It’s May in Indiana, and that means it’s time for the greatest spectacle in racing! The exciting Indy 500 events leading up to the Indianapolis 500 offer opportunities for fun for the whole family. Our family loves to attend a practice day or an Indy 500 qualifying day every year with our kids. It can be an inexpensive, fun way to experience the track without sitting through the long race (If you decide to attend the Indy 500, check out our race day guide to taking your kids to the Indy 500).
Want to build some excitement in anticipation of your day at IMS? Check out these books about race cars with your kids!
Tickets for Indy 500 Qualifying and Practice Days
Tickets start at $15 per adult for Indy 500 Practice days – May 16-19 & 22, and $20 per adult on Indy 500 Qualification days, May 21-22. Children 15 and under are free with a paid adult. Before you go to the track, be sure to download the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s handy app to your phone. This will give you access to an interactive map, digital tickets, schedules, weather alerts, bathrooms, and much more.
Indy 500 Parking
Next, let’s cover parking. You may want to plan out which lot will be the best option for your family. The IMS offers free parking for practice and qualification days. The free lots are located in turn 3 and in lot 7. If you prefer to park closer, you can also pay $10 to park in lot 2 or the Main Gate lot. You can prepay for these parking options online.
Is the Indy 500 Safe for Kids?
Protecting kids from the elements is the most important safety tip. Keep their ears safe from the sound and their faces and skin safe from the sun and their bodies safe from the heat. Sometimes it’s cold and you have to account for those temperatures too.
The next biggest safety issue is the crowds. Have a plan with your kids for what happens if you become separated. Indy 500 qualifying and practice days are nowhere near as busy and crowded as the race day itself, so it’s a great time to attend with kids.
Another tip: IMS offers Child Safety Wristbands for families with young children. This wristband will allow a member of the Safety Patrol to help a lost child find their family. Stop by any Question and Answer Zone located by Gate 1, Gate 6, Pagoda Plaza, or Fan Zone to pick up a wristband.
Things to do at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
There’s so much at the track to entertain the whole family. Of course, finding a spot near the track to watch the cars speed by is the main event, you’ll see the drivers take their Indy 500 qualifying attempt to see where they end up in the starting grid on race day. Will they be in the top 12 qualifying or perhaps even the pole winner? All of this is decided during their Indy 500 qualifying run, which is open to the public.
Don’t forget to explore everything else going on! The IMS has a free Kids’ Zone, where kids can have fun with music, dancing, games, and prizes.
The Indiana Motor Speedway Museum is also open and you can visit for an extra fee. IMS has an Indy 500 kids club that’s popular among the youngest racecar fans. The IndyCar Nation Rookie Program is for kids 7-12. The cost for this program is $39, and it includes meet and greets with race car drivers, a t-shirt, a lanyard, a hat, and an autograph book. The program also includes a 15% merchandise discount.
Our kids always love our day at the track and it gives them wonderful memories of the Indianapolis 500. If the cost, crowds, or length of the big race aren’t a good fit for your family, a practice or an Indy 500 qualifying day might be the answer to experience all the Indy Car racing fun in a more kid-friendly way!
What to bring to the Indy 500 Track
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The track does not have a lot of shade, so bring sunscreen with you to reapply.
Hats and Sunglasses
Hats and sunglasses will help you see the track better on sunny days and provide sun protection
Stroller or Wagon
The IMS does allow strollers and wagons, which may be helpful with toting small children and coolers.
Earplugs or Headphones
Indy Cars are LOUD! Here’s some highly-rated ear protection that’s kid-sized. You might want to consider some ear protection that has a radio built in so you can listen to the Indy 500 race scanner.
Carry inexpensive clear plastic ponchos just in case it rains. Here’s a family pack and they have a drawstring hood.
Wet wipes help with all the sticky fingers.
Binoculars help you to see the track and it gives the kids something fun to do in their seats. Here’s the kind we use, they’re not a toy but they’re sized for kids.
Cooler with Water, Food, and Snacks
The IMS does allow outside food and coolers (Coolers no larger than 18”x14”x14”). Kids will need lots of water at the track. We pack one ready-to-drink water bottle and one frozen water bottle for each person. The frozen water bottles also keep your cooler cold to save on space and on weight. Consider packing food and snacks that are not too messy to eat.
You may want to add some racing-themed fun to your cooler! Sandwiches are usually an easy snack, and you can cut them into car shapes. You can also add stoplight brownies with red, green, and yellow M&Ms for a fun dessert. Purchase checkered flag paper plates and napkins to serve your racing-themed lunch. I also like to pack the kids a new hot wheels car to play with as well! Finally, don’t forget to dress for the day in checkered flag prints or even IMS gear!