Monument Circle is an iconic memorial in the heart of downtown Indianapolis.

Aerial photo of Indianapolis Monument Circle

For over a century, Indianapolis has been the Circle City, named in honor of downtown Indy’s Monument Circle. This circular street surrounds the proud Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the very center of the city.

Back in 1821, renowned surveyor and engineer Alexander Ralston wanted Indianapolis to resemble the layout of Washington D.C. So, he designed Monument Circle as the city’s central downtown hub. Now, that 4.5-acre space is one of Indiana’s most iconic symbols, where our community comes together for city-wide celebrations.

From yoga festivals to art fairs, the Circle offers a beautiful open space for community events. And along the Circle, none of the surrounding buildings are taller than eight stories. So, sunlight falls on the monument’s sparkling water and bright limestone all day long!

That intentional design really shines when you take a walk around the Circle to admire its namesake monument. From the Circle, you can see the State Capitol building just down the street, check out some of the local shops, or even sit down on the monument steps while you enjoy the sounds of the city.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument honors the valor of the common soldier.

At the center of Monument Circle stands the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the memorial that gave the Circle its name. The monument was originally designed to honor Indiana’s Civil War veterans. But now, it commemorates all Hoosiers who served prior to 1902—the year of the monument’s dedication. It’s the first U.S. memorial dedicated to the common soldier and one of the world’s most outstanding monuments.

Altogether, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument stands over 280-feet tall—only 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty! The monument’s obelisk is adorned with many works of art, depicting both war and peace in bronze and limestone sculptures. At each corner, there are four statues to represent the Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, and Navy. And the very top of the monument is crowned with a statue of Victory.

Over the years, Lady Victory has become a point of pride here in Indiana. Her unique design combines the Greek goddess Nike with the iconic Lady Liberty. She stands 38-feet tall, holding a sword and a torch as she watches over the city. And if you’re not afraid of heights, then you can climb the 331 steps to the memorial’s observation deck and see her view of the Indianapolis skyline.

“Indiana has a rich military story to tell. Most have heard that only Washington, D.C., has more monuments honoring veterans than Indianapolis, but no city in the country has more acreage honoring veterans.”

– Brigadier General J. Stewart Goodwin, Executive Director of the Indiana War Memorials Commission

Discover the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum in the heart of Monument Circle.

People who walk around Monument Circle rarely realize that there’s an entire museum inside the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. It’s a hidden gem right in plain sight! The Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum honors the monument’s original design by commemorating the 24,000 Hoosiers who gave their lives to preserve the Union.

The Civil War hit Indiana particularly hard, with almost 75% of the state’s eligible young men going off to battle. When the survivors came back home, those veterans were determined to remember their fallen brothers. And they were the first inspiration for the Soldiers and Sailors Monument we know today.

Inside the museum, you can learn about the Civil War, from its tense beginnings to the solemn aftermath. The museum has letters, diaries, and photos that reveal the stories behind the people who fought in the war. You can see a real battle cannon, learn about life on the home front, and even read soldiers’ last goodbyes. 

Monument Circle is shining a light on our community traditions.

One recent addition to Monument Circle is the Shining A Light presentation, a brilliant light show projected directly onto the buildings around the Circle. After about a year of hard work and creative design, the first projection debuted on Veterans Day in 2019, honoring our military heroes. The tribute program also has original music performed by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Since then, the Circle has featured light shows for the holiday season, the historic Indy 500, and even our love of basketball. Each presentation is designed to brighten up the night and bring the Indy region together for some of our home’s most beloved events and traditions—like the Circle of Lights.

The Circle of Lights is one of Indianapolis’ most popular holiday traditions. Every Friday after Thanksgiving, Hoosiers gather around Monument Circle for the tree lighting ceremony. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument is decorated with strands of festive lights that travel from the ground all the way to the top, transforming the tower into “the world’s largest Christmas tree.” Families from across the region come out for a night of live music, hot chocolate, and holiday cheer—and the kids get especially excited at the chance to meet Santa Claus himself!

 

Indianapolis Monument Circle tree lighting

Take a walk around Monument Circle during your next trip downtown. 

Monument Circle is truly at the center of Indianapolis, in close proximity to many of Indy’s hottest cultural districts and attractions. On the Circle itself, you can visit the Hilbert Circle Theatre, where the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performs. The Circle Centre Mall and the Indiana Convention Center connect you with lots of shopping and hopping events. And just a block or two northeast, you can explore the bustling Mass Ave district for amazing restaurants and nightlife entertainment.

So, next time you’re in downtown Indianapolis, try planning a visit to Lady Victory and see the monument light up in the night. Whether you’re downtown for your lunch break, planning a date night, or going out to the Pacers game, it’s easy to stop by Monument Circle and enjoy the beauty of our Circle City.