The city known for its love of race cars is constantly evolving. If you think you know Indianapolis, think again. With a vibrant food scene and massive rebuilding efforts downtown, Indianapolis is quickly becoming a go-to destination. We’ve partnered with family and lifestyle blogger Kirsten Maxwell from Kids Are A Trip, who lives in Chicago and is a frequent visitor to Indianapolis. Here she shares seven things that will surprise you about Indianapolis.
1. It’s not all about the Indy 500…
But that is a huge part of the city’s identity. The Indianapolis 500 is the world’s largest single day sporting event every Memorial Day weekend. Over 300,000 visitors come to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch Indy cars race 500 miles around the famous track. Other events are held throughout the year, such as concerts, air races, golfing events, and Lights at the Brickyard (their holiday lights show). Make time for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum and their collection of Indy 500 race vehicles and memorabilia. It’s awesome to see how cars have progressed over the years.
2. Their food scene is crazy good
Yes, you read that right. Indianapolis has amazing food! There are restaurants for all budgets from Mass Ave to Fletcher Place to Broad Ripple. Every neighborhood has unique restaurants serving delicious food. For breakfast head to Milktooth, a restaurant that serves all day brunch and only brunch. Try the Dutch baby, or the grilled cheese, you won’t be disappointed by anything on the menu. Stop into The Garden Table for dishes made from natural ingredients grown by local farmers. I highly recommend the vegetarian version of biscuits and gravy. Looking for a dinner spot? Try The Livery or Bluebeard. The Livery is Latin American tapas and Bluebeard is American contemporary with a menu to suit all appetites.
I have to mention the stand out restaurant for me, Public Greens. Public Greens bills itself “An Urban Kitchen with a Mission.” They are a restaurant that donates their profits to feeding kids through an after school program called The Patachou Foundation. Founder Martha Hoover saw a need for healthy meals for children who face daily food insecurity. They prepare food from their gardens and deliver it to children in need. They also make time to educate them about wellness and making healthy choices. Huge love for this place.
3. They are second only to Washington, D.C. in terms of war memorials
Indianapolis is second only to our nation’s capital when it comes to the number of war memorials, but first in total acreage dedicated to fallen soldiers. The centerpiece of downtown is the Soldiers and Sailors monument. It towers above Monument Circle just blocks away from the Indiana War Memorial and American Legion Mall (home to the American Legion National and Indiana headquarters). Take a peek inside the Indiana War Memorial’s Shrine Room for an unforgettable experience and spend time admiring its neoclassical exterior. Afterwards, take a stroll up the mall and admire the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam War and Korean War Memorials. It’s a beautiful experience to have in the city.
4. The museums are evolving
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is the largest children’s museum in the world, and it’s about to get bigger. In 2018 they will add Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience. This outdoor addition features twelve sports experiences and three indoor exhibits mixed with sports history. There are sports courts sized for young ones, and even a kid-size golf course designed by Pete and Alice Dye based on famous golf holes around the world. A lot of effort has gone into creating this wonderful addition to the museum and community.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a new name, Newfields, and a new winter extravaganza to go with it. Winterlights is the museum’s holiday light show, where visitors can stroll through the gardens, sip hot cocoa, and admire the property decked in its holiday splendor. The museum also has over 100 acres of grounds to explore, a beer garden, and Lilly House, the historic home of J.K. Lilly Jr., one of the grandsons of Eli Lilly, founder of the pharmaceutical company.
5. Their bike trails are worth exploring
Indianapolis has numerous bike trails for locals and visitors alike. The Cultural Trail is eight miles of trail through downtown, showcasing artwork, restaurants, and architecture along the way. The Monon Trail is a former rail road track converted to an 18-mile walking/cycling path from downtown to the northern suburbs. Active Indy has very informative tours covering White River State Park around the Cultural Trail and through downtown for a perfect intro to the city.
6. There are catacombs
Right next to City Market (the city’s farmer market operating since 1886), used to be Tomlinson Hall, a massive building that burned to the ground in 1958. The structure was demolished, but underground lies a massive complex of columns and archways. Indiana Landmarks offers City Market Catacombs tours, but don’t expect to see any dead bodies. It’s mostly dusty floors and a few bits of furniture, but there are a few ghost stories, so be sure to ask.
7. One building in the city will blow your mind in a good way
South of the city is an area known as Fountain Square. It’s easy to recognize by the fountain in the middle of the road and the massive Fountain Square Theatre building on the corner. The theatre was completed in 1928, but in the 1960s it was converted into a Woolworth’s department store. They occupied the space until the end of the decade. The property saw various stages of occupancy and disrepair through the years. In the early 1990s owner Linton Calvert stepped in and started rebuilding.
The fourth floor houses a re-created 1930s duck pin bowling alley, complete with wood floors and decor salvaged from a bowling alley of that era. Duck pin bowling is a variation of today’s game with smaller pins and a smaller, lighter ball without finger holes. Another floor of the building houses a 1950s/60s style “Atomic” duck pin alley, completely retrofitted to the style of that era.
This place doesn’t just revolve around bowling. Fountain Square also hosts weddings and swing dance nights, with teachers available for lessons. There’s a game room, a casual BBQ joint, a bar, a seasonal rooftop garden and bar, and a hotel with beautiful suites! It’s worth a stop in Indy, just to see the amazing spaces Linton has created over the years.
Kirsten Maxwell is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads, visit travelocitygnomads.com.
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