Road Trips from Toledo: Arts and Culture in Indy

As a family, we’re flexible road trippers. We love camping, hiking, and exploring small rural towns, but we also can’t get enough of city wandering. When I say wandering, I mean that we walk everywhere, usually with our now three-year-old little boy comfortably lounging in a Radio Flyer wagon or stroller. So when the chance to visit Indianapolis for this series came up, we jumped on it!

My husband Matt (a Toledo native) has visited Indy before, but it was my first time there. With an itinerary inspired by Indiana’s relaunch of their Arts and Culture Passport, we set off for our destination after a very doable three and a half hour drive from Toledo.

The Indiana Arts and Culture Passport is a guide to 200 locations in Indiana that promote educational experiences for adults and kids alike. All you have to do is sign up at for free and check in when you visit these locations, which include museums, historical sites, theaters, music venues and more. You earn rewards points by checking in at each spot you visit so you can receive prizes. I’ve always enjoyed checklists, scavenger hunts and freebies, so this drew me in.

Some of the activities listed on the Passport are listed below, along with other places we loved. 

Where to stay

Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station
123 West Louisiana St.

Our little guy, Townes, is obsessed with trains, so we were immediately sold on this hotel, a train station built in 1888 that is filled with historical references and an actual 1920s Pullman train converted to rooms for guests. It sits on the original tracks from the station. Ours was a very comfortable double room. Get this: because there is still a working Amtrak train station just nearby, you can feel the slight rumble of trains going by when you’re relaxing in bed. They inform guests of this at check-in. I did feel it, but it wasn’t disruptive to my sleep at all. It was very faint, and also a nice reminder of the history of the place.

Suggestion: Enjoy breakfast at the hotel’s 123 West Restaurant. Their buffet was delicious and reasonably priced.

Educational Experiences

Conner Prairie
13400 Allisonville Rd., Fishers

Toledoans can best compare this site to Sauder Village with its historical reenactors, storefronts and homes. Conner Prairie features a village, but also accessible playgrounds, playgrounds that utilize natural materials from their woodsy setting, and a huge hot air balloon for families (available in warmer months) to take a ride in. The first thing we did was to take a ride down tubing slides — great fun for all three of us. They have classes and events throughout the year for kids and adults to enjoy.

Indiana State Museum
650 West Washington St.


When we visited, this museum had an incredible exhibit called Towers of Tomorrow with Lego Bricks (on display through May 12), a room filled with Lego renderings of the world’s most impressive skyscrapers, complete with stations for kids to build their own creations. This, and the first-floor Ice Age tunnel were just a couple of the highlights for us. There were also exhibits that explored the auto industry, music history, technology and Indigenous peoples of Indiana. You could easily spend four hours exploring this museum with your young historian.

Eiteljorg Museum
500 West Washington St.

Adults will love the extensive collection of American Western art at the Eiteljorg Museum — as we did — but we found ourselves spending the bulk of our time in their basement that houses the R.B. Annis Western Family Experience. Townes and I pretended to take a ride in a stagecoach, followed by a pretend lunch served by another visiting toddler in the cafe based on a real one out west called “Wisdom’s”. Kids can even pick tomatoes and bell peppers from a pretend garden to make their organic meal. It was adorable — and educational.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
3000 North Meridian St.

This Children’s Museum alone is worth the trip to Indianapolis. Seriously. We could have spent two days exploring it. Townes especially loved the “All Aboard!” exhibit with 1890s era trains and railroad life in Indiana. There were trains that made rounds on a track above our heads, as well as tunnels for Townes to duck his head into and look at other train lines. He could have stayed there forever! But there was also an extensive dinosaur exhibit, a winter-themed experience that included games of snowball throws and synchronous music (my personal favorite), and “Beyond Spaceship Earth” that explores the life of an astronaut. Until May 19, visitors can also check out Emotions at Play with Pixar’s Inside Out. These are just a few of the many indoor experiences! There are also a ton of outdoor ones that were not open during the winter season. You can bet we’ll be heading back to Indy for this one! 

For the foodies

The Garage Food Hall at Bottleworks
906 Carrollton Ave.

We love a nice food hall, and this one did not disappoint. We recommend grabbing a beer at Axle’s Garage Tap, a poke bowl at Poke Guru and fish and chips from The Harbour. Oh, and a special shoutout to Market Square Popcorn Company, who graciously let our toddler run around in front of their storefront with admirable patience. We actually met up with some old friends of ours at this location, so Townes got to hang out with their kids. They had a great time! Very family friendly vibes here.

The Garden Table
342 Massachusetts Ave.
(Multiple locations)


This place had healthy options, but also some decadent treats like Townes’s blueberry hotcakes. We also recommend getting a flight of their cold pressed juices, all of which were amazing, and a cappuccino. With a smoked salmon toast and chorizo hash bowl to share, we weren’t hungry for quite awhile after this decadent breakfast. 

2147 N. Talbott St.
(Multiple locations)

A nostalgic burger joint complete with neon signage and an overall motif that brought to mind John Waters’ aesthetic, Baby’s is a must-try. This one is in a cool neighborhood to walk around after eating one of their delicious cheeseburgers. We also had a chocolate milkshake and a light cocktail called “Bye Felicia” for mama!

Bru Burger
410 Massachusetts Ave. 
(Multiple locations)

We soon decided on two things: 1.) Mass Ave. is where it’s at for fun nightlife and wandering. 2.) Folks in Indy seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to burgers. We had dinner one night at Bru Burger, and it was very busy, but the service was excellent (they put our stroller away for us — always appreciated). You’ll also find gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options on their extensive menu, along with a nice selection of craft beers.

Cafe Patachou (Stutz Building)

1060 N. Capital Ave.

While there are more locations for Cafe Patachou, we are grateful that we decided on a visit to The Stutz, a historic building that houses a collection of classic cars that our little vehicle expert was very excited about. You’ll also find bakeries and other retailers to shop, plus a lot of history about the Stutz Motor Car Company. 

Cafe Patachou itself was delightful with its whimsical decor and delicious brunch options. Townes and I shared a hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookie, while Matt responsibly ordered a hearty soup. It was just what we needed before our drive back to Toledo.

On the Way Home (Bonus)

International Monster Truck Museum Hall of Fame
541 W. Main St., Butler

You won’t find this one in the Arts & Culture Passport, but we made it a point to visit on the way back to Toledo after our friend recommended it to us. Monster trucks are a major obsession right now for Townes, so we were excited for his reaction when he saw these huge trucks in real life. A very knowledgeable tour guide named Christopher showed us around the small museum, which houses trucks like Goliath and Bear Foot, a gift shop, and memorabilia. Also check out their monster truck shows where you can see some car crushing action! We’ll be returning someday for that. For this trip, Townes was more than satisfied just seeing crushed cars bordering the museum’s parking lot. It was the best way we could have ended our trip.