The SCCA is back at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which despite its name is not located in Indianapolis – it’s actually in the town of Speedway, Indiana. This suburb of Indianapolis may resemble a quiet living place, but pride and excitement about being a part of the motorsports world rumbles through daily life.
This base of history, science, engineering, and sport has created wonderful experiences outside of the track. Here are the top six that we suggest.
1. Charlie Brown's Pancake & Steak House
Located less from a mile from the Speedway on historic Main Street, this throwback-style diner is a must-do at least once. This spot — busiest at breakfast — is a regular stop for locals and racers when they are in town. In addition to a hearty meal, the walls are lined with artwork, promotional posters, photos and memorabilia that don't let you forget you’re in the shadow of the Racing Capital of the World.
Hours: Daily, 7am – 2pm
2. Union Jack Pub
Located near the intersection of Crawfordsville Road and I-465, 2.4 miles from the front gate of the Speedway, this restaurant — with a racecar mounted on its marquee — prides itself on its Chicago-style deep dish pizza and beer, but may be better known for the memorabilia-fest filling the walls and shelves.
Hours: Monday/Tuesday, closed; Wednesday 4pm–10pm; Thursday, 11am–10pm; Friday/Saturday, 11am–11pm; Sunday, 4pm–10pm
3. Speedway Main Street
The community of Speedway — imagined in 1912 and officially founded in 1926 — was among the first planned “horseless” neighborhoods. Just across the street from the track, nestled amongst the houses and bordering the Allison Transmission Plant, is the revitalized Main Street.
Within walking distance of the Speedway's front gate, good-old days architecture meets modern life. Here, you can find both an antiques store and a carbon-fiber racecar building autoclave. There are restaurants (including Charlie Brown’s), shops, and an indoor karting facility with 40mph karts for adults, 30mph karts for kids 8-13 and two-seaters so mom or dad can give rides to those 4 years or older.
Just to make sure you don't confuse this Main Street with other historic small towns, AJ Foyt racing has an IndyCar shop here, and you'll find the Dallara factory that builds IndyCars as well.
Note: The Dallara factory is not open to the public at this time due to heath concerns, but big windows will let you peer in to the showroom.
4. Children's Museum
As much as we hate to admit it, every once in a while you just have to take the little ones away from the track. If you find yourself in this category, Indianapolis offers a couple of the best opportunities for some leisure time for the kids (or, kids-at heart).
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is just 5.5 miles from the Speedway and was voted the #1 children’s museum in the nation. It features indoor and outdoor activities including a 16-foot tall Transformers Movie “Bumblebee” prop and five floors of interactive learning experiences for families and children focusing on art, culture, science, and humanities.
Hours: Monday, Closed; Tuesday–Sunday, 10am–5pm
5. The Indianapolis Zoo
If wildlife is more your speed, the Indianapolis Zoo, just 4.5 miles from the Speedway, is home to 3,800 animals from air, land and water — including big cats, bears (oh my), sharks, elephants, dolphins, snakes, primates, eagles and many others.
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 9am–4pm; Friday–Sunday, 9am–5pm
6. Downtown Indianapolis
The town of Speedway hosts the world’s largest single-day sporting event nestled into a quiet suburb, but if you’re looking for a more modern approach to leisure life and evening activities, driving into downtown Indianapolis are sure to satisfy.
Only 5 miles from the Speedway, six distinct cultural districts of Indianapolis are filled with outdoor space, restaurants and shopping. These include the vibrant social, commercial and spiritual community of Indiana Avenue, the historic European-themed Fountain Square (yes, it has a fountain), the Mass Ave Arts & Theater District, and the Unique gifts and shops of Market East.
In particular, the Canal and White River State Park has wide open spaces for taking a stroll, biking beside the waterway, or choosing to kayak or ride a gondola on the waterway while you explore museums, art and architecture on your way to dinner.
If the absolute finest is what you have in mind, the Wholesale District is where it’s at. Circle Center Mall appeals to the most discerning shopper, entertainment abounds and there's plenty to be seen in the heart of the city surrounding Monument Circle. If you choose to have dinner at the world-famous St. Elmo Steakhouse you might even see an IndyCar team owner treating a potential sponsor to dinner.
While the Speedway is certainly the crown jewel of the motorsports experience in Speedway and Indianapolis, these are our picks for the best six things to experience when you need a bite or a break. Have fun exploring the surrounding area, meeting locals and enjoying the passion at the crossroads of America that helped create the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.