There’s no better way to experience a new city than atop a bicycle, and few cities illustrate that better than the Hoosier state capital.
Start your day off by renting a bike at the Indy Bike Hub, located in the historic City Market Building on Delaware Street, grab an Indy Ride Guide map, then hop onto the 8-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which weaves through several of the city’s historic neighborhoods and art districts. From the trail, you can connect to most of Indianapolis’ other greenways and bike lanes to get practically anywhere you need to go.
Although Broad Ripple is most frequently mentioned in travel articles as the place to go to experience Indy’s hip side, unless you’re intrigued by overpriced fashion boutiques, cheesy T-shirt shops and drunk college kids, steer clear. You’re better off taking the Cultural Trail south from downtown a few miles to Fountain Square.
Much of Fountain Square seems like you’ve traveled through a time machine to Mayberry in the 1950s, except that Aunt Bee is cooking traditional Peruvian fare and Floyd runs a tattoo parlor instead of a barbershop. Visitors can go duckpin bowling, then swing dance the night away at the beautiful Fountain Square Theatre next door. My favorite lunch treat is the chicken pad thai at Siam Square, but you also can’t go wrong with the souvlaki platter at Santorini Greek Kitchen or an old-fashioned hamburg – yes, that’s how they spell it -- at the neighborhood stalwart, the Peppy Grill.
Don’t leave before you swing by the Murphy Art Center and gaze upon some of the best new creations at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. If you can score tickets, brave the creaky stairwell and check out an intimate acoustic show upstairs at Do317.com’s PBR Lounge, featuring some of the hottest rock and indie acts in the country, such as Lucero and Blitzen Trapper. Over the past year, I’ve seen about 10 or more bands inside the cramped studio space, joined by less than two dozen other enraptured fans each time.
After you get your fill of Thai food and modern art, head north up the Pleasant Run Greenway to Irvington. Located five miles east of downtown, Irvington got its name from renowned author Washington Irving, but it’s better known nationally as a hideout for infamous bank robber John Dillinger and the scene of notorious murders by HH Holmes, America’s first known serial killer, and former Indiana governor DC Stephenson, respectively.
Despite its often-macabre past, the district remains one of the most desirable in Indianapolis. New arty, off-kilter restaurants and shops have begun creeping into the revitalized area, including the latest edition to the Indianapolis craft-brewing scene, Black Acre Brewing Co.
Located in a shopping plaza located off the main drag of East Washington Street, Black Acre is a modern take on an olde English pub. Reclaimed lumber climbs several walls to the exposed ductwork on the ceiling. The space is a bit on the small side and seating is limited, so get ready to know your neighbor fairly well if you’re visiting on a weekend evening. The beers themselves are a mixed bag. Their stout and porter are quite tasty, but the blonde was so-so and their Weisse smelled and tasted like nail-polish remover. Definitely stick to the darker offerings.
The eclectic beer offerings echo the nearby Homespun boutique, which offers unique, handmade merchandise such as artwork, clothing and books from talented Hoosier artisans – think of it as a brick-and-mortar Etsy.
After you’ve loaded up your bike with your purchases, retreat back downtown for a quick jolt of caffeine at Henry's on East Street in the Chatham Arch neighborhood. That should be enough to power you to White River State Park, where you can take in the Indianapolis Zoo or one of several museums, or perhaps rent a paddleboat for a relaxing tour of the canal winding through parts of downtown. Depending on the season, you can also grab a beer and a hot dog and take in a baseball game at Victory Field, which has been hailed as the best minor league baseball stadium in the country.
After you return your rental to the bike hub, grab a quick dinner at one of the dozen or so restaurants located inside City Market and finish your trip upstairs at the Tomlinson Tap Room, which serves only the finest Indiana microbrews. Be sure to pick up a growler of your favorite brew as a memento of your trip.