Indianapolis has all of the features of a major metropolitan city, but with a twist. Within these city limits exists the 250-acre White River State Park – an oasis of relaxation and activity for people of all ages. For citizens of Indiana, the park offers a “staycation” opportunity, because you can spend several days and still not see everything worth checking out.
For visitors the state, you will find that White River State Park offers attractions and activities that would families quite busy. There are green spaces, trails, a canal, and waterways, just like you might find in other State Parks; however, add in some incredible educational and cultural attractions and events, and you have one truly unique spot!
While this is certainly not a comprehensive list, here are 11 excellent things to see and do on a visit to White River State Park!
1. Check out the Eiteljorg Museum.
Here is a unique museum that features beautiful Native American art alongside many other Western arts and culture displays. One particularly great historical exhibit, the Mihtohseenionki (translation: The People’s Place), provides a great exploration of native people of Indiana – the Delaware, the Miami, and the Potawatomi. Here, history buffs will find artifacts (some are quite rare), photographs, audiovisual displays, and interactive ways to learn about this great state’s past. The Eiteljorg Museum has a partnership with the Smithsonian Museum and the American Indian National Museum of Art, so traveling exhibits are often on display as well.
If you are hungry after your exploration, there is a 90-seat restaurant, the Sky City Café, with a large terrace and garden area that overlooks the Indianapolis Historic Central Canal.
2. Find hands-on fun at the Indiana State Museum.
This jewel of a museum features science, art, and culture that celebrates Indiana’s history in an interactive environment. One special feature is the 92 County Walk, featuring all of Indiana’s counties with sculptures and other works of art winding around the walls, sidewalks, and stairways.
Some unusual features at this museum are the mastodons, old classic cars, and an impressive 17-foot-tall steam clock. You will view history from the Ice Age through this century and beyond. Exhibits change regularly, so visitors returning every few months will see something different.
3. Explore the world at the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens.
If you want a lively experience that will transport you across the globe, then this is the place to come. Here you will find simulations of every ecological system in the world, from the frozen Arctic regions to the hottest African plains. Situated within the State Park, the Indianapolis Zoo was actually the first attraction built when the Park was established. Spread over 64 acres, there is, of course, a grand zoo, but you will also find an incredible aquarium and botanical garden. There are always educational programs, special exhibits (you can touch the sharks!), and even a research center.
The zoo features “biomes” that allow connection and interaction with animals and plants native to the regions featured. Here, visitors will find over 250 animal species and about 1,700 different species of plants. Recreating these environments allows visitors who may never otherwise experience them the chance to see them first-hand.
4. Rent a kayak and hit the water.
How about a kayak tour down the 1.5-mile-long canal that runs through the park? Of course, this is a seasonal attraction, but for those who want a little physical exercise in the water and sun, this is a great choice. As you travel down the canal, you will be able to see plenty of the other attractions and lush green spaces.
5. Take a Segway tour.
The Segway is a relatively new innovation in “foot travel.” The two-wheeled motorized devices are wide and balanced so they are safe and easy to maneuver. Rentals are reasonable and provide a great opportunity to ride, stop, visit an attraction, and hop back on to ride to the next one.
6. Catch a game at the Indianapolis Indians Ballpark.
This 14,500-seat baseball stadium was declared the best minor league ball field in America by Sports Illustrated magazine. Triple-A baseball is a huge attraction in a number of U.S. cities, but you will not find fans anywhere else that love it more than Hoosiers. The Indians play all of their home games in the stadium located in White River State Park. The field opened in 1996 and now boasts about 8,000 fans per game! It also hosts the high school state baseball championships, and many college baseball games as well. During the off seasons, there are festivals, concerts, and other events held here. It’s a busy spot!
7. Honor the legendary players at the NCAA Hall of Champions Museum.
There is no denying that Indiana is a huge basketball state, so having this museum is a natural favorite. It is not just a museum you walk through and view; there are interactive exhibits, activities, and a great retro court. It was recently renovated and is now an architectural showpiece on its own, and now has an auditorium and meeting rooms that serve as a site for conferences.
8. Dig in at Growing Places Indy Slow Food Garden.
This is 6,000 square foot garden space for visitors to observe or get involved in gardening activities. Crops are chosen based upon their suitability for this climate region, whether they are somewhat endangered, or if they are an important part of Indiana’s agricultural heritage.
The Growing Places Garden is one of many unique and interesting natural areas in White River State Park. There are great spots to just sit and breathe, and it is a perfect environment for stressed college students in the nearby areas to come and get away from the noisy campus life.
9. Relax at the Celebration Plaza and Amphitheatre.
This space sits along the White River in view of the 17-foot waterfall where the canal falls into the river. During the summer seasons, there are plenty of events in the amphitheater, including “Shakespeare on the Canal.”
10. Explore the Children’s Maze.
This is exactly what it sounds like: a beautiful foot maze to explore and enjoy! You will find it in the heart of the park, and it is a great place for kids to work out some of their endless excitement and energy!
11. See a concert on The Lawn.
This is the site of one of the top outdoor concert venues in the world. There is both reserved and lawn seating for events, both with a beautiful view of White River to look upon in the distance. This venue hosts artists from all over the world throughout the summer months.
Much more awaits visitors to the White River State Park! This spot should be on everyone’s Indiana Bucket List, and will be a place you will want to return to visit, no matter how familiar you are with this area. There is always something new and exciting here!