When I was in fourth grade, our class took a field trip to Indianapolis. We spent the morning at the Indiana State Museum, and grossed ourselves out peering into the display buckets in the Civil War medical exhibit. The afternoon we had to ourselves, two hours to do whatever we wished (with our chaperones) before the buses came to pick us up. My group had already spent much of the after lunch hour walking the underground tunnel that state employees used to get from their offices to the capitol building, so we decided to stay in the area, and walk the canal.
My memory of it then was that it was too long, too hot, a little too smelly and not nearly interesting enough for anyone to want to walk it. It's changed a bit since then.
The Indiana Central Canal was once intended to stretch from the Erie Canal to the Ohio River, extending all 296 miles from Peru, Indiana to Evansville, but due to the (strangely familiar) Panic of 1837, construction stopped after only eight miles were completed, the eight miles running through downtown Indianapolis.
It runs parallel to the White River, eventually meeting up with it at the heart of White River State Park. A far cry from the majestically imagined commerce route, now you can rent kayaks and paddle boats, drift under the overpasses and listen to the cars rumble above your head.
There are plenty to places to stop along the canal, if the water doesn't suit you. You could follow the bridge over the river and into the Indianapolis Zoo, if you like. A steam powered clock sits at the water's edge outside the state museum, ringing in the hours with the opening bars of "Back Home Again in Indiana," while the sun shines bright through the blue glass of the National Medal of Honor Memorial on the opposite side of the canal. You can reach the walk through the parking garage of the Eiteljorg Museum for Native American and Western Art.
And all along the walk, enterprising artists have done their darndest to make something interesting to look at. At the top of this sculpture, hidden in the shadows, a piece of smiley face graffiti instructs you to "stop doing what you're told!" Which is as good advice as any, I suppose.