paper and flour mills. These days, thanks to a bold redevelopment plan, the New York Times has called the 250-acre park “Indianapolis’ version of the Mall in Washington.” Besides walking, you can take a Segway tour. (It’s rather weird to ride.) In the heart of downtown, the park is home to outdoor concerts and such attractions as:

 

  •  The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the only museum of its kind in the Midwest, and one of only two museums east of the Mississippi that showcase both Native American and Western art, culture and history.

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