The Traveling Eye is on its first Road Trip to Indianapolis, IN. Our first decision was to get a rental car so we went to Budget Rental Car and Truck Company. We told our Budget Rental Car agent, Charles Cooper that we wanted a vehicle with space and comfort and he recommended the Chevrolet Traverse 2010. This is a cross between a minivan and a SUV. The Traverse has XM radio, which made for great music during our drive, a picture in rear view mirror that appears when you are in reverse and independent climate and radio controls. http://www.budget.com/
Indianapolis is just under three hours and less than a tank of gas from Chicago. We wanted to arrive by 10:30am so Bonnie picked me up at 6am after picking up Pat Edwards, our fill in producer, and off we went. Our first stop was Starbucks and McDonalds for a quick pick me up. With our bodies fueled we were on our first road trip. Our timing was perfect because we did not run into any traffic. Our ride was smooth and carefree and we made it to our destination ahead of time. Good thing we had Pat with us because I forgot the GPS and Pat knows her way to and around Indianapolis.
Bonnie and Pat have been to Indianapolis numerous times and I have never been to Indianapolis. I thought I’d see a small undefined downtown amidst a rural backdrop but instead a saw a progressive city with small city charm and big city attractions. First we checked into our hotel, the Westin Indianapolis. Connected to the convention center and in the middle of every thing the Westin is a beautiful hotel with all its signature touches and amenities. Oh yes, the heavenly bed and shower! www.westin.com/indianapolis
We were greeted by our host Chris Gahl, Associate Director of Communications for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. Our first stop was lunch at Zing, a new restaurant that offers small plates and a selection of sandwiches, salads, entrees and pizzas on their lunch menu. We opted for the small plates. It was so much fun trying the different plates. We had medjool dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon, turkey bbq burgers, shrimp wontons, goat cheese with tomato sauce and fried risotto balls. We loved them all but our favorites were the fried risotto balls and the turkey bbq burgers. The atmosphere at Zing is open and fresh and they have a patio with an excellent view of the city. http://www.zingrestaurant.com/
Right down the street from Zing is the Madame Walker Theatre Center, a historic landmark. The center is a local treasure that honors an American legacy. Madame C.J. Walker was the first American woman millionaire. And even more impressive, she was an African American woman born into slavery. Madame Walker made her fortune from a hair care system and products she created and growing a mail order business. She was truly a pioneer. Her daughter brought her flamboyant design to the theatre and incorporated her admiration of Africa into its design. At the center we were honored with a guided tour and lecture from docent, Tom Ridley. Mr. Ridley is 86 years young, lived in Indianapolis during this time and still lives in the area today. We enjoyed his stories of dancing at the Madame Walker Theatre Center for $1 and his historical account of Madame C.J. Walker. Mr. Ridley is also a local treasure. http://www.walkertheatre.com/
Did you know that Indianapolis is the home of the largest children’s museum in the world? Well, it is and we got a chance to visit it. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis sees 1.1 million visitors per year, is 433,500 square feet and has 11 galleries. A current exhibit is Tutankhamun, which will stay until October 25, 2009. Also at the museum is Fireworks of Glass, a 43 foot tall tower of glass with 14 different designs, over 3200 pieces of glass in the tower, 1400 pieces in the ceiling and weighs 18,00 pounds. Fireworks of Glass is the largest permanent sculpture of blown glass by artist Dan Chihuly, who also has artwork at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The glass pieces go from the floor to the ceiling, are a mix of bright colors and different shapes with some resembling snakes like Medusa and others resembling flowers. The museum is fun, bright, colorful and well, just awesome. http://www.childrensmuseum.org/
Not too far from the Children’s Museum is the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In front of the museum is the famous LOVE sculpture. LOVE created by Robert Indiana began as a 1965 Christmas card for the Museum of Modern Art, immediately made its way into paintings, sculpture and limited edition prints and then reverted in 1966 to ephemera as the poster for the exhibition of Indiana’s Love images at New York’s Stable Gallery. The museum houses a collection of over 50,000 works of art and sits on 152 acres of land and gardens. Most impressive is that the museum offers free admission, parking and wi-fi. The IMA is a lovely museum with a comfortable feel, like a place where you could just hang out. http://www.imamuseum.org/
After a short break we visited Tastings, a new restaurant and wine experience located in the Conrad Indianapolis. Tastings, opening on October 5th will boast a selection of 120 wines by the glass. They’ll have a unique wine experience where you’ll be able to purchase a pre-paid card and use the card to purchase your wines by the glass at stops. If you don’t use all of your funds you can use them on your next visit or have the balance refunded to you. This experience will take the pretentiousness out of wine tasting and create a fun and unobtrusive way to experience wine. I can’t wait to visit Tastings again when they are open.
Our days finale was at the St. Elmo Steak House. St. Elmo’s has been a landmark in Indianapolis since 1902. The service, steaks and wine cellar are superb. The dry aged NY Strip was one of the best steaks I’ve had, period! Bonnie had the cowboy ribeye, it’s all about the bone and Pat had the halibut. There’s always someone who does not eat steak or red meat and the sign of a good restaurant is to have something for everyone. We were told we had to try the local favorite, the famous Shrimp Cocktail. The star of the dish is the cocktail sauce made with curiously strong horseradish, it clears the sinuses. Who would have thought it, in my opinion, one of the best steak houses in the country is in Indianapolis, IN. http://www.stelmos.com/
After a good nights rest in our heavenly bed we started our day at a great breakfast eatery, Cafe Patachou. Located on the corner of 49th and Pennsylvania it’s within walking distance from the Westin and other hotels in the downtown area. I can tell that Cafe Patachou is the place to have breakfast in town. While we were there Dan Weldon, an Indy 500 racecar driver was there and we were told that we just missed Danica Patrick, a female racecar driver. They have a great menu with healthy and delicious selections. A local favorite are the Broken Egg Sandwiches. You’ve got to try the bacon, egg and avocado on sourdough. A feature that I like is the self serve coffee. They have excellent selections and they make it strong. My kind of place. On Sunday we walked past Cafe Patachou and saw a gentleman sitting outside having his coffee and reading the paper. He lives in the area and said that he comes every Sunday. http://www.cafepatachou.com/
Shortly after breakfast we went back to the Westin to prepare for our broadcast. We had an excellent line up for the show to showcase Indianapolis. Chris Gahl, Associate Director of Communications for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, Chris Barney, from the Madame Walker Theatre Center, Tony Mason, VP of Superbowl 2012 and Marc Williams, Executive Director of Circle City Classic. You can hear the recorded show on Saturday, October 3rd @ 10pm central time. We will also do Indianapolis Part 2 on Friday October 9 at our regular time 11am central time.
We are off again to explore more of Indianapolis. Next stop, Lunch and tour at Eiteljorg Museum, a Native American & Western Art Museum. The Eiteljorg is situated on the canal in a beautiful setting. The restaurant has a southwestern menu that is casual. When the weather is nice take your lunch on to the patio that overlooks the canal. The Native American art and paintings are fabulous. It really was a treat to learn more about Native Americans and about the different regions and groups of people. The exterior design of building is authentic and gives you a wonderful feeling of the west. The Eiteljorg is the 2nd largest museum of its kind and since it’s located in Indianapolis brings American Indian and Western Art closer to the rest of the country. This is definitely a must see. http://www.eiteljorg.org/
Further down along the canal in downtown Indianapolis is the 250-acre White River State Park and its key attraction, the NCAA Hall of Champions, which we visited. The NCAA Hall of Champions is open year round and has a modest admission of $5 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Whether you’re a fan of sports or just want to learn more the Hall of Champions is a great place to visit and have some fun. The interactive hall features a basketball court where you can practice your free throw, a football challenge to showcase your skills at quarterback and a tennis display where you can experience the speed of a serve. I was rusty and only hit one free throw. I also sucked at quarterback only completing one pass out of 10. Bonnie did better at quarterback completing 6 out of 10 but I have to add that she played the beginner game, which was a tad bit easier. LOL http://www.ncaa.org/
After working off some calories at the NCAA Hall of Champions we headed to Luxus Suite. Luxus Suite is owned and operated by husband and wife team both Dr’s. This unique suite and spa is located on Indiana Avenue right down the street from the Madame Walker Theatre Center in the historic district. It’s a 2-bedroom suite with romantic decor and all the creature comforts complete with a massage room. Both rooms have bathrooms ensuite. The living room is in the center between the bedrooms and has a fireplace. The entire suite is cozy with an open kitchen and a roof top patio with an excellent view of the city. The best part is that it is not over priced. During low season you can get the entire suite for $800 per night. http://www.luxussuites.com/
After visiting Luxus Suites we called it a day to gear up for the next days activities, the Circle City Classic.Today is Circle City Classic Day, starting with the parade and followed by the game. The Circle City Classic is one of America’s top black college football events and this year marks its 26th anniversary. The Classic generates 54,000 fans per game and millions of dollars for its scholarship program. This is an event with a purpose. http://www.circlecityclassic.com/
Refreshed and recharged we headed to the Classic Parade. The parade route was downtown and within walking distance of our hotel. All we had to do was follow the people and the sound of marching bands. Parades are always fun especially when you see friends and family having a great time. Both teams, Alabama A & M University & Tuskegee University marching bands and majorettes performed giving us a taste of the half time “Battle of Bands” at the game. My favorites were the elementary and junior high school bands that performed. Love the little people! There was also some trash talking with the different sororities and fraternities, Bonnie included. They kept it clean and all in good fun.
Attending the parade we worked up an appetite and headed to Champions, a sports bar located in the Marriott Hotel. This was the perfect place to grab a bite and a drink. It was lively and a lot of the parade attendees headed there along with the competing schools alumni. Like most sports bars the appetizers and burgers are great! We ate so much we could barely move. We were supposed to do high knees back to our hotel but our bellies were too full to lift our knees.
We met Chris in the lobby and headed to the Lucas Oil Stadium, located downtown Indianapolis and best known as the home of the 2008 Superbowl Champions the Indianapolis Colts. Tonight it is the home of the Circle City Classic rematch between Alabama A & M University and Tuskegee University. Before or after the game it’s customary to stop at the market, an outdoor market of vendors selling all sorts of merchandise. Raw shea butter, music, clothes, etc. Bonnie says she does her sorority shopping there and gets the best prices. The other main attraction at the game is the half time “Battle of the Bands” There are two things that are quite unique at HBCU’s “Battle of the Bands” and “Stepping”. Lil Romeo also performed at half time. Lil Romeo isn’t so little anymore. I love the energy of the people and the event. The game is the main event but I think the main attraction is the celebration of HBCU’s. Seeing young students and alumni of all ages gives me goosebumps and pride. The camaraderie is like no other.
The day has been long but we have one more experience for the day yet to be explored. Chris, is very excited about the R Bistro restaurant on Mass Ave. and after dining there I could see why. R Bistro is a farm to table restaurant. They offer a new menu every week of contemporary American cuisine with fresh ingredients from local farms. They even have their own garden on the side of the restaurant that produces vegetables for the restaurant and the chef/owner Regina Mehallick uses herbs from her very own herb garden. Talk about fresh. Their menu offers 5 appetizers, 5 entrees and 5 deserts all of which change each week. I certainly hope to see the Butternut Squash-Ginger cake with hazelnut ice cream on the menu again. R Bistro has only 17 tables so make a reservation. http://www.rbistro.com/
Sunday, our last day has come and I am already sad that our weekend is coming to an end. I am so excited because Sunday means football and the Colts are playing a home game against the Seahawks. What’s the best way to end a perfect weekend? That’s right! We headed back to the Lucas Oil Stadium. With a retractable roof, they are ready for any type of weather; however, the weather is perfect and the roof is open. I can feel it in my bones that the Colts are going to win. They are 3 – 0 after all. Bonnie and I are both football fans. Of course we love our own home teams (Chicago Bears & Washington Redskins respectively) but today we are cheering for the Colts. Pat showed up in a Colts jersey. Now, that’s the way to show support! The LOS is beautiful. It seats 63,000 for football and the suites are fabulous! We were invited to the CVA suite. Right behind the in-zone on the second level the view is fantastic. Manning was on fire and the Colts won 34 – 17! Go Colts! (4 – 0).
Well, it’s time for us to leave and I can only think of the song from the Carol Burnett Show. “I’m so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh or sing a song, seems we just get started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say, ‘So long.” Goodnight everybody!
Special thanks to our friends at the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (especially Associate Director of Communications, Chris Gahl), Westin Indianapolis, Circle City Classic and Budget Rental Car and Truck Company.