A Love Letter to Indianapolis pt.2: Where to Go (A City Guide)

Earlier today, I shared the history and some general information about Indianapolis, now Sally J. and I would like to share some of our favorite places to visit. If you’re not too busy with the Super Bowl activities, sneak away and check out one of the spots on our lists. 

Ten Great Places to Visit in Indianapolis, by Selena

Indianapolis is, as we’ve demonstrated here, a city that’s easy to underestimate. There are many well-known places that are perfectly wonderful destinations for our out-of-towners, so I’m going to skip to the more off-beat end of the Indy experience.These choices and words are 100% mine, no  person, company or vendor is compensating us to talk up their product or service.

Interior shot of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
By next Monday night, sportscasters will have filled you in on every possible detail of this building. No need to beat a dead Colt.

10. Long’s Bakery (2300 W 16th St.) Even those assholes on Yelp! are obsessed with Long’s. Long’s Bakery has been in Indianapolis for as long as I can remember. One of their legendary cinnamon twist or blueberry cake doughnuts, and you will never want to eat anyone else’s doughnuts, ever again. Parking is sparse, the early morning rush is busy and devoted, but if you get there early enough you can have a sweet, delicious treat that’s still warm from the oven. The bakery is a little northwest of downtown, and would be a cheap cab or metro ride from most downtown locations.

9. The Greek Islands Restaurant (906 S. Meridian St.) The only place you’ll find better Greek food is in Greece. This is close enough to downtown for Super Bowl fans to sneak away and still be within reasonable distance of the stadium and central hotels.

Exterior shot of Greek Islands Restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana. Building is bright blue, with a sign written in a Greek-esque font. Several tables with red and white umbrellas are on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.
If you're within four hours of Indianapolis, it's worth it to go here. Selena wouldn't lie to you. Selena loves you.

8. The Haunted Bridge (location: classified) I can only tell you that this bridge may be accessed off of Hwy 36. You may only be shown the location of this bridge by someone who knows how to find it and knows the story behind it. If, and only if, you are able to meet this condition will you be able to experience The Haunted Bridge. Additionally, it’s a great place to make out.

Moody shot of a crumbling railroad bridge in semi-rural Indiana
The truth about this bridge? You can't HANDLE the truth about this bridge.
Storybook Tudor home with blue siding and a red brick facade. The house has white gingerbread trim and is surrounded by trees.
The cutest house in Indianapolis.

7. Broad Ripple Village (between 71st and 49th Streets on the north and south, Keystone Avenue on the east and College Avenue on the west, roughly.) Broad Ripple Village hosts the most delightful assortment of independently owned shops, bars and restaurants in the Indy Metro area. From consignment shops to art galleries to microbreweries to veg* eateries, Broad Ripple is a really fun place to be a Youngling. In addition to the plethora of things to do and see, Broad Ripple is home to some of the most adorable historic homes in Indianapolis, like this one to the right.

Broad Ripple is home to many students, 20-somethings, artists, musicians and baby boomers, creating a unique mix of several generations of folks who march to the beat of their own drum. Broad Ripple is surrounded by a handful of other historic Indy neighborhoods, but none has quite the unique charm of Broad Ripple.

Broad Ripple is about 20 blocks north of downtown, and about 10 blocks east of the main north/south road, Meridian St. Parking is hard, so consider grabbing some public transportation, especially if you’re heading out the night before the big game.

6. The Indiana State Museum (650 W. Washington St.) Wait! Wait! I hear you, why would you want to go to some other state’s museum? You read this whole article about boring old Indiana, what does Persephone expect from you? You should go to the State Museum because it’s awesome. Housed in a brand-new, super modern building with big, beautiful windows, our State Museum overlooks the beautiful downtown canal, it features an IMAX theater and the whole bottom floor is devoted to science.

Rear view of Indiana State Museum
Indiana State Musuem, west side

5. The Mousetrap (5565 N. Keystone Ave) and The Melody Inn (3826 N. Illinois). I love a dive bar like Obi Wan Kenobi loved dive bars, or, rather, will like dive bars in a galaxy, far, far away. These are two of the oldest dives in Indianapolis, and both worth a visit for the decor alone. Both have live music on weekends, friendly barkeeps and pool tables. Others will point you elsewhere, but if you want authentic Indianapolis, you want the Mel or the Trap.

Interior shot of brightly decorated dive bar, with a jukebox, a long wooden bar, a hanging lamp made of antlers and a pool table.
The stories those bar stools could tell. This bar is right down the street from Kurt Vonnegut's childhood home. Image from the Melody Inn website.

4. The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (340 N. Senate). Vonnegut always claimed he became a New Yorker when he moved away from Indianapolis, but for a man trying to distance himself from his hometown, Indianapolis showed up more frequently in his novels and short stories than any other recurring character.  She’s a crafty one, Indianapolis. She can get under your skin. I think you’ll find, if you’re coming to visit us for the football game, that the people here may be incredibly different from each other, and certainly different from your neighbors back home, but what you’ll remember about us is that we always try to be kind, Like Mr. Vonnegut said.

“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies–God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

 ““Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr Rosewater

3. Freetown Village (Affiliated with and administrative offices located in Madame CJ Walker Theater building, 617 Indiana Avenue) Freetown Village describes themselves as a “living history museum without walls.” Freetown Village performers represent the vibrant African American communities throughout Indiana as represented by the 1870 census.

2. The Indianapolis Museum of Art (4000 Michigan Road.) The art museum is a little farther away from downtown than the other spots on this list, but it’s gem you shouldn’t miss. It’s ideal to visit in the warmer months, when you can wander around the sprawling grounds and outdoor areas, but inside the museum is just as spectacular.

LOVE by Robert Indiana, Indianapolis Museum of Art
LOVE by Robert Indiana, Indianapolis Museum of Art

1. Indianapolis City Market (222 E. Market St.) The City Market is right off the circle in the center of the city. The Market hosts a weekly farmers’ market, as well as an impressive assortment of food and gift stands all week long. It’s a great place to grab lunch, with something for nearly every taste and every budget. In an inner city that exemplifies the problem of food deserts, City Market is a breath of fresh air.

Indianapolis has much more to offer than football fields and race cars, and behind the loud news stories about our politics, there’s a city filled with interesting, friendly, determined people.  We’re good at picking ourselves up and trying again, even if the odds are against us. We’re learning how to be a city that respects the diversity of her residents, although we fail sometimes. We’ve probably got too many strip malls and chain restaurants, but we’ve got a lot of small independent places, too. The city sprawls, but there are plenty of green spaces, even in the inner city, and local farmers’ markets are chipping away at the parts of town without access to quality grocery stores. We probably own too many cars, but we’ve also got several hundred miles worth of walking paths. Warts and all, Indianapolis is my city; it’s one I’m proud to call my home, and the home of Persephone Magazine.

Lots of folks are on their way to our fair city this week, we hope you’ll come back again, or stick your head out and explore during a layover. We’ll make you feel at home, too.

Also, we make something called a sugar cream pie. You should definitely seek out one of those, and a big, juicy tenderloin sandwich.

Sally J’s Top Five Places to Visit in Indianapolis

The more I thought about it, the harder it was to come up with just five favorite things about this city. It’s fitting that I’m writing this with Selena, since it’s in her 1984 Cutlass Supreme that I first began exploring this town of ours.

First of all, let’s talk about Superbowl XLVI. Our fair city is Ready with a capital R. We have 46 Murals completed for Superbowl 46. We have 46 sandwiches in a winner-take-all-competition. We have 33 Super Cars, iconic Indy cars wrapped in NFL team logos all around the metro area, tied to a FourSquare contest. We have a ZIPLINE RUNNING ACROSS PART OF DOWNTOWN. I can’t make this stuff up–all of this and more started happening last Friday and will keep going until the game day. There are 17 Super Celebration sites around central Indiana, for those who don’t want to brave the crowds at the Epicenter of Awesome.

Now, here, in no particular order, are my favorite things about the Circle City:

5. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Indianapolis just happens to be home to the largest children’s museum in the entire world. This mega-museum includes a professional theater, planeterium, DinoSphere, the largest train locomotive in the world, a four story glass sculpture by Dale Chilluly and so much more. It’s worth a stop even sans kids anytime you’re in town. Super Activity: This week, even the dinosaurs are ready for the big game!  Besides the dinosaurs, the museum will host a Super Car, and there will be special appearances at their monthly family free night, happening on February 2.

The dinosaurs celebrate every noteworthy holiday, including the this Super week!

4. Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum This Smithsonian Affiliate immerses visitors in local history. Costumed historical interpretars walk throughout the grounds, going about daily life in five themed areas. It’s home to a hot air balloon that takes passengers up during warm weather months, and it’s home to Discovery Station, a play area for children that brings them back to the past in interesting ways. Super Activity: Conner Prairie will host a Super Car, and is featuring “The Science of Football” in their Science Lab.

3. White River State Park White River State Park includes many venues, including the Indiana State Museum Selena referenced. Connected by a beautiful path along the White River canal, venues include an amphitheater, Victory Field, the Eitlejorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, the NCAA Hall of Fame, and the Indianapolis Zoo and White River Gardens. There are installations of art along the way. All of these treasures are just a few blocks northwest of the Big Game. Super Activity: Mostly, they’ll be hosting a lot of parking for volunteers, with some availability for guests. I recommend calling specific venues for hours of operation during all the Superbowl fun.

One of the many installations in White River State Park. Photo from Flickr, by Paul J Everett

2. The Central Library  Oh book lovers, this building is for you. Newly renovated, it combines the original 1917 architecture with a sleek modern addition. Its auditorium holds performances year round, and the programming they do for families and children is extensive. The library is the epicenter of the Marion County public library system that boasts 22 branch libraries. I â™¥ the Library.

Indianapolis Central Library, photo from Flickr, by pjern6.

1. The Monon Trail Remember how Selena said we were a railroad city? The Monon Trail is a testament to that. This public recreation trail stretches for 16.7 miles, through two counties. On any given day, you’ll find marathoners training, parents pushing strollers, and locals walking to the store. It stretches from downtown, through Broad Ripple and all the way through the suburban community of Westfield. Over the years, restaurants have popped up off right off the Monon, making a stroll and a cup of coffee or ice cream cone a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Indianapolis is rolling out the red carpet this week, but really, it’s a pretty great place to visit, Big Game or not.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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