Indianapolis was my first Midwestern destination ever, and I was pleasantly surprised at the local, indie arts scene, historical sites, and the vibrancy of the city.
If you find yourself in this speedy little city, here’s a rundown of the best things in town.
Le Meridien Indianapolis located in the heart of downtown, conveniently next to St. Elmo’s (you’ll learn about this later), this luxury hotel has an incredible lobby bar and lounge area, spacious and clean rooms, and very friendly and attentive staff.
Head to Carmel (15 miles north of the city) for Nickel Plate Arts, and take a class, or participate in the community tile painting project. If you’re not artistically inclined, tour the galleries and soak in the creative energy that the students, teachers, and children bring in droves.
Also in Carmel is the Indiana Design Center. The center is open to the public and houses more than 20 retail showrooms showcasing Indy-based artists and design professionals, including local favorite Walter Knabe (featured above).
If you choose one activity in Indy, it must be a visit to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Start inside with a tour of the Hall of Fame Museum to learn about the history of auto racing, and view the vast collection of vehicles on display, including the car that won the first‐ever Indianapolis 500, the Marmon Wasp.
After touring the museum, speed things up a bit by booking an on track adventure. You have several options of cars, tracks, and speed, so choose the experience that’s right for you by visiting Indy Racing.
For a bit of culture, visit the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, 100 Acres. This gorgeous and expansive green is free and open to the public daily, and is one of the largest museum art parks in the country. Popular pieces include ‘Funky Bones’, a large fiberglass installation mentioned in The Fault in Our Stars, and Robert Indiana first LOVE sculpture.
Perhaps the most bizarre on the list is John Dillinger’s grave at Crown Hill Cemetery. Show your respects to the Infamous bank robber and gangster by tossing a penny on his gravestone.
I adore the gentle giants that are giraffes, so feeding them at the Indianapolis Zoo was a must for me. For a small fee, you are given carrot sticks and a quick photo opp – but be warned – they will devour them in a matter of seconds, so have your camera ready before approaching!
There simply isn’t a better dining option in Indy than St. Elmo Steak House. Savor perfectly crafted cocktails and succulent steaks in a historic location that has served numerous athletes, politicians, and Hollywood celebrities since 1902. If you’re feeling brave, order the shrimp cocktail that was deemed the ‘world’s spiciest dish’ by the Travel Channel, and a dish I’m proud to say I finished.
For breakfast, try Café Patachou, a “student union for adults”. Indy transplant Martha Hoover had difficulty finding a healthy food, so she opened her own restaurant. With dishes to please vegans, vegetarians, and the carnivores among us, it’s a true crowd pleasing destination.
For a more contemporary dining experience, check out Union 50, in the popular arts and theatre neighborhood of Indianapolis. A chef-driven restaurant, Union 50 serves up a wide variety of innovative dishes from small plates to large entrees, and has an extensive wine menu.