Indy 500—Racing Toward 100 Years

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway turns 100 this year. Celebrate by visiting Indianapolis and checking out the race this month or these other cool sites in town.


Not unlike the recent Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500 is one of those traditional sporting events that you first get excited about as a child, watching with your family, then continuing to follow as an adult. It’s an institution—not just in the United States, but around the world.

This year marks the beginning of the 100th anniversary of this classic race, with the celebration being stretched over three years, to commemorate not just the race, but also the world-famous track on which it’s held. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909 as an automobile testing ground. Racing soon became its main draw, however, with Ray Harroun winning the inaugural Indy 500 on May 30, 1911. Since then, Indianapolis has become known as the “Racing Capital of the World.”

Qualifying races began last weekend, and sports fans have already begun to head to this state capital for the big event, taking place on Sunday, May 24. Here are five top things to do in Indianapolis, whether you visit for the race, or later this year.

1. Spend a Day at the Track

If you don’t have your ticket to the big event just yet, don’t despair—they’re still available. On Thursday and Friday (May 14 and 15), drivers already on the 2009 Indianapolis 500 roster will be practicing their race setups, while those seeking one of the remaining 11 spots will work on their speed for the final day of qualifying rounds, Saturday, May 16. The action begins at noon; gates open at 9 a.m. Admission: May 14 and 15, $5 for adults; May 16, $10 for adults. Kids 5 and under are free all days. Remaining race-day tickets start at $40. Call 317-492-6700, or visit

2. Be Awed by King Tut Treasures

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the next host of “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs.” This exhibit from Egypt, featuring more than 130 treasures from King Tut’s tomb, opens June 27, 2009 and runs through Oct. 25. Read our review of the show from when it was on display in Atlanta earlier this year.  For more information, visit or

3. See Komodo Dragons

From May 22 through Labor Day, the Indianapolis Zoo will be home to the exhibit Dragons of Komodo. Found on the Southeast Asian island for which they’re named, these scaly creatures are the largest lizards in the world, at 10 feet long. (I’ve seen related Monitor lizards in Malacca, Malaysia—these cats are cool but creepy. Kids will love them!) Admission: $14 for adults, $9 for kids 2 to 12, free 1 and under.

4. Visit the Indiana State Fair

Indiana is one of the few states where its capital city also is a top tourist draw, making it easy to plan a visit to the Indiana State Fair. This year’s festivities—with the tomato as the featured agricultural product—take place Aug. 7 to 23 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. In addition to the requisite livestock, 4-H and food competitions, the line-up includes the Midwest Regional Championships of the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge and the Indy Super Pull (the first tractor pull at the fair in nearly 20 years). You can’t beat the price—$8 for adults, children 5 and under are free.

5. Catch a Live Arts Performance

Indiana University in Bloomington, about 55 miles southwest of Indianapolis, has a strong performance arts department and one of the best music schools in the country. Indianapolis benefits from this nearby resource, playing host to a wide variety of events—with renowned performers from within the local arts community as well as from around the world. Consider snagging tickets to see one of Indianapolis’ local orchestras, jazz bands, the Indianapolis Opera, one of its dance companies, or a top touring company. For a list of upcoming performances, visit the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association Web site

Destinations: Indianapolis

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Arts and Entertainment

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