15 Famous Things Indianapolis is Known For

Indianapolis is known for itslong history of treaties, religious establishments, and political and social upheavals.

Today, it is one of the best cities to live in the United States for the low cost of living and the safety it offers. Below are some of the things that make the city famous.

What is Indianapolis Known For?

1. The Underground Catacombs

Beneath the city is an amazing catacomb where one can find the famous City Market Catacombs. It is a long ruin just below the City Market’ Whistler Plaza.

It was as far back as 1886 when the city built to public buildings. These were the City Market and the Tomlinson Hall. However, the latter disappeared in 1958. The only thing that remains of it is its iconic arch and its basement which people now refer to as the Catacombs.

Today, the Catacombs can either be an ancient site to be preserved, or an opportunity for modern architects to redevelop.

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2. The First Train Robbery in the US

The first train heist in the country was carried out by the Reno Brothers in Indianapolis.

They were John and Simon Reno, and they took $13,000. Historically, there were other trains that had been robbed. However, these trains were not moving.

The case for the Reno Brothers was that they stopped a moving train. Their success became a standard for other robbers, and many bandits followed suit.

At that time, robbing trains, including moving ones, was easier than robbing a train docked at a station.

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3. Battle of Tippecanoe

The Battle of Tippecanoe happened for a day on November 7, 1811. The war was between the forces of Governor William Harrison and the Native Americans.

The war happened because of the opposition of the tribes against European settlements in their lands.

The governor marched with a thousand men, and succeeded in destroying Prophetstown, the bailiwick of the confederacy of the tribes.

The tribes were defeated, and they attempted to make a comeback but failed. This war was decisive one that made it impossible for the Native Americans to once again form and become a threat. Their leader, Tecumseh, took his followers to Canada.

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4. Racing Capital of the World

Indianapolis opened a racetrack in 1909. This racetrack came to existence because of the vision of the founder, Carl Fisher.

Today, there are more than 1,400 motorsports companies in the state, and more than 50 racetracks. Some of the most notable tracks here are the Figure 8 tracks, oval tracks, and the Road course.Indianapolis is also home to the largest manufacturer of racing tire in the world, the Hoosier Tire. 

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5. Motor Speedway Museum

The Motor Speedway Museum is where one can find a rich history of racing in the city. It is located in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It also houses the Motor Speedway Hall of Fame.

The museum exhibits all sorts of historical artifacts that have something to do with racing. Inside are cars that won the Indianapolis 500. The museum is a non-profit organization, and was founded back in 1956, many years after the Motor Speedway was built in 1909.

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6. Crown Hill Cemetery

Indianapolis is famous for the Crown Hill Cemetery. It is the final resting place of many notable people. it is a huge cemetery, as there are more than 215,000 people buried here.

Here are some examples of people buried here:

  • Julia Carson
  • Erwin George Baker
  • John Dillinger
  • President Benjamin Harrison

After the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there was a necessity to expand the cemetery for people who died in those wars. The government added the Field of Valor on four acres of land.

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7. World’s Largest Children’s Museum

Indianapolis houses the largest museum for kids, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It covers half a million square feet.

Here are some of the most famous activities:

  • Career path with Barbie
  • Science exploration
  • Photo-op with statues like a big t-rex
  • Sports park
  • NASA’s Project Mercury

Apart from the outdoor and indoor exhibits, the museum also offers daily shows and programs and live theater shows.

8. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Kurt is one of the most popular writers in American history. His specialty was satire and dark humor. He used to be a soldier, and he published 14 novels in his writing career.

Kurt published his first novel in 1952, called Player Piano. It was not a commercial success, but the reviews were positive. His breakthrough novel came in Slaughterhouse-Five, which had an anti-war sentiment.

Kurt was an atheist and a humanist. He was a freethinker who had different views about life and religion and politics. He was also a socialist.

9. John Dillinger

John Dillinger was a notorious and vicious thief. Born in 1903 in Oak Hill in Indianapolis, he took the path of an American gangster during the height of the Great Depression.

Dillinger robbed 24 banks and even police stations.

He was imprisoned twice, and yet managed to escape on both occasions. Dillinger was different in the sense that he was regarded as an anti-hero by the masses. People thought of him as the modern Robin Hood.

10. Many War Museums

Indianapolis is famous because it has many war museums. It is one of the few cities in the world that has several war museums to honor soldiers who died for the country.

There are 33 commemorations in the city. Below are the most popular:

  • USS LST Ship Memorial
  • Indiana War Memorial
  • Grissom Air Museum
  • Evansville Wartime Museum
  • Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum

The Indiana War Memorial Museum is where one should go to see exhibits of the famous Battle of Tippecanoe.

11. It Is the Crossroads of America

Indiana is famous for its slogan or motto, which is Crossroads of America. Historians believe that the motto came from the fact that the place was a hub for many interstate highways.

These highways crisscross between states. Specifically, the crossroads refer to Highways 40 and 41. These two roads opened the West for migration and settlement, and this intersection is what made the city a crossroad that connects the country. 

Today, about 81 billion miles are traveled on these highways in a year. The crossroads connect Ohio and Kentucky to Indianapolis, making it a hub for many people from different places coming together and exploring new places.

12. Shelter for Runaway Slaves

Indianapolis is famous because many families in the city and the state supported runaway slaves before and during the Civil War. These families kept the slaves and helped them find freedom.

In the entire state, the Newport Community played a significant role in this history. Newport is now officially called Fountain City. The city also became known as the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.

The two popular icons of this movement were Levi and Catherine Coffin. Their actions helped free 2,000 runaway slaves.

13. Infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan

One thing Indianapolis is famous for is the infiltration of the KKK. Although the KKK was founded in Tennessee, it found its way to the city.

Then the organization moved to Indiana, they targeted blacks, Catholics and immigrants. They received support from political figures, and they also aggressively influenced the politics not just in the city but in the state.

In 1924, Edward L. Jackson won the governorship. It is widely believed that he got support from D.C. Stephenson, a know high-ranking member of the KKK.

The Grand Wizard of the KKK, Stephenson, was tried for murder in 1926. He was a convicted rapist and murderer, and him being found guilty resulted in a decline in the support of people for the KKK.

14. The Canal Walk

The Central Canal used to be a water supply structure. Later, it was designated as a landmark for the city. Today, it is a walking path that expands three miles within downtown.

The canal follows the general direction of the White River State Park. Commissioned in the 1830s, the purpose of this canal was to connect the Wabash Canal with the Erie Canal, which would be a transportation avenue.

15. The Indianapolis Colts

The city is popular because of its NFL sports team, the Indianapolis Colts. The team won three championships in the NFL and two in the Super Bowls. The most recent was for the Super Bowl 2007.

The Colts were a derivative of the Dallas Texans back in 1953. At that time, there were two professional teams with the name Baltimore Colts. Eventually, the NFL approved the purchase of the Texans and they relocated to the city.

The Colts are popular because they defeated the Giants back in 1958. That game was later known as the Greatest Game Ever Played in football. It was watched by 45 million viewers, and it was the event that opened the door for the modern NFL.


Indianapolis will forever be known as the Racing Capital of the World. However, one must also realize that its rich history is what makes it a popular city in the United States—so popular that it is a most sough-after tourist destination in the country.