Indianapolis, Indiana

Photo: Serge Melki [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Serge Melki [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
It’s that time of year. Along with the fun things–wrapping presents, decorating the tree, and eating way too much homemade fudge–come the not-so-fun things like circling the mall to find a nonexistent parking space and visiting family. The first can be irritating, while the latter can be downright painful. You have to drive to your parents’ house again, since they refuse to come to you. You have to listen to the stories your grandparents tell over and over again. And then there are your in-laws. Sigh.

These yearly trips could be a little less agonizing if you had something, or somewhere, to look forward to during the drive. Maybe a detour en route to your parents’ house. Or one less night with your in-laws. If you pick somewhere along the way, like Indianapolis, no one would even know about your sneaky little plan.

Indianapolis is considered the “crossroads of America,” so a lot of Midwest traveling takes you right through, or at least around, the capital of Indiana. The city isn’t known as a great tourist destination, but this time of year, that’s part of its charm. It’s a serious sports city, with a few surprising cultural gems and a revitalized downtown.

Photo: Dolce Hotels and Resorts
Photo: Dolce Hotels and Resorts

You’ll find your hotel, The Alexander, in CityWay, one of those revitalized neighborhoods. It’s a design hotel full of original artwork and cozy spots to relax. Your room has bright pops of color, a California King bed, and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the city and Lucas Oil Stadium where the Colts play. Head down to Plat 99 for a plate of regional cheeses and a fresh-juice cocktail or a glass of Bone Snapper Rye to relieve your holiday stress before you start exploring.

Once you’ve calmed down, head to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, one of the oldest art museums in the country. You’re here to see the bold colors and the even bolder shapes at the Matisse Paints the Town exhibit. Or dig for fossils at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, one of the largest children’s museums in the world. Go to Monument Circle, where you’ll find the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Monument, the Hilbert Circle Theatre, and the Chocolate Cafe, the perfect place to check out the Christmas lights while sipping a hot chocolate. And stroll along the three-mile Canal Walk that goes through White River State Park.

At night, buy tickets to a Pacers’ game at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. If they’re out-of-town, check out the Butler Bulldogs’ schedule. You can cheer for them in the NCAA tournament next year. Not a basketball fan? Taste a Biscuit’s Brew and an Old Speckled Groundhog at the Broad Ripple Brew Pub, the oldest microbrewery in the state. Eat shrimp smothered in horseradish cocktail sauce and a ribeye at St. Elmo Steak House. Indianapolis’ oldest restaurant still has a tin ceiling, an oak bar, and waiters dressed in tuxedos. Then cap off the evening at the Slippery Noodle Inn. It’s been a whorehouse, a slaughterhouse, and a stop on the Underground Railroad. Now it’s one of the best places to listen to blues music.

Indianapolis is just what you needed: a night during the busy holiday season to forget the holidays. Almost. You might have just found a new Christmas tradition.

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