Sunshine Chaser's Guide to Indianapolis

Hello and happy February! I'm starting this month off right - with a killer guide to fun things in Indianapolis as part of the Sunshine Chasers guest post series. Indy was one of my road trip stops this summer and I totally wish I had Polly's guide with me. She's got the best recommendations! Let's head to Indy, yeah? Take it away, Polly!

I moved to Indianapolis after spending a 36-hour stopover there. I - along with my husband – came, saw, and made a snap decision. It might sound a little impulsive, but I had a good feeling about this mid-sized Midwestern city I'd only gotten a glimpse of (editors note: some say impulsive, some say the dream feeling). Luckily, my gut feeling was right - Indianapolis is the perfect mix of small-town charm and big-city experiences.

From downtown's emphasis on sports and classic Midwestern fun to Fountain Square's hipster vibes to Broad Ripple's quirky college party vibes, I'm pretty confident in saying everyone will be able to find something in Indianapolis to enjoy. Just to make things a little easier, why don't I get you started?

Fun Things in Indianapolis, Indiana

Explore:

City County Building observation deck. My favorite part of any city is exploring from up above – not only does it give you a fresh perspective about how the city is laid out, but you can also pinpoint interesting places you'd like to find once you're back on the ground. To access the observation deck, simply head to the elevators in the lobby during normal working hours and tell the elevator attendant you'd like to go to the observation deck. (35 N Pennsylvania st.)

Walk the trails. Indianapolis offers a number of trails running throughout the city, allowing you to get nearly everywhere you want to go on foot or by bike. Try the eight-mile Indianapolis Culture Trail which cuts through downtown, the Canal Walk, or the 7.6-mile Monon Rail Trail leading through neighborhoods and forests alike.

Crown Hill Cemetery. Located north of downtown Indianapolis, Crown Hill Cemetery (the largest non-governmental cemetery in the US, and second only to Arlington) is a great place to walk around, explore, and get a great view of the skyline. From bank robbers to poets to presidents, Crown Hill has a host of interesting residents making it worth the trek up to 34th street. (Entrance at 34th and Boulevard pl.)

IMA's 100 Acre Art & Nature Park. Located just west of the Indianapolis Museum of Art is a free, outdoor alternative: the 100 acre park dedicated to larger-than-life sculptures and art installations created by artists from around the world. The park also includes a large lake and a visitor center. Perfect for a few hours of fun during nice weather. (Parking lot accessible at the intersection of 38th and N White River Parkway dr.)

Mass Ave. Massive gentrification efforts in the '80s have turned Massachussetts Avenue – a diagonal running street northeast of downtown – into the place to be. From countless great restaurants to offbeat shopping destinations, you'll be hard-pressed to not enjoy this hipster-y bit of the city. Check out Homespun Indy or Silver in the City for some unique gifts.

Mass Ave

Mass Ave

Street art. Indianapolis has some truly great street art, in particular thanks to the Super Bowl – the massive event prompted city officials to commission 46 public works of art for the 46th game held in Indianapolis. For a full list of art broken down by area, check out the listings on Indy Arts Guide.

Food:

Eagle's Nest. While I'm not normally one to advocate for eating in a hotel restaurant, the Eagle's Nest at the very top of the Hyatt downtown is a definite exception. The restaurant is a slowly rotating circular room at the top of the hotel which offers some of the most amazing views of Indianapolis. Head up just before sunset, grab a cocktail, and enjoy the view! (1 South Capitol ave.)

View from Eagle's Nest

View from Eagle's Nest

Milktooth. Feel the need to be hipster-fied during brunch? Then Milktooth on Virginia Avenue is the place to be. Dedicated to locally-sourced food produced creatively (plus seriously good coffee and cocktails), no visit to Indy is complete without a meal at Milktooth. (534 Virginia ave.)

Ball and Biscuit. Named for a curiously shaped microphone (true story), the Ball and Biscuit is a bar/lounge with some seriously impressive cocktail options. (331 Massachusetts ave.)

All of the donut shops. Midwesterners seem to love donuts and I'm not going to argue! Visit General American Donuts for amazingly unique flavor combinations. (827 South East st.) Try Rocket 88 for all-natural, organic, vegan donuts that are still delicious. (874 Virginia Ave.) Head north to 16th street for Long's Bakery's classic donuts, made daily from scratch since 1955. (2300 West 16th st.)

Drinks:

Thirsty Scholar. We live really close to here and I’m pretty sure every time I walk by with someone I’m compelled to exclaim "did you know you can buy coffee AND wine there?!". Somehow the intimacy of a coffee shop paired with some kick ass wine offerings had never occurred to me. Now that I’ve experienced it, my life will never be the same. (111 East 16th st.)

Hotel Tango Whiskey. Central Indiana's first artisan distillery, Hotel Tango Whiskey creates some seriously good liquor that can be sampled in their cozy Indianapolis space. From rum to vodka to gin, this space has got anything you could ever want for an unbelievably delicious cocktail.

The Hi-Fi. Located in the hipness that is Fountain Square, the Hi-Fi is a great place to check out great live music and grab a drink or three in the process. While you may not have heard about a lot of the act there, chances are you're going to stumble on something great. (1043 Virginia ave.)

Polly Barks was an expat in Moscow, Russia for five years. After returning home to small town Virginia (with a Russian husband in tow), she knew she had to do something to keep the spark of travel and adventure alive even though she no longer lived abroad. Thus Let's Love Local was born, a site dedicated to low-cost, offbeat adventure ideas that help you love wherever you are, no matter where you are!

You can follow her for local travel inspiration on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Let's Chat!

  • Have you ever been to Indianapolis? What did you think of it? Who's down to do a road trip re-do with me and go visit? 
  • Polly adds: "I've got an air mattress with your name on it!" Done.