We’ve done it. We’ve left the house. We’ve packed, unpacked, repacked, sold and consolidated our crap. We are hitting the road and heading toward San Francisco. (Well, technically Chad is hitting the road and I’m tying up some loose ends before I leave, but whatevs.) You get the idea.
As we depart our beloved city, we felt it only fitting to give you our top 10 list of things to love about Indy. After all, if you happen to find yourself in Indianapolis and want to explore like a local, there’s no better way than getting the inside scoop from a local.
Here’s a sampling of some of the best things Indy has to offer.
There is nothing better than tree-lined streets of amazing (unique) homes, cute shops and dynamic food, beverage and entertainment options. We spent the better part of our lives popping between some of Indy’s best neighborhoods. These include:
- Old Northside
- Herron-Morton Place
- Fall Creek Place
- Mapleton-Fall Creek
- Broad Ripple and SoBro
- Mass Ave
- Fletcher Place and Fountain Square
- Stadium Village
You can learn anything you could possibly ever want to know about Indianapolis and its history by following Historic Indianapolis. If you want to get a little further outside the city, other interesting historic spots include Zionsville (to the north), Greenfield (to the east), and Homecroft and Greenwood (to the south).
Seasons: Spring & Fall
I love fall. Always have, always will. I think I’m gonna miss fall. You see, as we have plotted our path across the U.S. for the next several years, we’ve sort of done the reasonable thing and tried to avoid the weather. Duh. If you can summer up north and winter in the south and keep the skies sunny and the road clear of snow and sleet, you aim to do just that. We are not exceptional in this regard…or several others, but that’s for another blog.
There are some spectacularly wonderful seasons in Indianapolis. These include Spring and Fall. You will get the most delightful display of spring blooming trees and flowers between late March – May and the most glorious tree change starting in late September and lasting through November. (Oh, and along those lines, getting your Christmas tree straight from the Michigan tree farms the day after Thanksgiving from a local market or vendor is also quite wonderful. Like ‘A Christmas Story’ wonderful.) That’s all top notch and worth experiencing.
Negative Nancy says, "The winter and summer? Meh..."
Forget the winter (with the exception of that one beautiful weekend day it snows for the first time and you’re already in your house and you don’t have anywhere you need to be, and the fire is cozy, and you’ve just made a batch of cookies and cocoa and have time for a late afternoon nap). That winter day (no moment) is just amazing. That’s “The Bomb Winter.” The rest is just shit. Grey, slushy, mind-numbing PITA stuff. Sure, people try and pretend like it’s no big deal, but trust me here. By the time late January or early February hits, people are tired of winter. They hate winter. They want to send it packing, and yet it hangs around. Usually for several more weeks. Meh. I’ll pass. Bring on the sun.
While I do love sunshine, I hate painful sun which brings me to my next point. Forget the summer too – it’s hot, unforgivably humid and oftentimes robs the city of it’s spring and hangs around way too long in the fall, mucking up appropriate sweater weather. Hoosiers spend half the year wishing the weather would be nicer, get two windows of glory for a handful of weeks and then run inside during the summer to escape the heat. (Unless they live on a lake. Then they manage to digest summer rather splendidly. It’s quite manageable with a lake.)
We may be a little bias here, but we do love downtown Indy. It’s just got a lot going on. There aren’t many areas of Indianapolis as pedestrian-friendly as downtown. The area has been conveniently organized into Districts. These districts have their own identities and unique flair. Many of the neighborhoods I mentioned above are in the greater downtown area.
If you get dropped off downtown and are looking for things to do, it’s an easy walk to see Monument Circle (right in the middle of course), the main streets, the Canal Walk and White River State Park. Venture a bit further from the center to hit the areas with some soul and deep dive into the shops, restaurants, nightclubs, theatres and pocket parks. (Those further ventures can easily be managed by a rideshare service like UBER or Lyft, or you can easily hop on the Pacers Bikeshare service at one of numerous pickup stations in the area. You can also get a guided tour bike ride from my friend Nathan’s company – ActiveIndy Tours.)
Indianapolis Museum of Art (a.k.a. IMA)
Indianapolis has several fine museums, but our personal favorite was the IMA. With rotating exhibits, a sleek modern interior, and an absolutely gorgeous outdoor garden area, you can easily spend lots of days here and not get bored. In addition to the outdoor gardens, there is also a 100-acre outdoor exhibit area. All of this can easily entertain a couple, or family. If you’re in to historic homes or buildings, Lilly House is also on the campus and hosts museum visitors.
The Indianapolis restaurant scene is quite robust. (And I can say this with some authority having dined at many fine restaurants across the globe.) If you’re expecting nothing more than burgers, fries, corn and pork tenderloins, prepare to be amazed. There’s a lot more to offer now than ever before and the depth of quality farm-to-table, vegan, vegetarian and locavore establishments grows each week.
A handful of personal local non-chain favorites:
- Tinker Street (Herron-Morton Place)
- Goose the Market (Fall Creek Place)
- Siam Square (Fountain Square)
- Bluebeard (Fletcher Place)
- Repeal (Fletcher Place)
- Milktooth (Fletcher Place)
- Revery (Greenwood)
- Late Harvest Kitchen (Keystone at the Crossing)
There is a new scene in the house and it’s coffee shops. There are many great coffee shops all across town, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Calvin Fletcher Coffee Company (organized as a non-profit donating proceeds back to the neighborhood)
- The Foundry
- Quills Coffee
- Bee Coffee Roasters (two great locations – one on the way to Eagle Creek Park)
- The Thirsty Scholar (doubles as a bar to get your drink on later)
Cultural Trail & Bike-Friendly Routes
There was a time that I fussed about the (ahem) $60M+ sidewalk that was being installed across the city and mucking up every single sidewalk and major thoroughfare with construction equipment with its eye-popping project installations.
And then I got to experience it, and I shut my trap because its hands down one of the best, most enjoyable investments our city ever made for its urban residents. Lucky us.
If you go to Indy, just get on this thing and walk. Or bike. Or roller blade. Or baby stroller jog. Whatever. Just don’t miss enjoying some part of this thing. It’s great.
Indianapolis has numerous parks that are quite enjoyable, but if you really want to feel like you’re in a “PARK” you go to Eagle Creek Park—this city’s largest, as well as one of the largest city parks in the U.S. This place is great nearly the entire year. (See my previous missive on seasons.)
The nice thing about Eagle Creek Park is that there’s something for everyone. You can hike, bike, jog, swim, kayak, canoe, hang out on a (small) beach, zip line, learn about birds in a nature center or just eat hot dogs on a grill at one of the numerous picnic areas. You’d have a hard time being miserable here. It was one of our absolute favorite places to go to take long walks. Two of the trails go straight across Eagle Creek Reservoir. There are also many deer in the park and other wildlife such as owls, beavers, raccoons and lots of water critters of all sorts.
Other great parks across the city include:
- Garfield Park (great sunken gardens and walking paths)
- Ellenberger Park (part of my old haunts of youth, and in the historic Irvington neighborhood where you can peep houses and get your hike in)
- Fort Harrison State Park (on an old military fort and a 11-mile bike ride from downtown to here on a great bike path)
- Holliday Park (fun hiking, a touch of water and a super random “ruins” installation which will make you scratch your head wondering why exactly it’s there)
- Broad Ripple Park (great for dog lovers and those who want to be on the water; next to White River)
- Southwestway Park (good for mountain bikers and those who like woods hiking)
- Southeastway Park (in the middle of absolutely nothing, but nice walking paths)
- Lions Park in Zionsville (a little further out, but still a great park)
The center of the city is a fun spot to visit, circle and enjoy. If you happen to be lucky enough to be around the day after Thanksgiving, you can trot downtown to stand in the cold to watch the “tree” lighting. This is called the Circle of Lights. Indy does this fun thing where it turns its monument into a big light-up Christmas tree of sorts. They’ll keep it up from late November until right around the first of the year.
I personally enjoy waiting for the hubbub to die down and simply popping in the car on a random weeknight and driving down Meridian Street (the city’s median road and part of what makes up the center of the circle) and then around the circle to see it from all angles. Stop for hot cocoa along the way and listen to some holiday tunes and you’ve done it about the best way possible.
Other times of the year it’s just enjoyable to see, and there are several festivals and events that happen on the circle all year. There are many businesses and corporate HQ’s that line the circle, so it’s an important and central part of town.
Everyone says that Hoosier hospitality is a special thing, and after being away awhile you remember there’s quite a bit of truth to that. Indianapolis. A city with a sort of casual approach to life, short lines and fairly avoidable traffic. There’s a gentle little buzz of activity in the background. You can busy or free yourself as much as you’d like. Your neighbors will likely know your name, and be happy to see you. (Heck, they may even waive hello.) They will certainly bring up your trashcans if they blow out in the street. (We’re not savages for goodness sake.)
You should take some time to get to know these people when you visit. Their arms will be wide open to welcome you. They will gladly proffer you directions, advice on restaurants, safety, neighborhoods, children and religion. I think of them often, fondly and miss them dearly. They are the heart of what makes the Midwest special, and I hope I’m bringing a bit of that with me.
An Editor’s Note: This blog can and will be updated. Think we missed something? Tell us. We’ll consider adding it based on facts, a strong recommendation or our own experiences. Find a mistake? Ugh, I hate mistakes. Happy to correct those and give you a big thumb’s up for finding them. Yours in