As host of the Indy 500 – the largest one-day sporting event in the world – Indianapolis has made a name for itself as the racing capital of the world. If the revving engine of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway entices you to take a drive, the city is connected to all four major interstate highways, earning it the nickname “America’s Crossroads.”
If you find yourself in town for a sports game or a visit to the world’s largest children’s museum, don’t rush home when you’re done. You’ll find plenty to do within a two-hour drive, whether you like lounging in nature or slowly sipping sour beers.
Here are five of the best day trips from Indianapolis.
Why go: Discover Tibetan culture
The small college town of Bloomington has a surprising infusion of Tibetan culture, thanks to the Dalai Lama’s late brother who was a professor at Indianapolis University. While in town, you can learn about Tibetan heritage and visit one of only two Tibetan chortens in the country at the Mongolian Tibetan Buddhist Cultural Center. You can even try traditional Tibetan cuisine at Anyetsang.
For a city of less than 100,000 people, Bloomington offers more than 350 places to eat. Stop by the farm-to-fork restaurant Small Favors Bar for a literal taste of Bloomington or The Elm for fine American cuisine with a hint of Mediterranean and North African flavors.
After refueling, head out into nature. Just outside of Bloomington is Lake Monroe, where you can swim, go fishing, or rent a pair of jet skis to cool off in the summer.
How to get to Bloomington
It’s a 51-mile drive from Bloomington to Indianapolis, and will take about an hour and 15 minutes on Interstate 69. The most convenient way to get to Bloomington is by car, but if you’re at the airport Indianapolis International, you may take the GO Express shuttle.
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Why go: Enjoy the downtown food scene
Although not as big as Indianapolis, Fort Wayne is perfect for the foodie family, with restaurants offering creative concepts and diverse cuisines clustered in close proximity to each other. Mercado On The Landing will temporarily transport you to the West Coast with its Cali-Mexican options, while Japanese restaurant Haru Sushi & Izakaya offers some of the freshest sushi in town. Fortezza Coffee can fire up a few shots to give you a caffeine kick (don’t miss the French toast with creme brulee). Do you get that “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” vibe? Visit Copper Spoon and choose one of its 100 cocktails, ranging from Adonis to Zombie.
After all the food sampling, tour Fort Wayne on foot along the Public Art Trail. Downtown is easy to walk around and the interactive Science Central provides an engaging learning portal for children. A short walk away is the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, where seasonal exhibits might make you forget you’re in the middle of a bustling city center. If you’re a fan of the Vera Bradley brand with bold prints, the brand new Bradley Hotel offers exclusive prints that you can only purchase at the property.
How to get to Fort Wayne
It’s a straight shot on Interstate 69 to get to Fort Wayne from Indianapolis by car, and the route is approximately 125 miles. Barons Bus departs once a day from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne, dropping off passengers in front of the Botanical Conservatory. The bus time is comparable to driving in a car and it costs around $20 per ticket.
Why go: Tramp through the underground brewery tunnels
In Cincinnati, you can take a trip to the underground brewery tunnels of over 100 years ago to see what one of the major lager brewing cities in the United States was like before Prohibition.
Cincinnati’s focus on innovation while incorporating its rich history has lent itself to all kinds of successful small businesses. Wondering what one of these life-soaked tunnels would look like? Four stories below street level, Ghost Baby is an underground bar built from a brewery tunnel with live music, small bites, and impeccable design. Creative collisions like this often happen in Cincinnati, making it a perfect romantic day trip for couples that could easily stretch into a weekend. For gastronomy, the French and Italian restaurant Metropole is another example, sharing space with an art museum.
You can keep things more casual at Ohio’s oldest public market, Findlay Market, which has dozens of vendors and gourmet treats, from arepas to falafel. Donut lovers will want to pick up a Donut Passport to follow the Butler County Donut Trail, but you’ll definitely need a car.
How to get to Cincinnati
The trip to Cincinnati takes about two hours from Indianapolis on Interstate 74. Barons Bus departs from Indianapolis twice daily, as does Greyhound, but the bus takes about an hour longer than driving. Amtrak has a three hour train on the Cardinal Line to get you to Cincinnati. But plan ahead – there are only three departures per week.
New Harmony, Indiana
Why go: take an architectural tour in a utopian society
Originally the site of two different attempts at a utopian community, New Harmony has evolved since 1819 to become a hub for artisans making textiles, soaps and woodworking. The community also boasts world-renowned carved art and architecture. New Harmony’s visitor center, the magnificent Atheneum, was designed by modernist architect Richard Meier.
Walk through the New Harmony Harmonist Labyrinth and feel the world slow down with nothing but the puzzle in front of you. Don’t worry about getting a bit lost between the privet hedges – you’ll find your way eventually.
Architecture buffs shouldn’t miss the Roofless Church, an open-air concept intended to encourage a space for all of humanity to worship under one roof: the sky. While some find the quiet garden courtyard spooky, others find it serene. The church was designed by Phillip Johnson, known for his modern architecture in New York. The minimalist design of the parachute-shaped altar makes the church a contrasting site in a city with more than a dozen 19th-century buildings.
When you’re ready to break the silence, grab a bite and a break at Black Lodge Coffee Roasters, a small roastery and cafe that serves up creative latte flavors like sorghum, sage and bourbon cask stout. The cafe also provides insight into the New Harmony art scene through its monthly artist exhibits. For more art, the New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art features an impressive collection of artwork by international and local artists.
How to get to the new harmony
The drive to this odd little town is longer than the average day trip from Indianapolis. But the drive to New Harmony is worth it, just over three hours, or 180 miles, from Indianapolis. You can get there by taking I-69. Buses and trains do not run between Indianapolis and New Harmony, so driving is the only option.
Why go: Follow the Bourbon route
What’s a visit to Bourbon City without a tour of bourbon? The Urban Bourbon Trail offers a program that offers discounts at various restaurants and bourbon bars in the city. Even if you don’t drink, Louisville is known for its vibrant urban culture and culinary landscape, positioning itself as one of Indiana’s best day trips for museums and food.
The Muhammad Ali Center is an iconic, award-winning museum celebrating local Louisville life. The three-story interactive museum delves into the history of the greatest boxer of all time while engaging visitors with civil rights issues of the 1960s and 1970s. If you like museums in general, the Louisville Legends Ticket will give you access to the Muhammad Ali Center as well as three other major Louisville museums: the Kentucky Derby Museum, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, and the Frazier History Museum, which just happens to happen. be the official starting point of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
While Louisville is known for its bourbon and sports legends, the city is also the birthplace of the Modjeska candy, a marshmallow caramel candy. Muth’s is a foodie’s paradise and the perfect place to try it.
Come evening, the Copper and King’s rooftop bar offers stunning views of the Louisville skyline and sunset.
How to get to Louisville from Indianapolis
To get to Louisville from Indianapolis, travel 112 miles along I-65. The trip takes just under two hours. Alternatively, you can take Greyhound to Louisville. Several buses travel daily between the two cities. Depending on the departure time you choose, Greyhound takes two to three and a half hours.