Travel | November 8, 2017 9:00 am

Every Diehard Sports Fan Must Visit Indianapolis at Least Once

Football, basketball and Indy racing. Buckle up.

This is The Better Half, a travel series highlighting off-the-beaten-path destinations that rub elbows with more heralded (read: crowded) tourist spots.

Contrary to popular belief, the middle of the country is not, in fact, filled with “flyover cities.” Sure, there’s Chicago. But take a little a time with the map and you’ll discover a few mid-size Midwestern cities worth the airport hassle. 

Like, say, 180 miles southeast of Chicago, to the town that Peyton Manning built — Indianapolis.

A city with no shortage of culinary and cultural offerings, Indy — the self-proclaimed “Crossroads of America” — has something in store for fans of hearty steaks, well-played pigskin and a good night’s sleep.

Below, a detailed itinerary for travelers from both near and far, including where to get your sports on, a vintage train car to rest your head and the other spot for spicy shrimp cocktails.

Indy (3 images)


… If you want everything in one place
Located in the heart of downtown, the Conrad Indianapolis is a stone’s throw away from loads of restaurants, bars and shopping options and is a short walk away from both the home of the Pacers and the stable of the Colts. For food and drink that’s even closer to home, the Conrad’s Capital Grille and Tastings – A Wine Experience have you covered. Looking for something more boutique? The Alexander and Hotel Broad Ripple are also solid options.

… If you want a little history with your hotel
To channel your inner rock star, stay where acts from Green Day to Guns n’ Roses have laid their heads and book a night at the historic Le Méridien Indianapolis, formerly called the Canterbury Hotel. Another historic option is spending a night in one of the 26 authentic Pullman Train Car sleepers, each named after notables from Chaplin and Churchill, that the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown Union Station has at their disposal. And yes, the cars are still on the original rails.

Indy Do (3 images)


… If you want to take it up to full throttle
If you dig sports much as your correspondent does, a bit outside of town in West Lafayette is where you’ll wanna be on Saturdays in the fall to watch the Purdue Boilermakers — especially if it happens to be during next year’s National Tailgate Weekend. Should Purdue prove victorious, celebrate with a beverage at Harry’s Chocolate Shop and don’t be afraid to “go ugly early.” The locals all do. Also, as you’re probably aware, Indianapolis occasionally hosts Indy races, which makes a visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway or the affiliated museum a requirement. If you’ve got hoop dreams, you can realize them at the NCAA Hall of Champions Museum, the only museum we know of that has an indoor basketball court patrons are encouraged to play on.

… If you want to keep things at a half-throttle pace
For a bird’s-eye view of the city, hike to the top of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument — or take the elevator to the top of the 285-foot-tall structure instead. No trip to Indianapolis is complete without paying homage to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, where you can send out a tweet from a web-connected replica of his typewriter. To score some high-end sneakers from former Pacers guard Fred Jones, the Luxury Sneaker Exchange is a must. Prefer a cigar nightcap? Head to Nicky Blaine’s Cocktail Lounge for a stogie and a stiff drink.

Indy Eat (3 images)


… If you want spice and sizzle
The shrimp cocktail at the St. Elmo Steak House gets all the love (and deservedly so), but the similarly spicy take at nearby Harry & Izzy’s is also straight fire. While we’re on the topic of steakhouses, you can’t really walk a block in Indy without coming across one, but Prime 47 is the leader of the pack thanks its stellar staff and live music. We like the cut of its gib — and its meat. Out in West Lafayette, the Triple XXX Family Restaurant serves up mean burgers. Whatever you do, don’t miss the Duane Purvis All American, a sandwich that combines a quarter-pound of chopped steak with creamy peanut butter.

… If you want to get stuffed on local fare
For sandwiches, craft beers and artisanal meats and cheeses, chef Chris Eley’s Goose The Market has them in spades. If your sweet tooth needs to be satiated, the baked goods at The Cake Bake Shop are top-notch. For something a bit earthier, head 20 minutes out of town to dine on farm-to-table fare at Traders Point Creamery, an organic dairy farm. At the no-frills Workingman’s Friend Tavern, their handmade smashed burgers take a slightly different approach to doing dairy and go down quite well with the joint’s 32-ounce pours.