Experience: The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art is one of only two museums east of the Mississippi to showcase Native American Indian and Western art, culture and history; $8 adults, $5 students/children 5-17; 500 W. Washington St., 317-636-9378, www.eiteljorg.org. Northwest of downtown and near to the Crown Hill Cemetery (worth a visit; $5 car tour) is the Indianapolis Museum of Art with a collection of more than 54,000 works, including African, American, Asian, and European pieces. Admission to the museum, Lilly House and 100 Acres Sculpture, Art & Nature Park is free; 4000 N. Michigan Road, 317-920-2660, www.imamuseum.org.
Getting there: Rates start from $183 each way; 21-day advance purchase; nonstop AirTran or Delta (Delta requires a Saturday night minimum stay; 30-day maximum).
Stay: The new towering JW Marriott (33 floors with more than 1,000 guest rooms) is steps from the Indianapolis Zoo, many museums, shops and restaurants. Winter rates range from $159-$174; $194 with breakfast and from $259 for executive lounge access; 10 S. West St., 317-860-5800, www.jwindy.com.
Eat: Come as you are to Mesh -- a neighborhood hot spot fusing classic dishes with a bit of soul. Starters range from $7-14 and mains (duck, short ribs, Amish chicken) from $14-$29. A $2 bar menu attracts patrons from 3-6 p.m. and at late night; 725 Massachusetts Ave., 317-955-9600, www.meshonmass.com.
Experience: The Indianapolis Zoo is also home to an aquarium and White River Gardens. Located in the White River State Park, the zoo plays a large role in worldwide animal conservation and research. Adult admission $9.50; $7.50 seniors/youths. Winter hours are noon-9 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays; closed Mondays, Tuesdays through Dec. 23; open Monday-Friday Dec. 26-30 (closed Dec. 31; Jan. 1); 1200 W. Washington St., 317-630-2001, www.indyzoo.com.
Getting there: One-way, walk-up coach class rates from $222; nonstop AirTran or Delta (Delta requires a Saturday night minimum stay; 30-day maximum).
Stay: The sophisticated Conrad Indianapolis features a new wellness center with a spa and salon, a fitness center, pool and two top restaurants. Nightly winter rates from $199-$259; from $249-$309 with full breakfast. An indoor sky-bridge connects the hotel to a mall and the Artsgarden, a seven-story-tall glass enclosed structure offering more than 300 free performances and exhibits each year (www.indyarts.org); 50 W. Washington St., 317-713-5000, www.conradindianapolis.com.
Eat: The Capital Grille is classically clubby with stuffed game heads, deco chandeliers and high-end cocktails. But come for the dry aged steaks (Porcini Rubbed Delmonico with 12-Year Aged Balsamic, $43), seafood and for a choice of more than 5,000 bottles of wine. Starters $12-$18; mains $32-$49; 40 W. Washington St., inside the Conrad Hilton, 317-423-8790, www.thecapitalgrille.com.
Experience: The ultimate in Indy is the Racing Experience Driving Program at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Drive or ride the historic 2.5-mile course for three laps ($499 with instruction) or drive three laps followed by riding two laps ($599). The IZOD IndyCar Series program operates May-October with the 2012 schedule to be released in January; 1-888-357-5002, www.indyracingexperience.com.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.