So my USA travels have finally come to an end after one of the best years I could have imagined. So many of my wonderful experiences were thanks to the generosity of the city of Indianapolis and its universities. It is because of this that I really wanted the first post in my ‘USA Series’ of blog posts to be about the city that I called home for a year.
Indianapolis is the capital and biggest city of the state of Indiana, a Midwestern state set between Illinois and Ohio. The city, the 12th biggest in the USA, is famous as the home of the Indy 500 NASCAR event as well as the home of the Indianapolis Colts football team and Indiana Pacers basketball team. The city is also home to three Fortune 500 companies and is known as the “crossroads so America” due to its economical reliance on transportation.
The Sports Teams
As mentioned above, Indianapolis is home to several professional sports teams, including the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana Pacers. Although the city doesn’t have a major league professional baseball team it is home to the Indianapolis Indians, a minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. During my time in Indianapolis I was lucky enough to attend games at all three of these teams’ home grounds.
The Indianapolis Colts play at Lucas Oil stadium, a relatively new stadium built specially for the team and used as the host stadium for the Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. This stadium is without a doubt the best sports venue I have ever been to (and I’ve even to Wembley in London twice). The atmosphere in Lucas Oil is incredible, every single fan wearing blue and cheering every play of the game, the NFL American Football experience is just not to be missed. Even if you are spending only a week in America, if you are staying in a city with an NFL team you should go to a game. Tickets are expensive but the experience is priceless in my opinion, it’s an American institution after all, and if your team happens to be the Colts (and trust me, it should be) then even better because they’re a very good team (don’t get me started on the 2015 Super Bowl) and winning, like they did the game I went to, always helps!
Basketball is another American sporting institution and they take great pride in their teams and competitions. The Indiana Pacers play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse stadium and I had no idea it was possible to sit vertically hundreds of feet above the court, but it is. I got my ticket through my Sports Marketing class at college, so it was a bargain price at $6. While most tickets are more expensive than this, basketball is certainly a cheaper sporting event to attend than NFL football. The stadium also has another great atmosphere, though arguably not as good as Lucas Oil as Bankers Life rarely sells out. The halftime entertainment is really great though and they do mini-entertainment breaks during time outs that make each game really enjoyable, even if your team can’t quite snatch a victory.
As mentioned, Indianapolis doesn’t have a Major League Baseball team but it does house the Minor League affiliate of then Pittsburgh Pirates, then Indianapolis Indians. Now, I would absolutely still recommend that you attend a baseball game even it if’s ‘only’ a Minor League team. When it comes to Baseball, so much of the entertainment comes from the atmosphere, the food (pretzels and nuts and beer anyone?) and the games and competitions hosted by sponsors. There are countless opportunities to win free stuff at these games and when the tickets only cost $20 it’s hard to argue it isn’t worth going to a few games.
If you’re into sports and visiting Indianapolis, doing NASCAR related activities is probably a must. I was in the city for the wrong time of year to really appreciate all that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has to offer but there’s a museum to visit and of course if you’re around in May you can attend the Indy 500 event itself, I’ve heard great things about it.
As a poor student with on-campus meal swipes, I unfortunately wasn’t able to sample much of the Indianapolis food scene. As with any American city there are the usual food chains such as Steak N Shake, Wendy’s, Taco Bell etc, not to mention my favourite food chains of Olive Garden and Panera (seriously, try their cheddar and broccoli soup!) There are many great smaller and more independent food places in Indy too and in fact one of our favourite things to do this year was to go out for ice cream. Now your ice cream choices are wide in Indy but my all time favorite is Sub Zero, which is located on the popular Massachusetts Avenue (Mass Ave). Here they let you choose a base for your ice cream (premium, dairy free or low fat if you have a guilty conscience) and then two flavours (mint and brownie batter were my go to) and a mix in (dark chocolate flakes anyone?). They then add an impressive amount of liquid nitrogen to the mixture and before your very eyes transform it into the smoothest ice cream you have ever tasted. Seriously, ever.
Like many big Cities, Indianapolis has it’s own zoo. It took me almost my entire year before I got around to visiting it, but I wish I’d had time to go more than once! One of the best things about the zoo is the dolphin show which is included in your ticket price. Be sure to get there early as these shows do sell out and you are given a ticket with a specific show time printed on it. The zoo has pretty much every animal you could want to see, including lions and tigers, as well as a reptile collection and an array of walk-through bird aviaries. A ticket to the zoo also covers admission to the butterfly house which is located in the garden next to the zoo entrance. Both the butterfly house and the garden are really beautiful so I’d definitely recommend going on your way out of the main zoo.
As I mentioned above, the Sub Zero ice cream store is located on Massachusetts Avenue, which is a very popular district of town. Definitely visit here while in Indianapolis, it is the location of many smaller independent stores like Silver in the City, as well as a really great toy store and several nice restaurants that for many would probably be preferable to Olive Garden or Panera.
Circle Centre is really the very centre of Indianapolis. It is where all the street names begin counting so it’s very easy to find! At the centre of the circle is the Soldiers and Sailors monument, which actually has a free-entry museum inside. (Unfortunately the Soldiers and Sailors monument was undergoing construction for almost the entire year I was in Indianapolis so I have not visited the museum inside the statue, maybe next time!)
I spent almost an entire year in Indianapolis and I still don’t feel like I’ve seen everything this city has to offer! It really isn’t one of the typical tourist destinations which I think is a shame, it’s a hidden gem of the Midwest and if you’re looking for something a bit different from the usual cities I’d recommend it ten times over.