Not To Brag

29 cherry treesLinda Burton posting from Indianapolis, Indiana – Cherry trees? I’m not sure about the small grove of brilliant pink just below my hotel window in a tiny pocket park, but they are full-bloomed out and looking fine today. Across the street the trees need a few more days of sun, although the grass below is high; a city groundskeeper is circling each tree with his mowing machine. I’m looking straight into downtown Indianapolis, the second-largest of the 50 capital cities with a population of 829,718 (US Census 2010). And I’m reading the Indy Visitor Guide, trying to get my bearings and make a plan. I’m just five blocks from the State Capitol, straight down Washington Street; and I can see the top of the monument in Monument Circle tucked between tall buildings, just two blocks away. Very cool. The cover of the Spring/Summer 29 Indy brochure2013 version of Visit Indy surprises me – a gondolier in a black and white striped shirt guiding a gondola on a canal? Am I in Venice, or the middle of the USA? But that’s what it promises: gondolas, art parks, ziplines, shopping, music, and more. Let’s Eat! it implores. 173 Great Restaurants! The Indy 500 is all I really know about Indianapolis; Visit Indy tells me that 400,000 people attend the various races at the Speedway every year. But get this – 22 million people visit the city every year (that averages out to 60,000 people a day). And no wonder so many people come to Indianapolis – 50% of the population of the United States lives within an 8-hour drive! This is serious tourism bragging going on, well, I guess I’d brag too over such impressive numbers. I keep reading.

29 white river logoIndianapolis has 7,100 downtown hotel rooms for all those visitors; 4,700 of them directly connected to the Convention Center (more than any other complex in the country, they brag). Now here’s a great number: Indianapolis has devoted 250 acres of green space downtown to White River State Park, and within that park is Central Canal, home of the gondolier in the striped shirt. But you can also walk the canal, bike the canal, or Segue it; or you can pedal boat or kayak yourself along the water. You can rent almost anything, including four-wheel bikes and surrey carriages.

29 victory fieldThe Indianapolis Zoo is on one side of the White River in the park; more numbers tell me there are 350 species there, including a 400-pound Siberian tiger; there’s an aviary and an underwater dolphin observation dome. Victory Field is on the other side of the river and south of the Canal; so are the Indiana State Museum and IMAX Theater, and the Eiteljorg Museum. On the north side of the Canal is the Indiana History Center, the Military Park, the Herron School of Art and Design, the IU Natatorium, the IU Michael A Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium; the National Institute for Fitness & Sports; and the NCAA Hall of Champions. I wish I had last summer’s traveling buddies here; I know my baseball-playing grandson Sam would enjoy a Cracker Jacks afternoon at Victory Field watching the Triple A Indians play ball. And I’m sure granddaughter Kayla would get a kick out of the bronze mastodons outside the State Museum, and tracking down the 92 outdoor sculptures that cover the exterior walls, sidewalks, and stair railings of the building. After that, an afternoon inside at the IMAX.

29 EiteljorgI’m interested in exploring the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Arts, and walking the museum’s garden paths, which are lined with plants native to Indiana; I add that to my list. Nighttime will be the best time to visit the Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial in Military Park; it 29 medal mem 2celebrates the 3,456 people who have received our country’s highest award for military valor, from Civil War days to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. After dark the sound system kicks in, telling stories of the medal winners whose names are on the curving glass panels, all reflected in the waters of the canal.

29 white river park

As to the NCAA Hall of Champions, which honors the student athlete (each of the 23 NCAA sports has its own display), well that brings us back to sports. According to Visit Indy, Indianapolis has hosted 400 national and international sporting events over the last 30 years – 1 Super Bowl, 17 US Olympic Team Trials, 55 NCAA Championship events, and who knows how many World Championships in basketball, rowing, gymnastics, and swimming. Indianapolis wanted to be known as a “sports town” and they have succeeded. Downtown you’ll find not only Victory Field, but Lucas Stadium, home to the Indianapolis Colts, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Fever play. Sports Business Journal named the Fieldhouse “the best basketball arena in the country.” Both Sports Illustrated and Baseball America have recognized Victory Field as the “Best Minor League Ballpark in America.” More stuff to brag about, in addition to that famous Speedway. Did you know that the Indy 500 is the world’s largest single-day sporting event?

29 monumentThe mowing machine in the park below is just finishing up. It’s a shirt-sleeve spring day and my list of things to do is longer than a week’s worth of Christmas shopping. Just beyond those cherry trees I can see the top of that half-hidden monument; it’s time to get outside and walk around. Visit Indy tells me that Monument Circle was named one of the “10 Great Public Spaces” in the United States in 2011 by the American Planning Association.

Not to brag, or anything.

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