Indianapolis, Indiana, is a vibrant cultural, historical and sports mecca located in the center of the Hoosier State and serving as its capital. It is frequently referred to as the Circle City and as the Crossroads of America. The city's downtown district underwent a massive overhaul and revival in the mid-1990s, including the construction of the large Circle Centre Mall, making downtown Indianapolis an ideal spot for visitors to find a little bit of everything. Indianapolis received another huge upgrade leading up to Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2012, improving its infrastructure and adding a number of amenities and beauty to the city.
Must see in Indianapolis
Indianapolis is home to the world's largest children's museum -- the Children's Museum of Indianapolis -- which should be on every family's to-do list when visiting the central Indiana metropolis for its many fun, educational and interactive displays.
One of Indy's most recognizable monuments is the Soldiers and Sailors Monument located in the center of Monument Circle in the downtown district. Indianapolis ranks second in the nation only to Washington D.C. in number of war memorials within its city limits.
Indianapolis is home to the Indianapolis Colts, the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever basketball teams, the Indianapolis Indians baseball team, the Indy Eleven soccer team and the Indy Fuel hockey team, but its most famous sports venue is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which hosts the annual Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 automobile races.
Where to stay in Indianapolis
The downtown district is an ideal place to stay while visiting Indianapolis. The area boasts several hotels and is divided into well-marked quadrants that are full of historical sights, restaurants, activities, shopping, nightlife and culture. All areas of downtown Indianapolis are within walking distance of downtown hotels and are easily accessible via wide sidewalks and traffic control devices that keep pedestrians safe.
Younger travelers and those seeking more arts, culture, live music and nightlife should explore Broad Ripple Village on the city's north side, off of College Avenue between 62nd and 71st Streets. The Vogue is a popular Broad Ripple bar that frequently features live music.
Travelers looking for a bargain on hotel rates should investigate the hotels in Plainfield, Indiana. Plainfield, located in Hendricks County, adjoins the southwest side of Indianapolis and is situated right next to the Indianapolis International Airport.
Best and worst time to visit Indianapolis
The best time to visit Indianapolis is between May and August, when the city bustles with outdoor activities and festivals, sporting events, plenty of parks and green space, and comfortable temperatures.
Visiting Indianapolis in January or February will subject travelers to the coldest months of the city and a good chance of snow on the ground. While indoor activities are still easily found and several enclosed skywalks allow downtown pedestrians to access multiple hotels and businesses without ever stepping outdoors, this period is one of the most quiet in the city.
Where to get lost in Indianapolis
Travelers should make a point of wandering around The Canal and White River State Park on the west side of the downtown district of Indianapolis. People walk, jog and ride bikes along the canal, paddleboat through the water, and visit a wide range of sights, including the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the NCAA Hall of Champions, the Indianapolis Zoo, Victory Field and much more.
The best deal in Indianapolis
Take the entire family to an Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field while you're in Indianapolis. The beautiful and clean ballpark features very inexpensive admission -- especially if you bring a blanket and sit in the grass in the outfield -- and a fun experience for all ages. Lots of food and drink options will keep visitors happy, and kids will be entertained by the numerous games behind the outfield and the between-innings entertainment on the field. Victory Field also frequently features fireworks displays after games.
Transportation in Indianapolis
The IndyGo public transportation system provides inexpensive and reliable bus service throughout Indianapolis. Taxis and rental cars are also widely available at the Indianapolis International Airport and throughout the city.
Getting in from the Indianapolis International Airport
Many hotels in the Indianapolis area offer free shuttle service to and from the Indianapolis International Airport. Otherwise, there are plenty of taxis and rental cars available. Those who drive from the airport can easily access the city via Interstate 70 or Washington Street. Interstate 465 is a loop around Indianapolis that provides quick access to all parts of the city, as well as access to Interstates 65, 69 and 74 and a number of state highways.
Local tip for visitors to Indianapolis
Indianapolis is set up on a grid system, with most streets running north-south and east-west and most city blocks equaling one-tenth of a mile. Washington Street divides the north and south sides of the city (and its addresses), while Meridian Street divides the east and west sides of the city (and its addresses). Numbered streets run east-west in Indianapolis, north of Washington Street, and correspond with the one-tenth-of-a-mile distance between city blocks. So 10th Street is one mile north of Washington Street, 38th Street is 3.8 miles north, 56th Street is 5.6 miles north, etc. Click here to learn how to navigate Indianapolis like a local.
Author's bio: Eric Ivie is a resident of central Indiana and has been published on Yahoo Sports and Visit Hendricks County. He owns and operates Red Zone Writing. You can follow him on Facebook and Google+.