14 Pros and Cons of Living in Indianapolis, IN

Updated On October 9, 2023
Indianapolis, IN

As a city of 901,082 people on 361.6 square miles, Indianapolis offers experiences and activities that rival the 28 larger US cities.

Its combination of quirky and classic community events, cuisines, and cultural districts draws people here and keeps them coming back year after year.

As a result, Indianapolis has something fresh and new to offer every time.

Indianapolis, IN
Indianapolis, IN

Pros of Living in Indianapolis

1. The Indy 500

From the first race in 1911 through today, the Indy 500 continues its tradition as part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport.

This world-famous auto race takes place annually on Memorial Day, along with the  Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

A Field of 33

Although forty drivers competed in the maiden Indy 500 in 1911, the field narrowed to 33 in 1912 for safety reasons.

In addition, driving teams required a riding mechanic beginning that same year.

A Bottle of Milk

Three-time-winning driver Louis Meyer swigged a bottle of buttermilk at the end of his third race in 1936.

The American Dairy Association continues to supply milk in a glass bottle to the winning driver at the end of each race in honor of the tradition.

Back Home Again in Indiana

The first time anyone sang the 1917 Tin Pan Alley jazz standard, “Back Home Again in Indiana,” at the Indy 500 was in 1946.

In an updated version in 2015, the first year after actor Jim Nabors retired, the group Straight, No Chaser performed their crowd-pleasing a capella version of the Indy 500 standard.

2. Gen Con 

Attracting 50,000 visitors in 2022, Gen Con continues a tradition begun in 1967 by Dungeons and Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax.

The Best Four Days in Gaming takes place on the first weekend in August. 

Anyone can run events, whether you want to showcase a new game, bring new players into your fandom, or wish to enjoy meeting other players while participating in a game you love.

3. Rocky Horror Picture Show: Transylvania Lip Treatment

Fans of Riff Raff, Rocky, Janet, Eddie, and Dr. Frank-N-Furter should catch a Rocky Horror Picture Show performance, played by Transylvania Lip Treatment.

TLT put on its first performance of RHPS in 2010 and celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2020.

Indiana resident Cher Guevara portrays the current Riff Raff.

Guevara also played Rocky between November and March for many years. (He looks fabulous in gold lamé shorts).

On several occasions, Guevara has stepped in to play Janet, Brad, Eddie, and the Criminologist, Dr. Scott. Guevara loves playing Riff Raff but aspires to the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

4. Quirky Museums

However, the Rocky Horror Picture Show does not hold the quirkiness record in Indianapolis.

In addition to the Indy Motor Speedway Museum, located at 4750 West 16th Street, you will find the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and LibraryRhythm! Discovery Center and the Museum of Minature Houses and Other Collections in Carmel, just north of downtown Indianapolis.

The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, located at 543 Indiana Avenue, offers a Youth Writing Program, a Teaching Vonnegut program every July, and a Veterans writing program called Writing in Peace.

Museum membership options start at $60 for one adult or $30 for a veteran, senior citizen, or student and go all the way to the $10,000 per year Uncle Alex’s Crew level for the most gung ho supporters and their families.

The Rhythm!Discovery Center at 110 West Washington Street, Suite A, Lower Level, bills itself as the world’s only interactive drum and percussion museum.

With over 2000 percussion instruments in an annually-rotating collection, the museum attracts more than 20,000 visitors.

The Museum of Miniature Houses and Other Collections at 111 East Main Street features an Inspiration Room which you can visit by appointment only to learn the techniques that enable miniature artists to create their masterpieces.

Visit the permanent and special collections on Friday and Saturday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM and on Sunday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

5. Benjamin Harrison Presidential Home

For something more traditional, you may visit President Benjamin Harrison’s home Monday through Saturday from 10 AM to 3:30 PM and on Sundays between 12 PM and  3:30 PM.

As our 23rd President, Harrison established the Coast Guard Academy, placed 13 million acres of forest land into national forests, and oversaw the addition of six new states into the Union.

His grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was our ninth President. So far, no other grandfather/grandson pairs have ever served as President.

6. Outdoor Activities

White River Park

With 27 parks along 116 miles of shoreline, Indianapolis visitors can canoe, fish, hike, and bike.

Remember to take advantage of Free Paddle Day, when you can rent a kayak for a refundable $20 deposit for a leisurely two to three-hour trip.

Stop along the Indianapolis Cultural Trail on the river at the end of your day.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail

This scenic trail encircles the city connecting six public cultural spaces via bike trails. 

No bike?

No problem!

Rent one from  Indiana Pacers Bikeshare and enjoy the nine public art pieces along the route or ride along the Peace Walk.

Canal Walk

The Canal Walk begins at the White River. Walk to West Street and then north to 10th Street.

The three-mile loop runs past paddle boat and gondola rentals, and you can also enjoy carriage rides along the canal.

Better still, you can rent a section of the waterway for special events.

Imagine the fun of a family reunion or company picnic along the canal. 

7. Food Venues

Diners have an excellent selection of cuisines in Indianapolis, including soul food restaurants, fine and semi-formal dining experiences, and local favorites.

But, first, enjoy Indianapolis’ signature chicken sandwich at World Famous Hotboys: the Nap Special: an Oakland-style jumbo chicken tender on a bun.

Your Sando comes topped with Hotboys slaw, pickles, and Dirty Dave’s Top Secret Ranch or Money Sauce.

Head to Momma’s Kitchen for fried catfish, Simply Southern for some oxtails and collard greens, or Pa and Ma’s Backyard BBQ for fresh jumbo shrimp and turkey sausage gumbo over white rice with hot water cornbread.

8. Famous Indianapolis People

Madam CJ Walker sold her “Wonderful Hair Grower” from Indianapolis for several years while becoming America’s first self-made female millionaire and a generous philanthropist.

Jane Pauley was born in Indianapolis in 1950 and currently hosts CBS Sunday Morning. 

An Indianapolis native, producer, director, and screenwriter Ryan Murphy produced the hit television series Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story, Pose, and many others.

Cons of Living in Indianapolis

1. Air Quality

Indianapolis ranks 13th worst for particle pollution (soot) throughout the year.

According to the American Lung Association, smog, known as ground-level ozone, also wreaks havoc on Indianapolis residents’ lungs.

2. Crime

The city has seen 101 homicides as of June 20, 2022, down from 117 this same month in 2021.

In addition, the city has a higher percentage of property crimes than cities with similar population sizes.

3. Public Transit

IndyGo, the bus system in Indianapolis, runs 32 bus routes plus three rapid transit routes. 

All charge the same fares: $4.00 for a one-day pass, 17.50 for ten full-fare trips, or $60 for 31 days.

Taxi services include Indianapolis Taxi Service, Green Cab LLC, Indy Airport Taxi, AAA American Taxi, AAA Hoosier Cab, and Z-Trip.

Rounding out the public transit options, Indiana Pacers Bikeshare makes a great sunny-day alternative to driving your vehicle around town.

The downside of IndyGo is a reduced number of stops the farther you travel from the city center. 

Indiana Pacers Bikeshare dropoff points cluster closest to the city center and northward. 

They do not serve West Indianapolis or Old Southside.

4. Weather

More than 18,800 Indianapolis homes have a 26 percent or greater risk of flood damage through 2050.

In addition, 100 percent of Indianapolis homes are at moderate risk for a heat wave.

Thankfully, however, so few homes in the city show risk for wildfire damage makes the percentage of potentially affected homes effectively zero.

5. Employment Statistics

As of June 2022, unemployment in the Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson Metropolitan Area hit three percent.

While this gives job seekers a greater chance of finding work, it gives Indianapolis employers a significant headache.

While many parents have not returned to their workplaces since 2020 due to a lack of affordable childcare, older workers who took early retirement have also not returned.

In addition, service sector employees from minimum-wage jobs who used to work for multiple employers have decided that one position serves their needs now that wages have risen.

Attracting these workers back into the labor force will require raising wages, providing flexible work options, and coaxing older workers out of retirement.

6. Public Education

The Indianapolis Public Schools system consists of 54 schools serving almost 23,000 students.

More than 54 percent of those students fit federal criteria for the free and reduced-price lunch program.

However, only 61.5 percent of students graduate from the district, and only 26 percent of high school students tested at or above the proficient level in reading. 

Indianapolis, IN
Indianapolis, IN

Pros and Cons of Living in Indianapolis, IN – Summary Table

Pros of Living in IndianapolisCons of Living in Indianapolis
1. The Indy 5001. Air Quality
2. Gen Con 2. Crime
3. Rocky Horror Picture Show: Transylvania Lip Treatment3. Public Transit
4. Quirky Museums4. Weather
5. Benjamin Harrison Presidential Home5. Employment Statistics
6. Outdoor Activities6. Public Education
7. Food Venues
8. Famous Indianapolis People

Indianapolis Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Indianapolis Safety Review

Safety Index:

Frequently Asked Questions

How many cities have a larger population than Indianapolis?

28 cities have more people than Indianapolis.

How many students do the 54 schools of the Indianapolis Public School District serve?

Almost 23.000.

Name three of President Benjamin Harrison's accomplishments.

Harrison established the Coast Guard Academy, converted 13 million acres of woodland into national forests, and added six states to the Union during his presidency.

How many people visit the "Rhythm! Discovery Center" each year?

The center’s 2000 instruments on exhibit bring over 20,000 visitors to the center every year.

What three educational programs does the Kurt Vonnegut Museum hold every year?

The museum has a Youth Writing Program, a Teaching Vonnegut program every July, and a Veterans writing program called Writing in Peace.

When did the tradition of singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" begin?

The song’s first performance occurred in 1946, before the first race after the end of World War II.

Why do winners hold a bottle of milk in the winner's circle at the end of the race?

When Louis Meyer won his third race, he swigged a glass of buttermilk.

The American Dairy Association now supplies the bottles of milk that winners drink.

When did the Brickyard limit the total number of racers to 33?

The second year, in 1912, was for safety reasons.

In what year did the first Indianapolis 500 race take place?

The first race took place in 1911.

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