Less than a two-hour drive from the Queen City, Indianapolis makes for a great weekend getaway. We mapped out the activities, bites, and drinks to try; all you have to do is hop in the car.
Where to Eat
We will travel for food, and Indy’s a great destination. While they’ve got trending restaurants aplenty (we’ll get to those), the state’s signature sandwich is the fried tenderloin, which can tend to be…bland. At best. But The Mug—owned by a tech giant who now also owns a heritage pig farm—soaks its pork tenderloin in buttermilk, and well, eat it. We’ve got nothing but love for Love Handle and anything they do with a biscuit or a waffle. But we’re particularly here for their Friday fish fry, which they pair with classic movies like Jaws. As for those (rightfully!) trending spots: See especially Milktooth—a hopping brunch spot cooking up plates like smoked Great Lakes whitefish salad on sourdough challah and a cranberry clafoutis Dutch baby pancake—and its younger sister, Beholder, where the wine list is only matched by the twice-cooked octopus. If you’re looking for something dessert-y to top it all off, The Cake Bake Shop serves exceptional seasonal cakes and pies, along with the sweetest damn interior in which to enjoy them.
Where to Drink
First, coffee. Provider at the Tinker House has made a name for itself via scratch-made turmeric-ginger, butterscotch, and pistachio lattes. And whether you’re there in the evening or you’re leaning into the vacation morning thing, there’s a hell of a mezcal list. On the alcohol front, we will forever sip on Sun King Brewery’s seasonals. We will also happily drink for a cause with canine companions at Metazoa Brewing Co., where a portion of proceeds are donated to animal and wildlife organizations. If you’re in it for the escape, The Inferno Room, a new-to-the-scene tiki bar, transports you. We’re talking flashing red lights and rumbling, along with bamboo-covered walls, palm fronds galore, and one of the largest non-museum collections of native art from Papua New Guinea anywhere.
Where to Stay
In the age of Instagram, everything claims to be curated. But The Alexander, a boutique hotel and contemporary art space near the southeastern edge of downtown, is actually curated—by the Indianapolis Museum of Art—with site-specific installations and, our favorite piece, a giant portrait of Madam C.J. Walker made entirely of hair combs. (Note: Netflix is making a series about Walker, produced by LeBron James. Yes, that LeBron James.) The rooms are of equal style, as are the cocktails at Plat 99, the hotel’s chic lounge, and the coastal Italian fare at Nesso, its upscale eatery.
What to See
The name of the game here is quirk. Stop one: the Indiana Medical History Museum. It’s weird. It’s beautiful. It’s in the country’s oldest surviving pathology facility, where they started researching the physical causes of psychological ailments in 1896. Stop two: The Idle, a bizarre little park overlooking I-65 built by a Jimmy Buffett roadie. And not quirky, but intentionally occupying the edges: Eiteljorg Museum, which features the art and artifacts of Native and Western cultures.
Where to Shop
Go to Massachusetts Avenue, and…go. No person has ever had enough of Homespun, which features all manner of contemporary handmade goods—jewelry, food, clothing, stationery, ephemera—you name it, they do it right. Ditto Silver in the City, where we’ve found housewares and tchotchkes we will love for life. We also love a good bookstore, and Indy Reads Books fits that bill to a T: It’s an independent new-and-used shop that funds an adult literacy organization and regularly hosts events like Drag Queen Story Hour and Paws to Read, the latter of which involves therapy dogs onsite for kids to practice reading. (It’s also right around the corner from Homespun.)
Street Smarts: The Cultural Trail
The city is known for its speedway, and by all means hit up the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum and Dallara IndyCar Factory. But if you’re looking for a more civil speed of travel loop, get’r done with the Cultural Trail. The wide eight-mile path, completed in 2013, is made for pedestrians or bikes (for which there is, conveniently, a bikeshare program) and weaves through all of Indy’s downtown neighborhoods. In short: There is no better way to explore nearly all of the above.