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A Car-Free Guide to Indianapolis, New Years Eve addition

I last posted this article in 2012 for the Super Bowl. I was amazed at how much has changed since then. Most of the text will be the same, but I’ll update links and add new options as needed. I’ve also deleted out much of the information that applied to visitors, this edition of the guide is mainly intended for residents. Please mention any information that is incorrect, or other tips that you may have.

Where to Stay

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.

Fountainview Inn

Located in increasingly awesome Fountain Square, this small hotel is located in the most prominent building in the neighborhood, the Fountain Square theater building.

Indy Hostel

The best option for travelers on a budget, this hostel is located in a house right next to the Monon Trail at 49th and Winthrop in Meridian Kessler neighborhood.

Nestle Inn

The closest Bed and Breakfast to downtown offers an unbeatable location next to the Massachusetts Avenue cultural district in the Chatham Arch neighborhood.

Le Meridian

The best option for a traveler that can’t avoid staying downtown in a large hotel.  Le Meridian has cool Indianapolis-themed artwork in each room. It also has a nice restaurant, which doesn’t hurt its cause.

Hotel Broad Ripple

Finally! A hotel in Broad Ripple. I’m sure this is booked up for the night on New Years Eve. Keep this in mind for next year, or any other time.

Recommended Bicycle Routes

Cultural Trail

(Image credit: Curtis Ailes)

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. The trail also doubles as a pedestrian path.  See the Cultural Trail map for the exact location of this exciting urban amenity.

The Monon Trail

(Image credit: Kevin Kastner)

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 Canal Towpath

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  Indianapolis Art Museum, the Butler University Campus, and the shops at 56th and Illinois Streets.

Pennsy Trail

Open in Irvington, it connects to downtown via the Michigan and New York Street bike lanes.

Bike Lanes

As mentioned, the Cultural Trail is a good, safe place to ride a bicycle. Now, visitors can rent bicycles and ride downtown via the Pacers Bikeshare. As a member, I can easily recommend this service.

On-Street Bike Lanes are also visible around town, and 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.
  • Shelby Street Cycle Track helps connect riders to the Garfield Park neighborhood on the south side.
  • Pennsylvania Street now has protected bike lanes downtown.

More information on the city’s bike lane initiative can be found here.

IndyGo Bus Service

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 or Uber ride home, as the last bus of the night runs at around 10 pm.  Taxis in particular 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.

Neighborhoods

Broad Ripple

Overview:

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.

Activities and Shopping:
  • The Indianapolis Art Center always has an intriguing array of locally crafted artwork on display.  Artists hone their craft here through classes and workshops.
  • Eat an ice cream cone at Brics, and sit on the patio overlooking the Monon Trail while soaking up the atmosphere of my favorite area of Broad Ripple.
  • Indy CD & Vinyl has a fine collection of music.
  • In addition to all of this,  2 of the best coffee shops in town: Monon Coffee Company and Perk Up.
Food:

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.

  • Monon Food Company has delicious food for reasonable prices.  The Fish and MoFoCo Pork Tacos are staples.
  • Brugge Brasserie was the first gastropub in the city.  Crepes, frites, and amazing locally brewed beer.
  • The best Mexican food in the neighborhood is in an unassuming breakfast place called Biscuits.  Skip the combo platters and focus on the tacos and tamales.
Drink:

When in doubt in Broad Ripple, go British!  My favorite 3 haunts in the neighborhood are all British-style pubs

  • Broad Ripple Brewpub was Indianapolis’ first brewpub (founded by an actual Englishman), and it’s still one of the best.
  • The Wellington is a tiny, tastefully lit space with some great craft beers on tap.
  • Union Jack’s has amazing deep dish pizza.  A well-kept secret in an area that doesn’t have many.

Chatham Arch

(Image credit: Curtis Ailes)

Overview:

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.

Activities and Shopping:
Food:
  • Black Market is brand-new on the scene, but it is taking this town by storm.  The pickle plate is a must-try.
  • R Bistro can be counted on for well-prepared and thoughtful presentations.  The menu changes weekly.
  • Mesh is owned by a small local chain, but it doesn’t matter when the food is this good.
  • How many cities have a great Scottish restaurant?  Indianapolis does – MacNiven’s.
  • Family-friendly Bru has good burgers.
Drink:
  • The Chatterbox is a tiny bar has a great jukebox, friendly bartenders (and patrons), and live jazz.  I’ve always left here thinking that I should go here more.
  • The Rathskeller has almost the opposite atmosphere compared to The Chatterbox: it’s huge.  However, it has appropriately huge German beers.  My wedding reception was located in one of the many rooms of this great old Haus.
  • Chatham Tap is a friendly place for some good beers and tasty bar food.
  • Relatively new Union 50 has one of the coolest-looking rooms in town.

Fountain Square

Overview:

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. There are so many new places here and in neighboring Fletcher Place that it’s hard to list them all. It’s a good bet to just go there and hang out wherever it looks like a fun place to be.

Activities and Shopping:
  • Try your hand at Duckpin Bowling in the Fountain Square Theatre building.  Head up the elevator to the 4th floor location and be blown away by a place that seems unchanged since the sport’s 1920’s heyday.  This hilariously fun activity is best with a group, as it can get pricey otherwise.
  • Murphy Arts Building is always hopping during the First Friday of the month.  Delve into the cavernous maze of hallways past art galleries and nonprofit headquarters.
  • Up Virginia Street a bit in Fletcher Place, Calvin Fletcher Coffee donates all their profits to charity.
  • Game Paradise has a ton of board games to play that are available for rent on site.
Food:
  • Siam Square, the best Thai place in the city.  Try the Drunken Noodles with Tofu or Green Curry.
  • Santorini, the best Greek place in the city.  Beware of the huge portions, so I recommend ordering one meal per two diners.
  • Pure Eatery features fresh, healthy, affordable food for lunch or early dinner.
  • Mama Irma, a Peruvian place.
  • Pioneer, serving Alpine cuisine that is unique within Indy.
  • Marrow, another new place that has been highly recommended.
  • The Fletcher Place explosion! These are new within 4 years. Bluebeard, Milktooth, Repeal, Hotel Tango Whiskey, Chilly Water Brewing…and there will be more on the way
Drink:
  • Red Lion Grog House is a fun place for watching soccer and drinking a pint or two.
  • Radio Radio is my favorite music club in town, although Hi-Fi is also known for hosting good tunes.
  • Across the street, the owners of Radio Radio run a Mexican-themed bar known as Revolucion.  It is an instant hit in the neighborhood.
  • Thunderbird is popular and fun.
  • Finish off the night at the Brass Ring Lounge martini bar.

Garfield Park

Overview:

An overlooked place on the near-southside, this neighborhood contains the best park in the city.  It can be accessed via  IndyGo Bus number 22 or 31.

Activities:
Food and Drink:

Irvington

(Image credit: Kevin Kastner)

Overview:

With its winding streets and Victorian mansions, this East side gem is worth a visit.  Irvington is accessible via the Number 8 bus route.

Activities:
  • The number one activity in Irvington is walking.  The winding and occasionally brick-paved streets beg for exploration.
  • Tour the Benton House for a glimpse of Victorian living.
  • Located in an old movie house, The Irving now houses live music.
  • One of the few locally-owned used bookstores in town, Bookmama’s is the place for live poetry readings and intelligent discussion, and it now hosts Indy Vinyl.
Food and Drink:
  • Jockamo’s Pizza has quickly become the neighborhood meeting point for its high-quality pies.
  • Black Acre has built a loyal following quickly
  • Coal Yard Coffee is located right off of the newly finished Pennsy Trail.
  • The Legend is a tribute to the history of the neighborhood.

Meridian-Kessler

Overview:

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.

Food:
  • Recess has raised the bar for dining in this city.
  • This is the part of town for breakfast places.  Taste CafeSoBro Cafe, and Cafe Patachou are all places for fine mornings.  If I had to choose one to visit, I’d choose Taste.  They serve a great dinner as well, but only on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
  • Fat Dan’s, featuring fantastic smoked meats and burgers.
  • Yats, which might be the place that regenerated interest in Meridian-Kessler. Long rated as the best local option in the city for dining on a budget.
  • Locally Grown Gardens sounds like a farmer’s market, and it is that.  But it’s also the best place in town to get pulled pork, washed down with cool old-timey sodas and ginger ales.  Add in the reggae music, and this place is more of a party than your average veggie stand.
Drink:
  • The legendary Red Key Tavern was featured in the book and movie “Going All The Way.”  This is a great place to have a conversation and listen to the jukebox.  The bar is virtually unchanged since it was opened soon after World War II.  Skip the bottled beer and order a Manhattan.
  • Twenty Tap is already a neighborhood staple.  And, the name is a misnomer, as they now house 31 (mostly local) taps.
  • Bloomington-based brewery Upland has a tiny Tasting Room located at 49th and College.  Think of it as a coffee shop that serves beer instead of coffee.

Conclusion

Have fun, but be safe this New Year’s.

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9 Responses to “ “A Car-Free Guide to Indianapolis, New Years Eve addition”

  1. ahow628 says:

    Naisa just reopened in Fountain Square.

  2. Frank says:

    Cultural Trail is complete – NOT still under construction

  3. Tem says:

    Nice article. I’m surprised you omitted the Mile Square. After all, that is the original Indianapolis and was designed to be car-free. Also I don’t see here a focus on actually living in these places and not just visiting. If you want to be car-free then sell your house in Brownsburg and move to the Mile Square or the other regions you mention here. Other bike/ped friendly regions are IUPUI and White River State Park.

  4. Ed Fujawa says:

    IndyCog has developed a comprehensive cycling map of the entire city called the Ride Guide. Now on its second version, a PDF of the map may be accessed here: https://indycog.org/indy-ride-guide-20.

    Not only does the map show all cycling routes such as trails and bike lanes, but it is color coded to show how bike friendly a particular section of road is based on traffic volume, pavement condition, etc.

    Hard copies are also available at local bike shops and other businesses, including the Bike Hub at the City Market.

    • Tem says:

      Maps like this are fairly useless for planning transit by bicycle. By and large the routes marked are the roads that serve as major arterials for motor transit. Take the side roads whenever possible and have a safer and more pleasant ride. For example consider this classic Roy Hobbson article on bicycling to the track on race day.

      http://www.nuvo.net/Hobbson/archives/2015/05/28/biking-to-the-500-a-survivors-tale

      Notice that he rides his bike west on 18th St. through Speedway. Not considered on this map. Actually any map trying to specifically mark the best bike transit is going to fail. The best shortcuts through parking lots and across property lines are going to attract the wrong kind of attention on the very public internet. Best routes are kept on the down low.

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