How to Fall in Love with Indianapolis in 10 Easy Steps

Indianapolis's food and drinks scene, Midwestern charm, and hip factor took me by surprise. Here's how you, too, will fall in love with Indiana's capital.

I’ve got an announcement: Indianapolis is my new favorite city.

But wait, you’re thinking. Don’t you say that about every new place you visit? Well, actually, no. I have no shame in admitting that I wouldn’t return to certain parts of China, for example. And Brussels? Not going back either. #Sorrynotsorry.

With so much of the world to see, it’s rare for me to want to return to the same place twice. You’d better keep me on my toes — and have some darn good beer to boot.

Indianapolis’s charm took me by surprise: I loved its food and drinks scene, as expected, but I found so many more things to love. In fact, once I returned to New York City, I immediately told Mr. Five O’Clock that we’d better get back to Circle City as soon as possible. Here’s how you, too, will fall in love with Indiana’s capital.

Step 1: Behold the shiny, clean airport that is IND.

See, it’s an award-winning airport.

For a person who travels often, you’d think I would love the actual experience of getting to and from a new destination. Not so. Anyone who knows me well knows that I pack last minute, abhor airport security lines, and typically avoid airport food like the plague.

I’ve seen my fair share of dingy and disgusting airports, and I generally want to get out of them quicker than Takuma Sato racing at this year’s Indy 500. (He won the race in a little over three minutes, for those of you playing along at home.)

Indianapolis International airport, however, was a dream. In fact, it’s an award-winning airport (no joke): travelers selected it as the top U.S. domestic airport in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. It was clean, well run, and modern: a perfect introduction to Circle City.

Step 2: Check in to your swanky hotel.

Super comfy beds

From the second we walked in, the JW Marriott Indianapolis knew how to treat us right. The staff went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable during our stay, from providing excellent advice on local attractions to assisting those of us with dietary restrictions.

True to legendary Hoosier hospitality, I literally did not see one hotel staff member without a smile on his or her face during my time there. Unlike other places I’ve been, however, their cheerfulness was genuine… and downright contagious.

Be sure to splurge on the Executive Lounge on their 31st floor for daily piping hot breakfast, happy hour treats, and desserts while enjoying sweet views of downtown Indy. At 376 feet tall (34 floors in total), the JW Marriott Indianapolis is the tallest hotel in Indiana, meaning you can’t get these views anywhere else in the state!

Step 3: Stroll around the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and get your art fix.

Lisa of LL World Tour taking a stroll on Mass Ave

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an 8-mile bike and pedestrian-friendly path that winds its way through downtown Indy. There are 6 cultural districts connected by the trail — including Mass Ave, Fountain Square, and the Canal & White River State Park — and 7 public art projects along the path.

Being from NYC —  a place where you’re constantly walking around but not paying attention to your surroundings because you’ve gotta get a move on — the cultural trail was truly refreshing. You can actually stop and smell the dang* roses here (and see this awesome animated lady dancing).

*My time in Indianapolis made me feel so nice that I don’t have the heart to utter expletives in this post.

Be sure to take some time to stop at Monument Circle, where you can see the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument. This neoclassical monument is not only the largest outdoor memorial, but also the first monument in the US to be dedicated to the common soldier.

If you don’t make it to this particular monument, don’t worry: the city is second only to Washington D.C. in the number of war memorials, so you’ll have plenty of monuments to keep you busy.

Susie from Dabble in Travel capturing the Indiana State Soldiers and Sailors Monument at Monument Circle.

Step 4: Hang out with the legendary Kurt Vonnegut.

Having a moment with Mr. Vonnegut himself.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, hailed from Indianapolis. I had the exciting opportunity to meet Mr. Vonnegut… errr, in mural form, that is.

The late author of classics like Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions lends his likeness to this mural on Mass Ave, which clocks in at 38 feet tall. If you need even more of a Vonnegut fix, be sure to check out the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library as well. (Sadly, I was distracted by Indy’s food and drinks on this visit, and alas, was unable to stop by. Guess that means I’ll just have to return!)

Step 5: Hungry now? Good, cuz you’ve got lots of options.

Farm egg on a pizza? Yes, please.

Indy is no stranger to outstanding cuisine. Think I’m joking? Just ask Zagat, who recently named Indianapolis one of America’s hottest food cities.

One of our favorite spots to dine in Indy is Napolese, an artisanal pizzeria with a focus on fine, fresh ingredients and carefully sourced meats and cheeses. I was a huge fan of their Broken Yolk pizza ($14), pictured above, as well as the Smoked Salmon pizza ($17), which tasted like an NYC bagel with lox and cream cheese in pizza form.

Other spots that the team at Visit Indy connected us to were Mesh on Mass and Revolucion, both of which were delicious.

Step 6: Get in touch with your inner child at the Indianapolis Zoo…

Dude thinks he’s king of the world… and he may well be right.

Indiana as a whole is known for being very family friendly, which means we couldn’t leave Indianapolis without visiting places that you can take your kiddos.

If you’re a millenial without kids reading this, hear me out. The Indianapolis Zoo is a great way to spend your day — come for the animals, but stay for the beer. The zoo hosts an after-hours Zoolapalooza summer concert series where you can sample some excellent Indy craft beer, like Metazoa and Sun King. Double win!

The Indianapolis Zoo also boasts the distinction of being first in the nation to be accredited as a zoo, an aquarium and a botanical garden. That means you can see dolphins, rhinos, and flowers, oh my!

Flipper’s stunt double on a snack break (just kidding… I was so busy taking pictures that I forgot this cute dolphin’s name).

Step 7: …Or at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

BlogHouse bloggers captivated by the Chihuly glasswork ceiling

Don’t be fooled by its name: the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is engaging for people of all ages. It’s like how I’d watch Disney movies with my parents as a young child and notice them tearing up at some scenes without understanding why. (Now I get it — it was difficult for King Triton to see his daughter, Ariel, move far away on land.)

Much like my beloved Disney films, the exhibits at the Children’s Museum work on multiple levels, creating opportunities for thoughtful dialogue between children and adults. I’d need a whole blog post to describe what it’s like, seeing as it’s the largest children’s museum in the world, but here are some highlights:

  • Remember how much I love Dale Chihuly’s glass art? Yeah, his largest permanent installation of blown glass is housed here.
  • You can hang out with dinosaurs, learn about Anne Frank’s time in the Secret Annex, or explore life in modern China.
  • You can even pretend to be Indiana Jones and excavate a mysterious tunnel (or find a hidden mummy)!

There’s no way to view everything in one visit, which guarantees you’ll be back for more.

DINO ATTACK!

Step 8: Beer, beer, and more beer! (Did I mention beer?)

It seems like you can’t walk around Indianapolis without tripping into yet another brewery. (That’s the way I like it!)

Sun King Brewing may be the best known of these; it’s one of Indiana’s largest and most award-winning breweries. However, we opted to visit Metazoa Brewing Company, whose beers we originally sampled at Zoolapalooza (see Step #6).

In addition to being pet-friendly and serving a delicious chocolate cherry imperial stout, Metazoa donates 5% of its profits to animal and wildlife organizations. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with more details about Indy’s drinks scene — but in the meantime, buy yourself a pint at Metazoa and save some furry friends!

Cheers to beers!

Step 9: Explore Indy’s craft cocktail scene.

Three Vonnegut-inspired cocktails at Bluebeard

As promised in a prior post, I made it to Bluebeard for some Kurt Vonnegut-inspired craft cocktails. Erin of 10 Miles Behind Me and I sampled several drinks, including the delicious Galapagos ($11), featuring mezcal, tequila, chili arbol syrup, Bluebeard orgeat, cucumber, and lime. Knowing me, you’re guaranteed a full post on Indy’s drinks scene soon, but suffice it to say that I was seriously impressed with the caliber of the city’s cocktails.

Step 10: Those Indy sunsets, tho.

Looking at these photos, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re in some European city. This June sunset was easily one of my favorite sunsets that I’ve seen in years — and this is coming from a person who routinely visits Hawaii. (Something to do with skyscrapers not blocking my daily views in Indy, perhaps?)

If you haven’t fallen in love with Indianapolis during any of the previous nine steps, I can guarantee you that you’ll be smitten once you take in a gorgeous Indy sunset. Swoon.

Can’t get enough of Indianapolis?

Check out these posts from travel bloggers I worked with at BlogHouse in June 2017:

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Indianapolis's food and drinks scene, Midwestern charm, and hip factor took me by surprise. Here's how you, too, will fall in love with Indiana's capital.


A huge thank you to Visit Indy, Visit Indiana, and JW Marriott Indianapolis, our conference sponsors at BlogHouse Indy 2017. All travel and accommodation costs were paid by me, as well as all those cocktails and beer. As always, all opinions are mine. Not even a cold, delicious beer can change that.

Also, some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a tiny percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting It’s Five O’Clock Here!

35 thoughts on “How to Fall in Love with Indianapolis in 10 Easy Steps

  1. Justin

    Fantastic post, Julianne! And dear to my heart, as I spent many years in Indianapolis before being abruptly uprooted just before my senior year at Lawrence Central High School. I’ve heard from friends I’ve stayed in touch with that it has changed in countless ways for the better, and clearly, it has. This definitely makes me want to revisit.

    1. Julianne

      Thanks, Justin! I’d forgotten that you lived in Indianapolis. It’s definitely a city on the rise, and I’m so glad I made it. I genuinely want to return to Indy soon — and I love how close it is to NYC! It’s a nice alternative to Chicago too 🙂

  2. Robert Taylor

    Yes, all the beers. We discovered the same lovely situation in Madison and Milwaukee recently. Who knew craft beer was such a hit in the midwest where there is such a strong mass-beer presence. Delightful!

    1. Julianne

      I really need to go back to Indy — we didn’t make it to nearly enough breweries while we were there 🙂 Milwaukee is high up on my list for visiting breweries, so let me know if you have any recs!

  3. Susanna

    I honestly have never thought about visiting Indy, but it’s great to hear that it is somewhere you would visit again! Looks like there are some really great things to experience, especially the craft beer and art. Also, the hotel looks like a great place to get a good night’s sleep! Definitely putting this on my list.

    1. Julianne

      Thanks, Susanna! The only reason Indy was on my radar in the first place was because of Kurt Vonnegut, but I was glad to discover that there’s so much to love about the city. Hope you make it to Indy soon! 🙂

  4. David

    There is soo much to see here and such a different variety! Going to the Zoo to see wildlife would definitely be in my diary! The food in the photos also looks amazing! Great article!

  5. Claire Summers

    This is the second blog post I’ve read recently on Indianapolis. I think I really need to go! To be honest you had me at Pizza and good craft beer haha.

  6. Juliann

    I had no idea Kurt Vonnegut was from Indy! He’s one of my favorite authors, too. I’ve been to the Children’s Museum and think it’s fantastic. I usually shy away from things geared toward kids now that mine are grown, but this museum is perfect for adults, too.

    But I do have to disagree with you about one thing: Brussels. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world! Maybe you’ve missed all it has to offer?

    1. Julianne

      Another Juliann(e)! 🙂 Agreed, I’ll have to take your advice about Brussels. I think our experience was situational… and it would have helped to have a local to show us around so we could see the beauty of the city. We did love Grand Place — quite gorgeous. Mannekin Pis was way smaller than I expected, so I was disappointed by that… haha.

      Anyway, glad to hear that you like Vonnegut too! I’m about to start “Jailbird” next, since it was one of the cocktails we tried at Bluebeard 🙂

  7. Marlies

    Clean airports are such a relieve after a (long) flight. The smoked salmon pizza sounds really tasty, yammie! #* would be my #1: beer tasting is the best! Would love to visit Sun King brewery!

  8. Kim

    To be honest, I’ve never really thought about traveling to the Mid West but after reading your post Indianapolis sounds like a great city to visit! I would love to experience the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and get my art fix, haha. I can’t believe the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis has Chihuly glass! I went to the Chihuly museum in Seattle and I’m so jealous you were able to lay down and experience it that way, how fun!

    1. Julianne

      Yeah – that was one of my absolute favorite parts of the museum! I went to Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle too (in fact I’ve been a Chihuly fan since 2008), so I was happily surprised to see some Chihuly artwork in Indianapolis 🙂

  9. Aditi Shukla

    It is no wonder that Indianapolis ranks high on your list of top destinations. Clean and good beginnings like the shiny airport and swanky hotel always kick start the journey in a positive vibe. If I were to go there, I would love to walk along the cultural trail and stop and explore art at every lane. Cheers!!

  10. Archana Singh

    Beautiful pictures and well-written article. I actually don’t need ten reasons to fall in love with Indianapolis. One is enough for me – the legendary Kurt Vonnegut. Rest are bonus 🙂

  11. Ann

    I haven’t been to a Children’s Museum in a number of years, but this one looks like plenty of fun for this adult :). I’ve always been a Vonnegut fan, and Julieann above, I didn’t know Indy was his hometown. Visiting his library would be great — then a few of those craft beers . . . Thanks for the great list of ideas!

  12. Jenn and Ed Coleman

    How did I love Indy…. Let me count the ways. Absolutely loved the JW Marriott. I miss their level of service and the JW standards (having been a former brand trainer). The backstage zoo tour with the dolphins was amazing. Kurt Vonnegut, what can I say. I fricken love Kurt Vonnegut. I loved the concept of Metazoa beer, just wish I was more a beer drinker. lol. Loved biking on the Cultural Trail with the awesome bike share and lastly, what can I say, Indy sunsets rocked my world (and I’m from San Diego).

  13. Susan Ripley

    I had no idea that Indianapolis was such a foodie city! Would love to try some of the restaurants you mentioned. I also love visiting breweries and trying craft beer. That chocolate cherry stout sounds awesome!

  14. Cat

    A great list of things to see and do in Indy! I know that I would spend a huge chunk of time at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. I am amazed of Dale Chihuly’s glass art in Seattle so I gotta check out his permanent installation at the museum!

  15. Ivy

    A brewery tour followed by the childrens museum sounds like the perfect day for me… end it with some amazing food and a gorgeous sunset! Its easy to see why its your favourite city 🙂

  16. Katie

    Great post! I miss Indy already and especially the people from Bloghouse! I’m loving your section about breweries–makes me miss the Indy beer! Will have to go back to do the brew bus! 🙂

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