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.
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.
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.
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.
Step 4: Hang out with the legendary Kurt Vonnegut.
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.
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.
Step 6: Get in touch with your inner child at the Indianapolis Zoo…
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!
Step 7: …Or at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.
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.
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!
Step 9: Explore Indy’s craft cocktail scene.
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:
- The 10 Types of Travelers Who Should Visit Indianapolis from 10 Miles Behind Me
- A Vegan Guide to Indianapolis, Indiana from A Southern Gypsy
- Stellar Indianapolis Restaurants You Don’t Want to Miss and 5 Reasons YOU need to go to Indianapolis with Kids from Walking on Travels
- Indianapolis War Memorials from Global Gaz
- What to do in Indianapolis from The Kittchen
- An Inspirational Trip to Idyllic Indianapolis from Misadventures with Andi
- Ten Things You Can’t Miss in Indianapolis from Coleman Concierge
- My Midwest: 3 Reasons to Visit Indianapolis from LL World Tour
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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!