An Insider’s Guide to the Indianapolis 500
The most-attended, single-day sporting event in the world takes place in Indianapolis, Indiana.
It’s the Indianapolis 500, and it attracts 250,000 fans to the racetrack to watch 33 cars whip around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in open-cockpit, twin turbocharged, 500- to 700-horsepower vehicles at up to 378 kilometers per hour. Called the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500 takes place annually on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, a United States’ holiday that falls on the last Monday in May. While the race itself lasts less than three hours, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts events all weekend, including concerts featuring big-name classic rock and country stars, a parade and formal ball. The party reverberates throughout Indianapolis, which is well worth a visit any weekend.
How to get tickets to the Indianapolis 500
Thanks to the great seating capacity of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s not hard to find affordable tickets. Visit the speedway’s website and select either grandstand tickets, which start at $50 and offer better views, or general admission tickets, which cost $40 and give you access to the infield. That page is also where you can buy tickets to related events, like the aforementioned concerts and qualifying races.
While there aren’t any bad seats for the Indianapolis 500, don’t expect to be able to see the entire track from yours (it’s 4 kilometers around, after all). For the best view and experience, the independent Indy Motor Speedway website suggests buying tickets for seats near the track’s corners — they have a good vantage point and are where the more exciting racing usually occurs — or ones that face east or south, so the sun doesn’t blast you in the face.
With room for 250,000 people, it’s not hard to find affordable tickets at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
What to drink
While the victorious driver traditionally chugs milk — or pours it over his or her head — in the winner’s circle, the spectators’ beverages are usually a bit more potent. Unlike many other high-profile sporting events that are associated with a signature cocktail, the drink of choice at the Indianapolis 500 is beer. It’s sold at the track and you also can bring your own (no glass bottles). Look for local beers from Sun King and Flat 12, which are delicious and hard to find outside Indiana.
Where to stay
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway allows on-site camping in tents and recreational vehicles. For more comfortable accommodations, several budget hotels and motels are located within 3 kilometers of the track. Many international hotel chains have large offerings downtown, about 8 kilometers southeast of the speedway. That area is seeing an influx of chic boutique hotels, too.
Where to eat
As with many other U.S. cities, Indianapolis focuses on simpler fare that’s fresh and local. Many of the city’s hipper new venues are on Massachusetts Avenue, in between North Delaware and North Davidson streets. For more casual — yet still eclectic — restaurants and nightlife, check out Broad Ripple Village, a 17-kilometer drive northeast of the speedway. And downtown is the iconic St. Elmo’s Steak House, which opened in 1902. It’s renowned for its spicy shrimp cocktail. Tip: Squeeze lemon on the four jumbo shrimp to dilute the heat.
The iconic St. Elmo Steakhouse is best known for its spicy shrimp cocktail.
What else to see in Indianapolis
The self-proclaimed largest museum in the world devoted to kids, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has 11 major galleries covering subjects like the arts, world cultures, and natural and physical sciences. In its Dinosphere, kids can dig for dinosaur bones and view one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeletons ever discovered.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art’s collection features more than 54,000 works covering 5,000 years of human civilization. In addition to paintings by El Greco, Monet, Rembrandt and Renoir, its European Painting and Sculpture to 1945 galleries feature one of the few Caravaggio works outside Europe.