This week, I continue the three-part series on my home state by looking at the Central Inddiana region. Moving south from The North provides a different kind of sensory experience, while also containing overlapping themes. The North has sandy dunes, Amish Country, and roaming plains. But it also boasts college towns holding prestigious institutions like Notre Dame and Purdue University, in South Bend and West Lafayette, respectively. Central Indiana is more urban – Indianapolis is at the cultural and metropolitan center of the state, but another lively university city, Bloomington, the home of Indiana University, is close by. And rolling, wild state parks are always within reach. This week, I will focus on Indianapolis, Bloomington, Turkey Run and Shades State Park on our trip through the Hoosier State.
A short drive down I-65 from Lafayette takes you to the state capital: Indianapolis. Indianapolis is a city that hasn’t ever received a lot of attention, other than for basketball, sports teams, and auto racing. But that’s all changing. It’s truly become a cultural hub, with a bustling nightlife, eclectic restaurants, art exhibits, always available live music, historic neighborhoods, and some of the best museums in the Midwest.
Since there’s a lot to see in Indy (that’s what we call it around here), I’ll take you through the general tourist’s overview. To see downtown, a walk down the White River and the Central Canal provides up-close views of the skyline as well as well-kept green space. Start downtown near White River State Park and take what is known as The Canal Walk. Start south near the Lilly Recreation Park and walk north towards downtown. You will pass Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Indianapolis Colts), White River State Park, the historic Wholesale District at the heart of downtown, Victory Field (home of the Indianapolis Indians), the Indiana State Museum and the Eiteljorg Museum (Native and Western Art), and the Indianapolis Zoo in just about an hour’s walk. Stop by the old Tavern on South for a drink if you’re thirsty or hungry.
For going out and spending mornings walking around looking for coffee, wander the Broad Ripple and Fountain Square neighborhoods. Walk to one from the other, even. Or take the bus, or rent a bike. These neighborhoods have a ton of cultural significance in Indy. Broad Ripple used to be the hip neighborhood without a doubt, while lately it’s been seen as a bit too gentrified, no longer the artists and musicians’ haven it once was. Fountain Square came from being a fairly dirty area 15 years ago to a hub for live music, restaurants, and bars today. Walk around, catch some music at The Vogue, the Lo-Fi Lounge, or the Hoosier Dome, and spend a morning walking the Monon Trail and gazing at the murals with a coffee in hand. Oh, and listen to the song Broadripple is Burning by Margot and the Nuclear So-and-Sos before you go.
About 30 minutes south of Indy lies Bloomington, in my biased opinion the best college town in the country. Quirky shops, bookstores, and restaurants, and an abundance of college students make this city a gem. With everyone close together, there aren’t many cars – a lot of people walk, bike, or take the bus around. Soma Coffeeshop is one of my favorite spots in Bloomington. An underground coffee bar with a room wallpapered in maps, connected to a used record store, it is food for the old soul. If you’re into secondhand clothing, the Vogue Goodwill is nearby. For breakfast, try the Runcible Spoon, a 5-10 minute walk from downtown and with meals well under $10. Sadly, my favorite bookstore next door, Boxcar Books, was forced to close down – but for the book-lover, there is no shortage of stops. Half Price Books and Caveat Emptor are solid choices.
For night life, check out Root Cellar for an experience and atmosphere you will never forget (and check online to see if there is music – if not, go anyway) and The Upstairs Pub for a spot frequented by IU students and old folks alike. Finally, take a stroll through Indiana University’s campus. The campus winds through downtown, around the main streets of Kirkwood and Walnut, to within walking distance of downtown. Rolling hills, plenty of green space, old street lanterns, iron gates, and massive Hogwarts-looking academic buildings make the campus unique. And it looks best in the Fall.
Our final stop in Central Indiana is Turkey Run and Shades State Park. I name the two together because they border one another. The two state parks are in the West Central portion of the state, about an hour west of Indianapolis by car. What I love about each park is the ability to take a variety of hiking trails winding around cliffs and through woods and ravines, rent a cheap canoe or kayak to ride down Sugar Creek, and camp or stay the night in a resort. My advice would be to go one day and check out the many hiking trails at random in each park, and then rent a kayak to take downstream along Sugar Creek. You will pass rocky cliffs, plenty of trees and hills, waterfalls, and go under Indiana’s trademark red-covered bridges.
That’s all for part two. Writing it all out, I realize there’s a lot more to discover in Central Indiana than I thought. The best way to road trip is to do your own research, so I hope I have piqued your interest, but here a few bonus landmarks: Newfields and the Lilly House at the Indianapolis Art Museum, the Indiana Theatre in Bloomington, and diners and cafes in the small towns of Marshall, Rockville, Mansfield, and Bridgeton near Turkey Run and Shades. I hope you are enjoying this, because I’m becoming prouder of the Hoosier State as I continue writing.
Guest Author: Keegan Roembke
I am a student and writer from Indiana currently living in Ghent, Belgium, working on a Master’s in Global Studies. My passion for writing and poetry stems from travels and constant curiosity about the world. I write poetry, social commentary, and travel pieces on Medium and Vocal, and recently graduated from the University of Southern Indiana, where I studied German and International Studies. I have travelled to 22 countries throughout Europe and Africa by train, bus, and foot. Read poetry and commentary at https://vocal.media/authors/keegan-roembke