This article was originally posted on the Columbus Underground website on August 1st, 2011. I have updated it to be more helpful for all visitors, as well as adding a few important new bits of information as the city prepares to host Super Bowl XLVI.
Indianapolis is a great place to visit for a weekend getaway. The city is famous for its Motor Speedway, sports teams, and revitalized downtown. But what about the rest of the city? Can a city famous for its love of cars be explored by alternative means of transportation? This is an invitation to explore the lesser known areas of Indianapolis that may surprise the visitor.
Megabus runs nonstop 7 times a day from downtown Chicago, as well as once a day from downtown Columbus, Ohio to Indianapolis at 10:40 in the morning. The downtown stop in Columbus is located at the northwest corner of Nationwide Blvd and High Street. After about 3 and a half hours of traveling, the passenger will arrive in the heart of downtown Indianapolis near the City County Building, located at 200 East Washington Street.
The stop is conveniently close to IndyGo’s bus ticket office which is located at 34 N Delaware Street, so if you are planning on riding the bus during this trip, it is a good idea to stop here first for maps and ride passes. Another benefit of this location is the brand new Indy Bike Hub, which has bicycles to rent.
If the visitor is traveling to Indianapolis by airplane, that’s not a bad thing, as it’s the nicest airport I’ve ever seen. There is a direct bus route to downtown, the Green Line. Please take note of the Super Bowl week detours at the bottom of the page.
A google or kayak search can find a boatload of chain hotels near the Convention Center, but the city features other locally-owned options. This might be too-little, too-late for most travelers, but it probably won’t hurt to try.
The best option for a traveler that can’t avoid staying downtown in a large hotel. The Canterbury is the only place to stay that is not part of a national chain. The fact that it is gorgeous and has a fine restaurant doesn’t hurt its cause.
Indianapolis has done a fantastic job in the past 5 years of improving its bicycle infrastructure. The city boasts one of the finest separated urban trails in the country, the Cultural Trail. A good portion of this trail is still under construction, but the North, Northeast, East, and Capitol Avenue legs are fully completed and ready for exploration. The trail also doubles as a pedestrian path. See the Cultural Trail map for the exact location of this exciting urban amenity.
The Cultural Trail links with the most traveled rail-trail in the city, the Monon. This trail heads north towards two of the most stable and upwardly mobile neighborhoods in the city: Meridian Kessler and Broad Ripple. The trail continues north into Hamilton County past the tony suburb of Carmel. Most of the action in Meridian Kessler is 3 blocks to the west, along the College Avenue nodes of 49th, 52nd, and 54th Street. Broad Ripple is similar to a small town in its layout.
The Central Canal Towpath is a bucolic escape from the bustle of the city. The crushed stone path heads north towards Broad Ripple from downtown, in conjunction with the White River Wapahani Trail. A rider who rents a bicycle at White River State Park could easily head north along these paths. Featured stops include the highly recommended (and free!) Indianapolis Art Museum, the Butler University Campus, and the shops at 56th and Illinois Streets.
Ten years ago, this city had zero on-street bicycle lanes aside from a random country road in northwestern Marion County. They are now popping around town, and as of publication several are convenient enough to be recommended for transportation for the visitor. The lanes on New York and Michigan streets work in tandem as they follow one way streets. Recommended destinations include the gorgeous historic neighborhoods of Woodruff Place and Irvington. More information on the city’s bike lane initiative can be found here.
A fun option for car-free transportation around downtown is the local Pedicab service. Call in advance to secure the ride.
Visitors would be wise to stick with a few of the most popular and logical lines: the 8, the 10, the 17, and the 38. If you are planning on staying downtown and visiting the north side for food and drinks at night, it is a good idea to ride the 17 bus to the area and plan on taking a taxi home, as the last bus of the night runs at around 10 pm. Taxis are more abundant in Broad Ripple than any other place in town outside of downtown or the airport. The general rule for bus riding is to follow the schedule, and try to avoid transferring outside of downtown. Buses are almost never early (they will stop for a minute or two if they are ahead of schedule), but are occasionally late.
The most well-known neighborhood in the city, Broad Ripple is more than just a place to party on weekends. Wander around in the area to the north of Broad Ripple Avenue to visit the place where the local adults meet to socialize and shop. Broad Ripple can be visited on IndyGo bus number 17.
There are so many places to eat here, it can be tough to prioritize. However, I believe the best bet for Broad Ripple dining lies in the casual lunch-type places.
When in doubt in Broad Ripple, go British! My favorite 3 haunts in the neighborhood are all British-style pubs
This neighborhood on the northeastern section of downtown is most well known for its commercial district centered around Massachusetts Avenue. Chatham Arch is an easy walk from the downtown core.
Located to the southeast of downtown along Virginia Avenue, this destination for artists seems to get better by the day. Fountain Square can be visited on IndyGo Bus 14.
With its winding streets and Victorian mansions, this East side gem is worth a visit. Irvington is accessible via the Number 8 bus route.
A large and mostly residential neighborhood on the north side, the heart of Meridian-Kessler lies along College Avenue. The easiest route for the visitor to know for this part of town is the number 17.
Indianapolis has gone above and beyond to be a great host city for the Super Bowl. Exploring all of the activities downtown can easily fill a day or two. I hope visitors enjoy their trips, and that they might be able to explore the rest of the city’s offerings.