Insider Guide: This is May in Indianapolis

500 Festival Parade

Photo courtesy of 500 Festival

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing is almost here! Every year, Hoosiers count down the days until the Indianapolis 500 returns to the track. Because there’s nothing like the Month of May in Indiana.

The Indianapolis 500 is a historic IndyCar race that attracts more than 300,000 fans from across the globe. For over a century, 33 drivers have raced 200 laps around the legendary oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, determined to come out on top. Now, the Indy 500 is a timeless tradition—and practically a month-long holiday for us Hoosiers. 

After all, we’re “The Racing Capital of the World” for a reason. In the words of Roger Penske, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: “Indianapolis comes to life each spring” with the legends and memories made at the track. 

From community concerts to high-speed races, the Month of May is packed with events for the race fan in everyone. Here’s a rundown on this year’s Indy 500 schedule—with everything you need to celebrate the Month of May in style! 


April 29 | Indy 500 Night at Victory Field

IndyCar meets baseball in this ultimate collaboration at Victory Field! On Saturday night, you can catch a thrilling game between the Indianapolis Indians and the Columbus Clippers. The players will all be wearing custom race-themed jerseys that will be auctioned off for charity. Tickets available here.

May 3 | 500 Festival Kickoff to May

The 500 Festival is a month-long celebration of the Indy 500 that begins with their annual “Kickoff to May.” This opening event is always free to attend, so everyone can celebrate the spirit of the season. Come down to Monument Circle to hang out with fellow race fans, meet the 500 Festival Princesses, and hear from a few surprise guests! They will also have prizes, photo opportunities with festival cars, and more activities in store. 

May 6 | 500 Festival Mini-Marathon + 5k

Calling all runners! Every year, the 500 Festival hosts one of the nation’s largest half-marathons on the first weekend in May. The marathon course covers some of the most beautiful views of Indianapolis (which also makes it perfect for people who love watching runners.) But most importantly, every runner gets the opportunity to kiss the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! 

If you’re looking for a shorter run, the 500 Festival also hosts a 5k on the same morning as the mini-marathon! The 5k loop runs through downtown Indianapolis, along the White River State Park, past the Indianapolis Zoo, and then back to Military Park. Registration is still open for the 500 Festival races here.

Indianapolis Indians Game

Photo courtesy of Alli Donovan

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Photo courtesy of Mitch Begle

May 12 | Evening with the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers

The Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers have been a staple of the Indy 500 experience since 1962. This band plays traditional bagpipes and drums to promote Scottish/Celtic culture and share the beauty of their music. On Friday, May 12, the band will host an Evening of History and Music on the northside of Indianapolis to celebrate 60 years of performing together. Get your ticket here. 

May 1213 | GMR Grand Prix at IMS

Race fans, your time has come! Before the flag waves for the Indy 500, IndyCar’s greatest stars must first take on the infamous IMS road course. This action-packed, 2.438-mile track includes 14 twists and turns to truly test their skills. You can watch the qualifications and practice sessions on May 12, and then May 13 will be race day! Snag your tickets here.

May 14 | 500 Festival Kids’ Day 

Looking for somewhere to bring the kids? Well, you’re in luck! Part of the 500 Festival is the annual Kids’ Day celebration—the state’s largest outdoor festival for kids. They have a variety of activities focused on education, fitness, and fun, including drumming workshops, painting stations, an obstacle course, and more. And did I mention that it’s free? For more information, visit the 500 Festival website.

May 1619 and May 22 | Indianapolis 500 Practice at IMS

The Month of May officially shifts into gear on May 16, as drivers begin practicing for the Indy 500! Visitors are invited to the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway to witness the world’s best IndyCar drivers get ready for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. (Have a child interested in race cars? Children ages 15 and under get free admission with an adult! Tickets are available here for only $15 each.)

May 20 | 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard

For the more die-hard fans, the 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard is a chance to mingle with Indiana mayors, business leaders, and other fellow race fans. This annual event features a traditional Hoosier breakfast, remarks from both IMS and 500 Festival executives, and the announcement of the 500 Festival Queen Scholar. Guests will also have the opportunity to drive their car around the track and even tour the garages before Race Day. Seats are available here, and admission includes complimentary tickets to the Indy 500 Qualifications.  

May 2021 | Indy 500 Qualifications

This weekend is an intense experience you won’t want to miss! The world’s most talented drivers compete for a coveted spot in the Indianapolis 500 during this two-day qualifier. Each competitor will race four laps at over 230 mph to earn their place in history. But it only takes a fraction of a second to miss out on the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Tickets are available for both days, so go out and cheer on your favorite driver!

Concert at the Snake Pit

Photo courtesy of NBC

Fans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Photo courtesy of Alli Donovan

May 26 | The American Legion 500 Festival Memorial Service

On this day, we take time away from the race to recognize and reflect on Memorial Day. This tradition has been part of the Indianapolis 500 for more than 60 years, ensuring that we never lose sight of the meaning of Memorial Day. This service will include a wreath-laying ceremony, a funeral procession, the posting of colors, and other symbolic events to honor our fallen servicemen and women. More details can be found on the 500 Festival website.

May 26 | Miller Lite Carb Day at IMS

Also known as “Fast Friday,” Carb Day is the official kickoff of the Indy 500 weekend. Carb Day—short for Carburetion Day—is the final day of practice before the Indianapolis 500 and the first day of the weekend festivities. Head over to IMS to see racers push their cars to the limit and then watch Bryan Adams rock out at the Carb Day concert! Either way, it’s a win! Tickets are available here.

May 27 | AES 500 Festival Parade

Every year, over 200,000 people fill the streets of Indianapolis to witness one of the nation’s largest and most respected parades! The AES 500 Festival Parade is the crowning jewel of the festival—with amazing floats, giant helium balloons, celebrities and dignitaries, award-winning bands, and all 33 drivers who will compete in the Indy 500. The parade begins at noon, but it’s best to get there early and beat the crowds! Learn more about the parade lineup, parking info, and ticket prices here.

May 27 | Party Before the 500 at Daredevil Brewing Co.

Get ready to party! Daredevil Brewing Company—the most iconic brewery in Speedway—is hosting a hopping party the night before the Indianapolis 500. The brewery is partnering with Eatzo Street Food & Flavor and Pork & Pistons to serve up an unforgettable night of good food and drink. So, if you’re in town for the 500, make sure you RSVP for additional details. 

May 27 | Metazoa 500 Market

The Metazoa 500 Market is a new addition to Indy’s race weekend lineup! This community market will be hosted by Six Ways Markets & Events and Metazoa Brewing Company at the brewery’s latest facility on 202 Miley Avenue. The market will feature more than 60 local vendors that specialize in vintage goods, crafts, art, and more! There will also be plenty of music, food, games, and (of course) beer! Mark it on your calendar and RSVP on Facebook.

May 27 | Legends Day Presented by Firestone at IMS

Race over to the track for Legends Day! On the Saturday before Race Day, fans get exclusive access to some of the best drivers in IndyCar. All 33 drivers in the Indianapolis 500 will be signing autographs, alongside a selection of Indy 500 veterans. Fans can also witness the official Public Drivers’ Meeting, where drivers receive their final instructions before Race Day. But make sure you get there early! Autograph lines are limited and will close once they reach maximum occupancy. For more information, check out their website. 

May 27 | Legends Day Concert at TCU Amphitheater 

Tickets are now on sale for the Legends Day concert at White River State Park! Located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, the TCU Amphitheater is a gorgeous outdoor venue with amazing views of the city skyline and even better acoustics. This year, Brad Paisley will be headlining the concert, along with Russell Dickerson and Jackson Dean. Snag your ticket to this unforgettable concert here.

May 28 | Indianapolis 500 Snake Pit at IMS

Are you ready for the most insane party in motorsports? The Snake Pit is an all-day rager that starts at 8 a.m. and only ends when the race ends. This high-octane music festival features a star-studded lineup of the greatest EDM acts on Earth, including Kaskade, Subtronics, and DJ Diesel (aka Shaquille O’Neal). Tickets for the concert are available here, but you’ll also need a Race Day ticket if you want in the Snake Pit. 


And finally, an event that needs no introduction—the Greatest Spectacle in Racing! The Indianapolis 500 is a day filled with high-speed thrills, unforgettable moments, and fun for the whole family. I highly recommend that you go out and experience the race in person because the atmosphere at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is like nothing else in the world. Gates open at 6:00 a.m., so get there early to fully experience the magic of the Indy 500. Tickets are still available here.

IndyCars practicing around the track

Photo courtesy of NTT IndyCar Series

There are endless ways to celebrate the Month of May.

The Month of May is always an insanely busy—and an extremely fun—time of year! There are so many events on the calendar that it creates a palpable sense of excitement leading up to the race. And best of all, most of the events are family-friendly, so everyone can join in the fun. 

While you’re in town for the Indianapolis 500, I recommend checking out these other stops in Speedway, Indiana. Many of them are annual traditions that make the experience even more memorable for race fans!

  • Eat breakfast at Charlie Brown’s Pancake & Steak House. This old-fashioned breakfast diner is the perfect place for a plate of hotcakes—and a must during race month. 
  • Visit a Cars & Coffee meetup. These events are built for die-hard auto enthusiasts, where thousands of people bring their cars and talk shop over some coffee. Their biggest event of the year is in May, usually the week before the 500. 
  • Tour the Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway. Within minutes of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you’ll find both the Dallara factory and the Indy Racing Experience. At Dallara, you can walk through 50 years of IndyCar history, experience their race simulators, or even take on the Pit Stop Challenge.  
  • Grab dinner and a beer at Big Woods Speedway. Their food is delicious all year round, but nothing beats going to one of their IndyCar Watch Parties.

Of course, it’s also extremely important that you have the right Indy 500 race apparel. Before you head over to Speedway, make sure you look the part. 

The Shop in Indy has a wide collection of gear to choose from, including vintage tees, driver merch, and more. Meanwhile, United State of Indiana has just dropped a TON of new Indy 500 merch to add to their collection. Both stores will have a selection of sales throughout the Month of May, so there’s no better time to shop. 

Alli Donovan at the Indy 500

Photo courtesy of Alli Donovan

Broad Ripple Art Fair

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Art Center

Not a race fan? No problem!

Even if racing’s not your thing, the Month of May still brings a variety of springtime activities to Indianapolis. From arts festivals to backyard parties, the city comes alive during race season. So, if you’re still looking for something to do, check out this quick list for other things to do in Indianapolis this May. 

  • Visit Newfields for both art and nature. The Indianapolis Museum of Art is BEAUTIFUL, especially in the spring. Newfields has acres upon acres of gardens that burst into blooms each May. Plus, there are some special exhibits that will be wrapping up soon, so make sure you see them before they’re gone!
  • Check out the Broad Ripple Art Fair. For more than 50 years, the Broad Ripple Art Fair has brought the community together for good food, music, and art from local creators. This year, the fair is taking place on May 20th and 21st at the Indianapolis Art Center. Go out and support the arts, while shopping from 150 local and national artists!
  • Host your own Porch Party. Porch parties are a classic Indy 500 tradition, where Hoosiers invite their friends over for a day on the porch. But you don’t have to be a race fan to enjoy a beautiful day outside with your beverage of choice.
  • Go on a Hot Girl Walk. If you’re looking for an awesome group of people to go on walks with, look no further! This walking group is a great way to get active and make new friends while you’re at it. Keep an eye on their Instagram for more information on upcoming walks in May. 

Whether you’re a die-hard race fan or just want something fun to do, Indianapolis has the answer you’re looking for! So much is going on in Indianapolis during the Month of May, you can see why we get so excited each year. Because that’s life in Indy!