Making a trip to Indianapolis for a vacation? If you only had a few hours to spend in Indianapolis and wanted to learn what makes the city so great, Monument Circle is where you would want to spend that time. Located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, it is where the city comes to life. No matter if you have been an Indy-born Hoosier your entire life or a first-time visitor to Indiana‘s largest metropolis, this traffic circle and its immediate surroundings will teach you more about the culture of Indianapolis than any book.
The first feature you notice when standing in the circle is the monument that inspired the roundabout’s name. Of course, with a base that is 342 feet in diameter and at a height of 284 feet, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument is quite hard to miss.
Residing on the very top of the monument is an allegorical statue portraying Victory, who most locals refer to as Ms. Indiana. It was dedicated on May 15, 1902 and has been one of the main attractions in Indianapolis ever since. While the monument’s exterior is adorned with some of the finest sculptures in the entire country, the interior is just as mesmerizing. Housed inside the base of this shrine dedicated to the city’s fallen warriors, is the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum, one of the finest museums in Indianapolis.
After exploring the bottom, climb the 331 steps it takes to reach the top of Monument Circle. While this task may seem monumental in its own right, you will be rewarded with one of the best panoramic views of the entire city. As you look out on the giants that make up the Indianapolis skyline, you will have already forgotten about your ascension. When you are done and have built up an appetite from your Indianapolis history-enriched exercise, chose from one of the many restaurants in Indianapolis to refuel at. No matter what your budget is or what you’re craving, such restaurants as St Elmo’s Steakhouse, Buca Di Beppo or The Oceanaire Seafood Room will leave you stuffed, yet anticipating your next visit.
Monument Circle is the address for some of the biggest names in the Indianapolis media. In the Emmis Communications building alone you will find the offices of Indianapolis Monthly magazine and the radio stations 1070 The Fan, Hank FM and B105 FM. Other city landmarks that occupy some of the best real estate in Indianapolis are Christ Church Cathedral, which is an Episcopal Church, and the Hilbert Circle Theatre which is home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
All year round, our city’s circle plays host to some of the best events in Indianapolis. The most famous of these happenings is the Circle of Lights Festival that started in 1962. Since that year, the Friday after Thanksgiving has been the day that thousands of Christmas lights are strung to the top of the monument. When the switch is flipped, the statue of Lady Victory is transformed into the angel on top of one of America’s largest Christmas trees. During other parts of the year the circle abounds with some of the best festivals and music in Indianapolis. Sometimes a scheduled concert will be set up and shut down the whole circle; often it is just a string quartet from the symphony that’s playing only to put a smile on your face.
Monument Circle is such a major part of the city that it is the model for the Indianapolis flag. The white star in the middle of the red circle represents the monument’s central location. The bisecting white lines represent the two major streets that run through Indy, Meridian Street running vertically and Market Street running horizontally. This is also the basis for Indy’s nickname, “the Circle City.”
If you travel just a few blocks in any direction on either of these two streets, you’ll find endless enjoyment for everyone in the family. The Indiana State Capitol Building is viewable from the circle and is just down the end of Market Street heading west. If you would rather learn about history than go watch it being made, head northbound on Meridian and soon you will be standing in the Indiana War Memorial Plaza. Here you will find the Indiana War Memorial Museum, Veterans Memorial and dozens of beautiful statues depicting some of the most famous people from Indianapolis, such as U.S. President Benjamin Harrison. At the far end of the plaza is the world class Indianapolis Public Library and the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
If your brain is burnt-out from all of the learning, you can head south on Meridian Street, and within a few minutes you’ll find yourself inside the Circle Center Mall. Once inside, you will find some of the best shopping in Indianapolis. Monument Circle is a great place to meet up with friends before heading to Conseco Fieldhouse to catch the Pacers or Indiana Fever tear up the hardwood.
The same holds true if you’re heading over to Lucus Oil Stadium to watch The Colts win big. If you couldn’t score tickets to the game, find one of the surrounding Indianapolis bars to cheer on our boys in blue to victory.
Standing at the circle will put you within walking distance of Mass Ave, Indiana Avenue and The Wholesale District. Each of these distinctive Indianapolis cultural districts will giver you the opportunity to view some of the best art in Indianapolis.
If you are staying in one of the downtown Indianapolis hotels while visiting our great city and don’t know where to go, Monument Circle is your answer. If it is a beautiful Saturday and you want to find some new things to do in Indianapolis as a family, Monument Circle is the place to start. Whatever you are looking for in this unique city, Monument Circle, the heart of Indianapolis, is where you will find it.
The Circle of Lights illuminates downtown each December
Shops around Monument Circle
Underneath the Circle of Lights