Cycling the Indianapolis Cultural Trail

Indy's Cultural Trail is great for walking or biking. (©Melanie Radzicki McManus)

Indy’s Cultural Trail is great for walking or biking. (©Melanie Radzicki McManus)

The feeling is a bit disconcerting, yet wonderfully freeing. I’m biking in bustling downtown Indianapolis, amidst all the people and traffic, yet I don’t have to worry about a thing — errant pedestrians, sniffing dogs, motorists opening their car doors just as I’m gliding past. I’m on the city’s Cultural Trail, and loving it more with every pedal stroke.

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an eight-mile, attractively paved path that seamlessly connects the city’s six cultural districts, which are funky neighborhoods loaded with arts and entertainment venues, restaurants and more. The route makes a large box around the downtown area, passing through four of the districts along the way. A spur trail runs northeast, hooking into the Monon Trail, a recreational path that leads to Broad Ripple Village, a fifth cultural district, while a second spur trail spikes southeast to the sixth and final cultural district, Fountain Square.

In Your Bucket Because …

  • You’d like to easily explore downtown Indy.
  • You want to experience a “cultural trail.”
  • Good for those who like art, culture and the outdoors.

The trail was created by removing a lane of traffic throughout the downtown — a bold step — then converting it to side-by-side paths marked for walkers and cyclists. The resulting trail immerses you in the hustle and bustle of downtown Indianapolis, yet its segregation from traffic allows you to move about freely and easily.

Cultural Trail Full of Things to See and Do

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“Ann Dancing” is one of the more popular pieces of public art along the Cultural Trail. (©Melanie Radzicki McManus)

I’d started my ride in the Wholesale District, which includes Indy’s famed Monument Circle, the Capitol and major sports venues like Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Now I’m pedaling in the Mass Ave area, known for its arts and theater venues, plus innumerable restaurants. Pulling up to a stop light, an eye-catching lady in LED lights shimmies across from me. Crossing the street, a sign tells me this is “Ann Dancing,” one of several public art installations along the trail. I wiggle my hips back at Ann and continue on.

Although I could easily bike the trail in an hour, I take my time, stopping to browse through eclectic shops, buy a fat eggnog truffle at The Best Chocolate in Town and read about the famous Americans honored through the Glick Peace Walk’s 12 luminary gardens. I get off my bike to admire all of the public art and, when I reach the Canal & White River State Park district, ponder taking a gondola ride in the adjacent canal.

But then I realize daylight is waning, and I’m starting to get hungry. I had hoped to loop back and take the Monon Trail out to Broad Ripple Village, a funky ‘hood known for its boutiques, murals and art, but that’ll have to wait until tomorrow. Hopping on my bike, I pedal back to my hotel to wash up for dinner. Normally, I’d ask the concierge for recommendations on where to dine. Not tonight. I already know I’ll be eating at Mesh. I spied it along the trail.

Practicalities

  • Two downtown hotels currently offer free bikes to guests: the Conrad and The Alexander You can also rent them at Bicycle Garage Indy.
  • Revisit the trail at night, when its looks are transformed by some of the public art. Best spots to hit, due to beautiful lighting: the Glick Peace Walk, Prairie Modules, Chatham Passage and Swarm Street.
  • The cultural trail is also great for jogging. The portion along the Canal is especially popular with local runners.

Comments

  1. says

    I love the drive, getting to see thigns we don’t see everyday. When I was younger like your age, I used to put my headphones on (yes, we had em back then) and listen to my favorite music on road trips.

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