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The Indy skyline

Ah, Indy... the city everyone forgets except for a certain Sunday in May, during which the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (or Indy 500) occurs. This is virtually the only time it will be mentioned in fiction, despite the fact that it is the fourth-most populous state capital in the US (behind Phoenix, Austin, and Columbus) and the third largest city in the Midwest behind Chicago and Columbus (though other cities in the region have bigger metro areas). And the Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn't technically in Indianapolis, it's in the town of Speedway, a semi-independent (though wholly surrounded) suburb west of downtownnote .

Also known as the "Circle City"note , the "Crossroads of America"note , "Naptown"note , and simply "Indy"note , Indianapolis was founded in 1826 to serve as the capital of the newly recognized State of Indiana. Indy was an economic powerhouse by the early 20th century, especially in the automotive industry (one of the factors leading local entrepreneur Carl Fisher to create its famous Speedway), but came under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan during The Roaring '20s. Though the Klan effectively took over the whole State of Indiana in the 1924 elections, their power was thoroughly broken by 1931 after their leader was jailed and documents from his files resulted in the resignation of the mayor and most of the city council. Indy spent The '30s as a center of American Isolationism and the city has done its best to forget about these periods ever since.

Urban decay took over in the years after World War II as the economy gradually shifted from manufacturing to warehousing, logistics and pharmaceuticals and downtown Indianapolis has only recently lost the last few decrepit, abandoned factories from its early days as an industrial center. Recently the downtown has undergone something of a renaissance as buildings that formerly housed companies like L.S. Ayres and Madame C.J. Walker's headquarters have been converted into stores, lofts, restaurants and clubs. Two whole blocks of mostly derelict buildings were converted into a large shopping mall and arts districts have grown up in the Broad Ripple and Fountain Square neighborhoods and along Massachusetts Avenue downtown. The Indiana Repertory Theatre is one of the best regional theatres in the Midwestnote , The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Indianapolis Children's Choir have achieved an international reputation, and the Children's Museum of Indianapolis is generally considered the best of its kind in the world. The annual Indiana Black Expo (the first and largest of its kind) draws record crowds, as does GenCon, an enormous gaming convention that annually attracts more than 28,000 participants.

On a more environmentally friendly note, Indianapolis is the most heavily forested city in the world. When taking a picture of the city from the roof of a downtown building almost everything out the horizon is a sea of green. Before the explosive growth of Phoenix in the last part of the 20th century, it was the largest US city without a navigable waterway. The closest thing to a navigable river Indianapolis has is the Broad Ripple canal. That's only 3ft deep and part of it is underground. There's also the White River, but while it's quite pretty and good for things like canoeing and fishing, navigable it ain't.

Indianapolis reached its current size in 1970, when the city's government was consolidated with that of its parent county, Marion County. This was done because the city itself was decaying after wealthy white families moved to the outer edges of the county; once the suburbs were back in the city again, the tax base increased, and the city rebounded financially. The arrangement (called Unigov) expanded Indianapolis' size to include almost all of Marion County except for four "excluded towns" note : Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport, and the aforementioned Speedway. Once the suburbs get included Indianapolis is larger in terms of land area than practically every other US city. Driving from one end of Indianapolis to the other takes two-three hours, minimum.

In recent years the city has become known in the sports world for something besides auto racing; the Indianapolis Colts (formerly based in Baltimore, a hotbed for horse racing rather than auto racing, though fellow horse racing hotbed Louisville is to the south of Indy on I-65) have become a well known football team after their win in Super Bowl XLI in 2007, and the city hosted Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 to mostly positive reviews. In keeping with the state's rich basketball tradition, the city is also home to an NBA franchise, the Indiana Pacers, and the Indiana Fever, 2012 WNBA champion and current home of college basketball icon Caitlin Clark. Minor league baseball (Indianapolis Indians), hockey (Indy Fuel), and soccer (Indy Eleven) teams make their homes here as well, with the Indians playing in Victory Field, consistently called "the best minor league ballpark in America" for its nearly major-league park dimensions, incredible facilities, location in the heart of downtown, and gorgeous, picturesque architecture.

Indianapolis is also a center of amateur athletics, styling itself as the "Amateur Sports Capital of the World" ever since the 1987 Pan American Games. As a result many significant U.S. amateur sports federations (including the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its high school equivalentnote  are headquartered in Indianapolis, and the Big Ten Conference note  holds its football championship game here. The city retains all of the facilities necessary to hold an Olympics in miniature and the annual 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, AKA "The Mini", is one of the largest foot races in the U.S with over 35,000 participants and is just one of four full and five half marathons run in Indianapolis every year. Even such peripheral sports as marching band and drum & bugle corps were enticed into relocating to Indianapolis, along with their national associations and associated championships. Indy hosts the Circle City Classic college football invitational every year and with the opening of the new football stadium (which is also designed to become a large basketball arena) the city is guaranteed to host the NCAA "Final Four" Basketball Tournament every four years for the foreseeable future.

Indianapolis' relatively low population density and relatively large geographical area (one-tenth the population of New York City over a much larger area) makes for a very green and leafy city, and rural features like cornfields and horse farms can still be found within city limits. The downtown area along the Canal hosts several museums and is quite attractive to pedestrians, with lovely walkways and paddle-boats for rent. Also in this area is the White River Gardens — which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin — and the Indianapolis Zoo, which is a national leader in endangered species conservation.

Indy also stays close to its agricultural roots by hosting the annual Indiana State Fair, a huge 21-day agricultural and industrial expedition. Like all Midwestern state fairs the Indiana State Fair is Serious Business, particularly for Future Farmers of America and 4-H, with the largest livestock and produce show of the year along with historical displays and the usual Midway attractions (including the typical selection of delicious fatty fried fair foods). Some of the biggest names in pop and country music have graced the main stage, though the horrific stage collapse in 2011 that killed seven and injured dozens of fans waiting to see country band Sugarland has put a damper on live performances for the immediate future. The State Fairgrounds and the newly expanded Indiana Convention Center are also home to numerous conventions, trade shows and exhibitions, taking advantage of Indy's central location and position at the hub of the interstate highway system.

Indy is also a rail hub, with a significant percentage of the U.S.'s transcontinental train traffic passing through downtown daily on the CSX Transportation main line, and the suburb of Avon has a large rail yard that serves these trains. This makes the sentence "We got stuck behind a train" — i.e. got stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for an extremely long freight train to rumble past — a legitimate excuse for being late to school. Finally, to complete the transportation triumvirate, Indianapolis has a large and modern airport largely given over to extensive air freight facilities, which, combined with Indianapolis' position near the center of both the road and rail networks, has led to the the city becoming the regional freight, logistics, and warehousing center. Though international passenger flights are limited to Canada and Mexico, with major overseas routes departing from nearby O'Hare, Cincinnati, and Detroit, the Indianapolis International Airport is also a regional passenger hub for domestic flights; regional passenger airline Republic Airways, callsign "Brickyard", is headquartered there.

Though it lacks a major university of its own, Indianapolis is still a regional center for education and medicine, with a large satellite campus for the two major state universities, Indiana University and Purdue University (IUPUI), located in the heart of downtown; the campus hosts, among others, the IU School of Informatics and a branch campus of the IU Medical School. In July 2024, IUPUI will be dissolved and replaced by new IU and Purdue campuses. The new Purdue University in Indianapolis will inherit IUPUI's engineering and computer science school (though not the informatics school), and Purdue will introduce many academic programs from its main West Lafayette campus to the new Indy campus. The rest of IUPUI will become the new Indiana University Indianapolis, which will inherit the IUPUI athletic program. The city also boasts several smaller private colleges and universities (Butler University and the University of Indianapolis foremost amongst them), pharmaceutical powerhouse Eli Lilly, and major hospitals which include not one but four Level I trauma centers, two of them pediatricnote  — including Methodist Hospital, noted for its ability to put busted racecar drivers back together.

Oh, and if anyone from Indy says "Raceday" without qualifiers they are invariably referring to the day before the Memorial Day holiday (which falls on the last Monday in May) and the Indianapolis 500. Indianapolis Motor Speedway (AKA "The Brickyard") may hold other races, but there is only one Raceday, thanks in part to the annual influx of nearly half a million spectators and the resulting partying, in part because it's the culmination of a month-long festival that kicks off with the aforementioned mini marathon and in part because the race has more than a century of history. Think of it as a Hoosier Mardi Gras — with automotive fuel. Lots of automotive fuel. Though automobile manufacturing has gradually vanished from Indy since the days of Stutz and Duesenberg, auto racing is still a vital part of the local economy, and Indy's famous "Gasoline Alley" is still a name to contend with even though these days the cars — as well as many of the fans — run on alcohol.

The only automobile race that can compare to the spectacle of the Indianapolis 500 is the Monaco Grand Prix, which usually takes place on the same day. Due to time zone differences, it's possible to watch one and attend the other.

  • The final game in the movie Hoosiers takes place at Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Butler campus, which is Truth in Television, since all 1950's era Indiana State basketball finals were played in Hinkle, including the one on which the story is based.
    • Likewise, the news reporters covering the Butler Bulldogs' appearances in the 2010 and 2011 NCAA Final Fours were apparently contractually obligated to mention that the Bulldogs' home court was "Hinkle Fieldhouse, where the movie Hoosiers was filmed", while completely missing the fact that the actual game that the movie was based on was played there as well.
  • The short-lived CBS crime series Close to Home took place in suburban Indianapolis.
  • The NBC comedy series Men Behaving Badly (not the original British version, obviously) is set here.
  • Indianapolis made a brief appearance in the Shia LeBeouf thriller Eagle Eye as one of the cities the harried protagonist is forced to visit.
    • While Indianapolis is indeed mentioned by name in the movie, they obviously didn't film there. Also, there are no tourbuses full of Japanese tourists in Indianapolis — except possibly on Raceday, of course.
  • One Day at a Time was set in Indianapolis.
  • The webcomic Everyday Heroes is explicitly set in Indianapolis. Mr. Mighty works for a Triple-A level minor league superhero team ("one step away from the major leagues"), a Shout-Out to the Indianapolis Indians baseball team.
  • An episode of The Flintstones sees Fred and Barney drive to its prehistoric counterpart, "Indianrockolis", to enter its auto race; Indianrockolis was shown as being several hours' drive from Bedrock.
  • The Bartlet campaign spent one episode of The West Wing in Indianapolis... ironically, the late date of the Indiana primaries means that in real life hardly anyone ever bothers to campaign in Indianapolisnote .
  • The climax of the film October Sky involves the state science fair in Indianapolis.
  • Indianapolis is one of the cities destroyed in the nuclear attack that occurs at the beginning of the television series Jericho (2006).
  • According to an oft-mocked world map included with the Sega Saturn RPG Tengai Makyou IV, Indy is in Michigan, north of Detroit, has a large waterfall to the northwest, and borders either the Atlantic Ocean or the St. Lawrence Seaway (it's difficult to tell).
  • The most iconic scene of the Alfred Hitchcock thriller North By Northwest involves the hero getting stuck on a country road in Indianapolis and being forced to duck an attacking crop duster. You don't actually see the city here, because the entire scene takes place in a cornfield AND the movie takes place in The '50s, when the city pretty much consisted of downtown, the Speedway to the west, and not much else. Note that Indianapolis is so big (402 square miles) that there are still some cornfields within city limits, even today.
    • According to the plot, this scene took place "an hour and a half" outside of Chicago, which would place them roughly halfway between Chicago and Indianapolis. Anyone who's driven through the part of Indiana between Chicago and Indianapolis, presuming they stayed awake, will recognize the flat, featureless terrain. But, wouldn't you know it, the scene was actually filmed near Bakersfield, California.
  • Obviously, the Sega racing game Indy 500 uses IMS as the beginning track, as does pretty much any other game involving the race.
  • In one of the episodes of M*A*S*H, Klinger names the city (or more accurately, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) when Winchester demands he drastically increase their jeep's speed.
    Major, there's a reason they don't run these things at Indianapolis!
  • Famous author and Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut had a somewhat complicated relationship with his hometown, once calling it "The city that woke up only one day a year" and criticizing its conservative political heritage.note  However, he happily presented Indianapolis (and Hoosiers in general) in a positive light most of the time, particularly in interviews. Indianapolis has since created a memorial library and three-story-high mural in his honor.
    “Indianapolis, Indiana is the first place in the United States of America where a white man was hanged for the murder of an Indian. The kind of people who'll hang a white man for murdering an Indian—that's the kind of people for me.”
    “I don’t know what it is about Hoosiers, but wherever you go there is always a Hoosier doing something very important there.”
  • Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's first job in America was in Indianapolis, back in 1973 when the town was still a little on the sleepy side. He says he wanted to work there because they have an automobile race, and Monte Carlo has an automobile race, so it must be posh and glamorous like Monte Carlo, right? He's always careful not to dis Indy, he just says it isn't what he expected.
  • Radio's The Bob & Tom Show is aired from here.
  • The Magnificent Ambersons takes place in Indianapolis around 1900.
  • The Mark Knopfler song "Speedway at Nazareth" (which summarizes a driver's entire racing season) contains an entire verse on the Indianapolis 500, including the line "The Brickyard's there to crucify anyone who does not learn." No other race gets more than two lines.
  • The seventh episode of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior was set in Indianapolis. At least some establishing shots were legitimately filmed there, as there's a very recognizable Monument Circle in the teaser.
  • The episode "Phantom Traveller" of Supernatural has its final scene take place at Indianapolis International Airport. Though it looks nothing like the Indy Airport which has a rather lot of glass and white rather than the very blue airport seen in the episode.
  • Parks and Recreation doesn't show us much of Indianapolis, but since the characters work in municipal government in small-town Indiana, "Indianapolis" is often mentioned with connotations of both "the Big City" and "the Powerful State Government," with all that implies. "Indianapolis" shows up most obviously when two representatives of the State Auditor's office, Chris Traeger and Ben Wyatt, appear; they end up liking Pawnee so much they become its City Manager and Deputy Manager, respectively.note 
  • In a season three episode of Criminal Minds, Rossi returns to an old case, where three children in Indianapolis, now adults, had found their parents murdered the day after attending a carnival on Christmas Eve. The Los Angeles dwelling writers did not do the research. Even a record high temperature in December, in Indianapolis, is going to be too cold for a traveling carnival to stop by.
  • John Green, author of An Abundance of Katherines, Looking for Alaska, and The Fault in Our Stars, lives in Indianapolis, and The Fault in Our Stars is set there.
  • The reality series "The Shift" spent two years documenting the cases of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police homicide squad.
  • Parts of the 1980s action movie Twice Under were filmed in downtown Indianapolis, in a tunnel system encasing a stream called Pogue's Run.
  • The 1955 Humphrey Bogart film The Desperate Hours takes place in Indianapolis, as does the 1954 novel it was adapted from.
  • The HGTV series Good Bones (2016–2023) features a mother-and-daughter home renovation team in the city. The series ended when the pair had a serious falling-out.

Notable people from Indianapolis: