It takes great bones to make a great convention city. More than worthy facilities and solid city infrastructure, today, planners and their delegates expect a whole lot more. USA Today asked readers to help determine which spots on the country’s map stand out as premiere meeting destinations, and Indianapolis topped the list. What drove the voting process? And how did Indianapolis — affectionately known as Indy by locals — emerge as the leader?
When I caught up with the Visit Indy team, I recognized that building their robust convention offering goes much further than the predictable “walkable/flexible” conversation. In fact, Indy has become the top choice for groups like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, InterPride and the American Chemical Society. With record-breaking sales for the past two years, this city is setting the pace for future success. What’s behind the convention boom besides the great press?
1) State-of-the-Art Facilities
The Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium (which are joined by a climate-controlled walkway) now offer a combined 745,000 square feet of exhibit space (nearly doubling the convention center's previous size) making the linked structures one of the nation's largest convention facilities. That’s why planner Ellen Shortill chose Indy for the 2026 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association conference. “With 15,000 attendees, I have up to 65 concurrent sessions from 8a-6p every single day. Having so many hotels directly connected to the convention center, it gives me the potential to double my number of meeting rooms.”
2) Vibrant Convention District
Indianapolis’ vibrant urban core features more than 250 dining options, shops, and attractions in walking distance of hotels and the convention center, including White River State Park, Monument Circle, Circle Centre Mall, and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail – an 8-mile urban bike and pedestrian path. Indianapolis has more than $225 million in retail, business, and residential developments in downtown’s Market East district currently in the works.
3) Great Hotels
$100 million in downtown hotel development will add an additional 800 rooms to the city’s inventory, bringing the total to nearly 8,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the convention center. A 21c Museum Hotel represents $55 million of the investment. Their edgy boutique brand will offer a distinctly different choice for convention goers. With convenience in mind, some 4,719 hotel rooms are connected to the convention center – more than any destination in the country. “The skywalks connect you to so many hotels, you don’t even need to go outside unless you want to,” says Shortill.
4) Travel Convenience
Known as the Crossroads of America, Indy is within a day’s drive of half of the U.S. population. Indy’s airport was just ranked the #1 in North America for a fourth year in a row by the Airport Council International. IND is just 15 minutes from the central business district. A direct shuttle between the airport and downtown hotels runs every 30 minutes for only $10 one way. The city will also reduce transportation costs, to deliver higher attendance, and increase attendee engagement.
5) After-Hours Options
When your program ends, the fun begins. Indy offers lively nightspots, hip comedy clubs, cabarets and live music and entertainment venues complemented by hundreds of restaurants, craft breweries, tap rooms and tasting rooms. In fact, Indy boasts five James Beard nominees, so you can count on insanely great food. And let’s not forget that certain attraction… Indianapolis Motor Speedway. According to Shortill, her attendees love Indy’s lively offerings. ““There’s a great downtown vibe. With 92% of my attendees being women, it’s crucial to have a city that’s walkable and safe, and Indy, is very approachable.”
When siting your next convention city, see how other destinations stack up in the USA Today results. For more information about Indianapolis, contact: Contact:
Daren Kingi, Senior Vice President of Sales
200 S. Capitol Ave., Suite 300
Indianapolis, IN 46225
317.262.8211 Brought to you by