The Best Way to Explore Indianapolis; the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the Monon Trail and the Canal Towpath.

An awesome feature of Indianapolis is its well-developed system of trails throughout the city.  These trails vary from former railroads converted to paved trails, to separate bike lanes on streets, to a specially paved trail that crisscrosses downtown Indy.  This expansive systems of trail connects downtown Indy to many of Indy's most vibrant neighborhoods, cultural institutions, and places to eat and drink.


The best way to explore with Indy's trails is by bike.  The Indiana Pacers Bikeshare ( offers 50 bikeshare rental stations, primarily in downtown Indy, but as far north as Broad Ripple and as far south as Garfield Park.


The Indianapolis Cultural Trail; A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an 8.1 mile trail system that links most of Indianapolis' cultural districts and connects the trails that run into downtown. The Cultural Trail is hard to miss and designated by uniquely paved sidewalks and a lot of signage.  It also contains multiple public art installations, including an installation of smells (between Massachusetts Avenue and College Avenue).  A great place to catch this trail is along Washington Street, south of Monument Circle where it runs between White River State Park and Virginia Avenue. It is definitely worth exploring the trail as it runs southeast from downtown, along Virginia Avenue to the eclectic Fountain Square neighborhood.  Alternatively, the Cultural Trail crosses Massachusetts Avenue on the northeast side of downtown which is full of great independent restaurants, bars, shopping, theater and nightlife. 


Highlights of sites along the Cultural Trail downtown include:

The White River State Park

The NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions

The Eiteljorg Museum of Native and Western Art

Indianapolis Downtown Canal

The Indiana State Capitol

Monument Circle

The Indianapolis City Market

Indiana War Memorial


Great places to eat and drink near the Cultural Trail:

Mass. Ave.

MacNivens, great beer selection and great Scottish fare

The Ball and Biscuit, handcrafted cocktails

The Eagle, amazing fried chicken and Southern fare

Bazbeux, excellent funky pizza,

Gordon's Milkshake Bar, best milkshakes (some with booze) in Indy

Black Market, chef driven Mexican food

Yats, best Cajun food outside Louisiana

Condado, delicious tacos and margaritas

Livery, excellent Latin American food

Union 50, fantastic restaurant


Virginia Ave.

Milktooth, nationally recognized brunch

Rook, Asian fusion at its best

Tappers, arcade games and beer

The Inferno Room, tiki bar

Amelia's, best bread in Indy

Bluebeard, great restaurant

Three Carrots, excellent vegan and veggie food,


Fountain Square

Upland Brewery

New Day Craft Meadery

Pure Eatery, really good food

Kuma's Corner, amazing burgers with heavy metal

Thunderbird, eclectic bar with excellent food,



The Monon Trail

The Monon Trail is a former railroad converted to a trail stretching from 10th And Massachusetts Avenue 18 miles north through the suburb of Carmel into Westfield.  The trail is paved and wide, which makes it ideal for bikers, runners and walkers.  Heading north on the trail from downtown, it goes by the State Fair Grounds at 38th street, through a cluster of restaurants and shops at 54th Street, into the Broad Ripple Cultural District, it crosses multiple rivers and through heavily forested areas on the north side of Indy as it hits Carmel and Westfield in Hamilton County. Broad Ripple is the biggest highlight along the Monon, containing multiple restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and theaters.


Great places to eat and drink along the Monon Trail:

16th Street

Festiva, delicious Mexican food

West Fork, fantastic Indiana bourdon


54th Street

Mama Carrolla's, Omaha style Italian restaurant,

Good Morning Mama's, great breakfast,

Diavola, Naples style pizza,

Half-Litre BBQ, great Texas style BBQ,


Broad Ripple

Cholita, great all you can eat brunch,

Broad Ripple Brew Pub, Indiana's first brewpub,

Renee's, awesome bakery,

Nicey Treat, best popsicles ever,

Canal Bistro, excellent Mediterranean food,

Chiang Mai Noodle House, great Thai Food,

317 Burger, could be the best burgers in Indy,

Sun King, Broad Ripple branch of excellent Indy brewery,



The Canal Towpath

The Canal Towpath runs along a canal that heads south west from Broad Ripple to Downtown Indy.  The canal originally was built in the 1800s to link the Ohio River to the Erie and Wabash Canals.  Construction of the canal started in Indianapolis and also ended in Indianapolis before it almost bankrupted the state.

The trail is primarily unpaved but it decently wide and it can accommodate walkers, runners, and bikers.  As it runs south west from Broad Ripple, it is goes through dense forests and pass through Butler University and through the grounds of Newfields, which is the former Indianapolis Museum of Art.  The Newfields grounds as well as the museum are worth visiting.  On the west side of the trail in Newfields is 100 Acres, which is 100 acres of park space filled with large outdoor art installations.  The east side of the trail at Newfields contains beautiful gardens, the art museum and a former grand mansion. 

The trail continues south of Newfields toward downtown.  At 30th street, the trail becomes paved and runes along the White River through Riverside park.  At 16th Street, the trail continues along the White river and ends downtown in White River State Park.



- KC N.


KC Norwalk grew up in Indianapolis, lived and went to school in Boston, Los Angeles and London, and returned to Indy after law school.  He is a legislative attorney, is married and lives on the Northside with his wife, 2 kids, and 2 golden doodles.  

August 26, 2020 — Donna Bruschi

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