State Forty Two – Indiana

As a fan of motor racing, Indianapolis has a special place in Josh’s heart, and although we weren’t able to attend the iconic Indy 500 race, fortunately Indiana’s state capitol has plenty to offer the rest of the year too! We had actually passed through Indiana a couple of times on a previous trip but had never spent a night, 2015 was to be the year we rectified that.

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Indianapolis – all about the fast cars!

This was our last stop on the 2015 trip so we were feeling a bit of the end-of-holiday blues. Indianapolis soon put a stop to that. We cruised in from the West and made our first stop the famous old race way that is so synonymous with the city. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum is small but perfectly formed. It is set within the grounds of the speedway, driving in under the track and stands was a real thrill. Inside there are Indy 500 winners stacked wall-to-wall, and lots of nuggets of information about the race, the drivers and the speedway itself. There’s also a vast gift shop!

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Mug N Bun’s very cool sign

We needed some lunch after a long drive from Iowa and we had our eye on our first drive in of this trip. Mug N Bun has been constantly operating on the same site on Indianapolis’ West Side for nearly 50 years. It might look a bit tired nowadays but it serves up good hearty food (think burgers and hotdogs) and its super cheap, perfect for a lunch stop.

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Classy lobby art at the Alexander

After lunch we made a bee-line for our hotel, and it was one we were pretty excited about for our last night. We rocked up at the Hotel Alexander and loved it instantly. The art in the lobby was super trendy and of course we were immediately drawn to the beautifully airy hotel bar. Once we’d dumped our bags (in the comfortable but not massive room) and got our bearings we headed down for our first (and second, and third) drinks of the evening. The cocktails included the smoke-infused “Behind Smoke and Mirrors” and one served with liquid oxygen(!), and were perfectly crafted and tasted exquisite. The beer list was extensive too, with offerings from some of Indiana’s best craft brewers like 3 Floyds and Sun King. We were both very happy!

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Plat 99 has to go down as one of the best hotel bars we’ve been to

Somehow we’d whiled away enough time in Plat 99 for it to be nearly dinner time, but not before one last craft beer flight of the holiday. The Indianapolis City Market has been offering up a huge variety of foods since 1886 but its also home to the Tomlinson Tap Room. Set above the market the Tap Room offers up 19 craft beers, and all of the ones we tried were excellent. Josh finally managed to try the legendary Zombie Dust from the aforementioned 3 Floyds…it was spectacular.

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St Elmo’s steak house was pricey but fun

By this time we were pretty well-oiled (it is the last day of our holiday remember!) and we had a reservationt to keep at the city’s famous St. Elmo’s Steak House. Another Indianapolis institution that’s been going on the same site for more than a hundred years, this dark and atmospheric restaurant couldn’t have been a better place to mark the end of our break. Although famous for its steaks (Josh had an absolutely vast 20oz prime rib which was phenomenal), the signature dish here is the St Elmo Shrimp Cocktail which is served with a super spicy horseradish cocktail sauce. Its not for the faint-hearted, but it is very tasty!

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Indianapolis is a beer city to rival many others in America

We had a lot of things planned for that afternoon in Indianapolis but unfortunately the city’s bars and restaurants proved all too tempting, meaning everything had to wait till the following morning!

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Indiana’s war memorial

We woke up to a beautiful autumn morning perfect for a city walk. Remarkably feeling few ill effects from the previous day’s exertions we set about hitting the major sights in the couple of hours we had. The Indiana State Capitol is set amongst the city and not as grand as some of its Eastern cousins, but the White River Park which begins shortly behind it is very pleasant. The Indiana Soldiers and Sailors monument is a grand and impressive fountain and similarly the imposing monolithic Indiana War Memorial is well worth a look. All are within and easy 15 minute walk of one another in the centre of the city. We also headed back to the City Market for a coffee and some breakfast. It was relaxed and fun watching the world go by.

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The City Market is a great snack or breakfast stop – so much choice!

Our final stop before heading back to Chicago for the flight home was the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis and this tiny museum is an excellent repository for some really cool artifacts. His old typewriter is featured, as are many of his rejection letters from his early writing days. We were lucky to be given a guided tour of the museum by a passionate and knowledgeable guide. It won’t take up much of your day, but its a must-see for any Vonnegut fans.

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The Vonnegut Memorial Library is small but fascinating

When we first decided to make Indianapolis a stop on this trip we weren’t all that enthused. We thought it would be a slightly rough-around-the-edges mid-Western town with not much to offer. By the time we’d left we wished we’d had another night to stay, and were plotting ways in which we could come back to this incredibly cool and rather pleasant city. If Indianapolis is an indicator of what else Indiana has to offer, its a great state!

Rate the State

9/10

Good for: Beer. Lots and lots of beer. Also Indianapolis itself is quite artsy.

Bad for: Indianapolis isn’t a huge metropolis if that’s what you’re after.

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