Indianapolis: the forgotten contender?

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With the upcoming Indianapolis Colts vs New Orleans Saints Super Bowl, the city of New Orleans is getting a lot of attention. It's always been a touted travel destination, for its hedonistic, laissez-les-bon-temps-roulez attitude and plethora of entertainment options. And since the devastation of 2005's Hurricane Katrina, it has occupied a special place in America's heart.

But what about Indianapolis, in America's true heartland? Is it getting short shrift?

We interviewed Brice Gosnell, our USA publisher and Indianapolis native. And just as we expected, Indy has a lot more to offer than you'd think.

LP: What are some unique features of Indy as a travel destination that Nawlins lacks?

Brice: Indianapolis is known as the the Amateur Sports Capital of the World. The government has made a huge commitment to amateur sports since the 1980s, drawing a variety of world-class events. Not to mention that we're huge Pacers (basketball) fans - and (obviously) Colts fans. We're also the home of the NCAA headquarters. And everyone knows about the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 car races.

Related article: Unexpected Indianapolis: blues, burlesque and brains in jars

(ED: Sports buffs can visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame Museum, and the NCAA Hall of Champions.)

Bet you didn't know that Indianapolis hosts one of the country's largest state fairs - a true glimpse into Americana, and an incredible chance to meet folks. We are known as the 'crossroads of America' - literally because of the major highways looping through town, but metaphorically because one gets a true cross-section of American culture here.

What would travellers be missing out on if they skipped over Indianapolis?

Apart from the sports events I've mentioned, you'd be crazy to skip over the Indianapolis Zoo. It features 360 species in biomes as well as the only underwater viewing dome in the Midwest.

But really, the number one thing travellers would miss is the people. Some of the best friends you could ever make. They are genuinely nice, polite and engaging. They love to help others and are very hospitable.

What is your personal favorite thing about Indianapolis?

Again, the people. But if you want me to branch out, I'd have to say Bazbeaux Pizza: still the best pizza I've ever had anywhere in the world. (ED note: Brice is pretty well travelled, so this is quite a statement!)

If a traveller had one day in Indy, what should she or he do?

  1. Start downtown at the Circle Monument and walk towards the War Memorial (north of Monument); grab a coffee and one of their famous omelettes at Café Patachou downtown.
  2. Head north towards the Meridian Kessler neighbourhood to see stately homes. You'll love the turn-of-the-century architecture in one of Indy’s oldest (and most coveted) neighbourhoods.
  3. Then head over to College Street for lunch at Taste Café for lunch. Afterward, pop in next door to the 50s-style Red Key Tavern for a drink at a local institution.  (Make sure to follow the rules in the bar - no yelling, no cussing, no feet on table and always hang your coat on hook, not on a chair!). Look for the neon martini sign.
  4. Then take in the Broad Ripple neighbourhood, which is on a canal, to check out the local (young) scene, including the Corner Wine Bar (with over 150 wines and champagnes and a pub that’s similar in style to an English pub).
  5. Next, make a beeline to the Indianapolis Museum of Art to check out its impressive international collection. The museum sits on 152 acres - a great place to have a picnic or just enjoy the weather.
  6. Head back downtown towards Massachusetts Avenue. Go to the Rathskeller for German-style beer in the beer hall, then cross the street to Bazbeaux Pizza (mentioned above). It's a local favourite, and a personal one! The original is in Broad Ripple but the downtown one is more sophisticated.
  7. Finally, after dinner, head over to Meridian Street to the Slippery Noodle Inn, Indy’s oldest bar, for live blues and jazz.