The diverse and friendly Indianapolis scene makes for a perfect weekend getaway. It is a three-hour drive from Chicago. There is so much to do. The city features a compact, walkable downtown plus no less than three cute villages within the city: Mass Avenue, Broad Ripple, and Fountain Square. Bring your bike helmet and ride the Monon Trail, a 30-mile or so rail trail that runs from downtown to points north including Broad Ripple Village.
WHAT TO DO
Take a walk along the downtown canal and enjoy the State Museum and History Center along the way. The Indianapolis History Center (450 W. Ohio) enables you to enjoy interactive Hoosier history featuring live actors singing the songs of Cole Porter as you request them off the song menu. Porter was an Indiana native and led a colorful life. My favorite Porter hit, “Anything Goes,” was performed live at my request. Also at the center, learn about Madam C.J. Walker in The Empowering Women Exhibit. Details at indianahistory.org.
Rent a bike at the bike share station, ride around the Cultural Trail downtown, and then head north to Broad Ripple on the Monon Trail. Broad Ripple is a cute, walkable village just seven miles north of downtown with a pedestrian mall to enjoy your favorite restaurant or bar outdoors. Enjoy the farmer’s market Saturday mornings behind Glendale Mall just east of Broad Ripple. Have lunch on the patio at Bazbeaux Pizza. Pick up a gourmet bakery treat at Rene’s Bakery just across the trail. Try the vegan delights and fresh juices at Ezras. Enjoy great Mexican food at LaPiedad. Then grab an ice cream cone at BRICs and walk along Broad Ripple Avenue, which is currently closed to autos. Enjoy the Indianapolis Art Center and gardens. Plan your Broad Ripple outing at broadrippleindy.org. You can also reach Broad Ripple by the new Red Line rapid transit bus line. Details at indygo.net.
Head up to Newfields (formerly the Indianapolis Museum of Art) and enjoy the paintings and outdoor gardens. Do not miss the new exhibit, “Edward Hopper and the American Hotel.” Have a cocktail at the pop up Hotel Bar. Enjoy the outdoor gardens.
Also visit the Indianapolis Zoo, which is downtown in the White River State Park.
Just south of downtown is the urban hipster hangout, Fountain Square. Try the coffee at Fletcher Place Coffee.
You will find several bars on Massachusetts Avenue, which is blocked off to cars for the summer to enhance outdoor dining and drinking. Metro (707 Mass Avenue) is a nightclub and restaurant. Next door is Tini, which has a great outdoor patio bar Forty Five has great food and drinks and is at 45 Mass Avenue (corner of College Avenue).
A bit farther from downtown, stop by Gregs, on 231 16th Street. The Sunday afternoon show tunes always draws a crowd. Downtown Olly’s (822 N. Illinois) features food and libations. Check out the piano bar on Tuesdays. There is always something going on at this neighborhood hangout. You will find them on Illinois Street just west of downtown.
English Ivy’s is a gay friendly neighborhood pub, which features food and drinks. You will find them at 944 N. Alabama just north of Mass. Avenue and downtown. Enjoy a pork tenderloin sandwich, a Hoosier favorite.
WHERE TO STAY
Downtown hotels include the Courtyard on the Canal as well as the Residence Inn on the Canal. The Sheraton is always an affordable option. The JW Marriott is also very nice. The Hotel Broad Ripple is a charmer and right on the Monon Trail. You can walk to the bars and restaurants of Broad Ripple.
GETTING TO INDY
Indianapolis is a three-hour drive from Chicago. It is also serviced by Amtrak three days a week (and with a Thruway Bus the other days) with a station just steps from downtown hotels. Book your ticket at Amtrak.com.
The award-winning Indianapolis International Airport (#1 in the nation for 2020 according to both Travel and Leisure as well as Conde Nast) is another option for travelers. Take the Green Line or #8 bus to downtown from IND. I recommend Southwest, which serves Indy from Midway and other airports around the nation.
Freshen your wardrobe at Heritage Clothier and Home (1134 E. 54th Street). Great deals and the latest styles including my favorite, Penguin. Ask for the cologne. Pick up some sexy underwear or supplies at Toolbox at 750 N. College.
The city features outdoor dining and limited indoor dining due to COVID. Masks are required when indoors at all facilities including bars and restaurants. The museums are also now again open to the public. Capacity restrictions are in effect. Check before you go to them as rules change frequently as does what is and what is not open. Bring your mask.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
You will not run out of things to do in this surprisingly friendly and fun Midwestern metro of two million folks. We look forward to your visit to my hometown.
Bill Malcolm is the only nationwide syndicated LGBTQ value travel writer. He is based in Indianapolis. His column is or has been carried in LGBTQ publications around the country. His opinions are his own. Thanks to Visit Indy for the help with this column. All or parts of this material may appear in other publications.