25 Interesting Facts About Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA


Indianapolis, Indiana is much more than just the home of auto racing’s famous Indy 500. This major Midwest city has a unique history and culture all its own. From its unusual diagonal street grid layout to the world’s largest single-day sporting event, Indianapolis is full of fascinating facts and stories waiting to be discovered.

To uncover the lesser-known details and intriguing trivia about Indianapolis, here are 25 interesting facts about this city in the “Crossroads of America”. Learn about its sports, attractions, history, pop culture connections, and more. You’ll gain a new appreciation for Indianapolis after exploring these fascinating tidbits.

1. Indianapolis Hosts the Largest Single-Day Sporting Event

The Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest single-day sporting event in the world, with over 300,000 spectators in attendance. The famous Indy 500 race has taken place every year since 1911, with the exception of the World War years.

2. Home to the World’s Largest Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest museum of its kind in the world. It has five floors of interactive exhibits and receives over 1.2 million visitors per year.

3. Unusual City Street Grid Design

aerial view of indianapolis neighborhood sao paulo brazil 1

Indianapolis has an unusual street grid design with roads oriented at diagonal angles rather than the typical north-south grid. This was implemented in Alexander Ralston’s original 1821 plan for the city.

4. Known as the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World”

With its first-rate sports facilities, Indianapolis hosts more amateur sporting events than any other city. Major events held there include the NCAA Final Four, the Big Ten Football Championship, and the National Sports Festival.

5. Home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts NFL team has played in Indianapolis since 1984 after relocating from Baltimore. They won Super Bowl XLI in 2007 against the Chicago Bears. Their home stadium is Lucas Oil Stadium.

6. Kurt Vonnegut Was Born There

Author Kurt Vonnegut was born and raised in Indianapolis. Many of his stories contain references to Indianapolis or are set in fictionalized versions of the city.

7. Second Largest War Memorial in the U.S.

The Indiana War Memorial is an impressive monument dedicated to Indiana’s military veterans. At over 47 acres, it is the second-largest war memorial in the United States after Virginia’s.

8. Origin of the Indianapolis 500 Traditions

Traditions like the winner drinking milk in victory lane and the releasing of thousands of balloons at the start began at the Indianapolis 500. The milk tradition dates back to 1936.

9. Home to the World’s First Union Station

The Indianapolis Union Station opened in 1853 as the first union station in the world. Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train stopped here in 1865.

10. Nicknamed “India-no-place” in Early Years

Due to its remote location and lack of distinguishing features in its early years, Indianapolis was referred to as “India-no-place” by some detractors.

11. Known as the “Racing Capital of the World”

In addition to the Indy 500, Indianapolis is home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NHRA U.S. Nationals, and more, earning it the nickname “Racing Capital of the World”.

12. Site of the National FFA Convention

Indianapolis has hosted the National FFA Convention since 1965, with over 60,000 FFA members attending annually.

13. Home to the Largest Museum of Victorian Art

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has one of the largest collections of neo-impressionist and post-impressionist art in the U.S.. Its collection of Victorian art is the largest in the world.

14. Unusual City Flag Design

The Indianapolis city flag has a unique and complex design with a large blue circle containing several symbols meaningful to the city.

15. Origin of the Indianapolis Colts Name

The Indianapolis Colts NFL team was named in honor of the region’s strong history of horse breeding and racing. A young male horse is called a colt.

16. Site of the Infamous 1970s “Bombing”

In the 1970s, Indianapolis experienced a series of bombings, with police suspecting a lone bomber was responsible. No one was ever charged.

17. Home to the World’s First African American-Owned Record Label

In the 1920s, Indianapolis was home to Black Swan Records, the world’s first major African American-owned record label. It helped launch the careers of influential blues and jazz artists.

18. Unusual City Nickname Origins

Indianapolis has been referred to by several nicknames over the years, including “India-no-place”, “Naptown” (from its reputation as a city that shuts down after 5 p.m.), and “Crossroads of America”.

19. Origin of Indianapolis’ Name

Indianapolis was named in reference to Indiana’s state capital designation combined with “polis“, the Greek word for city.

20. Home of the World’s First African-American Book Publisher

In the late 19th century, the nation’s first successful African-American book publisher, Edward Elder Cooper, operated out of Indianapolis.

21. Setting for the Film “Hoosiers”

The classic 1986 basketball film Hoosiers, starring Gene Hackman, was set in small-town Indiana with the climactic scenes filmed at Butler University in Indianapolis.

22. First City to Unite City and County Governments

In 1970, Indianapolis and Marion County governments merged into a consolidated “Unigov” city-county entity, the first of its kind in the U.S..

23. Origin of Indianapolis’ Grid-Based Street Layout

Alexander Ralston’s original 1821 plan for Indianapolis called for a grid street layout with four diagonal thoroughfares radiating from Monument Circle, creating the city’s unusual criss-crossed grid.

24. Home to the World’s Largest NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

NCAA Basketball
NCAA Basketball by Phil Roeder is licensed under CC BY 2.0 .

Indianapolis has hosted more NCAA men’s basketball tournament games than any other city and will continue to host well into the future.

25. Site of a Presidential Assassination Attempt

In 1912, former president Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest during an assassination attempt while campaigning in Indianapolis. He survived and gave his scheduled speech.


In summary, Indianapolis boasts a unique history as both a major sports hub and cultural center in the Midwest. From the Indy 500 to its diagonal street grid, Indianapolis has many fascinating facts behind its transformation into a large American city.

Exploring its history and culture reveals Indy’s distinctive charm. Beyond just auto racing, the city offers significant architecture, museums, ethnic neighborhoods, and more to appreciate. Indianapolis’ unusual street layout, sports legacy, and other quirky origins make it a city with much deeper stories than many realize.

Next time you visit Indianapolis, keep these interesting facts in mind. You’ll gain new perspectives on Indy’s distinctive attractions and heritage. With its mix of sports mania and cultural sophistication, Indianapolis has intriguing tales waiting to be uncovered by visitors.

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