Quick Facts About Indianapolis
Approachable, laid-back and lively, Indianapolis is family-centric city of 880,000 in the center of the Midwest, but it’s also the cultural heart of the Hoosier State.
As the Crossroads of America, Indianapolis home to exciting destinations like the Newfields Museum, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the Indy 500, but the city is just three hours from Chicago, four from St. Louis, and five from Cleveland, putting it within easy reach of hundreds of museums and historic sites — and the shores of the Great Lakes.
If you’re looking for natural wonders, Indianapolis has plenty of its own to enjoy. Located on the White River in pastoral Marion County, this capital city has miles upon miles of connected pathways, where you can enjoy the views of the water from the banks or up close in a kayak or canoe. Cyclists can explore the city on the popular Monon Trail, which converted 25 miles of old railways into the place to be, and with more miles coming soon to the pathway, the Monon has truly made Indianapolis an urban biking destination.
One quirky fact about this city, otherwise known for its constancy, is how it keeps time. Though you might expect a city this close to the center of the country to be in the Central Time Zone, Indianapolis is firmly in the Eastern camp, confounding some of its Midwestern neighbors. And just as it became comfortable with observing Daylight Savings Time (it held out for decades), now the rest of the nation is coming around to the idea that permanently observing Standard Time isn’t such a crazy idea after all.
Whether you’re thinking of moving to Indianapolis to be closer to family or because you’re starting a new career, the Hoosier State has a lot to offer to newcomers, who are sure to feel right at home in no time. Learn more below about the city below and the state of Indiana.
What It’s Like Living in Indianapolis
Affordable Cost of Living
Like many Midwestern neighbors, Indianapolis has a low cost of living, and real estate offers savings compared to coastal giants like New York City and Los Angeles.
The median home value in Indianapolis averaged $184,600 between 2018 and 2022 — $100,000 less than the national average but comparable to prices in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Milwaukee, which range from $157,800 to $192,000. The median home value in NYC, on the other hand, is more than $700,000 now, and LA’s prices top the $800,000 mark, which may be one reason home ownership in those cities is below 40%, while Indianapolis’ is nearly 55%.
Renting is also considerably more affordable in Indy. The median gross rent averages just $1,046 — markedly lower than New York and LA, which both exceed $1,700, and the U.S average of $1,268.
But, be prepared: income levels are also lower in the city. At $59,110, the median household income in Indianapolis is comparable to similarly sized Midwestern cities, but it’s more than $7,500 below the state average.
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The nonfarm labor force in the greater Indianapolis-Carmel area is now 1.2 million, and the city has a diverse range of industries and occupations for employees to choose from. Trade, Transportation & Utilities is far and away the largest single sector, with more than 249,000 employees and a modest rate of growth (0.4% YoY). Professional and Business Services has gained 2.2% over the past year and now employs more than 200,000 area residents. Education and Health Services grew by the same rate, bringing its total employment to 182,000 in October 2023. The Government also has a sizable footprint in the Indianapolis workforce, as do Leisure & Hospitality and Manufacturing, both of which saw substantial gains in the last twelve months.
Indianapolis has a low unemployment rate (3%), but wages aren’t high in this central Indiana city. According to Zoom Prospector, the highest earners hold managerial positions, which have a median annual wage of $91,116,80, followed by Computer & Mathematical Occupations ($81,208.24) and Legal Occupations ($79,071.56). The lowest wages are in the Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations industry ($29,146.59), Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations ($25,991.40) and Personal Care & Services ($25,648.38).
Education and Schools
Family-friendly Indianapolis is known for its educational institutions, from its early education programs to its graduate schools. The region is home to 63 charter schools and 15 magnet schools, many of which have a high teacher to student ratio. Purdue University Polytechnic High School is nationally known, particularly for its highly regarded STEM programs.
Indianapolis universities, like Purdue and IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis), are probably equally known for their athletics and their academics, and combined with Ball State University, Ivy Tech Community College and Butler University — the #1-ranked regional university in the Midwest (U.S. News & World Report) — these schools make Indianapolis a booming college town and a research epicenter in the Midwest.
Best Neighborhoods in Indianapolis
With its vibrant downtown core — relevant to residents and visitors alike — downtown Indianapolis has long been an outlier in the region and perhaps the country as a whole. Indy is now infusing $9 billion in this already popular area to ensure it maintains its status and builds on it for years to come. Destinations like the Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, and the Indianapolis Zoo make downtown a hub for tourists. But the walkability of the area, the welcoming greenspaces and the gathering spots like the Indianapolis City Market fill the area with enjoyable activities for residents year-round. (Pro tip: book a tour to see the catacombs that lie beneath the Indianapolis City Market!) Great food abounds downtown, but one must-eat-at establishment is Bluebeard. This elegant by approachable gastropub by the same name as the Kurt Vonnegut novel has a lively menu where curried vegetables and kimchi bokumbap feel equally at home alongside mussels in brown ale and beef tostadas.
Fountain Square is an edgy, in-town district just east of I-65 that centers around an actual historic fountain. One of the best places to eat in this funky, friendly area is Milktooth — a “fine diner” with odd hours but an excellent menu. The drool-worth patty melt is made with Creekstone Farms beef and local mushrooms, the sourdough waffles are legendary, and we admire any establishment that understands how to make both cheese grits and latkes. It’s a gift. After dark, you might visit the White Rabbit Cabaret for a little burlesque action, but if you have the kids in tow, try the Atomic Bowl for an evening throwback sporting fun.
Broad Ripple is a near-town neighborhood anchored by the White River, which loops its way through the district’s center and is the focal point for outdoor recreation. Broad Ripple Park provides families with 65 acres of land to hike, bike and play on, with woodland trails, a swimming pool and a boat ramp, for those who want to spend the day on the water. But Broad Ripple is also known for the Indianapolis Arts Center, which was founded in 1934 as a WPA project and is now housed in a building designed by the world-famous (and Indiana-born) Michael Graves. You can take classes in everything from jewelry to book arts, and see exhibitions and outdoor work in the ARTSPARK, which also hosts art fairs and other public festivals. When it’s time to eat, Flatwater is the perfect spot to soak up the outdoors without breaking a sweat. This canalside venue has live music on their patio during the warmer months, so you can enjoy your avocado shrimp crostini or a Hoosier tenderloin sandwich with an icy Bier Brewery Kolsch by the water.
Roughly 25 miles north of Indy — but worlds away from downtown life — lies Carmel, a tony suburb of 100,000. But if you’re worried about missing out on city fun, don’t be. This well-appointed district has built its own City Center — a retail and hotel hub where you can shop, dine, workout and attend community events, like the popular Carmel Christkindlmarkt, a Christmas festival steeped in German traditions. One of the hotspots of the City Center is Divvy, an upscale tavern that serves small plates with global influences, from hot fried duck baos to chicken street tacos. The Museum of Miniature Houses is a charming centerpiece in the city’s Arts & Design District, and you’ll have access to lots of other desirable amenities, too, like the Monon Trail, public parks, a great library, and top-notch schools (Carmel’s are ranked sixth in the state). Housing in Carmel is expensive, particularly by Indiana standards, and the median home value here is $425,900 and rent averages $1,500 per month.
Note: If you’re thinking of moving to the Indianapolis area, it’s important to thoroughly research neighborhoods you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to live, make sure you understand the area’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
Explore Indy Like a Hoosier
Recreation and Entertainment
You can hardly say the word Indianapolis without thinking of the Indy 500, and absolutely no one in the city will blame you for heading straight to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when you arrive. The 2024 season kicks off with a once-in-a-blue-moon event: The total solar eclipse. Instead of cars chasing each other around the track, visitors will be watching for the moment of totality when the moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. But after that, the normal race schedule resumes with the Indy 500 in May and the Brickyard 400 in July. Those who have always wanted to get in on the action can purchase a ride-along with a pro for three wind-whipping laps around the course at 180mph.
The heart of downtown Indianapolis is Monument Circle, where the Soldiers & Sailors Monument honors Indiana servicemen from the Revolutionary War through the Spanish-American War. The Observatory soars 231 feet above the city streets, and you can climb the 330 steps to the top, if you’re feeling ambitious, or take the easy way out and use the elevator. Picnicking is a popular activity at this central gathering spot, which connects you to the American Legion Mall and other important memorials in the area.
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is one of the finest of its kind in the country and kids and grownups will have a blast exploring exhibits indoors and out. Take a spin on the iconic carousel or travel to ancient Egypt. Learn about children who made history or learn how to make yourself a living legend on the pedal car racetrack. Whether you’re into sports, science or world culture, there’s something for everyone at this special place.
One of the state’s best-known history-makers is honored at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial & Library. You can see artifacts from the Indianapolis-born author and satirist who made a name for himself with novels like Slaughterhouse Five and attend events celebrating free speech, intellectual freedom and all things literary.
Parks and Outdoor Activities
With the White River as its backbone, Indianapolis is an unexpected natural wonderland. On the city’s south side, Garfield Park is the oldest in the city (est. 1873) and one of the best. While the 122-acre facility has expected amenities like a pool, pickleball courts, and a gym (which you can use for a mere $15/month), there is also a sunken garden, a visual arts center and a performing arts center, among other highlights.
Eagle Creek Park is so large you could spend a weekend exploring it and only scratch the surface. This 1,400-acre reserve has forested hiking trails, including a 9-miler through the bird sanctuary, a rowing center, a zipline adventure course and a sailing club. The Eagle Creek Reservoir is the park’s centerpiece, where swimming and boating are popular in the warmer months. On its banks, Rick’s Café serves seaside favorites to inland diners — so if you’ve had a hankering for oysters and king crab, you can get your fix without going coastal.
One of the smartest things the city has done is create the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which makes it easy to explore the Indy’s major attractions. Because bike and pedestrian pathways connect the destinations, you can ditch your car and enjoy the scenery, from picnicking at Lugar Plaza, to strolling down the Canal Walk or letting the kids burn off steam at the new Colts Canal Playspace. Downtown Indy is filled with historic architecture, too, so don’t forget to look up or you might miss the Athenaeum, the Union 525 and the Indiana Statehouse.
When you really need to escape modern life, take your family to the cellphone-free land before TikTok at Connor Prairie. At this outdoor museum, you’ll be immersed in old-timey Hoosier life, where you can learn to build a Shaker-style table, forge a pair of barbeque skewers and tour the historic buildings of Prairietown.
When the hot Indianapolis summer rolls around, treat your family to a float trip down the White River. An outfitter can hook you up with canoes, kayaks or tubes for a leisurely ride down this beloved waterway.
The Indy 500 is certainly not the only high-octane action in the great city of Indianapolis. Sports fanatics have two major pro teams to back: the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, once coached by the legendary Larry Bird, and the Indianapolis Colts, that left Baltimore — their previous hometown — steeped in regret when they clinched the national title in 2007.
Indy is also a major college sports town. The Purdue Boilermakers football team plays at Ross-Ade stadium, which is currently undergoing a $45 million enhancement, and is making for some seriously luxurious digs for footballers and their fanbase. The Big Ten school’s basketball team finished out the 2022-23 season in first place in the conference, beating out their biggest rival, the IU Hoosiers.
Commuting in Indianapolis
With an average commute time of 24 minutes, it takes just slightly longer to get to work in Indianapolis than it does in comparable Midwestern cities like Cincinnati and St. Louis, but several minutes less than the average American commuter. Residents may have the IndyGo system to thank for that.
While Indianapolis doesn’t have a light rail system, it does have an impressive rapid bus service, which incorporates a lot of desirable features of train systems without the expensive infrastructure required to operate them. Travelers on routes like the 13-mile-long Red Line will board the spacious buses from level platforms and pay for service ahead of boarding, increasing accessibility and speed of service. Express buses depart at frequent intervals and often travel along dedicated bus lanes, allowing them to bypass ordinary rush hour traffic woes. While the easiest way to get around this city with its extensive suburban sprawl is still an automobile, the civic and sustainability minded may find it’s less of a hassle to leave the driving to the professionals, leaving you with more time for crosswords and Wordling. A standard two-hour transfer ticket for the bus costs just $1.75 and a one-day pass is $4. IndyGo prices vary by distance and range from $3.50-$10 per ride.
Bike commuting is gaining traction in the Crossroads of America. Named one of America’s Top 15 Biking Cities, Indy has several trail systems that can take you through the city’s most popular corridors on two wheels. The Big 4 Rail Trail is a rails-to-trails beauty that already spans 21.5 miles and will eventually extend to 50, and the Indiana Cultural Trail can connect you to all the hot spots in town. Need a ride? Try Indiana Pacers Bikeshare, where an annual pass costs only $125 for unlimited 60-minute rides.
Final Thoughts About Moving to Indianapolis
If you think moving to a city with a diverse job market, great family-friendly attractions and an affordable cost of living is right for you, let United Van Lines handle your move to Indianapolis. We know this is an exciting time, and we’ll be there for you for the road ahead.
It’s never too early to start looking for the right professional moving company and to start gathering moving quotes. As America’s #1 Mover®, we can help make your relocation easier, whether you’re moving locally or you’re moving across the U.S.
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Moving to Indy from another city in Indiana? If you’re moving across the state or even just across the city, United Van Lines can assist you with local movers in Indianapolis and local movers in Indiana independently under their own brands and businesses.
Moving to Indy on your own? United Van Lines still has professional resources for the DIY mover. Follow our guides to create a moving checklist, which will help you stay organized and on track. And, check out these pro tips for packing, moving day and settling in.
Still unsure where to move to in the Hoosier State? Get essential information about popular cities and sights in our Guide to Moving to Indiana.