The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is Indy's version of the yellow brick road, an eight-mile urban trail connecting six of Indianapolis’ cultural districts – Massachusetts Avenue, Fountain Square, The Canal & White River State Park, Indiana Avenue, the Wholesale District, and Broad Ripple – offering Indy residents the ability to experience the neighborhoods, museums, performance venues, restaurants, and historical sites that make Indy an extraordinary place to visit and live.
Whether you choose to experience the Indianapolis Cultural Trail alone, with friends, or through one of the trail’s guided tours the trail offers easy access to persons with and without disabilities at several points along its eight-mile route including White River State Park, Fountain Square, Broad Ripple, and City Market.
While you can tackle the Indianapolis Cultural Trail all in one day, the trail is so beautifully designed that you can easily spend a day in each cultural district along the route and take in the sights and sounds of Indy.
It’s widely known that the Indianapolis Cultural Trail brings you up close to many of Indy’s most exciting tourist attractions and best restaurants. However, following the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is also like following a trip through Indy’s urban history with several amazing historical sites available to visit along the route.
No trip to downtown Indy is complete without a visit to the last surviving iconic building on Indiana Avenue, the Madame Walker Theatre Center at 617 Indiana Avenue, preserving the legacy of Madame CJ Walker, the nation’s first self-made female millionaire whose Madam CJ Walker Hair Care and Beauty Products once had headquarters in the Walker building that continues to boast much of its original 1927 architecture and is listed on the register of National Historic Landmarks. It was recently announced that the Walker Theatre will be undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation, ensuring that this significant piece of our nation’s history remains vibrant for years to come.
The Madame Walker Theatre Center is surprisingly accessible including its 935-seat theatre, grand ballroom, memorial boardroom, and office space areas housing local entrepreneurs and cultural non-profits. A small museum dedicated to Madame Walker does have one step from the outside. If you have specific questions or would like to arrange a tour, contact the Walker Theatre at 317.236.2099.
Not too far away from the Walker Theatre, the Fountain Square Theatre is another historic theatre to be experienced along your Indianapolis Cultural Trail journey. Originally opened in 1928 as a 1,500-seat motion picture and vaudeville theatre with a 40-foot domed ceiling with twinkling stars, the Fountain Square Theatre underwent an extensive renovation beginning in 1994 with the mezzanine level retaining much of its original architectural details. Located at 1105 Prospect Street, the Fountain Square Theatre building continues to offer a fully operational theatre space, Shelby Suites Meeting Center, and the absolutely charming Fountainview Inn on the third floor. One simply can’t leave Fountain Square without trying out Atomic Bowl Duckpin Alley or one of the Theatre’s food/drink options including the Atomic Cafe, the Rooftop Garden Cocktail Lounge, or Imbibe Lobby Bar & Game Room. The Fountain Square Theatre offers elevator access to each of its floors and free, convenient parking in nearby parking lots. For more information regarding your accessibility concerns, contact the sales & event office at 317.686.6010 option 2.
Part of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail itself, the Glick Peace Walk celebrates the lives of humanitarians throughout American history including Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Jonas Salk, Andrew Carnegie, Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington, The Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Abraham Lincoln. Each individual is represented by a distinctive luminary garden. Ten of the luminary gardens can be found along a median on Walnut Street between Meridian Street and Capitol Avenue, while the luminary garden dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. is located at the southeast corner of Washington and Pennsylvania Streets and the luminary garden dedicated to Abraham Lincoln is at the southwest corner of Washington and Illinois Streets.
Finally, if there’s one true “photo op” in downtown Indy, it’s likely to be found at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a 284-foot tall obelisk commemorating the Civil War built in the late 1800s. It is known during the holiday season as “the world’s tallest Christmas Tree.” The Soldiers and Sailors Monument has recently experienced a rather remarkable rehabilitation with its original coloration restored, new lighting, heating, air condition and massively improved ADA access. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is closed on Mondays.
After a long day on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, you’ll work up a mighty appetite with many of Indy’s finest restaurants to be found right along the trail. You can sign up for one of the trail’s remarkable food tours exploring Virginia Avenue, Fletcher Place, or Mass Avenue, or simply choose on your own to experience the likes of Bluebeard, Rook, 12.05, Three Carrots, Amelia’s, and others. Opened in 2014 by Jonathan Brooks, Virginia Avenue’s Milktooth was chosen by Bon Appetit as one of the 10 best new restaurants in the United States, while Brooks was cited as one of 11 Best New Chefs by Food and Wine in 2015. Located at 534 Virginia Ave., Milktooth offers coffee and pastry service from 7-9 am and a full-service menu 9 am-3 pm. Easily and intentionally friendly to wheelchair users, Milktooth is closed on Tuesdays.
Designed from the beginning to be accessible to users of all abilities, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail provides wheelchair users a safe, convenient, and beautiful way to experience downtown Indy. With a paid parking garage at White River State Park and free parking available throughout Fountain Square, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail also offers wide pathways, appropriate curb cuts, and crosswalks throughout the trail’s relatively flat, well-maintained eight-mile route. If you have specific questions or accessibility needs, give the Indianapolis Cultural Trail a call at 317.653.1948.
I’m a lifelong Indianapolis resident who graduated from Pike High School, Martin University, and Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond. I’m a program director for a state agency and a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association and publisher of TheIndependentCritic.com. In 1989, I travelled the roads of Indiana for 41 days and over 1,000 miles and continue to do at least one long-distance trip in my wheelchair each year raising money for children’s organizations. You can check out my website.
Fun facts about me:
Get the scoop on Indy from locals in the know, plus their personal recommendations for a good time in our city.
The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is Indy's version of the yellow brick road, an eight-mile urban trail connecting six of Indianapolis’ cultural districts.
Anne and I are so proud to call Indianapolis home for the past 19 years. Certainly, Indianapolis is well recognized for our hospitality and motorsports at the awesome Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
We were asked to recommend five experiences in Indy that we ourselves enjoy. Selecting just five is somewhat difficult because there is so much to do in our city.
No other city can be called "The Amateur Sports Capital of the World" and host to "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
Outdoor recreation is wonderful exercise for our bodies, and can be educational, too. We all have different interests and abilities. Often, the most enriching experiences happen at places with a variety of sights and activities.
Downtown is the best place to work and exploring downtown, especially Monument Circle, is my recommendation when you visit.