Having enjoyed a few travel-writer trips myself, I know that the Society of American Travel Writers scribes visiting Indianapolis this week will have a busy schedule. I also know the folks at Visit Indy (formerly known as the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association) will do a great job of showing the visitors much of what Indy has to be proud of. However, I also know travel-writer trips can be hurried and hectic, so I thought I’d suggest a few places where the writers can take a breath and maybe even get a different perspective on Indy. Here are five ways to slow down a little:
1. Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. A former U.S. Army post that fell victim to base closings in the ’90s, Fort Ben opened a few years later as a state park and quickly became a favorite getaway for area residents. The 1,700 acres offer great trails for hiking, open green spaces for playing and picnicking, and just a whole lot of quiet. If you get your Zen on two-wheels, you’ll find Fort Ben to be the place to be. Roadies head that way for short-and-scenic hill workouts, and mountain bikers are falling in love with the park’s new trails, which range from novice to expert and make the most of the park’s varying landscape. 6000 N. Post Road, in what is technically Lawrence, Ind. It can be a little hard to find the front gate if you’re not familiar with the area, but it’s worth it. There will be a small fee for entering the park, but you can expense it, right?
2. SoBro Café. I can find lots of reasons to send you to SoBro Café, from the wonderfully funky food to the super-hero figurines that bring your bill. But if it’s de-stressing you need, go to sip a cup of SoBro’s finely crafted chai. Life simply gets better when those flavors slide across your tongue and into your head. On 52nd Street just west of College Ave.
3. Central Canal Towpath behind the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The Indianapolis Museum of Art is probably on your travel-writer agenda, and you’ll probably be guided across the Central Canal to enjoy the 100 Acres art and nature park. But if you get the chance, slip away from the tour group and wander northeast on the towpath that runs alongside the canal. Eventually, you’ll come to Holcomb Gardens on the campus of Butler University. Cross the bridge, find a grassy spot and … breathe. Access the Central Canal Towpath from the grounds of the IMA at 4000 Michigan Ave. Wander down the path along the Ravine Garden behind the Lilly House (worth a walk in itself), and there you are.
4. Plum’s Upper Room’s Artisan Cheese Board. If Zionsville isn’t on your schedule, it’s worth sneaking away one day to unwind in the village. Then slip up the steps next to the sign for Plum’s and order an Artisan Cheese Board – with fruit, cheese, breads and spicy almond brittle, it’s a little party of flavors on a plank of wood. Order a good glass of wine, settle into a seat near a window overlooking Main Street, and gather a few smart people for conversation. Consider yourself unwound. 112 S. Main Street, Zionsville, which is a few minutes’ drive northwest of town, but well worth the trouble.
5. White River. Ok, Indy’s not exactly a river town, but we do have one of those watery avenues wandering through town, and in a few places it’s downright pleasant. If you can find someone who can take you on a slow-boat cruise north of Broad Ripple, go. You’ll be surprised by the beautiful houses and creative cottages along the shoreline (as well as a few stilt-riding shacks), Great Blue Herons gliding overhead, and other pleasures of river life. If your host is a member of the White River Yacht Club, tie up at the dock and then grab a drink, some darned-good grub and a spot on the deck overlooking the river. You might just decide not to go back to wherever it was you came from. It’s a river. It runs through town. The trick is getting a ride on it. Just tell the Visit Indy folks you’d love to find someone who has a boat – preferably a pontoon for the full slow-paced experience. That’s what they’re here for.