Garfield Park, located less than three miles south of downtown Indianapolis at 2450 Shelby Street, is the oldest public park in the city, providing recreational opportunities for the communities of Indianapolis since 1881. The sprawling grounds of Garfield Park cover more than 128 acres of land and offer many amenities and activities for people of all ages, but especially Indianapolis kids.
The park originated in 1874 as a riding track venture, but proved to be unsuccessful. The grounds were then sold to the city of Indianapolis for a price tag of $109,500. Southern Park, the original name of the park, would be changed to Garfield Park upon the assassination of US president, James A. Garfield. Two additional land purchases in the early 1900’s would bring the total land holding of the park to 128 acres.
Garfield Park provides Indy locals and Indianapolis vacationers alike with a wide variety of offerings for family entertainment and educational opportunities, including a community center, large outdoor pool and water park, picnic areas, tennis courts, walking trails, a playground, a softball diamond, outdoor concerts and theater in the summer months, and a variety of festivals, arts, and cultural happenings.
Visitors to the park can enjoy the rolling grounds with the Pleasant Run and Bean Creak streams running within. Limestone bridges and winding driveways allow for a casual drive through the sprawling park to enjoy the copious amounts of stately oak and sycamore trees.
On the long list of wonderful Indianapolis attractions, Garfield Park maintains a prominent position, and deservedly so. Taking the family on an Indianapolis vacation? Put Garfield Park on your list of Things to Do in Indianapolis.
A highlight for visitors are the Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Gardens, which provide an experience unlike any other in the city. The 10,000 square foot conservatory boasts the country’s first welded aluminum, glass roof structure. Housed within the temperature and humidity controlled conservatory are a wide variety of tropical plants, including many orchids, and a 15-foot tall granite waterfall flowing into a Koi filled fish pond. The Conservatory faces the beautifully landscaped Sunken Garden with a sprawling grassy lawn and a variety of flowers and foliage to provide a serene and peaceful escape from the outside world. Both the Conservatory and Sunken Gardens are popular wedding locations in the park.
Indianapolis performing arts and Indianapolis music have naturally gravitated to this luscious place, and are well-represented there. Just north of the park’s playground sits the Pagoda, an oriental style concrete, wrought iron, and rock open structure with a curved copper roof. This structure, built in 1903 at the height of the popularity of opera in the U.S., has been utilized for various musical performances throughout the years. The open air theater environment was used for many productions throughout the years, including an annual Shakespeare Festival which would be held at the Pagoda until lack of attendance would force it to cease in 1993.
Three separate War Memorials are located throughout Garfield Park, including a granite shaft inscribed with the names of 1,616 Confederate Soldiers who died while imprisoned at Camp Morton. Also in the park is the Grove of Remembrance, which includes one tree planted for each of the 387 Marion County male and female soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. A large bronze statue of Major General Henry W. Lawton, a Civil War Veteran who was credited with the capture of the Apache Chief Geronimo, also stands in the park.
The Garfield Park Arts Center provides the community with a variety of art programs and cultural experiences to educate and introduce new concepts through active engagement in the arts in Indianapolis. Literary, visual, performance, and production arts are represented through the various programs at the Arts Center. Offerings of the center include classrooms, a recording studio, visual arts gallery, a multi-used performing arts space, and a literary arts library. The Arts Center has several performances, and gallery shows throughout the year, and also offers rental space for various functions.
The Burrello Family Center offers athletic events for the community including junior basketball leagues, a gym and weight room, a selection of fitness classes, and a hiking club. The family center also hosts many community gatherings and meetings, and also serves as a local voting location.
Visitors to Garfield Park will find not only beauty and serenity in the park’s rolling landscape, but also a wide selection of activities for the entire family. The oldest park in the Indianapolis public parks systems will become a repeat destination point for anyone visiting the area.
Parks in Indianapolis give the people who love them a reason to truly love life.
Creek at Garfield Park
Shelter at the Garfield Park
Garfield Park Sign