In anticipation of an upcoming visit, we did a little research to learn more about Indianapolis, Indiana. Finding fun and interesting facts about a place — before our trip — always enhances our visit.

View of downtown Indianapolis, IndianaHere are 25 Fun Facts We Found About Indianapolis, Indiana

1. In 1821, Indianapolis was founded as a planned city for the new seat of Indiana’s state government.

2. Alexander Ralston and Elias Pym Fordham platted the city on a 1-square mile grid adjacent to the White River. Unfortunately, this river is too shallow to navigate.

3. Jeremiah Sullivan, an Indiana Supreme Court judge is credited for naming the city of Indianapolis. The name is derived from the state’s name, Indiana (meaning “Land of the Indians”)  and polis, the Greek word for city.

4. Indianapolis officially became the state capital of Indiana in 1825, when the state government headquarters was moved from Corydon, a town in the southern part of Indiana on the Ohio River.

5. Indianapolis is home to the oldest continuously operating tavern in Indiana, the Slippery Noodle Inn, first opened in 1850.  The bar was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. During Prohibition, gangsters frequented the bar, leaving a few bullets in the walls.

6. On May 15, 1902, a 248-foot-tall Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument was dedicated on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis.  Built between 1888 and 1901, the monument was created to honor Hoosiers who were veterans of the American Civil War.  It also is a tribute to Indiana’s soldiers who served during the American Revolutionary War and other conflict.

7. Each December since 1962, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is decorated with 5,000 lights and 52 strands of garland to give downtown Indianapolis the World’s Largest Christmas Tree.

8. St. Elmo Steak House has been a landmark in downtown Indianapolis since 1902. Founded by Joe Stahr — a few months after the dedication of the nearby Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument — the restaurant was named after the patron saint of sailors, St. Elmo.

9. Today the St. Elmo Steak House is well known for its notorious sinus clearing shrimp cocktail, named by the Travel Channel as the “world’s spiciest food”.

10. The sale of sliced bread began in Indianapolis in 1921 when the Taggart Baking Company launched sliced Wonder Bread.

11. When Indianapolis grocer Gilbert Van Camp found that customers liked his recipe for beans and pork fat, he created the classic American brand: Van Camp’s Pork and Beans.

12. Author Kurt Vonnegut Jr, — best known for his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five — was born and raised in Indianapolis. Vonnegut’s father and grandfather, both architects, left their marks on Indianapolis in the form of historic buildings like the Athenaeum.

13. The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library opened in 2010 in downtown Indianapolis.

14. Indianapolis is home to the largest single-day sporting event in the world, the Indy 500, an auto race of 200 laps over a 2.5-mile circuit.

15. With more than 250,000 permanent seats, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the world’s largest spectator sporting facility. Covering 253 acres, Vatican City, the Roman Colosseum, Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl could all fit in the inside speedway’s track oval.

16. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nicknamed the “Brickyard” after the 3.2 million street paving bricks that were laid during the 1909 surfacing project. Today the track is paved in asphalt, but one yard of the historic brickwork is exposed at the start-finish line.

17. Rather than popping champagne, the winner of the Indy 500 drinks a bottle of milk in Victory Lane. This tradition was inspired by 1936 race winner Louis Meyer asking for a bottle of buttermilk after he became the first three-time winner.

18. Indianapolis is the birthplace of David Letterman, a late night television talk show host for 33 years including Late Night with David Letterman on NBC, and the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. Letterman began his television career as a weatherman on Indianapolis television station WLWI. His first nationally televised appearance was in 1971 as a pit road reporter for ABC Sports’ tape-delayed coverage of the Indianapolis 500. Letterman interviewed Mario Andretti, who had just crashed out of the race.

19. The 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison, moved to Indianapolis in 1854 to open a law practice. In in 1870’s Harrison had a sixteen-room red brick house  built in Indianapolis, where he lived the rest of his life except for his years as a senator and as Twenty-third President of the United States. Today the home is a museum known as The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site.

20. Downtown Indianapolis is home to five professional sports teams all within walking distance.

  • The National Basketball Association (NBA) Indiana Pacers play at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, as does the Indiana Fever of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
  • Lucas Oil Stadium is the home field for the Indianapolis Colts who compete in the National Football League (NFL). The Indy Eleven of the United Soccer League (USL) also play at the Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • The Indianapolis Indians, a AAA-baseball team and the second oldest minor league franchise in American professional baseball, play at Victory Field,

21. Baseball would not be the same without “Take Me Out to the Ballgame“, the traditional seventh-inning stretch song written by Indianapolis native, Albert Von Tilzer.

22. Indianapolis native Jane Pauley launched her broadcasting career at the city’s WISH-TV television station.

23. On June 26, 1977, Elvis Presley preformed his last concert at the now-demolished in Indianapolis Market Square Arena. He died less than three months later.

24. Indianapolis is the current home of bestselling young adult fiction writer John Green, best known for his 2012 novel The Fault in Our Stars, which is set in the city. The novel was made into a major motion picture in 2014. Green won the 2006 Printz Award for his debut novel, Looking for Alaska.

25. Hinkle Fieldhouse — a basketball arena built in 1928 on the Butler University campus in Indianapolis — was the largest basketball arena in the United State until 1950. Hinkle Fieldhouse is credited with helping transform college basketball in the late 1920s and 1930s. The 1954 state championship, which inspired the 1986 film, Hoosiers, was played at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

What fun fact about Indianapolis can you add to this list? 

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