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Weekend escape to Indianapolis

Published in the Battle Creek Equirer

If you haven’t been to Indianapolis in the last ten years, you won’t recognize the bubbling, energetic, interesting city it has become from the rather sleepy, provincial place it was. Downtown Indianapolis offers excellent hotels, great dining choices, sports, theatre, and museums – just to list a few.

Let’s start with where to stay. Nothing can beat the historic Canterbury Hotel, smack in the center of the city.  Entering the hotel’s brass doors, you can feel the history of what must have a showplace in 1928 when the current hotel building replaced a previous hotel built in 1858. Luckily for guests, the hotel received a major facelift and renovation in 2010 when the current owners took over. The restaurant was re-opened and named for the new owner, Turner’s Cocktails and Cuisine. Afternoon tea was a favorite of ours, and is a great way to spend a few hours in the hotel’s atrium, scones and finger sandwiches served accompanied by a pianist.

While we are into historic Indy, dinner at St. Elmo’s is a requirement. A landmark downtown since 1902, the restaurant was named after the patron saint of sailors, St Elmo. With a Chicago saloon décor, which matched its start as a tavern, the restaurant has evolved over the years to provide a great dining experience if you like steak especially. Also not to be missed was their shrimp cocktail with a sauce so spicy it cleared my husband’s headcold.We also liked Oceanaire for seafood choices. While it was part of an upscale chain, their seafood was wonderful even this far from the ocean.  Baked shrimp stuffed with crab and served over linguine tasted as good as it sounded.

Slightly on the edge of downtown, we noshed on fabulous deli at Shapiro’s. Not a lot of atmosphere in the cafeteria style restaurant but huge sandwiches and old style favorites like meatloaf and mashed potatoes make up for chic. They have been serving locals since 1905 with the motto, “Cook good. Serve generously. Price modestly. People will come.”

If you plan ahead, you might be able to snag a seat for a Pacers or Colts game, both teams play in stadiums right downtown.

Some 12 downtown hotels connect directly to the Circle Centre Mall. Although it doesn’t offer quite what it did when Nordstrom’s was an anchor store, I still found enough shopping opportunities. They also have a huge movie theatre with all the first run flicks when you need to rest your feet.

For those more culturally inclined, the red sandstone Eiteljorg Musuem of American Indians and Western Art looks out of place in downtown Indianapolis. Named after its founder, an Indy businessman,  the museum sets out to inspire deeper understanding of the art, history and culture of the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America. It is the only museum of its kind in the Midwest and only one of two east of the Mississippi that combine Native America and the American West in connected exhibits.

No weekend visit would be complete without a visit to The Slippery Noodle Inn, Indiana’s oldest bar and home of the blues, founded in 1850. Two live, local bands play in different parts of the historic building starting at 9 p.m. We didn’t hang around until the wee hours of the morning but I’m confident it was hopping all night long.

Just a shade over three hours south, Indianapolis is an easy weekend away.

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