Everyone in Indianapolis is nice, warm and welcoming.
We’re supposed to discourage stereotypes but darn it, sometimes they are so accurate you can’t help but repeat them. When they say people from the Midwest are nice, they aren’t kidding! My first experience was when I had the honor to visit Detroit as a Buick ambassador in early 2015. I fell in love with the innovation and resilience of the people of this city. Despite the fact that I was visiting under freezing conditions they had hearts so generous that their smiles warmed us through.
Then I experienced Indianapolis.
I visited Indianapolis for the first time also as a Buick ambassador when I was invited for the NCAA basketball tournament finals in 2015. And while I was there for a sporting event, and a crowded one at that, every place we went to was as warm and as welcoming as can be. We ate our way through the Indianapolis City Market, had amazing bespoke cocktails at a restaurant downtown, and checked out hometown cooking at Shoefly Public House.
That was above and beyond the basketball games, both the semi-finals and finals along with a behind-the-scenes tour of Lucas Oil Stadium. Our schedule was frenetic but in the middle of the storm of activities, I felt at ease. Like I was at home.
Indianapolis…you are SO awesome!
So, when LL Media announced that this year’s BlogHouse was taking place in Indianapolis, I ran to my computer to apply. Again. I had applied for previous BlogHouses, but was not selected. And I had actually completely forgotten about this
I had actually completely forgotten about this year’s until this past April when the BlogHouse lead, Lisa Lubin, reached out to inform me I had been selected and was going to Indy!
Okay, so what is BlogHouse? According to Google, it’s the “Opportunity for travel bloggers to immerse, work and learn in a group environment with experienced mentors & peers.”
I just define it as amazing.
Even nine years into this whole blogging thing I never stop learning. Not only did I learn from the mentors, but also other attendees. With only 15 bloggers in attendance, there is nothing quite like it. There is group time, mentor time, one-on-one time, plenty of opportunity to learn, share, and garner insights. The mentors are talented and generous and the attendees are open and encouraging.
You could say that you can hold a BlogHouse at any hotel in any city like a lot of conferences out there, but you would be wrong. An important component of BlogHouse is the integration of the host city into the mix. This year, were hosted by the exuberant Visit Indy team who showed us the best of their city with the most gracious hearts and contagious enthusiasm, it’s no wonder I left Indianapolis already planning my next trip.
And if I thought the Visit Indy team was dynamic, I was equally impressed with the conference’s other sponsor Visit Indiana. We met with the marketing team and enjoyed a presentation on just some of the highlights the rest of Indiana has to offer. I took 6 pages of notes! I’m telling you, Honest to Goodness Indiana is only the half of it.
So why is Indianapolis so cool?
When you are the amateur sports capitol of the world with great teams and great venues, you might be a little competitive, but the city’s sporting nature is all upside for visitors!
For instance, it was pouring down rain on Friday morning. As I sat in the meeting room in the JW Marriott the second morning of BlogHouse looking out the window at the fabulous Indians baseball park (I’m coming back for a game!), I wondered just how we were going to get to Napolese Pizzeria for lunch without getting soaked.
No need to worry, in fact I should have been more worried about resisting the amazing pizzas with locally sourced ingredients while on a low carb diet. We walked more than a mile indoors from the hotel to just about 20 feet from the restaurant’s front door.
Our path took us through hallways, connectors and walkways. Indianapolis competes with Minneapolis on a yearly basis to be the most connected city in the United States. When it snowy, raining or a little too humid you can still comfortably walk for miles inside.
I love that!
And we loved the meal we had at Napolese. Bruscettas, hummus, killer pizzas and salads – we sampled them all and cleaned every dish. With all ingredients coming from 100 miles or less, you can taste the freshness!
After a killer afternoon of BlogHouse sessions, we headed to the Indianapolis Zoo. The morning’s rain had vanished leaving a spectacular sky and balmy evening perfect for getting a behind-the-scenes peek at the dolphin family that makes their home at this the zoo. This zoo is keenly focused on animal conservation. They literally put their money where their mouth is each year when they seek out and award half a million dollars to an individual or organization that is advancing conservation causes.
We partook in the summertime Zoolapalooza concert series, enjoying the good food, wine, beer and music. As we meandered back along the Canal Walk inside White River State Park, our third conference sponsor, W Marriott, was a beautiful beacon lighting the way and reflecting the clouds. I could say that I was sad to end the evening since it was one of those wonderful summer nights that you want to last forever, but the beds were so comfortable at the JW Marriott I couldn’t wait to sink into it!
For lunch on Saturday we headed to the Mass Ave. A hip trendy area with lots of history, restaurants, bars and boutique shopping. We had a delicious meal at Mesh on Mass. It was the second time I had been there in as many trips so you can tell it’s well liked by the locals. They’ve got a great menu and a hearty brunch on the weekends.
Instead of driving back to the hotel to start the afternoon session, we did a photo walk led by the Visit Indy team. It gave us an opportunity to practice some photography tips that us bloggers had received the day before and to learn a little more about the history of Indianapolis.
For starters, there’s this guy.
Mr. Kurt Vonnegut a celebrated author and son of Kurt Vonnegut Sr. Vonnegut senior was a renowned architect who heavily influenced Indianapolis inside and out, most notably with his Art Deco style. The people of Indianapolis celebrate the legacy of both these men. There are novels displayed in hotels, restaurants and shops and even the names of many places are taken from titles of novels or characters.
Mass Avenue is an eclectic area of the town and is the perfect example of just how accessible Indianapolis is.
You can walk everywhere, bike everywhere, including a fantastic cultural trail that covers tons of history and notable events throughout the city. They took out a whole lane of traffic to create a bike and walking path and I really enjoyed strolling the route and taking in the sights.
Only in Washington DC can you find more monuments than Indianapolis. We walked by quite a few of them as we made our way to Monument Circle on the way back to the hotel. I had visited this spot on my first trip and it is a great photo spot.
A new addition to Monument Circle since the last time I was there is a really cool public library sharing station in the form of kiosks. It is a pubic literacy and art project to raise awareness about illiteracy in a fun and quirky architectural expression. There are 8 stations Indianapolis and we ran into two during our time there. Of course, we couldn’t resist staging a scene that included a book on travel, we are bloggers after all!
On Saturday evening after a productive afternoon at BlogHouse, we made our way to the Children’s Museum. Continuing the tradition of greatness and competitivity, this museum is the largest children in the world. Not just the United States, but the world! And if it hadn’t been for BlogHouse and Visit Indy, I probably would have never seen it. And that would have been a huge mistake. Because this place is awesome (I know. I know. I’m using that word a lot!)
We spent 2 hours in the museum and barely scratched the surface, in fact I don’t even know where to start in terms of explaining it. I keep wishing I videotaped my way through and then created a time-lapsed it because we covered a lot of ground. This is just a tiny sampling of what I saw: Bumblebee (from Transformers, I’m a total fan girl!); a Chihuly glass installation; a NASA space station; an Anne Frank exhibit; a Chinese hutong; pop culture paraphernalia and real dinosaur bones.
Whew! Are you still with me?
And the museum is just getting started. Opening in March of 2018 is a 7.5 acre expansion focused on sports. (Just making Indianapolis that much more awesome for sports fans!) The intent of the building is to get families moving. There is a concern with obesity and this sports legend experience will be a national model for health and fitness, particularly in the winter months when people don’t move around as much. I absolutely cannot wait to check it out.
The highlight of the trip (besides all the blogging tips!) was what I did after the museum visit. A drink at one of the hottest bars in the city followed by dinner at the hottest table in town.
Bluebeard (another Vonnegut novel) doesn’t take reservations and is very popular so to fill up our hour+ wait time, we drank at Hotel Tango Distillery across the street. The distillery is unique. A celebrity cat lives there and its owners are the first service-disabled, combat veteran-owned distillery in America. And while everyone else had some of their fancy and original cocktails from their very creative menu, I went with straight up whiskey distilled on site, also known as the Dwayne Johnson because it is served with a big rock!
Rock or no rock, it was darn good!
After drinks we walked back over to enjoy the best meal I’ve had in a very long time. Even while being on a low carb diet, I ate heartily. There were seven of us so we ordered a sampling of starters, entrees and desserts and scarfed down everything. Each dish was very distinct, simple yet complex with layers of flavors that had us going in for seconds and thirds.
I’m not sure if it was our enthusiasm made known by the approving sounds emanating from our table or whether Visit Indy tipped off the restaurant, but the manager invited us for a tour of the kitchen and associated bakery. The bread is so good (and remember I’m a francophile who definitely knows her bread) that people began walking off the street just to buy it, so the owners decided to open a bakery adjoining the restaurant!
I can tell you, the biggest regret I have about the entire trip was not eating that bread. I’m going back to Indy post-diet just to eat a slice or five!
Foodies and those interested in culinary travel will be immensely satisfied in Indianapolis. The restaurant, bar, brewery and distillery scene is growing like crazy attracting very talented chefs and new explorations of cuisines and ingredients that are right at any Midwesterners fingertips.
And of course the rest of Indiana will not be beat. I told you they were competitive. There are 19 Food trails. Yes, 19.
Personally, I think the best way to celebrate reaching my weight loss goal (besides bread from Bluebeard!) will be hitting the pie trail! I’ll start with the sugar cream, Indiana’s state pie and follow that up with a huge slice of apple! But hey, you can get started without me. Like maybe the Tenderloin Trail or the BBQ Trail, I’ll let you decide, just hold the pie until I get there!
Extremely nice people, really good food (and drinks), great sports and activities, accessible, and approachable. All these things and more make Indianapolis an idyllic city for your first exploration in the Midwest or to inspire you to return for a second helping. It’s an easy drive or flight from practically anywhere and I definitely recommend that you Visit Indy!
And of course, BlogHouse was brilliant. My creative well was running a bit dry and this experience invigorated me on the blog front. I was thrilled to connect with others who are trying to take their blog to the next level and beyond.
Thanks to the BlogHouse mentors Lisa Lubin, Amanda Williams, Keryn Means, Ryan Erwin and Anne Lowrey for bringing their A game and sharing it so generously! And thanks for selecting Indianapolis!
How about you? Have you been to Indianapolis (or perhaps a BlogHouse)? What was your favorite part, favorite meal, favorite drink? Do share? Has my post inspired you to consider visiting Indianapolis? Do tell!
Check out what other BlogHouse bloggers had to say about the trip:
From Global Gaz: Indianapolis War Memorials
From The Kittchen: What to do in Indianapolis
From Walking on Travels: Steller Indianapolis Restaurants You Don’t Want to Miss and 5 Reasons YOU need to go to Indianapolis with kids
From LL World Tour: Three Reasons to Visit Indianapolis
From It’s Five O’Clock Here: How to Fall in Love with Indianapolis in 10 Easy Steps
From Archives of Adventure: Indulging in Indy: A Self-Guided Indianapolis Sweets Tour
From A Dangerous Business: 5 Reasons You Didn’t Know You Need to Go to Indianapolis
From The Traveling Spud: 9 Fun Things to Do in Indianapolis as a 20-Something
Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post, the 3 sponsors I mention above are conference sponsors, I paid for my travel and accommodations.
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