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White River State Park (Indianapolis)

Updated on September 13, 2012

The White River State Park is located at the edge of downtown Indianapolis, and is home to many amazing and fun attractions. From sports to history to art to animals, you can see just about anything all in one location!

I've lived in and around Indianapolis, Indiana for over twenty years. I've had the pleasure of visiting The White River State Park many times, and I'm always amazed at the number and variety of attractions that are present here. Considered America’s only urban cultural state park, there is something for everyone! I even had the pleasure of working at one of the attractions for six years, and it was an amazing place to spend each day!

Indianapolis Zoo
Indianapolis Zoo
Indiana State Museum
Indiana State Museum
Eiteljorg Museum
Eiteljorg Museum
Slow Food Garden with NCAA Hall of Champions Museum in the background
Slow Food Garden with NCAA Hall of Champions Museum in the background

White River State Park Attractions

So what makes this park so special? The sheer volume of attractions, large and small, within walking distance of each other is enough to fill a week-long vacation.

The Indianapolis Zoo - At the west end of the park is the largest attraction, the 64-acre Indianapolis Zoo. The Zoo is one of the few entities in the world to be classified as a zoo, aquarium, and a botanical garden. Combining education and conservation, the Indianapolis Zoo offers approximately 250 species of animals arranged in a biome concept. You can even swim with the dolphins! The attached White River Gardens offers many beautiful plant species, and a series of special exhibits in an indoor conservatory.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art - Showcasing both Native American and Western art and culture, the Eiteljorg Museum is only museum like it in the Midwest! In addition to the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian's traveling exhibits, this museum has an outstanding permanent collection of art, photos, artifacts, and much more. When you visit, you must try the Sky City Cafe, which serves food inspired by Western and Native American culture. Amazing food in an amazing environment!

Indiana State Museum - The Indiana State Museum covers all aspects of the state of Indiana! The museum contains historical exhibits ranging from the Ice Age to the present, as well as science and art exhibits where you will learn and investigate!

IMAX Theater - Attached to the State Museum is the IMAX Theater, which shows traditional IMAX documentaries, as well as remastered Hollywood blockbusters. Whether the movie is in 2D or IMAX 3D, Indiana's largest movie screen will take your breath away!

Victory Field - Voted “Best Minor League Ballpark in America” by Sports Illustrated and Baseball America, Victory Field is home to the Indianapolis Indians Triple-A baseball team. Enjoy games from April through September at this beautiful park overlooking the downtown skyline.

The Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park - Offering a mix of concerts and performances, The Lawn has been named a top 100 outdoor venue by Pollstar five years in a row!

NCAA Hall of Champions Museum - Accompanying the NCAA Headquarters, this museum has an amazing collection of NCAA sports memorabilia, showcasing a history of all twenty-three NCAA sports.

Map of White River State Park (Indianapolis)

show route and directions
A markerIndianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens -
1200 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46222, USA
get directions

B markerEiteljorg Museum -
500 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, USA
get directions

C markerIndiana State Museum and IMAX Theater -
650 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, USA
get directions

D markerNCAA Hall of Champions -
700 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, USA
get directions

E markerVictory Field -
501 W Maryland St, Indianapolis, IN 46225, USA
get directions

F markerThe Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park -
801 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, USA
get directions

G markerIndiana History Center -
Indiana History Center, 450 W Ohio St, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA
get directions

History of the White River State Park

The area around the White River in Indianapolis has a rich history. The city was founded here by John McCormick in 1820, when he built his home at the intersection of the White River and Fall Creek. The Park also contains part of the Historic National Road US 40 (now a pedestrian bridge).

The Central Canal in the park was initially planned as a trade route in 1836, but it was never finished and only runs through part of the Indianapolis area.

Opening in 1870, the Historic Pumphouse brought pressurized water to the city as the original pumping station for Indianapolis.

In 1979, the Indiana General Assembly created the White River Park Development Commission, charged with rehabilitating the area and creating a cultural site like no other.

In 1988, the park's first attraction, the Indianapolis Zoo, opened. This began a string of cultural attractions coming to the area, finishing with the Indiana State Museum in 2002.

Pedal Powered Carts
Pedal Powered Carts

More Attractions at White River State Park

In addition to the larger attractions, there are a lot of other fun things to do at White River State Park. Here are just a few of the outdoor attractions at the park:

  • Segway Tours - Glide around the park and its green spaces on a Segway!
  • Pedal-powered bicycles and boats - tour the park in a recreational bike or paddleboat!
  • Dr. Frank P. Lloyd, Sr. Visitor's Center - Learn about the attractions and history of the Park
  • Various sculptures and landmarks, including the Historical Old Washington Street Pedestrian Bridge
  • The Canal and Canal walk - bike, jog, or walk along the historic Canal. You can even ride a gondola!

Victory Field - Home of the Indianapolis Indians!
Victory Field - Home of the Indianapolis Indians!

What would you most like to visit at White River State Park?

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Vacation at White River State Park

Day 1, Hoosier Hospitality: Spend your first day at the Park at the Indiana State Museum. Learn about the state, its history, and maybe figure out what "Hoosier" means!

Day 2, Sports Lovers' Dream: Start the day with a trip to the NCAA Hall of Champions.Then catch the afternoon Indianapolis Indians game at Victory Field.

Day 3, The Wild Outdoors: Spend the day at the Indianapolis Zoo (don't miss the dolphin show!). Then take an evening stroll along the Canal followed by a gondola ride.

Day 4, A Historical Perspective: Start the morning with a Segway tour with stops at the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial and McCormick's Rock, ending with a tour of the Indiana History Center. Finish the evening with a thrilling movie at the IMAX Theater

Day 5, Art in the Park: Gain a new perspective on Native American art by visiting the Eiteljorg Museum. Have lunch at the Sky Cafe. Spend the afternoon attending a concert at The Lawn.

Ready to go? Check out the White River State Park Getaway Packages, which pair Park attractions with local hotels!

Comments

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    • Nare Anthony profile image

      Nare Gevorgyan 5 years ago

      Hi Amy, this is another great work full of cool info! I didn't know about this place before but it seems to be so much like my city :D

    • Amy Gillie profile image
      Author

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Thank you, Nare! It's a beautiful place with so much to do. I'd love to visit your city too!!

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      This looks like a great place to visit. My family love zoos, museums, history, oh and they would love to ride a gondola. With our current, schedule I can’t see us visiting Indianapolis any time soon but if we ever do I’ll know where to go. A very useful and interesting hub.

    • kittyjj profile image

      Ann Leung 5 years ago from San Jose, California

      Definitely a fun place for kids. Vacation Schedule sounds great and we could use it when we have a chance to visit Indianapolis. Thank you for sharing such an interesting hub!

    • profile image

      summerberrie 5 years ago

      Amy Gillie, this seems like a fun place! I like you sample vacation schedule. It will be useful go to for unorganized people like me. Great job!

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      It looks huge and a very unusual and excellent thing for a city to have!

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      I'm ready to go! It sounds like a great place to visit and learn.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      What great tips on sites to see whenever I go through that area again. I grew up next door (practically - Columbus Ohio), and when I drive home, I sometimes take that route. It's such a beautiful state and area. Of course, I'm partial to our Midwest!

      Voted up and up; shared with followers!

    • blessed365 profile image

      Vicky C. 5 years ago from New England

      Lived in Indy for over 2 decades and I can't wait to get back there. I got to get to the Museum and Imax Theater.

    • Michael J Rapp profile image

      Michael J Rapp 5 years ago from United States

      Great Hub! I had trouble picking what I'd want to do most in your poll! White River State Park seems like a wonderful place.

    • alliemacb profile image

      alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

      This looks like an amazing place to visit and not one I would ever have thought of. Voted up and awesome.

    • Amy Gillie profile image
      Author

      Amy Gillie 5 years ago from Indiana

      Wow, thanks for all the wonderful comments! I hope you will all come and visit. Indianapolis has so much to offer...this is only one of many amazing places in the city. Thank you for the votes and shares too!

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