Indianapolis is Americana at its best. Smiling Midwesterners are happy to welcome you, historic destinations and cultural venues abound, and a variety of local delicacies delight the palate. All this wonder is surrounded by rolling farmland offering crops such as corn which, at the end of summer, reaches “the height of an elephant’s eye”!
It was a beautiful place for me to visit and rekindle sweet and precious friendships forged long ago. In early September, I gathered with six sisters from the Chi Omega Sorority to celebrate our continued fellowship. We first met as a naive freshman at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, in the late 1960s. Periodically, we meet for several days to reconnect as we explore our destination. . Most importantly, we feast on telling these hilarious stories about our coming-of-age years together in Central America.
Our hostess organized a variety of delicious daily excursions. The first day we went to Newfields for tours of the Indianapolis Art Museum and Lilly House. We experienced the exhibition THE LUME, described as multisensory digital art showcasing the work of artist Vincent Van Gogh. LE LUME is truly extraordinary, and not to be missed! Visitors feel like they have stepped into one of Van Gogh’s paintings and are immersed in the beauty of his art through the music, words, light and brilliant colors he used. Constantly moving images are projected onto walls and floors, and visitors are free to roam or stand still to soak up the experience.
The Lilly House is part of the Newfields Estate which was donated in 1966 to the Art Association of Indianapolis by the Lilly family. This luxurious yet welcoming country house is surrounded by formal, woodland gardens designed by the famous Olmsted brothers. The ground floor is fully furnished in a 1930s style, with much of the original furniture and decorative arts of the house from when the Lilly family lived there.
A stroll in the gardens is a must! Paths and stone steps twist and turn, leading to “follies”: surprising and charming corners highlighting pergolas, fountains, waterfalls and lounge areas. It’s easy to spend a day in Newfields, have lunch on the patio, and explore the surrounding art and scenery.
On the second day, we visited the Carmel Arts & Design District for a shopping spree, to see public art exhibits, and to appreciate a wide variety of American architecture. Note, 20 life-size sculptures created by J. Seward Johnson Jr. These realistic bronze figures are eternally posed along sidewalks engaged in ordinary activities that invite the viewer to take a closer look. A little girl is watering flowers, a painter is concentrating on his easel, a street musician entertains passers-by, and a boy is learning to ride a bicycle.
Then there was lunch! The award-winning classic hand-breaded pork tenderloin sandwich at Muldoon’s on Main has to be tasted. It’s huge and appetizing. A sandwich is easily large enough for two people. Our group ended with a slice of homemade banana cream pie accompanied by seven forks.
On the third day, we headed to downtown Indy for a tour of Benjamin Harrison’s presidential site. Harrison’s Italian-style mansion, built in 1875, contains a fabulous collection of his personal effects, furnishings and presidential memorabilia. The 23rd president served from 1889 to 1893, returning home to Indianapolis after failing to be re-elected.
A knowledgeable guide led us through the mansion, explaining the remarkable history of the Harrison family. We have learned that Harrison’s grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was the ninth President of the United States. Benjamin Harrison has been actively involved in promoting anti-slavery legislation and legislation for women. Many examples of the beautiful works of art created by his first wife, Caroline, are on display throughout the house. Caroline, who had very progressive views, died in 1892 of tuberculosis. In 1896, Harrison married his wife’s niece, Mary, creating quite a scandal!
No trip to Indianapolis is complete without lunch at the Cake Bake Shop. This restaurant is a magical wonderland that enchants all ages with hidden delicacies, frilly pink garlands, sparkling white lights, and crystal chandeliers. The lunches are delicious, but the diners come for the desserts. The Cake Room is a feast for the eyes and impatient palates. Choosing one is impossible, so once again we did share. Yum!
Although our group only experienced a few of the gems of Indianapolis, I would love to come back and continue to explore this charming Midwestern town. In two years, the plan is to meet us in Orlando, and once again to laugh, eat, explore and have new adventures!
Libby Kinder is a retired freelance writer and clinical mental health advisor. She and her husband have lived in southwest Colorado Springs for 16 years. Contact Libby with comments and travel ideas at [email protected].