Blake Walsh

16 Best Things to Do in Marion County, IN

  • Published 2023/06/11

Situated in central Indiana, Marion County is an exciting destination full of leisure and recreation activities.

The county traces its origin to the 1820s, a few years after Indiana became a state of the Union.

The area is known for its exciting sports scene—from the world-famous Indianapolis 500 races to professional basketball and football and college athletics.

With gorgeous nature spots and outdoor recreation sites, the county is a great destination for hiking, biking, and exploring nature.

It is home to world-class museums and arts and culture spaces, providing a variety of leisure experiences and urban adventures.

The county also plays host to big events throughout the year, such as fairs, sports tournaments, and concerts.

To help start planning your visit, check out this list of some of the best things to do in Marion County, Indiana:

Enjoy the Natural Beauty of Eagle Creek Park

Eagle Creek Park during fall

Jen Bowman /

Bask in the rejuvenating beauty of nature at Eagle Creek Park.

One of the country’s biggest municipal parks, this serene wildlife and recreation area covers over 5,000 acres of woodlands, a reservoir, meadows, and ponds.

Trails wind through the park, offering opportunities for hiking, wildlife observation, and nature photography.

Spotting a bald eagle soaring above was a lovely experience.

Scenic view of the Eagle Creek Park

Saeng M /

At the park’s fitness trail, I came across exercise stations, where you can enjoy a quick workout while admiring the beautiful surroundings.

I learned that the park hosts fun summer activities such as concerts, so if you’re visiting during the season there are more things to explore!

Eagle Creek Park is located along West 56th St. in Pike Township.

Creek flowing through the Eagle Creek Park

Dawn M Whalen /

Learn about Racing History at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Facade of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Jonathan Weiss /

Complete your Indiana experience with a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Established in 1956, this museum tells the rich history of the Indianapolis 500 competition and the world-famous speedway through various exhibits.

Its premier collection is considered one of the best in the world, featuring over 300 vehicles and tens of thousands of artifacts.

Race car kept for display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Bruce Alan Bennett /

On a tour of the museum, I learned about the area’s iconic racing culture and got to see some of race history’s most striking cars.

You can also book a tour of the museum’s basement collection, which showcases winning cars and other rare racing artifacts.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is located in the town of Speedway, Wayne Township.

Vintage cars exhibited at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Bruce Alan Bennett /

Spend a Fun Weekend at the Marion County Fair

If you’re visiting around the middle of the year, check out the Marion County Fair and get a glimpse into one of the county’s fun celebrations.

While it was first held in 1930, the county’s fair celebration traces its roots to as early as the 1830s.

There are plenty of family-friendly attractions to enjoy at the fair, from amusement rides to fun programs.

I explored the arts and crafts exhibits and then indulged in some classic fair treats.

Of course, no fair would be complete without the agricultural displays and animal competitions.

Since this is Marion County, there are race shows and other race-related activities for racing enthusiasts!

The Marion County Fair is held at the fairgrounds in Warren Township.

Go on a Wild Adventure at the Indianapolis Zoo

Entrance to the Indianapolis Zoo /

Spend a day exploring the Indianapolis Zoo, one of the country’s largest zoos.

Opened in 1964, this sprawling zoo houses over 1,400 animals, including threatened and endangered species.

At the forest exhibit, I watched Alaskan brown bears and red pandas playing under the area’s thick canopy.

I also enjoyed seeing the zoo’s fascinating birds with vibrant feathers.

Macaque at the Indianapolis Zoo

Katie Halverson /

If you’re visiting in spring, you’ll get treated to the zoo’s beautiful blooms and some amusement rides.

Apart from the usual tours, it also offers a variety of exciting and educational experiences, such as zoo camps and night explorations.

The Indianapolis Zoo is located along West Washington St. near downtown Indianapolis.

Lions resting on the grass at the Indianapolis Zoo /

See the Soldiers & Sailors Monument

Soldiers & Sailors Monument bedazzling at night

Sean Pavone /

Stop by the Soldiers & Sailors Monument for some scenic views and history.

Established in the early 1900s, this remarkable monument is an Indiana landmark, dedicated to its people who served in various wars.

I climbed up to the monument’s observatory and enjoyed sweeping views of the city from over 200 feet above the ground.

Statue at the top of Soldiers & Sailors Monument

f11photo /

Standing at over 280 feet, the towering monument is a beautiful sight—made of limestone and adorned with bronze statues and sculptures with intricate designs.

You can find the Soldiers & Sailors Monument along Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis.

Inscriptions at the bottom of Soldiers & Sailors Monument

Roberto Galan /

Hike at Southwestway Park

Drive south of the county and spend a day in nature at Southwestway Park.

This expansive regional park is one of the biggest in the area, boasting over 580 acres of picturesque landscape.

It has trail systems, sports facilities, a golf course, and picnic sites.

I headed out on the nature trails and recharged in its beautiful, lush spaces.

If you’re looking for other ways to explore the park, there are also mountain biking trails and equestrian trails for horseback riding.

You can find Southwestway Park along Mann Road in Decatur Township.

Appreciate Art at Newfields

Garden at the Newfields

Chad Kelham /

Immerse in various fields of art at Newfields.

Boasting of combining art and nature, this venue focuses on delivering fascinating art experiences—from watching performances to enjoying events.

I had fun checking out the galleries and strolling through the art garden.

Sculpture of a woman and a kid playing at Newfields

Serge Melki from Indianapolis, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s also a café in case you need a break from exploring and grab a quick bite.

At the museum and garden shop, there are plenty of pretty items good to get as souvenirs.

You can find Newfields along Michigan Road in Indianapolis.

Pretty flowers at Newfields

Chad Kelham /

Go Sledding at Fort Harrison State Park

Thick trees at the Fort Harrison State Park

Josef Stemeseder /

Head northeast and spend a winter day at Fort Harrison State Park.

Home to the county’s last forested corner, the park covers 1,700 acres of woodlands with trails, picnic areas, a golf course, and historic districts.

I enjoyed playing at the park’s sledding hill and also learned about the area’s military history.

Fort Harrison State Park during fall

Kenneth Keifer /

Other winter recreation activities at the park include ice fishing and cross-country skiing.

The sprawling park is also great to visit at other times of the year, such as viewing wildflowers in spring or canoeing during the warmer months.

Fort Harrison State Park is located in Lawrence Township.

Military equipments at the Fort Harrison State Park

Paul J Everett, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy the Rides at the Greatimes Family Fun Park

Treat your kids to a fun day out at Greatimes Family Fun Park.

This family-friendly amusement center features both outdoor and indoor attractions.

I enjoyed the nice sunny weather while driving a go-kart around the course.

To beat the heat, you can also go on bumper boats for some fun in the water!

Other park attractions include an arcade, a mini golf course, and an indoor play area for children.

After hours of fun activities, indulge in pizza, sandwiches, and ice cream at their restaurant.

You can find the Greatimes Family Fun Park in Beech Grove.

Explore The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Outside view of the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

IN Dancing Light /

Take the family to a fun day of learning and exploring at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest museum for children!

Founded in the 1920s, this award-winning facility offers plenty of indoor and outdoor activities and experiences.

Inside the museum, I explored the interesting year-round exhibits, which include interactive science areas, Egyptian history, and American pop culture.

If you’re visiting during the warmer months, don’t miss out on exploring the museum’s sports experiences in its outdoor area.

Interior view of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I saw that they have basketball, football, soccer, and, of course, racing!

The museum also offers various programs throughout the year, such as storytelling, theater shows, and special events.

After hours of exploring the museum, you can grab a bite or a light meal at the food court.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is located along North Meridian St.

Statue of a dinosaur peeking into The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

James Kirkikis /

Tour the Garfield Park Conservatory and Gardens

Entrance to the Garfield Park Conservatory and Gardens

IndyTaylor, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy a quiet time among the wonderful blooms at Garfield Park Conservatory and Gardens.

Established in the early 1900s, this conservatory’s collection includes hundreds of plant species from the tropics.

I explored the conservatory leisurely and admired the wonderful trees and blooms.

There are towering Banyan trees, fruiting cacao trees, lovely orchids, and many other interesting species.

View of the Garfield Park Conservatory and Gardens

IndyTaylor, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the sunken garden, the view turns to a European-style classic garden with tulip displays in spring.

If you’re interested in gardening or would like to learn more, check out the conservatory’s events and programs, which include master gardener tours.

There are also activities for kids, such as storytelling and gardening for children.

The Garfield Park Conservatory and Gardens is located along Conservatory Drive in Indianapolis.

Nature trail at the Garfield Park Conservatory and Gardens

Paul J Everett, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Explore the Shops at Indianapolis City Market

Shops at the Indianapolis City Market

Adam Lusch, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Discover great local food, drinks, and crafts at the Indianapolis City Market.

Built in the late 1880s, this historic market has been serving as the city’s major public market for over a century.

I experienced the market’s vibrant atmosphere as I went around exploring the stalls, taking in the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells.

There are artisan products, gourmet food, baked goods, and flowers.

It also hosts a farmer’s section, where you can find fresh produce from the city’s surrounding farms.

If you’ve got time to spend and looking to explore more of the market, you can also go on a tour of the market’s catacombs!

The Indianapolis City Market is located along East Market St.

Catch a Concert at The Vogue

Discover a slice of Indianapolis’ vibrant music scene at The Vogue, one of the top music venues in the Midwest.

This nightlife spot has a rich entertainment history, from opening as a film theater in the 1930s to becoming a music venue in the 1970s.

I checked out its show lineup and enjoyed a night of live music.

The venue has modern audio and light setup, making the show a great experience!

This venue has hosted some of the biggest names in music, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Johnny Cash.

The Vogue is located along North College Avenue in the neighborhood of Broad Ripple.

Visit Holliday Park

Bird's eye view of the ruins in the Holliday Park

Nicholas J Klein /

Visit Holliday Park and enjoy its lovely green spaces.

Established in the early 1900s, this picturesque nature park close to downtown Indianapolis is one of the oldest museums in the area.

At the nature center, I stopped by the wildlife observation area to hear the wonderful bird tunes.

The center also has educational exhibits, interactive displays, and a library.

Statue at the Holliday Park

Meredith Kathryn /

I took a walk along the trails down to the river, capturing beautiful nature scenes while taking in the fresh forest air.

If you’re a gardening enthusiast, the park grounds and arboretum are home to over 1,000 trees, wildflower gardens, and shrubs.

Other park amenities include river fishing access and an outdoor events area.

You can find Holliday Park along Spring Mill Road in Washington Township.

Fountain at the Holliday Park

Nicholas J Klein /

Stroll along the Indianapolis Canal Walk

Picturesque view of the Indianapolis Canal Walk

Sean Pavone /

Spend a slow day exploring the sights and sounds along the Indianapolis Canal Walk.

This 3-mile loop promenade runs along a part of the state’s 19th-century Central Canal.

I took a leisurely walk along this beautiful waterside path, enjoying the sight of pedal boats and charming buildings lining up the canal.

Visitors boating at the Indianapolis Canal Walk

Roig61 /

You can take your bike for a ride along the path or go for a jog while taking in the sights.

If you’re interested in the history of this downtown venue, you can also explore the walk while listening to an audio tour that you can download on a mobile device.

You can access the Indianapolis Canal Walk from 11th St. downtown.

Artificial waterfall at the Indianapolis Canal Walk

Kenneth Keifer /

Have Fun at Zip City Indy

Take a break from the outdoors and head to a day of adventures at Zip City Indy.

This indoor recreation center features exciting attractions to keep you active such as trampolines and zip lines.

I had a great time climbing the challenging rock wall and tackling the rope course.

If you’re visiting with a group, I saw friends and families having a blast playing laser tag and dodgeball.

There’s also an indoor field for playing soccer, flag football, or softball.

Zip City Indy is located in Perry Township.

Final Thoughts

Marion County is a wonderful destination with a rich heritage, plenty of outdoor recreation, and family-friendly attractions.

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely visit or an exciting adventure out in nature, the county’s parks, museums, amusement centers, and other cultural attractions offer plenty of opportunities for a great vacation.

Start planning your visit now and experience some of the best things to do in Marion County, Indiana.

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