Best of Indy: Top Things to Do in Northwest Indianapolis

Path along the Central Canal in Indianapolis

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bray

Looking for world-class museums, a delicious dinner, or an unforgettable night out? You don’t have to go downtown to have fun in Indianapolis! Let me introduce you to the beauty of Northwest Indy.  

Northwest Indianapolis doesn’t get as much attention as trendy neighborhoods like Fountain Square or Carmel. That’s partly because “Northwest Indy” is hard to define. It’s a large, diverse area made up of lots of individual neighborhoods with their own unique characteristics. There aren’t any official boundaries for our community, but I loosely define it as everything between Meridian St. to the east, I-465 to the north and west, and 38th St. to the south. 

Living here gives you convenient access to the region’s hottest destinations—just 30 minutes away from Zionsville, Carmel, Broad Ripple, and downtown. But you don’t need to leave the area to find fun things to do! While our community is mostly residential, there are plenty of shops, parks, and restaurants sprinkled throughout Northwest Indianapolis. 

After nearly a decade in Northwest Indy, I’ve come to appreciate the people and places that make our community feel like home. Check out a few of my favorite spots and discover why Northwest Indianapolis is a great place to live and visit!

Love Sculpture at Newfields

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bray

Gardens at Newfields

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bray

5 Fun Things to Do in Northwest Indianapolis

Downtown Indianapolis has a reputation for high-caliber sporting events and concert venues. But Northwest Indy offers its own selection of amazing venues, performing arts, and Hoosier hoops. Here are my top things to do for a night out or daytime excursion in Indy!

1. Cheer on the Butler basketball team at Hinkle Fieldhouse!

Butler University is Indy’s favorite college sports team, playing ball in an iconic, historic fieldhouse. What’s not to love? During the season, you can get affordable tickets for both family outings and casual date nights. Make it an evening out with dinner at Chatham Tap Butler or Hoagies & Hops. And if you’re lucky, you might even meet Butler Blue—the adorable Bulldog mascot himself. 

2. Explore the world of art at Newfields.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields hosts a collection of more than 54,000 artworks, spanning 5,000 years of history across African, American, Asian, European, and Modern Art.  In an effort to keep things new, Newfields also hosts a slew of seasonal events, such as their Spring Blooms, summer Beer Garden, fall Harvest Nights, and Holiday Winterlights. You can spend the day taking in world-class art and then head out to the grounds for beautiful gardens and nature scenery! 

3. Catch a show and enjoy the performing arts—from ballet to bluegrass.

In Northwest Indianapolis, you’ll find the Beef & Boards Dinner Theater. Since 1973, they’ve delighted audiences with musical productions and chef-prepared meals. We also have the Butler Arts & Event Center, where you can see college ballet and music performances as well as national tours from famous artists and celebrities. A few of the recent shows at Butler’s campus featured Swan Lake, Shen Yun, William Shatner, Béla Fleck and The Punch Brothers, and Les Misérables.

4. Taste food from across the globe at the International Marketplace.

Nestled just south of I-65, Indy’s International Marketplace is a 2.5-square mile area with more than 900 international restaurants and businesses. You’ll find a variety of authentic eats from Ethiopia, India, China, Pakistan, Mexico, and more. Sample them at the annual “Taste the Difference Festival” at Lafayette Square—or simply pop in throughout the year for a delicious lunch or dinner. The Global Village Welcome Center is also available year-round with cultural exhibits from global communities in Indianapolis. 

5. Indulge in some self-care at the Invoke Wellness Center.

If you need to find your chakras, Invoke is the place to do it. At their northside location, Invoke offers a bunch of different yoga classes from beginner to advanced levels. Their specialties include hot yoga, wellness workshops, and Pilates Reformer workouts. I also recommend their off-site yoga classes, where you can stretch beneath the sun in Holliday Park or at The Lume exhibit in Newfields. 

Kids picking berries

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bray

Bell tower at Holcomb Gardens

Photo courtesy of Mandy Bray

Taste Some of Indy’s Best Restaurants and Eateries

From casual eating to fine dining, you can find just about anything you crave in Northwest Indy. Our community has a wide selection of international restaurants, cozy cafes, and tasty spots for a bite to eat. So, add these culinary destinations to your must-try list! 


  1. Lulu’s Coffee & Bakehouse: Delicious coffee with friendly baristas and delicious butter cakes near St. Vincent’s Hospital. When the weather’s nice, sit outside on the patio for the perfect afternoon break. 
  2. Tian Fu: Indy’s most authentic Chinese restaurant is hidden away in a strip mall in Northwest Indy. Tian Fu serves traditional dim sum, as well as Thai and Japanese specialties like sushi.
  3. Driving Wind Berry Farm: An urban you-pick berry farm hidden in the city, including a local farm and coffee shop with pastries and bagels from Indy bakers.
  4. 3 in 1: This casual Mexican and Salvadorian restaurant commands an elusive 5-star Yelp rating. Try their tamales and pupusas—a Salvadorian handheld with grilled meat and cheese melted in cornmeal flatbread.
  5. Oakley’s Bistro: Enjoy a date night or group dinner in this charming bistro from award-winning chef Steven J. Oakley!
  6. Chapati: Can your Midwest tongue take the heat? This Lafayette Square favorite cooks up Pakistani and Indian dishes with the tastiest rice you’ve ever had. Great for Halal, vegetarian, and vegan eaters.
  7. Pana Donuts: Pana’s 86th Street location serves melt-in-your-mouth donuts, coffee, and bubble tea—perfect for mornings on-the-go. 
  8. MOTW: MOTW Coffee & Pastries presents a Middle-Eastern twist on hot drinks, smoothies, and baked goods with favorites like honeycomb latte, Yemeni chai, and baklava.
  9. Trader Joe’s: Alright, this isn’t local or a restaurant—I know. But the ability to pop into TJ’s for my favorite granola or cheese on my way home is too big of a perk to omit.

Explore the Top 4 Nature Parks in Northwest Indianapolis

Northwest Indianapolis is a very urban part of town, mostly built for cars and city living. But our community also has great parks and trails where you can get out in nature. Check out a few of the best places to go outside, get some fresh air, and take care of your body! 

1. The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park

While the Newfields museum is restricted to paying guests, the surrounding Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park is open for anyone to explore. This 100-acre Art & Nature Park consists of a trail surrounding a 35-acre lake, interspersed with gardens, wetlands, and art sculptures built to accentuate the beautiful scenery. The most famous piece in the park is Funky Bones by Atelier Van Leishout, which appeared in John Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars!

2. Eagle Creek Park

Right on the western edge of Indianapolis, you’ll find Eagle Creek Park—the largest municipal park in the Midwest! With miles of forest trails, two nature centers, multiple playgrounds, and a zipline, Eagle Creek Park feels like you’ve stepped into a forest oasis in the heart of the city. The park is the ideal space for distance running, birdwatching, and even watersports like sailing, rowing, and fishing. All these amenities make it well worth the small $5/car or $50/year entrance fee.

3. Holcomb Gardens and the Central Canal Towpath

Along the Central Canal in Indianapolis, there’s a beautiful towpath that runs 5.25 miles between Broad Ripple and 30th Street. The winding path connects with both the White River and the Monon Trail, creating an ideal route for runners and walkers. With a crushed limestone path and few street crossings, the trail feels like a private, serene pause from the urban noise. Halfway through the trail, you’ll find Holcomb Gardens on Butler University’s campus. These 20-acre gardens are thoughtfully manicured with classical sculptures, a bell tower, and a picture-perfect fountain for a picnic or a photo shoot. Best of all, parking is free!

4. Holliday Park

I’d be remiss if I wrote a list of parks in Indianapolis without mentioning Holliday Park! This park has flowering gardens, a huge playground, and even historic limestone ruins. Take some time to admire the landscape, hike down to the edge of the White River, or make a turtle friend in the park’s nature center! Holliday Park also hosts community events and programs, adding to the fun with big-name concerts at Rock the Ruins and outdoor ice skating in the winter. 

Playground at Holliday Park

Northwest Indy is a great place to live, too!

With all of these parks, restaurants, and things to do, Northwest Indianapolis attracts visitors from across the country. But all of these amenities also make our community a better place to live!

One feature I particularly appreciate about Northwest Indianapolis is its residential diversity. There are very few cookie-cutter neighborhoods here! You can find million-dollar houses along Williams Creek, just a quarter mile away from more affordable homes and apartments. We have everything from historic Jewish communities to Latino neighborhoods—with some closer to downtown and others close to the suburbs. 

I recommend checking out neighborhoods like Delaware Trails, College Park, North Willow Farms, and Wynnedale. Most of this area was built during the 1960s and later, so most of the neighborhoods have spacious lots and mature trees. If you like older homes with more walkability, then take a look at Butler-Tarkington or Rocky Ripple. Northwest Indy is also a great place for renters with a range of condos, townhomes, and apartments available. 

If you have kids, you’ll also want to think about local schools. Northwest Indy has both Pike Township and Washington Township—two large, diverse, and high-quality school districts. Those seeking private schools have excellent options as well, with top choices such as: the International School of Indiana, The Orchard School, Sycamore School, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, and many other parochial and Hebrew schools.

As for me, I love Northwest Indianapolis because I get to live in the city, while still enjoying the hometown feel of the suburbs! It’s a place where I can casually attend a theater production at North Central High School or pick up a stack of books from the Michigan Road Library Branch. So, if you’re looking for an affordable area with urban amenities and culture, don’t overlook Northwest Indy!