My husband and I have passed by Indianapolis numerous times over the years as we traveled north from Lexington, Kentucky to ski resorts in Michigan or getaways to Chicago. We often remarked how we were passing a city that looked very intriguing, was only three hours away from our home, and that we should make time to visit the city affectionately known as the Crossroad of American because it is the hub for several major interstate highways which crisscross the state. We finally made plans to visit on our way back home from a trip to Wisconsin in the summer.
Not taking into account the astonishing snarl of traffic that is Chicago, we left Green Bay, Wisconsin late in the afternoon after a tour of Lambeau Field, and ran into that frustrating traffic which put us into Indy late at night. This meant that we were not able to fully appreciate the city until the next day when we arose to the beauty that is downtown Indianapolis.
The night before, we had arrived completely exhausted from dealing with the traffic to check into the absolutely stunning J.W. Marriott Indianapolis Hotel. Again, it was late and dark so we didn’t fully appreciate the hotel until the next morning but the lobby was expansive, elegant and crammed with people. Some sort of conference was going on, and the activity and noise level in the area was incredible.
This, however, did not keep the desk staff from taking care of us immediately in a very friendly manner, making sure we could manage our luggage and sending us on our way to our room in a timely manner. We were honestly a little concerned about the noise level in the lobby and that it might impact a restful night’s sleep, but once we arrived at the hallway to our room, it was blissfully quiet. We quite literally fell into our comfy beds in our beautifully furnished contemporary room and did not stir until the next morning.
When we awoke, we really began to fully appreciate the luxury hotel. We threw open the curtains on our floor-to-ceiling windows to fully enjoy our view of the city and had time to notice our large, flat screen television and roomy bathroom.
The hotel is conveniently located right beside Victory Field, a minor league baseball park, and White River State Park, Indiana’s only urban state park; it was also an easy walk to many downtown shops and restaurants.
In addition to the several hotel restaurants, there was also a Starbucks, where we grabbed coffee and a bite to eat before heading out for the day. Greeted by a gorgeous and sunny summer day, we were in a much better mood than the previous night and able to fully appreciate the hotel and the surrounding area. We have visited a lot of big cities but it’s rare to find one as immaculately clean and well maintained as Indianapolis. We were honestly astonished at the beautiful White River State Park, an easy stroll from the hotel.
We have seen plenty of city parks but this is a complete and gorgeous state park right beside the hotel! Covering an amazing 250 acres in Indy, it offers an amazing variety of attractions and entertainment. Rent a Segway or a bike, take a pedal boat around the 1.5 mile clear and clean canal which wends through the park, take a stroll along the winding paths and enjoy the sculptures, lush trees and flowers throughout the park, or just have a seat and do some people watching!
They also have rental electric bikes for tooling around town. There was even a wedding taking place while we there and what a wonderful place for it! An IMAX theater and the Indianapolis Zoo are also in the park so you can easily spend several days there.
We were interested to see gardens in the park labeled as Growing Places Indy and found out later there were part of an urban agriculture initiative. With nearly 6,000 square feet of growing space, this is their main farming site and provides an opportunity for visitors to learn more about urban agriculture.
From the park, we walked around town for a while, checking out the canal and fountains, sculptures and interesting shops.
We were surprised and moved to see a beautiful memorial to September 11. Established in 2010 to honor those killed in the attack, the memorial has two 11,000-pound beams which were taken from the ruins of the Twin Towers. Black granite walls behind the beams are inscribed with remembrances of the events.
For lunch, we met the rest of our family at Le Peep, where they offer delicious breakfasts and lunches. The Chinese chicken salad was delicious and so was the Gooey Bun I couldn’t resist ordering, even though it was technically a breakfast item!
Indy has a variety of restaurants of every kind downtown, and we were surprised to see that there even some patio restaurants, which looked especially inviting on a warm summer day.
While we slept in, our daughter and son-in-law had managed to rise early and take our grandson to the amazing Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. I was crushed to have missed this visit, as the museum is known for their dinosaur exhibits and they are one of my very favorite things, but exhaustion won over dinosaurs. My family enjoyed every minute, though, and determined that a few hours was definitely not enough to see this amazing place, with its fabulous, interactive exhibits.
After lunch, it was time for a visit to possibly the most famous site in Indianapolis: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We were disappointed to find that because of an event taking place, we were not able to visit the Speedway itself and step on the famous finish line, where the only reminder of the original brick surface of the track remains.
But we did spend several hours at the Hall of Fame Museum which is located at the speedway and is well worth a visit. Photos, cars, memorabilia and a great historical movie took the place of an actual visit to the race track, so that is on our list for our next visit to Indy!
We headed back to our luxurious digs at the J.W. Marriott to enjoy the beautiful indoor pool and relax a little before our dinner at Traders Point Creamery. An organic, 100% grass fed dairy farm and artisan creamery in nearby Zionsville, they are the first USDA-certified organic dairy farm in Indiana.
They work with farmers, consumers and distributors with a goal of sustainable food production; they offer farm tours, summer camps, exclusive event spaces and have a wonderful farmstead restaurant called The Loft.
Open for lunch and dinner as well as brunch on Sunday, they focus on the farm-to-table with an organic emphasis and believe that the best dishes begin with fresh ingredients. Many of the ingredients on the menu — like the produce, artisan cheeses, dairy products, grass-fed beef and pastured pork — all travel very short distances to the kitchen. A rotating menu means dishes change with the seasons and bring a diversity and freshness not found at other restaurants.
We each ordered something different — a cheeseburger, vegetable pasta and duck — to try some of their various offerings and each was equally delicious.
It was the perfect meal on the perfect last evening of our visit. We had not spent nearly enough time in beautiful Indianapolis and realize now we need to pay another visit to this wonderful location.