Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide

Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West

I’m excited to introduce my friend Anne from Wit Wisdom Food to the blog with an Indianapolis travel guide!

I grew up in the Indianapolis area and just moved back after 16 years. In the time I was away, the city has blossomed. Now filled with so many hot spots it was hard to pick a few. I am still searching out some of the new spots that have opened since I last lived here.

Indianapolis is called the Crossroads of America because if you are going across the United States in just about any direction, you are likely to cross through Indianapolis.

Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
The Dancing Donut

We are a fairly large city with a small town feel. Nothing is overly complicated in Indianapolis. We like our down-home roots and our sports teams. When you visit, pack for all kinds of weather because Indiana weather is unpredictable.

If you visit in May — my favorite month to be in Indy — you will see the city in her finest as she celebrates the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis 500. No matter when you visit you will certainly be greeted by our well-known ‘hoosier hospitality.’

Click through to see Anne’s Indianapolis travel guide!

Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
North End BBQ
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
The Dancing Donut
Eat + drink
  • Got a hankering for a traditional deli sandwich head to Shapiro’s Delicatessen and order the classic pastrami with a crisp kosher dill. It is piled so high with meat you won’t be sure you can finish it.
  • The Dancing Donut and Flying Cupcake aren’t one spot, but they’re owned by the same people and neither should be missed. You can catch Dancing Donut on your walk down the Monon Trail (mentioned below) and Flying Cupcake has a location near the Cultural Trail on Massachusetts Ave, also called Mass Ave. Creative names and amazing flavors are the draw. The daily vegan and gluten-free options are a big bonus if you have restrictions in your diet.
  • Sitting at the end of Mass Ave James Beard nominated chef, Micah Frank, puts together amazing combinations at Black Market. A large portion of the seating is at a long community table so you might even meet some locals with more travel tips.
  • Our first time at Napolese we over-ordered a bit. Known for their artisanal pizzas we thought a $13 pizza was an individual serving. We could have fed four with the food we ordered! Make sure to listen to the specials because they include great seasonal options that aren’t on the printed menu.
  • Fusion tacos combining Mexican and Asian flavors from La Chinita Poblana in Broad Ripple, just off the Monon Trail, is a great stop. The horchata is some of the best I have ever had and the sweet potato fries covered in mole are a must. I mean it — don’t pass them up. Be sure to check on George’s special — he always has something good cooked up.
  • I hear everything is great, but I say just get the mussels when you head to Brugge. Steamed in all kinds of flavor variations, there is something for everyone. As a matter of fact, take a few people so you can try more combinations and share. Another gem just off the Monon Trail.
  • North End BBQ & Moonshine is a great stop if you are in need of a stiff drink. This watering hole and restaurant has 200 whiskeys on the menu. The barbecue is delicious, though the thing that has me going back is the chopped salad and cornbread with maple bourbon butter. Oh my gosh that butter tastes just like pancakes.
  • St. Elmo Steakhouse has been open since 1902 and you can’t come to Indy and not get the infamous shrimp cocktail. If you just want the cocktail, head to the 1933 Lounge upstairs.
  • The state sandwich is a pork tenderloin. A piece of pork pounded thin and fried and always larger than the bun. The best I have found is at Bankers Life Fieldhouse during a Pacers game, but most pubs and casual restaurants will have their own version.
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
Monon Trail
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
Pacer Bike Share
  • The Monon Trail is 10 miles of converted railroad line that became a paved path for walkers, bikers, people and dogs alike. Over a decade in the making, this trail has grown up a lot over the years. You can now eat your way through Indianapolis without going more than a block from the trail. It spawned or connected many other great trail systems in Indy.
  • Connected to the Monon is the Cultural Trail, running through five downtown neighborhoods to provide an easy route between some of the best spots Indy has to offer. If you don’t find what you want in my suggestions, I know you will find some gems to your liking by traveling the Cultural Trail. Use the Indiana Pacers bikeshare to get around from spot to spot.
  • Sure the Indianapolis Art Museum is a good stop, but you can skip it and enjoy the free IMA 100 Acres, which is even better. A large area filled with interactive sculptures and the beauty of nature, it makes a great spot for a picnic.
  • It is Indianapolis and I would be amiss if I didn’t recommend the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you visit in May you can catch part of the month-long celebration, but if you visit in an off-season month it is still worth going to the track for the museum, the golf course and the little town of Speedway.
  • No matter your age, don’t miss the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. It is the world’s largest museum for children and it draws large exhibits every year like the current Transformers exhibit with larger than life Transformers.
  • Not your average bowling spot, Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling is a much harder kind of bowling. Smaller pins and a ball the size of a bocce ball make this extra challenging.
  • Rainy day but you were hoping for a walk through beautiful gardens and some nature? Don’t miss the Garfield Park Conservatory & Sunken Gardens. It’s a great spot for a stroll and amazing scenery.
  • A college campus might seem an odd destination but the Butler campus is where the final basketball game in the movie Hoosiers took place. You can see Hinkle Fieldhouse and see a different kind of star at Holcomb Gardens and Observatory.
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
Midland Antiques
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
Black Market
  • A curated salvage store, Society of Salvage, features a lot of old metal letters, office equipment and medical oddities. If you want an old dentist chair, an old flat file cabinet and some vintage sign letters don’t miss this place. Keep up with them on Instagram for some great eye candy.
  • An old factory turned into a two-level antique store means Midland Arts & Antiques is always an adventure. Packed with a variety of booths there is always something new for any decor style or collector from visit to visit.
  • Architectural Antiques on the north side of town is the place if you need an old door knob, vintage sconces or a decorative fireplace. These guys have it all and this is the place to get dusty looking for it.
  • Right on the Cultural Trail is Homespun, a store filled with handmade goods, many from Indiana artists, that are sold on consignment. If you need a new dish towel to remember your trip to Indianapolis, this is the spot to get it. As a matter of fact, if you want the most unique souvenir or a gift for that special someone waiting for you to come home, this is the first stop you should make.
  • If you forgot your book at home or finished in the car or on the plane, stop by Indy Reads pick up another and lend a hand. The proceeds from this non-profit bookstore go to help literacy programs in Indianapolis.
  • The City Market opened in 1886 as an open-air market for produce and meat, a place for farmers to sell their wares. Now covered, there are restaurant food stands, a vintage store and other stalls. Stop by U-Relish Farm for a meal you can make when you get back home.
  • Selling more than just cheese, The Cheese Shop has been a staple on the north side of Indy for years. If you want a rare cheese or some fancy additions for a picnic, they will have plenty to choose from.
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
Midland Antiques
Hidden Gems: Indianapolis Travel Guide // Feast + West
Indianapolis skyline
Road trips
  • 45 minutes: Bloomington, Ind. — Head south for a visit to Indiana University. Bloomington is a great college town filled with great shops, restaurants and culture.
  • 90 minutes: Marshall, Ind. — Turkey Run State Park is a great day of hiking or you can stay the night and camp.
  • 2 hours: French Lick, Ind. — If you want to pamper yourself this is the place to head. An old haven for the 1920s gangsters of Chicago, the French Lick Resort and Spa will make you feel like you are living high on the hog. You can even play a round of golf on one of four courses.

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Anne is the writer and baker behind Wit Wisdom Food, where she offers tips that help make the kitchen less scary. She blogs about favorite recipes, how to store and eat food and her hometown, Indianapolis. Anne believes everyone can have the life they want if they are daring enough to go after it, and good food is a must.

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