Getting Up to
Speed in the City of Speed
From its canal to Monument Circle, Indy is full of pleasant surprises.
Fueled by an appetite for fun and framed
by faces as friendly as a generous bounce off a front rim, Indianapolis
is a Hoosier hotbed.
A Midwestern marvel, it is often overshadowed by its nearby neighbors
such as Chicago and St. Louis. Yet like a single car roaring around
the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a hot qualifying run, the city
can stand on its own and shine.
This is more of an event city than a destination. But why? Indianapolis
offers a clean and vibrant downtown, hosts major sporting events
in addition from the annual Indy 500 it's home to this year's Men's
Basketball Final Four sports interesting museums and has parks
for running, blading or slow strolls in the summertime sun.
Sports are the city's heartbeat. It has hosted six Final
Fours. In fact, Indianapolis hosted either a Men's Final Four, a Women's Final Four,
a regional bracket or an NCAA convention once a year from 2001-2009. And, of course, it hosted Super Bowl XLVI in 2012.
Indianapolis is home to the NCAA, USA Gymnastics, USA Track &
Field, US Diving, US Synchronized Swimming and the Black Coaches Association.
Indianapolis is considered the Amateur Sports Capitol of America and
has held the Pam American Games and the Olympic trials for several US
Each year, Quality Logo Products and other players in the promo
game help Nike roll out the new line of sports merchandise in Indy and other cites. The NCAA Convention – which in 2012 was held in Indy – gives retailers and buyers an early glimpse of what's to come in the future.
And, of course there's the Speedway.
What Indianapolis is most, however, is one of American's friendliest
cities. From those in the service industry to the residents to even
the cab drivers, the people are just plain nice. And that's nice.
Arrival, Accommodations and Orientation
It's not the scented lobby or even the nice rooms that make the Omni
a top choice.
Indianapolis is serviced by an international
airport, located approximately 15 minutes from downtown. It's a mid-size
facility which makes for a fairly painless in-and-out procedure. In
fact, don't be too surprised if the luggage beats the passengers to
the baggage carousel. Cab fares are $20-25 downtown; be sure and push
the "cab call" button to hail a ride. There is no group shuttle
from the airport, though inexpensive limos are available for shared
The Omni Severin
One of the top hotels is The Omni Severin, and not just because
it's an Omni. And not because it's where several recognizable
VIPs who visits the city stay. PubClub was there during the NFL
Combine and there were more NFL players and coaches hanging out
in the lobby than at the Pro Bowl.
It's not the scented lobby, either, with its soft sofas offering
comforting cushion after a long day. Or the large rooms with free
wireless Internet (which also works in the lobby).
Then the soft, thirsty towels, perhaps?
Or could it be the unique secondary wake-up call, a follow-up
15 minutes later which is like a snooze button for the phone.
Well, that's certainly great, but not quite. (Okay, that does
put it over the top.)
What makes the Omni really glamorous place to stay is its location.
Out the main door is the end of Jackson Street and two cool watering
holes. Over the shoulder is Circle Centre Mall, which connects
to the Convention Center. The RCA Dome is less than two blocks
away and Conseco Fieldhouse just four. In fact, all of downtown
Indy is within fast foot range.
The Severin simply has the about the best location of any hotel
in any city anywhere.
It also has a nice martini bar, Olives. The menu is designed
by one of its bartenders PubClub prefers the Caribbean
and it's a fine place to begin any evening in downtown
Corporate rates are $209 weekdays and $169 weekends. Reservations:
(800) THE-OMNI. Web site: www.omniseverin.com.
Located pretty much in the center of Indiana, the city is within easy
striking distance of several other Midwestern locations (which makes
it striking that people from those places don't visit more often). It's
three hours or less from Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati Cleveland and
Louisville, And not much farther from Music City (Nashville). The main
interstates are I-65, which approaches from the north and south, and
I-70 from the east and west. It's also serviced by I-74 to the west
and I-69 to the northeas and encircled by I-465.
Unlike many American cities, Indy has a downtown that is alive
day and night. Many people work downtown and several residents who also
make it their home. And why not it has good restaurants, cool
lounges, fun bars, sports venues, a scenic canal and plenty of elbow
room from the skyscrapers with an expansive park.
The central nerve center is Monument Circle, a 284-foot tall
sculpture dedicated to Civil War casualties. Traffic moves around the
circle and the city branches out from that point. To the west is the
Capitol building and White River State Park, to the northeast
is the Theater District and eclectic Mass. Ave., and to
the south on Meridian Street are the majority of the bars and
Some other locals choose to live about 20 minutes to the north in an
area called Broad Ripple. It's the young-and-fun area of Indy,
a wall of well-worn bars satisfying the thirsty college (and post-college)
crowd from Butler University. It also has clubs and a sexy section where
Indy divas and demons like to lounge. The fashionable Northeast
section is not far from Broad Ripple.
.Getting Around [Downtown
With downtown Indy easy to navigate on
foot and taxis that are inexpensive by big-city standards, it's hardly
necessary to have a car. Just about every place is $25 by cab from downtown,
less than it costs to park at many hotels for a night.
Walking is easy in Indy, especially with helpful signs.
The downtown layout invites walking and enclosed skywalks take away
the chill on chilly days. The RCA Dome provides a perfect land beacon
and to make things even more simple, frequent signs point the way to
local landmarks, making navigation a breeze even to novices.
So take a hike (literally).
Dining & Drinking
With such huge steaks, no wonder the wall is a hall of fame for one
Here's to eating in Indy. This is nowhere
near a full dining guide, but rather touches on a few of the top places
in town. Smoking is allowed in establishments serving those 18 and over;
others must be non-smoking.
The signature restaurant is St. Elmo's Steakhouse, famous for
steaks practically as long as your arm. The bill can be, too, especially
by the time the horseradish-heavy cocktail shrimp and a few glasses
or bottle from one of its 20,000 wines are added. Everybody who is anybody
has ate here check the wall photos for verification and
it's especially popular among the race car crowd (Roger Penske dines
in a private area by the wine cellar). Reservations are highly recommended
but walk-ins are welcome, too. Just be patient. Very patient. (Porterhouse
$41.95, shrimp cocktail $12.95. Opt for the steak fries as the side.)
Ocean Air challenges the notion of not eating seafood when you
can't see the ocean. The chef allegedly travels to fishing spots and
goes on boats to know where the catches are coming from so he can best
determine what will be most tasty on the plates. Also downtown is 14
West, a power lunch and upscale dinner restaurant. It has pasta,
veal chops and lunch specials for $11-15. If the beef stroganoff is
on the menu, get it. Frequent Indy visitors will recognize the location
as Malibu on Maryland's (in fact, the name is still on the building).
There are downtown brewpubs The Ram, Alcatraz and
Rock Bottom for home brew, sports screens and cozy food.
For those on a budget, on a whim or a late-night binge, there's White
Castle burgers; one is conveniently located steps from the famed
Nights in Indy bring
smiles, music and much more.
For drinks either after dinner, before dinner, with dinner
or long after dinner, Indianapolis has pubs, clubs, martini bars,
lounges, even a German beer hall. PubClub.com has extensive
reviews of the pubs and clubs in these separate articles:
Bars, Clubs & Lounges
Sightseeing & Activities
Culture in Indianapolis indeed extends
beyond the three-point arc on a basketball court, but it does begin
There's a memory
or more for every mile run at the famous speedway.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway actually located in the
created town of Speedway, Ind., 20 minutes west of downtown is
the world's most famous race track. The names who have raced here are
legendary: Andretti, Foyt, Granatelli, Mears, Penske, Unser. It's heritage
is reflected in a museum at the track's entrance. The museum features
past winning cars but true to its Indiana surroundings, it's as understated
as a cornstalk. Admission fee is just $3 and there's no interactive
"race with the champions" displays. Rather, it's a collection
of cars that's geared for gearheads.
The Hall of Fame Museum features cars from the race's glorious past.
The Speedway is open to fans with tours that provides a behind-the-scenes
look at the famous racing facility. The 90-minute tour includes Gasoline
Alley, the media center, the timing-and-scoring suite and the victory
platform. People can even stand on the famous "yard of bricks"
at the start-finish line ($25 adults). There are 34 dates throughout
the year and the 2006 track schedule is as follows:
May 28 Indianapolis 500
July 2, United States Grand Prix Formula 1
August 6 Brickyard 400 NASCAR
Shoot a hoop in an old-style Hoosier gymnasium.
Just past the state capitol building across West Street is the headquarters
of the National Collegiate Athletic Assocation (NCAA). And while fans
can't go in to give the basketball tournament's selection committee
a piece of their mind for leaving their team out of the "Big Dance,"
they can view college athletics achievements at the Hall of Champions
It has theaters the one on the Final Four is inspiring
kiosks, hands-on displays, a wrap-around video wall and Hall of Honor,
even a gift shop. Yet, the coolest thing here is a mini-gymnasium straight
out of Hoosiers, complete with a rack of balls. This year, the
Hall of Champions is celebrating the NCAA's 100th anniversary (admission
$3 adults, $2 students).
It is located next to the National Institute for Fitness and Sport
(NIFS) a fitness and research center for athletes and also the public.
It has a basketball court (of course), weight and workout machines,
a running track, etc. It also features classes in pilates, "body
bumping" imported from Down Under, a body fat machine and is staffed
with nutritionists and therapists. All facilities are open to the public
(day passes, $12).
Not surprisingly, Indianapolis has the country's largest collection
of sports art. What is surprising is its location in the hallways
of a hospital hotel. In the public spaces of the University Place Conference
Center and Hotel at the oddly named Indiana University-Purdue University
of Indianapolis, is the National Art Museum of Sport. There is
an entire section devoted to Jackie Robinson; the pictures have identified
by a former teammate (and native Hoosier). The photos, paintings (including
one by Mohammed Ali) and sculptures are in the hallways so it's more
like being in a memorabilia establishment than a museum (no admission).
The city also has the NFL's Indianapolis Colts (RCA Dome); the
NBA's Indiana Pacers (Conseco Fieldhouse; the Indianapolis
Indians, the AAA farm club of the Pittsburgh Pirates (Victory Park);
the WNBA's Indiana Fever (Conseco Fieldhouse) and the USHL's
Indiana Ice (Pepsi Coliseum). All venues but the latter are directly
The home of the
Colts (top) and the Pacers and Fever (below).
The elegant Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) is not about sports,
but artwork and artifacts. Its glass atrium is just the beginning, as
inside are some of the most interesting exhibits to be seen anywhere.
A tiffany window from a downtown church, which
takes up an entire wall;
Who's Your Tree (get it, a play on the word Hoosiers),
a "tree" of TV screens each featuring fast-changing faces
of famous people from Indiana;
The Wall, a mysterious piece of artwork visitors are actually
encouraged to touch;
A 3-D virtual walk-through of Asian art.
Inside and out,
the IMA is time well spent.
The African section, which covers the entire continent, not only shows
masks, crowns and swords but depicts how they are used in their native
One of the most fascinating pieces is a large painting of downtown
Indianapolis from 1982-1895. It has amazing detail and causes people
to stop and stare for several minutes.
And that's only the beginning. IMA sits on 152 acres of gardens and
grounds and also has the historical Lily House & Gardens. Thursdays
are free and in early evenings there's a Happy Hour with cocktails and
music. Fridays features a Summer Night Film Series showing classic or
modern movies on the lawn for $5. An on-site Wolfgang Puck Cafe
serves lunch and dinner. (Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 10
a.m.-9 p.m.; adults, $7. Cameras are allowed but without flashes and
With its expansive grounds, beautiful open-air building and the ability
to hold private events, the Indianapolis Art Museum is the
Monterey Bay Aquarium of Indianapolis.
A less civil place, so to speak, is at the base of Monument Circle,
an excellent Civil War museum. It's compact by museum standards
but gives an excellent glimpse of why it's far better to be in the museum
than to have been in that conflict (free, donations accepted),
Sightseeing Resource Guide
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway
||4790 West 16th Street
|Indianapolis Art Museum
||4000 Michigan Road
|NCAA Hall of Champions
||White River Park
||White River Park
|National Art Museum of Sport
||859 West Michigan St.
White River State Park
Brides over canals go from downtown through White River State Park.
Every good city needs open spaces and
Indianapolis has created unique ones with White River State Park
and Central Canal Walk.
The former is an urban park just west of downtown with a waterfall,
museums, (NCAA Hall of Champions, Indiana State Museum), an IMAX, the
Indianapolis Zoo and, on nice (or even medium) days, runners and rollerbladers.
It's not exactly
like strolling the
Siene in Paris, but Canal Walk is enjoyable.
The latter is a 1 1/2-mile man-made canal through town. It features
wide sidewalks on both sides, arched bridges and war memorials to U.S.
veterans and the USS Indianapolis, which delivered the first Atomic
bomb in World War II. In warm months, bikes, paddleboats and even gondolas
can be rented (bikes by the IMAX theater, boats by the bridge at Ohio
and West streets).
Away from downtown, Monon Trail runs through Broad Ripple and continues
for some 50 miles. For those more inclined to soak up the view rather
than soak the clothes with workout sweat, there's a couple of Broad
Ripple bars with views of the "sweaters" from their
Indianapolis is in the Eastern Time Zone but does not observe Daylight
When to Go
The spring and fall are the best times to go for the weather but the
summer has the most outdoor activities because it has the most days
of sunshine (about 70% sunny days in June, July, Aug. and Sept). Then
winters can be cold, even with some snow, but are not excessively frigid.
The average monthly temperatures are as follows:
January 25.5. February 29.6. March 41.4. April 52.4. May 62.8. June
71.9. July 75.4. August 73.2. September 66.6. October 54.7. November
43. December 30.9.
Indy's Downtown Bars