What sounds like a deceptively lovely summer afternoon spent on the manicured grounds of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is a more Machiavellian exercise than you might think. At Wicket World of Croquet, the museum’s annual fundraiser, players—all wearing crisp whites and smiles—scheme to outdo each other with mallets and colorful balls. That’s when you realize the groundwork for this day has been laid for weeks, with the really serious croquet devotees practicing in backyard courts, gearing up for the big tourney. But even if you’re not the type who views the game as deadly serious chess on a lawn, there’s room here for you, too—just make sure you sign up for the Leisure Tournament, not the Competitive one.
Get attacked by adorable pink jackhammers at the new Flamingo Feed Experience at the Indianapolis Zoo. Three times a day, you can buy a cup of bird food and make friends with the flamboyant flock. Another recent addition: MISTery Park, home to furry, two-toed sloths hanging out in a foggy wonderland outfitted with the sounds of a rainforest—and misters to cool you off. If you dare, venture into the revamped Deserts Dome, where the latest resident is an ultra-deadly black-mamba snake.
Make date night more interesting—or round up the whole family—for horseback riding at K-Trails. No experience necessary for the guided rides through lovely Strawtown Koteewi Park, just north of Noblesville. Lasso up nine or more friends, and you can reserve a “chuck wagon” barbecue dinner waiting for you upon your return.
Ice Age kicks off a summerlong film series that will keep your kids happy even on the hottest days of the year: At 10 a.m. every Tuesday, the charming Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin screens a family flick, from Kung Fu Panda to Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown. A $5 ticket also gets you a popcorn and soda.
In movie drag races, there’s always that girl who raises a scarf in one hand, then whips it down dramatically to cue the cars to peel out. The weekly Wild Wednesday Street Legal Drag Races at Lucas Oil Raceway may lack that bit of theatrics, but dammit if gunning your engine alongside a competitor doesn’t make you feel like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, whether you’re in a sweet 1949 Mercury Coupe like his or your own sensible four-door sedan.
All together now: “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes …” Warble with fellow musical-theater nerds at The Cabaret’s Rent movie sing-along, a benefit for Indy Men’s Chorus.
For this month’s First Friday Food Truck Festival, the parking lot at Old National Centre is chockablock with more than 30 mobile kitchens slinging your favorite tacos, samosas, pizzas, and more. The lineup always changes, but count on stalwarts like Caplinger’s Fresh Catch, Ali Baba’s, and The Flying Cupcake to be parked there all season. Tickets are $5, with dogs let in free; expect lots of begging to ensue.
A week of LGBTQ+ celebration crescendos with the Cadillac Barbie Indy Pride Parade, which rewards early birds who’ve been nursing Bloody Marys for hours at a prime sidewalk brunch spot along Mass Ave. More than 100 floats will bring the spectacle, drag queens will strut, and bead necklaces will most definitely fly. Follow the rainbow connection to its end at Military Park for the massive Indy Pride Festival, which drew more than 30,000 people last year to peruse some 300 vendor booths.
Can you believe? Queer Eye’s grooming expert, Jonathan Van Ness, brings his Road to Beijing comedy tour to Old National Centre. It’s named for his mission to become a figure-skating star in time for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Just like his TV persona, this show is sure to be all about positivity, self-love, and laughs.
If you were one of the listeners hanging on to every word of Serial, the true-crime podcast that launched a thousand imitators, hear all about it straight from the storyteller’s mouth when Sarah Koenig stops by Clowes Hall. Host of the world’s most listened-to podcast, she’ll talk about the challenges, ups, and downs of the genre.
Just try not to shake your hips to the sounds of Endless Summer Band, whose concerts are like the most fun wedding reception you’ve ever been at, only better. The eight-person ensemble knows how to work an audience, segueing effortlessly from Elvis to “The Girl from Ipanema” to Bruno Mars, and somehow it all works. Catch them at the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater in Fishers.
Hitch a ride on the touring Skystar, guaranteed to make any Ferris wheel you’ve ridden seem rinky-dink. This one, the world’s largest portable observation wheel, is in Cincinnati through June 16. Ablaze in neon lights, it holds 36 climate-controlled gondolas, each with room for up to six people. Enjoy showstopping views as you soar nearly 15 stories over the city’s Riverfront Park.
Strawberry Festival has come a long way since 1965, when the women of Christ Church Cathedral baked up 100 shortcakes as a fundraiser. By last year, the number of homemade shortcakes had grown to 19,879—and they always sell out before the official 4 p.m. cutoff. Downtowners know to arrive on Monument Circle and queue up well before lunchtime in order to avoid long lines for “The Works,” which includes cake, berries, ice cream, and whipped topping. Oh, and bring seven bucks—cash only, please.
If you saw Bohemian Rhapsody and left the theater humming, get on your bike and ride to Conner Prairie for The Music of Queen: A Rock Symphony with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, plus a full rock band and vocals. New this year at Symphony on the Prairie are three huge LED screens that lend something of a Wembley Stadium vibe, plus a reserved-seating area right in front of the stage if you want to do things up royally.
Get out your best ratting comb: The original 1988 John Waters version of Hairspray plays at Newfields’s Summer Nights series. Ricki Lake still rules as Tracy Turnblad, the “baddest white dancer” in 1960s Baltimore. The movie at Newfields’s amphitheater starts at dusk, usually around 9:30 p.m., but hopefully you’ve snagged a decent spot on the grass well before then (kill time by wandering the museum’s lovely grounds). Person with the highest hair wins the night.
Nobody’s going to make you read The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson’s riveting 2003 best-seller about a real-life serial killer in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair. But if you do, you’ll probably be even better equipped to appreciate the details in White City Murder, a spoof-y musical take on the story at the new Phoenix Theatre. It’s from the kooky minds of Ben Asaykwee and Q Artistry, so you’re in for one offbeat matinee.
Quick—who was the Greek “Sun King” of ancient myth? If you blurted out “Helios”—or better yet, if you’re quibbling that, well, he was really more of a sun god—then you want to be at Sun King Brewery when it hosts Mythology and Fairytale Trivia night. Test your knowledge on tales from around the world and myths pertaining to Circe, last year’s New York Times No. 1 best-seller that recasts the infamous femme fatale of The Odyssey as a hero in her own right. The victorious team gets four day passes to this year’s Gen Con—but since Sun King beer is served all night, isn’t everyone really a winner here?
Get your tiki on at The Inferno Room—on a Tuesday night, you might actually stand a chance of landing one of the two-level (but tiny) bar’s coveted tables. Because you don’t want to be loitering out on the sidewalk getting hot and sweaty waiting for a spot to open up—no, you want to be inside, nestled in one of the cozy alcoves, sipping an icy extra-strength Painkiller.
Browse flower bouquets, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini bread, and other locally produced goods at the weekly Original Farmers’ Market on the brick-lined street in front of City Market. If you’re lucky, you’ll find basil by the generous bunch—perfect for blending into pesto tonight.
Float on at A Rising Tide, a promising new arts initiative that’s putting a stage right on the White River from 16th Street to New York Street. The idea from Indy Convergence is for the shores and even the river itself to become a seasonal theater district, with a lineup of acts on and around the water this summer. They launch with a free show from Tony Duncan, a hoop dancer who will perform (on land) and also lead a nature walk. Optional beach party afterward.
You have to stop by the Rathskeller’s Biergarten at least once this summer. It’s a law, or something. Make it this night, when the band Polka Boy rolls out the barrel of fun. Their repertoire runs the gamut from traditional polka to Tom Jones; it’s all likely to lure you to the dance floor, especially after hoisting a stein or two of Kölsch from the outdoor bar.
Bicycle by starlight at N.I.T.E. Ride, a 20-mile loop that takes you through downtown, Butler University, New-fields, and more, at 11 p.m. Leery of pedaling your way around in the dark? There’s safety in numbers—expect some 3,000 other cyclists. If you need a two-wheeler for the occasion, rent one at Bicycle Garage Indy at City Market, where the whole thing gets rolling.
A Sunday stroll is the perfect time to interact with public art on the Cultural Trail. On Mass Ave alone, you can sniff the “scent vault” near the Metro Nightclub, where an ornate grate hides a perfuming device that sends the scent of roses wafting up into the alley (probably the only time you’ll ever want to smell one); hit the “Care/Don’t Care” button just east of College Avenue; sway with Ann Dancing where the main drag intersects with Vermont and Alabama streets; and take a selfie with you as the “I” in the NDY sculpture at Alabama Street. Instagram that last one, please—we all want to see.
So you had to go back to work today. Beat away the Monday-night blues with a ping-pong paddle at Smash Social, where $10 gets you unlimited play—or secure a perch in the loft, curl up with a butterbeer latte or a local craft brew, and watch the games that are afoot.
Indulge in a pineapple-basil, strawberry-rhubarb, or sour-cherry-cola popsicle at Nicey Treat, purveyors of the best ice pops in town.
“Know how to two-step?” “Yup.” “Wanna prove it?” So begins the cinematic romance between Bud (John Travolta) and Sissy (Debra Winger) in Urban Cowboy, the 1980 country classic that made cowboy boots and mechanical bulls a thing for a while. Standing in for the legendary Texas saloon Gilley’s is Duke’s, southside Indy’s own honky-tonk—it’s hosting a screening along with Big Car Collaborative.
Stop No. 1: The Smoking Goose, for Batali sandwiches to go. Stop No. 2: The Indiana History Center, where you can enjoy your spread on the grass at free Concerts on the Canal. Tonight’s band is Groove Essential, who promise dance hits to get you working off that picnic dinner. The bonus is free admission to the Indiana History Center itself, which is hosting From Pencils to Pixels: Hoosier Cartoons and Comics, a special pop-up exhibit.
Wind down a long, hot week with an evening spent sipping wine slushies at Urban Vines. The Westfield winery is known for a fun party vibe on warm nights, and turning their vino into what are essentially sippable Sno-Cones shows they don’t take themselves too seriously. The swirly blackberry-and-rosé frozen concoction is almost too pretty to drink, but we trust you’ll find a way.
Chalk artists, living statues, aerialists, fire dancers, caricature artists, magicians, jugglers, mimes, and more flood downtown Fort Wayne for Buskerfest, a free celebration of the street performer.
Head off to summer camp and return with a quilt you made yourself. Today begins the four-day Quilt Camp at YMCA Tecumseh Leadership Center, in the woods about a half-hour northeast of Lafayette—a bucolic place to snip and stitch, whether you’re a veteran or just bought your first Singer.
This list will be updated.