Newcomers in Indianapolis could be forgiven for thinking there’s nothing to do there. With a nickname like Naptown, that’s a common misconception. However, there are plenty of fun activities to enjoy for those living in Indianapolis, especially if you love the outdoors. So whether you’re renting an apartment in Historic Meridian Park or live in the Near Southside neighborhood, here are some great outdoor activities in Indianapolis that locals recommend.

downtown Indianapolis

1. Try your hand at the Gatling Gauntlet obstacle course

If you enjoy outdoor activities and a little competition, the Gatling Gauntlet might be calling your name. This Indianapolis-area obstacle course is a fun way to get some physical activity while enjoying the great outdoors.

“One of Central Indiana’s newest and most fun outdoor attractions is the Gatling Gauntlet obstacle course,” says Indy local Kenneth Cosky of Festival Country Indiana. “The Gatling Gauntlet, located just south of Indianapolis, is a 1.6-mile extreme fitness course with 20 fun, challenging obstacles. Since this course is designed with beginner and advanced options for most obstacles, it’s attainable for people of all skill levels. Participants can experience military-style and obstacle-race-style fitness challenges like a cargo net climb, incline wall climb, tire flip, belly crawl, Atlas stone life, balance beam, and much more. People can use the course for free 365 days a year (weather permitting) and enjoy it once or do two laps around it to make it a 3.2-mile run, which is a 5k experience.”

indianapolis childrens museum

2. Visit the Indianapolis Children’s Museum

Founded in 1925, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is consistently ranked as one of the top children’s museums in the country. Whatever your child is interested in, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis will offer a one-of-a-kind experience for the whole family.

“When we brag that Indianapolis is home to the largest children’s museum in the world, we aren’t kidding,” says Indianapolis local Jeanine Bobenmoyer of TheCityMoms blog. “It’s an absolute must-see for Circle City residents and visitors alike. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is packed with fun and includes the outdoor Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience® park. Also on-site are a 100-year-old working carousel, unique rotating exhibits like Scooby-Doo!™ Mansion Mayhem, and plenty of programs for families of all ages and abilities.”

3. Catch a show at the White River Amphitheater

Even with summer in the rearview mirror, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy live musical performances outside. The TCU Amphitheater holds up to 6,000 people and is surrounded by green spaces and other attractions.

“Go see an outdoor show at the TCU White River Amphitheater,” says blogger Sara Albers of Alice & Lois. “It has been renovated and is the best place in town for an outdoor concert.”

outdoor activities indianapolis: hiking on a trail

4. Go for a walk on one of Indianapolis’ trails

Indianapolis has an abundance of scenic trails that are great for walking, biking, and other outdoor activities. They can run along residential areas and shopping centers alike, so you can enjoy them no matter what you have planned for the day.

“The Cultural Trail is an engaging, safe and beautiful way to see downtown Indianapolis,” according to Richard Vonnegut of Indiana Trails. “It’s a square around downtown Indianapolis and forms a central hub off from which other trails radiate outward in several directions. Notably, because it is downtown, this trail provides an excellent way to see Indianapolis architecture and memorials.”

You can also go for a walk along the Monon Trail, which runs north to south through Indianapolis.

“The Monon Trail is a 27-mile-long Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame inductee that runs from bustling downtown Indianapolis through the charming towns of Broad Ripple and Carmel,” said travel writers Jenn and Ed Coleman of Coleman Concierge. “With plenty of shade, good pavement, and many fabulous places to eat along the way, it’s easy to see why more than 1 million people enjoy this trail every year.”

outdoor activity indianapolis: gondola ride

5. Take in the sights and sounds of Indy from the Indiana Central Canal

There are many unique and original outdoor activities you can enjoy in Indianapolis. Soak in views of the city from the Indiana Central Canal with Old World Gondoliers.

“With Old World Gondoliers, you can experience the beauty, mystique, and charm of downtown Indianapolis riding a gondola accompanied by world-famous singing gondoliers,” says Franck Benhamou of Top City Spots, an online travel platform. “Propose to your loved one with spectacular canal views and a serenade transporting you into the romance of old Italy or celebrate a special birthday, anniversary, or corporate event that will leave you with long-lasting memories.”

newfields in indianapolis

6. Spend the day at Newfields

From art exhibits to a nature park and greenhouse, Newfields has a little bit of everything. No matter how you plan on spending your day, you’ll likely find something to do there. It’s the perfect catch-all outdoor activity in Indianapolis.

“While we at Wandering Tours love the energy of Downtown Indy, we head to Newfields for a day out of the city,” says Indy local Garret Oester. “Part nature center, part outdoor sculpture garden, part museum, this 100+ acre preserve on the White River has something for everyone. Hit the trails in the morning, grab lunch at the Indianapolis Art Museum, and then cool off with a tour of the Lilly mansion before catching an outdoor movie or holiday lights show in the evening. There is something for everyone no matter the weather.”

holiday lights on trees

7. Get in the holiday spirit at Harvest Nights and Winter Lights

If you’re looking for a festive outdoor activity in Indianapolis, look no further than Harvest Nights and Winter Lights, two events that take place throughout the fall and holiday seasons. 

“Catch the spirit of two of Indianapolis’ favorite seasons with Newfields’ Harvest Nights (October) and Winter Lights (December),” says Indianapolis local Julianne of the Pints, Pounds, & Pâté blog. “Each event features the art museum’s extensive grounds decked out in pumpkins and Christmas lights with families enjoying festive snacks and cocktails.”

“At Harvest Nights, you can expect to see the Pumpkin Path of Peril, the Ghost Train, an audio-visual effect that gives you the disconcerting impression that you’re standing in the path of a train, scarecrows, and of course, large displays of artistically arranged gourds, corn stalks, and pumpkins,” continues Julianne. “Winter Lights is a slightly more romantic affair, with the Lilly House illuminated in a festive light show and the sound of carols filling the air as you take in thousands of Christmas lights adorning the grounds.”

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