Indianapolis has the kind of small-town feel for which the Midwest is known. From historic architecture to formula racecars, the city has a little something for everyone. With a dense urban core packed with cultural attractions, mouthwatering food, and world-class entertainment – Indy is a great place to live and play. But don’t let the region’s sleepy reputation fool you: Indianapolis is both a major city and a hip regional destination. This capital city is the most populous in the state and offers just the sorts of perks you might expect from the 16th largest (area-wise) city in the country.

Several universities promise a steady influx of young people to Indianapolis, and not surprisingly, an amazing microbrew scene and happening nightlife keep young professionals happy to stick around. What’s more, nature is always close by, found in the many parks and green spaces around the city. To top it all off, Indianapolis is a wonderfully family-friendly city. So, welcome to your new hometown!

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Living in Indianapolis, IN: What to Know Before Moving to Indianapolis

The most populous city in Indiana is home to 876,862 people, but the entire metro area population is 2,048,703. This “Crossroads of America” is no joke: six interstate highways pass through the city.

Pros and Cons of Living in Indianapolis

Pros:

  • Friendliness – Indy is a city where people hold open doors and wave to strangers.
  • Greenspace – The greenways, parks, and riverfronts are perfect for outdoorsy types.
  • Cost of Living – A high standard of life, including homeownership, is attainable here.
  • Great sports town – There are ample opportunities to attend live sporting events.
  • Easy driving/parking – Compared to many cities of comparable size, traffic is light here.
  • Walkability – Many parts of the city are imminently walkable.

Cons:

  • Lack of Diversity – The cultural makeup is a little bland, with very little international flavor.
  • Road conditions – Indy experiences temperature extremes and has the potholes to prove it.
  • Car dependent – Public transportation is too limited to support going carless in the sprawl.
  • Cold Winters – It’s only a few months of the year, but the cold here is extreme.
  • Landlocked – Smack dab in the middle of the country without an ocean or mountain in sight.

Tax Rates

  • Property Tax: Primary residences are taxed, on average, at 1.15% of assessed market value. Although slightly higher than the national average of 1.08%, the median property tax in Indianapolis of $1,408 is lower than the national median of $2,090 thanks to lower property values.
  • Sales Tax: Residents of Indy pay a combined sales tax rate of 7%, compared to a 7.3% average sales tax rate for the US.
  • State Income Tax: Indiana has a flat state income tax of 3.23% for all residents, regardless of income. The US average state income tax is 4.6%.

Housing Market

Indianapolis’s housing market is very competitive and shows no sign of slowing. While still affordable overall, home values are climbing each year, with the average sales price in fall, 2019, at $160,000. The median home value is $156,000 as of November 2019, but the median list price of homes is $184,900.

Home values increased by 8.7% in the past year and are forecast to go up another 5.4% in 2020. With a shortage of housing on the market, properties tend to sell quickly and above asking price. The majority of residents own their homes, and 34.56% of Indianapolis residents are renters.

Indianapolis is less expensive for renters than comparable cities, but costs are climbing. The average rent is currently $1,104, below the national average but 15% higher than last year. Despite rising rents, it’s still possible to score a good deal in neighborhoods like Lockerbie Square, Meridian Kessler, or Fountain Square.

Cost of Living

Indianapolis is a very affordable city. Bestplaces.net calculates the cost of living index based on a US average of 100. The Indianapolis cost of living index is 83.5 out of 100, considerably lower than the national average. This low index is primarily due to very low housing costs of 61.9 of 100. Other lower than average costs are grocery at 93.6, health at 86.8, transportation at 90.8, and utilities 90.2.

The median household income in Indianapolis is $32,086, about $5,000 less than the national average. Based on Economic Policy Institute calculations, a single person living in Indianapolis can expect to get by on $2,794 per month, but a couple with two children must earn $6,857 per month ($82,285/year) to live a moderate lifestyle.

Weather & Natural Disasters

The Indianapolis climate is humid continental, and here, you’ll get to enjoy the benefits all four seasons. Indianapolis is reliably warm from late May to late September, with highs averaging around 75 degrees. The hottest time of year is mid-July, where average highs hover near 85 degrees. Winter is long, cold, and dark, lasting from the beginning of December to at least March. Average daily highs in winter run about 36 degrees and average lows are below freezing. Snowfall can begin as early as November and may last as late as April. The average annual rainfall is 42,” and annual snowfall is about 22”. However, late spring to early fall is an ideal time for enjoying outdoor activities, as long as you don’t mind a little humidity.

Indianapolis is no stranger to natural disasters, as it’s prone to ice storms, tornadoes, heat waves, earthquakes, and floods. Severe weather events are one of the most prevalent threats to the city, but due to their frequency, Indy residents are well-prepared for violent storms. Residents in flood-prone areas are advised to invest in flood insurance. The Department of Homeland Security has plenty of excellent resources available online to help families prepare for Indianapolis disasters.

Economy & Job Market

Indianapolis’ economy is currently in a steady state of growth. In the last year alone, the city has added almost 23,000 new jobs, and the unemployment rate has remained steady at around 3.4%, slightly below the 3.7% national average.

Local employment sectors reflect some larger national trends: health care and social services form the largest employment sector and grew over 4.4% in the last year. Additional high growth sectors are transportation and distribution, and while manufacturing jobs are down, wages in the sector have increased by 10.6 percent in 2019. The largest employers are Allison Transmissions, Angie’s List, Anthem, Cummins, IU Health University Hospital, St Vincent Hospital, Eli Lilly & Co, Roche Diagnostics Corp, Rolls-Royce Corp, FSSA/Financial Management 85, and Salesforce.

Job seekers should look for employment in healthcare, social services, education, engineering, research, and manufacturing. Some of the resources available to help you find work include the IndyStar Job Network, EmployIndy, Indiana Career Connect, or Work For Indiana for government jobs. The general feeling on job seeking in Indianapolis is that there are many jobs at all levels of experience awaiting fulfillment.

Traffic and Transportation

Overall, if you’re accustomed to big-city traffic, you’ll find Indianapolis traffic to be quite mild by comparison. Despite having three backups in the ‘Top 100 Worst Bottlenecks in the US’ – numbers 30, 58, and 95 – traffic is usually manageable. Local commuters probably recognize these bottlenecks: the north split where I-65 meets I-70, the south split of I-65 and I-70, and the junction of I-465 and I-69.

The Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation, known as IndyGo, features 31 routes throughout the Indianapolis metro area with 7,000 stops. Despite this, Indy recently ranked last out of 100 cities on the quality of its transportation system, with less than 2% of commuters using public transit. However, the launch of the Red Line this year shows promise – the 13.1-mile route between Broadripple to IU University has increased ridership 30 percent. 

Indianapolis has an anemic walk score of 30. The bike score of 42 is better but leaves much room for improvement. Nonetheless, a few neighborhoods, including Downtown, Fountain Square, and Near Northside have walk and bike scores above 66 and 76, respectively. The bottom line is that if you want to get around easily, living in Indianapolis requires a car.

What to Do

Indianapolis is recognized internationally for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the IndyCar and its annual 500-mile race. On a nationwide level, the city is known for its sports leagues – but there’s so much more to the city than arenas and events – even if “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is an Indy original. Indianapolis is a family-friendly city packed with lively entertainment, fun festivals, art, food, and culture. From greenways and nature to waterfront parks, there’s no shortage of beautiful green space in and around town. From breaded tenderloin sandwiches to Broadripple, here’s a preview of things you’ll get to do in your new hometown.

Once dubbed by Conde Nast ‘the most underrated food city in the US,’ Indianapolis is flush with renowned chefs cooking up exceptional food. From boozy brunches to farm-to-table cuisine, Indy has much to offer, and at a lower price point than other large cities. For home cooks, over a dozen farmers’ markets cover every part of town and feature all that the best local farmers and vendors have to offer. For beer lovers, dozens of microbreweries dot every part of town, promising frothy mugs of brew to suit every taste under the sun.

The many monuments can make you feel like you’re walking through a living history lesson, but don’t let that stop you from exploring the museums around town. While you’re enjoying Monument Circle, check out the adjacent Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War Museum. Take in the surprising collection of art of the American West at the Eiteljorg Museum and be prepared to be delighted. The Indianapolis Children’s Museum is not to be missed. It’s filled with interactive exhibits that are fun for kids of all ages. Newfields, the fresh rebrand of the Indianapolis Museum of Arts, offers up 100 acres of art and nature park, complete with playgrounds and a beer garden. Art lovers of all ages can stroll the Indianapolis Cultural Trail to experience the city’s most happening neighborhoods and more than $4,000,000 in murals, sculptures, and public art installations. The Indianapolis Zoo is the only zoo in the nation accredited as an aquarium, a zoo, and a botanical garden.

The only thing Indianapolis takes more seriously than its monuments is the greenspaces that surround them. The city is teeming with opportunities for outdoor recreation – 11,254 acres of greenspace encompassing hundreds of parks, playgrounds, sports fields, golf courses, and dog parks. In addition, 23 recreation and nature centers, 19 aquatic centers, and 135 miles of trails guarantee that there’s always a reason to get moving. The parks and recreation website makes it easy to find the park, pool, or program closest to you. Of note are Eagle Creek Park, a 3,900-acre park within the city limits, Fern Cliff Nature Preserve, less than an hour’s drive from the city, and Cataract Falls, a breathtaking waterfall a mere hour from town.

Sports fans, rejoice! Indianapolis – home to eight professional sports teams, three NCAA collegiate teams, and multiple minor-league teams – is a paradise for sports enthusiasts. Football fans can rest easy with the Colts playing in their backyard at Lucas Oil Stadium. The stadium is also home to the Indy Eleven, a United Soccer League team. Indianapolis has three college football teams: The Butler Bulldogs, the IUPUI Jaguars, and the Marian University Knights. Basketball fans can enjoy home games with the Pacers or the WNBA team Indiana Fever. The Indians are the city’s own International League baseball team, playing home games at Victory Field. Indy Fuel is the local hockey team, and FC Indiana is the women’s soccer team in town. And then there are the motorsports associated with the city, starting with the Indy 500 – the world’s most heavily-attended single-day sporting event. In addition to the big event, the IndyCar Grand Prix and NASCAR events happen at the track each year.

Schools and Universities

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and The Metropolitan School District of Washington Township serves Indianapolis, covering 87 schools attended by around 40,000 students. The high school graduation rate is 88.1%, which is slightly higher than the national average. While many of the best area schools are in surrounding suburbs, Indianapolis also has some highly-ranked schools. According to greatschools.org, the top Indy schools are Herron High 10/10, Franklin Central High School 9/10, Charles A Tindley Accelerated School 8/10, and Speedway Senior High School 7/10.

The Indianapolis area is home to a handful of universities, including Butler University, Indiana University-Perdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Indiana Wesleyan University, and Marian University. Two-year institutions include Lincoln College of Technology and Ivy Tech Community College.

Crime

Indianapolis has, like any other large city, higher crime rates than the national average108% higher, to be exact. The violent crime rate is 53.4, compared to the national average of 22.7. Property crimes are rated 66.9 compared to the US average rate of 36.4. Based on raw numbers, Indianapolis is safer than just 2% of the country.

Even yet, the crime rates in Indianapolis are dropping 45% year over year, which is encouraging. While some areas of the city are very safe, other areas may have pockets of higher crime, so it’s always a good idea to do your research before you settle on a neighborhood.

Utility Providers

Indianapolis residents rely on several providers for their utilities. If you’re lucky, your landlord will include water and sewage in your rent. However, whether you’re renting or purchasing a home, here are all the resources you’ll need to get connected:

  • Electric Service: Indianapolis Power and Light is the primary provider of electric service for Indianapolis. Visit the online form or call (888) 261-8222 to start, stop, or transfer service.
  • Water and Gas Service: Citizens Energy Group is the primary water and gas utility of Indianapolis. Setting up your account is as easy as submitting an online request or calling 317-927-4328.
  • Trash Collection and Recycling Service: The Indy Department of Public Works, Republic Services, or Waste Management takes out the trash in Indianapolis. To find out when your pickup is, check online. To sign up for recycling service, call Republic at 317-917-7300 or Ray’s Trash Service at 317-539-2024.
  • Internet and Cable Services: For internet and cable, residents can choose between Xfinity, AT&T, Spectrum, and DirectTV. To start an account, click on either of the links above and view the available options.
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Best Neighborhoods in Indianapolis, IN

Broad Ripple

Just eight and a half miles northeast of downtown, Broad Ripple is one of the seven designated cultural districts in the city. The neighborhood is bound to the east by North Keystone Avenue, to the south by Fox Hill Drive, on the west and northwest by the White River, and on the northeast corner by East 69th Street.

Considered one of the liveliest areas for nightlife, you can expect a strong youth culture in this riverside pocket of town. Most everything is within walking distance, and the entire area is chock full of locally owned boutiques and small businesses. And, knowing that 63% of the residents are homeowners, you can be certain that the community of long-timers is strong.

Celebrated for an abundant mix of restaurants, art galleries, and specialty shops, this is one part of Indianapolis that doesn’t lack for diversity – ethnic or otherwise. Plenty of live music venues dot the neighborhood, showcasing local and national talent. One of the most attractive features of Broad Ripple, however, is the 62-acre park by the same name and the easy access to the Monon walking/biking trail.

  • Population – 7,853
  • Home Price – Median home value $209,933
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $956
  • Employers – Allos Ventures, Amazon, Boardable, Chewy, Covideo, Developertown, Encamp, Geico, iLab, Indiana Telephone Company, Innovatemap, IU Health North Hospital, LumArc Solutions, Olio, PactSafe, Robert Half Healthcare Practice, The Speak Easy
  • Schools – Village Montessori School, Center for Inquiry School 84, Tindley Genesis Academy, John Strange Elementary School, Indiana Math and Science Academy, Arlington Middle School, Eliza A Blaker School 55, Bishop Chatard High School, Cathedral High School, Shortridge High School

Something to try: Check out a band at The Vogue, one of the excellent music venues in the area.

Butler-Tarkington

For one of the most desirable, family-friendly spots in Indianapolis, head six miles north of downtown to Butler-Tarkington. Bordered on the east by North Meridian Street, to the south by West 38th Street, and to the northeast by the Central Canal, this neighborhood has a rich history and the architecture to match. Anchored by Butler University and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, there’s plenty of cultural enrichment available to residents.

The housing in Butler Tarkington varies between upper-class 1920s estates and modest craftsman bungalows, lending a classical feel to the area. The community is a mix of students, young professionals, and families with children. A little more than two-thirds – 68% – of residents own their homes here, and there’s a strong, tight-knit sense of community.

In addition to the campus and museum grounds, the recently overhauled Tarkington Park is a major destination for families. It includes a rock-climbing wall, a splash pad, playscapes, and more. There are also numerous convenient grocery stores, cafes, and restaurants within the neighborhood boundaries. It’s easy to see why Butler Tarkington enjoys a reputation for a high quality of life.

  • Population – Just over 15,477
  • Home Price – Median home value $247,218
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $757
  • Employers – Amazon, Butler University, Eagle Creek Healthcare Center, Greenlight, KOE Group Corporation Inc, FedEx, Franciscan Health, IU Health Fairbanks, IU Health North Hospital, Perry Township School District, Pinnacle Oil Holdings LLC, Riley Hospital, State of Indiana, University of Indianapolis
  • Schools – IPS George Washington Carver Montessori No. 87, Fox Hill Elementary, Crooked Creek Elementary School, James Whitcomb Riley School 43, International School of Indiana, Herron High School, St Thomas Aquinas School, Sycamore School, Shortridge High School, Riverside High School

Something to try: Go to see a theatrical performance at Butler Black Box Theater & Ballet.

Downtown

Right in the heart of Indianapolis, downtown is bound by I-65 to the east, I-70 to the south, the White River on the west, and West 16th and I-65 on the north.  This bustling location offers access to many of the city’s finest institutions, from museums to sporting events. The area is vibrant and walkable, mostly populated by millennials and empty-nesters who can afford the higher than average rental prices.

Development is booming downtown, with plenty of mixed-use and high-density apartments coming online all the time. With 76% of the residents here renting, you’re likely to encounter many young, hip, short-timers who enjoy being in the thick of it.

Downtown Indy is one of the few areas of the city where it’s possible to get by without a vehicle. The freshly minted Red Line runs right through, promising rapid public transit. Pacers Bikeshare, motorized scooters, and numerous other services help locals and tourists get around. However, traffic is thin downtown, and most residents enjoy the relative ease with which they can access everything they need.

  • Population – 20,269
  • Home Price – Median home value $205,836
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $1,091
  • Employers – Action Financial Services, Aflac, AT&T, Community Health Network, Eagle Creek Healthcare, Frito-Lay North America, Methodist Hospital, Pepsico, Progressive, Riley Hospital, State of Indiana, US Census Bureau, WestRock, Windrose Health Network, VMX International
  • Schools – Urban ACT Academy, Thomas Gregg Neighborhood School, School 74 International Spanish, Paramount School of Excellence Brookside, HL Harshman Middle School, The Oaks Academy, Kenzie Academy, Perdue Polytechnic High School, Herron High School, Crispus Attucks High School, Arsenal Technical High School

Something to try: Gather together some friends and play some Skee-Ball at Punch Bowl Social.

North Central

Just 12 miles due north of downtown, North Central is one of the most desirable zip codes in the city. It’s bordered to the north by West 86th Street, to the east by North Keystone Avenue and the White River. White River continues as the southern border until it reaches North Pennsylvania Street and at East 71st Street zigzags to North College Avenue, the western border.

North Central is an established neighborhood, where two-thirds of the residents own their homes. You’ll find a largely educated population, most of whom enjoy the proximity to bike paths and waterfront areas. This community is primarily a quiet, residential area, but offers some perks like the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market and the Indianapolis Art Center’s outdoor gardens.

Some good shopping and dining options are available, mostly in the northeast corner of the neighborhood, but nightlife is skimpy. The safe, quiet streets and good schools are a draw for those seeking a friendly, family-centered place to live.

  • Population – 8,165
  • Home Price – Median home value $298,343
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $1,355
  • Employers – Amazon, Anthem, AT&T, Byrider, CoreCivic, Eagle Creek Healthcare, Indiana University, IU North Hospital, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Methodist Hospital, Reboot Inc, Riley Hospital, United Parcel Service, US Department of Defense, US Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Schools – Clearwater Elementary School, John Strange Elementary School, Allisonville Elementary School, Crooked Creek Elementary School, Eastwood Middle School, Indianapolis Junior Academy, Sidener Academy, Sycamore School, Robert Lee Frost School 106, North Central High School, Bishop Chatard High School

Something to try: Visit the Twisted House by John McNaughton in the Indianapolis Art Center gardens.

Meridian Kessler

Located around four miles north of downtown, Meridian Kessler is a walkable, up-and-coming neighborhood. Bordered to the north by Kessler Boulevard East Drive and to the Monon Trail, to the south by East 38th Street, and the west by North Meridian Street, the neighborhood is adjacent to the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

The area is both ethnically and socio-economically diverse and contains three National Register Districts: Forest Hills, Oliver Johnson’s Woods, and Washington Park. The neighborhood boasts an array of housing options ranging from historic mansions to small 1920s Arts & Crafts bungalows. An astonishing 74% of residents in the area own their homes, contributing to the strong, tight-knit feel of the community. Approximately 30% of the locals are families with children.

With easy access to many amenities within walking or cycling distance, many residents find little need to leave the neighborhood for necessities. From butchers, bakeries, grocers, banks, and more, you can do most day-to-day shopping and chores locally. What’s more, some of the best eateries in town are a hop, skip, and a jump away. It’s no wonder that many of the local renters aspire to buy in Meridian Kessler.

  • Population – 17,695
  • Home Price – Median home value $278,300
  • Rent Prices – Median rent $786
  • Employers – AT&T, Allos Ventures, Amazon, AT&T, Boardable, Chewy, Covideo, Developertown, Encamp, iLab, Ingredion, Indiana Telephone Company, Innovatemap, Methodist Hospital, Riley Hospital, Roche, Sprint, US Department of Defense
  • Schools – Building Blocks Academy, Northside Montessori School, Parkside Cooperative Preschool, School for Inquiry 70, Eliza A Blaker School, ACE Prep Academy, Indiana School for the Deaf, James Whitcomb Riley School 43, William A Bell School 60, Shortridge High School, Tindley School

Something to try: Dine at Recess, known for kicking off the local foodie movement in town.

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