With a host of exciting attractions throughout the year, newcomers to Indianapolis will never be bored. The Circle City has a packed calendar of fun events for every age and taste, from food and art festivals to motor-racing extravaganzas. There’s something to look forward to every month, but the month of May really sets Indy abuzz, when the Indianapolis 500 comes to town and brings with it a raft of fringe attractions.
There’s always a vibe in the city, it’s just a matter of finding the right vibe for you. Below is a list of some of Indy's best annual events.
Annual events in Indianapolis
Devour Indy (January)
Every January, hundreds of the city’s restaurants design special three-course menus at discounted prices for residents to enjoy. There are no coupons or tickets required; keen foodies should simply check out the Devour Indy website for the list of participating restaurants, pick their favourite, make a reservation, ask for the Devour Indy menu on arrival, and tuck in.
Museum by Moonlight (February)
In February, the famous Children’s Museum of Indianapolis hosts an annual extravaganza exclusively for “big kids” (21 and over), with all proceeds going towards the Children’s Museum Fund which ensures that all children and families, regardless of income, can experience the museum. Visitors are in for a great time exploring all five floors of fun and interactive exhibits, enjoying a few drinks, and indulging in free food samples from local restaurants.
317 Day (March)
With the city’s area code being 317, it’s no wonder Indy celebrates St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) like few other cities. Needless to say, the beer flows on 317 Day, and local restaurants and bars often have specials of 31.7 percent or discounts of $3.17. Join in for the parade, canal dyeing, Blarney Bash, and more.
Indy Film Fest (April)
One of the Midwest’s fastest-growing and most-watched film festivals, the Indy Film Fest is a 10-day celebration of cinema, attracting filmmakers from all over the world. Movie buffs have the chance to experience over 100 short and independent features, documentaries and world cinema films exploring a broad range of genres. These are shown repeatedly in three theatres at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.
500 Festival (May)
Indianapolis is the place to be in May. With over 50 events and programmes, among them the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon (which includes a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), the JP Morgan Chase 500 Festival Kids’ Day (Indiana’s largest outdoor festival for kids), the 500 Festival Memorial Service (paying homage to fallen heroes on the steps of the Indiana War Memorial), all finally culminating in the biggest motor race in America, the Indy 500. Race day sees over 250,000 spectators at the biggest single-day sporting event in the world.
Indy Ultimate Adventure Race (June)
Indianapolis is a sports-crazed city so newcomers who are partial to sport will fit right in. This one-of-a-kind adventure race takes advantage of all of Indy’s famous sport venues, and lets competitors shoot a layup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, kick a field goal at Lucas Oil Stadium, run the bases at Victory Field, and kick a goal at Carroll Stadium. The race also incorporates some of Indy’s other famous landmarks, monuments, and cultural institutions, and makes for an unforgettable day out.
Fourth of July (July)
Indianapolis takes Independence Day celebrations seriously, with a fun-filled four-day weekend. Newcomers to the city will revel in a variety of celebrations, from touring the largest collection of monuments and memorials outside of Washington DC, and taking in a baseball game at Victory Field to watching the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra perform at Conner Prairie and enjoying the Donatos Downtown Freedom Blast at the Indiana War Memorial grounds.
Indiana State Fair (August)
A traditional summer celebration, the annual Indiana State Fair has been entertaining visitors from far and wide for 160 years. The fair attracts huge crowds with delicious eats, animal interactions, free performances, games, and more than two weeks of thrilling events and programmes that cater for all tastes.
Penrod Arts Fair (September)
Known as “Indiana’s Nicest Day”, this arts fair on the lovely grounds of the Indianapolis Museum of Art actually spans a full weekend showcasing more than 300 artists, with six stages of entertainment, performances by over 75 arts-related non-profits, and a large kids area. Beer lovers will also enjoy sampling a few brews at the Indiana Craft Beer Garden.
Circle of Lights (November)
You know it’s time to get into the holiday spirit by the time Indianapolis's ultimate tradition, Circle of Lights, rolls around. More than 100,000 people gather on the Friday following Thanksgiving to enjoy holiday performances in the lead up to the lighting of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, when 4,784 lights are lit to ring in the holiday season.
Big Ten Football Championship (December)
As mentioned, Indy is a sports-mad city, and football forms a huge part of the sports calendar, culminating in the Big Ten – the ultimate football conference in the Midwest, which Indy plays host to every year. Football fans look forward to the event all year, when the best of the Midwest compete at the Lucas Oil Stadium for Big Ten bragging rights.