TFIOS Pilgrimage – A Love Letter to Indianapolis

Before I went to Indianapolis, I really did not expect that there would be so much to do or see.  I know better now.  We were exhausted each day and actually ran out of time, because there was so much going on.  Emily and I had to prioritize what were must-sees versus what we would only do if we had time.  Indianapolis offers the culture of a city but the feel of a small town.

Our first day in Indianapolis happened to be the 4th of July.  Emily and I were stoked about celebrating Independence Day in the heartland of America.  We ended up back at the Promenade.  Here is where things get a little confusing.  Fireworks were being set off in every direction.  I did not know where to look, which is also kind of awesome.

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We were excited about visiting the Indiana State Museum, because we wanted to see the 3D shark IMAX movie.  We could have spent all day here.  In addition to the exhibits on the floor, they had other IMAX movies and a special Star Wars exhibit.  But since our time was limited, difficult decisions had to be made, decisions I wouldn’t wish upon any traveler. The exhibitions were cool.  I enjoyed seeing bones of long extinct creatures.  Wait, that sounds evil.  Must clarify.  It was educational, and I enjoy educational experiences.  I liked seeing the artifacts from generations past.  It was interesting to see things like old coal mining equipment since parts of my family had been coal miners in Pennsylvania.  Also, we have Indiana limestone to thank for the Empire State building.  The IMAX movie was a cool experience.  P.S. The cafeteria serves the best chocolate cookies in the history of cookies.

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The Indianapolis Zoo wasn’t initially high on my must-see list, but it was actually pretty cool.  Emily and I went on Friday afternoon, which also the day of Zoolapalooza (which is an event on summer Fridays with live music and late hours).  Our first stop was the Butterfly House.  There was this unbelievably blue butterfly that everyone was either trying to capture on their cameras or trying to get to land on their finger. The butterfly was not cooperative.  In fact, he or she (do butterflies have genders?) refused and flitted about erratically before landing in the middle of the plants and closed its wings depriving us of its striking beauty.

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We passed through the ocean section stopping to pet some dog sharks.  Watching the dog sharks behavior was interesting.  Some of them swam vertically, almost rubbing up against the side of their enclosure.  I really wanted to know what that meant.  Also, there was one who seemed to really enjoy attention and swam to the surface more than the others.  I positioned myself near their resting area and found that was a better spot if you wanted to touch them.  We watched the dolphins swim in the underwater viewing area.  Who doesn’t love dolphins?

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Emily really wanted to make sure we saw the elephants before our phones died (Google Maps requires a lot of juice) and we couldn’t take pictures, so we kind of raced through some spots.  The elephants were also of interest to me because I am going to use Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan with some of my classes this fall and two of the characters are elephants.

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We retraced our steps a little to have a look back at the lion and two lionesses, one of which was very vocal.

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Mass Ave was a neighborhood on our to-visit list and it was also recommended as a place to check out.  When we arrived it was still pretty early and so most of the stores were closed.  But what we saw reinforced that Indy is a place that values art and health.  We ate brunch at the Hoaglin To Go Café & Marketplace and it was delicious.  I think it was my favorite meal on the trip, which is saying something, because every meal we ate was extraordinary.

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We stopped in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.  It was small but had great items like Vonnegut’s typewriter.

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Our last stop of the night was a gondola ride on the canal.  I would recommend that anyone visiting Indy experience it.  The company does one “public ride” a night at 7 pm for $36 a person.  Joining us on our ride would be a couple celebrating a birthday and their anniversary.  Our gondolier serenaded us in Italian.  What more could one ask for?

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Every place we ate served us amazing food.  The first spot we hit up was Maxine’s Chicken and Waffles.  I ordered the smothered chicken, which was good.  But really my favorite parts of this meal were my side dishes.  The macaroni and cheese was probably the best I’ve ever had.  It just melted in your mouth.  Literally.  And then I had a biscuit with peach butter.  I don’t typically like peach-flavored anything, but this was delicious.  Who even knew such a thing existed?  But I am thankful it does.  I also tasted some of Em’s sweet-potato waffles.  I also don’t typically like sweet potatoes.  However, the waffles had such a sweet taste to them that you didn’t even need to use syrup.  Maxine’s is a must visit.

We had dinner at The Slippery Noodle, the oldest bar in Indianapolis.  It was conveniently located near our hotel.  I had a migraine that night so I only ordered a grilled cheese.  I also had their apple pie, which was very good.  We also visited Creation Café.  I enjoyed their pulled-pork sandwich.

We stayed at The Alexander on South Delaware and loved it.  From the minute we stepped out of our taxi from the airport, they greeted us and took care of everything.  We really appreciated the contemporary-artistic vibe, courtesy of the art from the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  In Indianapolis fashion, they were ecologically conservative.  For example, our room keys doubled as light switches so when you remove your key from the slot, the lights turn off. One night we ordered room service.  The gelato was especially delicious.  I would definitely stay there again and would recommend it to anyone going to Indy.

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Other observations about Indianapolis: I found Rocco’s doppelganger by the canal.  I think his name was Jack and he was so cute.  The Indianapolis Airport is my favorite airport and also has a really clean bathroom.  The city is health conscious and seems to prioritize the wellness of its residents.  I even saw an animal wellness center on our way to Broad Ripple.

I want to send a thank you to the people of Indianapolis (yes all of them) for being so welcoming.  Indianapolis is really a beautiful city.  It might just be America’s best-kept secret.

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