Every year in late May, the racing world’s focus turns towards Indianapolis.

As the Indy 500 unfolds over Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of thousands will head to the Motor Speedway and millions more will watch on TV. This so-called “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” might be a premier event of international renown…but it is far from the only race in town.

The annual Zoopolis 500 tortoise race takes place on the final Wednesday before Memorial Day at the Indianapolis Zoo. The “Greatest Spectacle in Tortoise Racing” may not be as flashy, fast or famous as the Indy 500, but it has been one of the zoo’s most popular events for a number of years.


The race itself features several Madagascar tortoises walking towards a fruit platter prize, but that is only part of the attraction. A variety of family-friendly events, including games and info sessions, take place in the morning. There is typically something for race fans too. The 2019 itineration of the race will be announced by racing expert Mike King and former Indianapolis 500 Champion Tony Kanaan, who also serves as Grand Marshal.

There will also be opportunities to meet some of the 500 Princesses and take a photo with a real pace car. Like the larger race that inspired it, the Zoopolis 500 has incorporated milk into the festivities.

Following the race, the victorious tortoise is escorted to the Winner’s Circle where a pit crew member/zoo employee drinks a glass of milk on their behalf.

As this is a zoo event, there are also expert zookeepers on hand to provide spectators with information. The race participants are radiated tortoises, a critically endangered species with star-patterned stripes radiating from the center of their shell. These tortoises are native to Southern Madagascar, though they have since been introduced to other parts of Madagascar and nearby islands. Some of the region’s speediest tortoises have even been shipped as far as the Indianapolis Zoo…

This beloved, family friendly event has been profiled on a number of tourism publications and was highlighted by Top Events USA as one of the top events in Indianapolis.

The Greatest Spectacle in Tortoise Racing is free for members and included with regular zoo admittance. Racing fans turned off by the Indy 500’s high prices could do a lot worse than Zoopolis (as long as they are not picky about things like “speed”).

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