Arts & Entertainment, etc. and Tourism & Hospitality and Travel and The Traveling Life

Taking a sightseeing vacation ... right here in Indy

December 29, 2008
Our bags were packed. Our reservations made in Moab, Utah. And we looked forward to another exciting holiday trip.

But, unfortunately, air traffic control—or whoever makes these decisions—had other plans. Our flight to Moab through Denver was canceled because a major snowstorm had closed the airport. And all flights to Denver were totally booked for the next week.

For eight years, we'd gone out of town for the holidays. But in this particular year not too long ago it looked like we had no choice but to stay put.

Instead of heading home, we decided to do the same thing here that we would have done in Utah—sightsee.

Luckily, I keep a list of places to visit and things to do in Indianapolis, as I do for many other cities in the U.S. and throughout the world. The places in Indianapolis are visited and checked off as we have time and as opportunity presents. But now, rather than serving as filler, that list became our itinerary for three full vacation days.

We started with breakfast at the Illinois Street Food Emporium, which reminds us of a European cafe. Just as we do when traveling, we used this time to review our plan for the day.

Since reading about it on the Young & Laramore "Curious City" Web site about a year earlier, I had wanted to visit the Carmelite Monastery on Cold Spring Road. So we started there. We rang the bell and after a few minutes one of the elderly nuns came to the door and was kind enough to give us a tour of the grounds and facility, including the chapel where a wedding was in progress. (Sadly, the monastery left Indianapolis about a year ago.)

We then visited the Indiana Medical History Museum in the old pathology building on the grounds of the former Central State Mental Hospital campus. We took a fascinating 30-minute tour of this little known gem in our city. The old laundry building on the site was once used as the venue for a play about a former inmate at the old mental hospital who became an established artist.

We viewed the Martin Luther King-Robert F. Kennedy sculpture in MLK Park, which commemorates Kennedy's visit to Indy on the day MLK was killed. Earlier this year, we saw the Heartland Film Festival-sponsored movie, "A Ripple of Hope," at the historic Madame Walker Theatre about the moving speech Kennedy delivered on that fateful day in Indianapolis. That speech was credited with preventing riots here in the aftermath of the shooting.

The next evening we took the candlelight progressive dinner tour along North Delaware Street to the President Harrison home for cocktails and to the Propyleum for dinner. Then it was on to The Joy of All Who Sorrow Russian Orthodox Church for a tour and the historic Yellow Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast for dessert.

We signed up for the Historic Landmarks Foundation's "landmarks on foot" walking tour, which revealed to us notable downtown spots we had passed many times but had not really seen. Our knowledgeable guide advised us to raise our eyes to view the interesting designs on the tops of tall buildings.

We visited the wonderful Crown Hill Cemetery and walked the grounds, looking at the last resting place for many local notables, including President Harrison, James Whitcomb Riley and John Dillinger. We also enjoyed one of the best views of the downtown skyline from the Riley tomb, which sits at the highest point in the city. At dusk, closing time, we realized that we were locked in, which would have been material for a fascinating article, "A cold, dark night alone in the cemetery." Fortunately, we phoned for help and a guard came to our rescue.

The next day, around the corner from Crown Hill, we drove through the stately Golden Hills neighborhood, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We had seen the outside of the World War Memorial a thousand times in passing en route downtown but had never been inside. This proved a treat. A little further south we paid our first visit to the Civil War Museum on Monument Circle.

We parked at White River State Park and strolled through Victory Field (deservedly acclaimed as one of the finest minor league baseball parks in the nation) and the NCAA's Michael Graves-designed building, including the Hall of Champions. We continued along the canal to the Medal of Honor Memorial and the stately Indiana History Center, where we took a break and enjoyed coffee and a pastry in the cafe.

We drove to the IUPUI campus and toured the National Art Museum of Sport, another little known gem.

We finished our tour in Broad Ripple, where we had a latte and biscotti at the Monon Coffee Shop while reflecting on our adventure, just as we do at the end of each of our trips. This experience was not only interesting and enjoyable, but a lot less expensive and less stressful than our trips to other states and far away countries.

We only scratched the surface of the interesting sites we had not yet seen, and again marveled at our fabulous city. That was before the new airport, all the new public art, Lucas Oil Stadium, the new central library and the Cultural Trail.

Indianapolis is good and getting better and definitely worth a "visit," even by long time residents. We plan to do it again.

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Basile is an author, professional speaker, philanthropist, community volunteer and retired executive of the Gene B. Glick Co. His column appears whenever there's a fifth Monday in the month. The next one will appear March 30, 2009. Basile can be reached at Frank_Basile@sbcglobal.net.
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