Skirting the western edge of downtown, Indianapolis‘ White River State Park is a one-stop destination loaded with opportunities to educate, explore, exercise and simply enjoy.
The storied 250-acre property on the banks of the White River that flows through the heart of the city dates back to the 1820s, and housed a Civil War encampment on the historic Military Park portion of the land from 1861 to 1865. (The preserved green space is one of three Indiana properties that are forbidden from ever being sold.) After decades of mixed use, the state park started to take shape here in the late 1970s, when the Indiana General Assembly created a 10-member, governor-appointed commission to oversee its development.
The rest, as they say, is history. Populated with a world-class orangutan center, several ecological “biome” habitats and the glorious White River Gardens, the Indianapolis Zoo became White River State Park’s first official resident back in 1988, quickly followed the next year by the stunning Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the only facility of its kind in the Midwest. The Indiana State Museum joined the mix in 2002, upping the park’s cultural credibility even further with Hoosier-centric content and exhibits, as well the largest IMAX movie screen in the state.
Baseball fans can root for the home team, Indianapolis Indians, at the 14,500-seat Victory Field, named the “Best Minor League Ballpark in America” by Sports Illustrated. Regular season games run from April through September, and Friday nights feature the added bonus of a post-game fireworks show. For a different kind of sporting experience, the NCAA Hall of Champions celebrates 23 different U.S. collegiate sports with simulators, interactive displays and a retro gymnasium where visitors can shoot some hoops.
The picturesque central canal that slices through Indianapolis’ White River State Park winds along green spaces and past eye-catching pieces of public art, providing a scenic backdrop for jogging and leisurely strolls year-round. The summer months offer even more recreational opportunities with gondola rides, paddleboats, rental bikes and Segway tours. Make sure to stop and smell the roses “” or more accurately, the fresh Indiana tomatoes, herbs and vegetables “” at the 6,000-square-foot Growing Places Indy Slow Food Garden.
White River State Park also hosts a busy summer schedule of live music, from big-name performers at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn, a nicely maintained al fresco concert venue, to a number of seasonal events and gatherings including the popular DigIn food festival each August, a culinary celebration of all things edible and drinkable within the state of Indiana.
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Written by Amy Lynch