More than fast cars: What to do in city
Before big game, UGA fans can enjoy concerts, parks, more.
White River State Park is a 250-acre green space in downtown Indianapolis surrounded by museums, shops, restaurants and other cultural attractions.
COURTESY OF VISIT INDY
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By Bo Emerson
bemerson@ajc.com

INDIANAPOLIS

If you know one thing about Indianapolis, it’s probably that the Indianapolis 500 takes place there, traditionally on Memorial Day weekend.

In truth, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is just outside the city, in a town conveniently called Speedway, Indiana.


This weekend, Georgia football fans will converge on the midwestern city for Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship game when the University of Georgia will face Alabama’s Crimson Tide.

If you’re planning to get there a little early, we have some ideas on how to spend your time in Circle City — named for Monument Circle, the original center for the planned capital city.

First of all, bring a coat.

Weather.com says Indy expects a high of 19 degrees Friday, and though it warms up over the weekend, the mercury drops back down to a low of 11 degrees on Monday.

Yes, we know the game is in Lucas Oil Stadium, which does not plan to open up its retractable roof. But some outside activities will be in order. For example:

White River State Park

This 250-acre downtown green space is surrounded by cultural attractions including the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians & Western Art and the Indiana State Museum. whiteriverstatepark.org.

For those who want a more serious stroll, Indianapolis has Eagle Creek Park, perhaps the largest urban park this side of Anchorage, Alaska. Located at 7840 W. 56th St., it covers approximately 1,400 acres of water and 3,900 acres of land, and you may actually see eagles flying overhead or catching fish in the reservoir. eaglecreekpark.org.

Racing

One good way to take a peek at the famous race track is to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum on the same property, which has amassed a phenomenal collection of racing, antique and classic cars.

Admission to the museum is $10 but a $30 ticket also buys a 1.5-hour narrated tour of the speedway facility, including the oval track, the victory platform and the “Yard of Bricks.” 4750 W. 16th St. 317-492-6784, imsmuseum.org.

A visit to the racetrack may put you in the mood for fast driving, Those who have a need for speed might want to zip over to Speedway Indoor Karting ($15- $60) at 1067 Main St., which is open seven days a week. 317- 870-3780, sikindy.com.

Madam C.J. Walker

Though she also lived in St. Louis, Denver and Pittsburgh, Madam Walker made Indianapolis the center of her hair-care empire, a business that turned her into one of the country’s first self-made female millionaires.

The child of freed slaves, she first worked as a laundress before she began selling hair-care products door to door. She eventually had several thousand female sales agents, promoting her products across the U.S. and in Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Panama and Costa Rica.

“You Are There: 1915: Madam C.J. Walker, Empowering Women,” an exhibit at the Indiana History Center ($13; 450 W. Ohio St.), illuminates the early life and adulthood of Walker, and features a re-creation of her hair care factory. indianahistory.org.

Her business was centered at the Walker Theater, now the Madam Walker Legacy Center (617 Indiana Ave.; 317-236-2099), which reopened this winter after extensive renovations, with much of the 1927 architecture intact.

The center includes meeting areas and performance venues. madamwalkerlegacycenter.com.

Fountain Square

This funky neighborhood at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Shelby and Prospect streets, is a mile from downtown and boasts several galleries, a variety of laid-back restaurants, duckpin bowling, music venues and comedy and burlesque clubs.

Among the attractions is Square Cat Vinyl at 1054 Virginia Ave., a record store that is also a coffee bar, beer pub and live music venue. 317-875-1314, squarecatvinyl.com.

Children’s museum

Claiming to be the largest children’s museum in the world, this attraction includes the restored Broad Ripple Park Carousel, with 42 hand-carved wooden carousel horses (and other animals) created originally in 1917.

In 2000 Pat Turner, board member of Indy’s museum, was recruited to Atlanta to head a new children’s museum in our town.

In warmer weather the museum includes an outdoor display heralding the formation of Negro League baseball, which had its start in Indy. One of the early recruits to the Indianapolis Clowns was a young second baseman named Hank Aaron.

3000 N. Meridian St. 800-820- 6214, childrensmuseum.org.

Beer Indianapolis was recently voted a “Top 5 Beer City” by USA Today, and is replete with a healthy number of microbreweries, which you can visit through a variety of pub tours.

Visit Indy lists a map of breweries and distilleries including the Sun King Brewing Co. which has several locations in town and has created a Pilsner called 1869 to commemorate the very first collegiate football game. 317-602-3702, sunkingbrewing.com.

Performances

There will be free outdoor concerts (did you remember that coat?) Saturday, Sunday and Monday on Monument Circle at the AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! stage and the Capital One Stage, featuring Doja Cat (Saturday), Twenty One Pilots (Sunday) and Sam Hunt (Monday). collegefootballplayoff.com.

For entertainment on a smaller scale, Covington, Georgia, native Andy Offutt Irwin happens to be performing in Indianapolis on Saturday. The storyteller, singer and world-class whistler tells a tale called “Free the Imprisoned Lightning,” at the Indiana Historical Society. 7-8:30 p.m., Jan. 8. $20. 450 W. Ohio St. 317-232- 1882, indianahistory.org.