thriving metropolitan city has not lost its small-town niceness
Indianapolis. More Than Sports
Capital of Nice
Indianapolis is the capital of Indiana and a thriving metropolitan city that has not lost its small-town niceness. Indianapolis is the 13th largest city in the nation, has a population of 1.2 million, is home to Eli Lilly & Co., Roche Diagnostics and DowAgroScience and is consistently ranked one of the most affordable cities by Forbes Magazine. The city is also pet friendly and handicap accessible, making it a perfect long weekend destination for visitors looking to spend time with really friendly people – who are likely candidates for your new BFF.
Because of its well-designed, walk-able and handicap accessible city-center with hotels, restaurants and a modern convention center, Indianapolis hosts huge conventions including the Indy Jazz Fest, the Indiana State Fair, the Indy 500, the largest mini-marathon in the country and one of the nation’s largest parades.
Thanks to the efforts of Greg Fehribach, an attorney, advocate for accessibility and co-chair of the ADA Disability Inclusion Committee for the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee, Indianapolis enables people with disabilities to have the best possible experience when visiting his city. In 2009 Indianapolis was selected by the National Organization on Disability for its Accessible America Award. Former Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Rich commented,”… The city of Indianapolis exemplifies a successful model of enriched civic life through the full participation of all citizens.”
Sometimes You Win
It is fortunate for Indianapolis that it is more than a sports Mecca. Research shows that the city lost $1.1 million on the February Super Bowl, about $300,000 more than expected. A big slice of the funding went to pay the police and fire department; their services consumed $3.6 million. It is interesting to note the community actually received $2.9 million in hotel, restaurant and auto rental taxes during the Super Bowl period which exceeded the same period in the previous year. With this news in hand, Ann Lathrop, Board President, rationalized the loss as the cost of doing business and assured the city that the deficit would be absorbed into the agency’s operating budget. She also expects that the celebrity of the event will increase business in the long run.
Although the downtown area appears to be squeaky clean, handicap accessible, and pet friendly, Steve Hammer (www.nuvo.net/indianapolis) reports on crime problems in the downtown area and finds that the massive police presence during the Super Bowl “…verged on being a military occupation, which is apparently what it takes to maintain law and order in our city's center. “ Indianapolis was ranked as the 33rd most dangerous city in the United States in the 2008–2009 edition of CQ Press's City Crime Rankings.
Not entirely into sports or conventions? Indianapolis is perfect for culture mavens who are really interested in visiting unique museums, want a backstage view of the Indy Speedway and enjoy discovering the next new opera stars.
Although the director of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) does not think that the cultural institutions of this city are attractive to east coast and international tourists, I have to differ. On a personal level I found the “things to see and do” in Indianapolis incredibly interesting. This is a city that is a destination for visitors looking for a different perspective on life in smaller US cities. It is highly likely that after a visit, travelers will rush to the Indianapolis Face book page and hit the “like” button.
Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA)
Every center of history and education in Indianapolis is unique and even if hard pressed I could not pick a favorite Museum.
The drive into the parking lot of the Indianapolis Museum of Art gives visitors a clue that there is something wonderfully unique about this place. Surrounded by acres of manicured lawns, an abundance of flowers and trees, the IMA is impressive – creating a wonderful preface to viewing the significant collection of decorative arts, prints, drawings, photographs, textiles and costumes. The permanent collection includes African, Asian, American, Contemporary and European art. The museum recently invested $74 million to expand the building which was designed by Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects.
IMA is handicap accessible (use the 38th Street entrance) and automatic doors make entrance to the museum effortless. Handicap parking is free. Curb cuts are located at all entrances and wheelchairs as well as rollators (rolling walkers) are available, free of charge. Elevators to all levels are easily reached. The restrooms are on the 1st floor and in the Tobias Theater. Ramps are placed at the entrance to the Nourish Café and Tobias Theater and a portable platform enables visitors to experience Summer Night films during July and August.
Children’s Museum of Indianapolis: The Power of Children
This incredibly interesting destination encourages children to bring their families along for the adventure. The Museum’s mission: to create extraordinary learning experiences across the arts, sciences, and humanities that can transform the lives of children and families.
In 2011 the Indianapolis Mayor's Advisory Council on Disability awarded the Children’s Museum with their Accessibility Award for having demonstrated a commitment to universal access and inclusion. From the moment you pull into the parking lot (there are 72 designated free parking spaces) you know that Museum management really understands transport challenges for physically challenged visitors; golf carts are available to transport visitors from their cars to Museum (helpful to arrange in advance - 800 820 6214).
Once inside the Museum, staff members with white name badges are direct contacts should medical issues begin during a visit. For emergencies, Red Phones are located throughout the building and the system connects directly to Security. The Museum provides storage for medical equipment and medications in the First Aid Room and this space can also be used for administering medical treatments. Have dietary restrictions? Contact the Food Court staff in advance and review nutrition and food ingredients prior to visiting the restaurant.
Hearing impaired visitors can access Assisted Listening Devices that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. They can be used for performances in the Lilly Theatre and SpaceQuest@Planetarium. American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters can be made available for performances in the Lilly Theatre and visitors should contact the museum in advance.
For mobility impaired visitors, many doors open automatically. Public elevators are available for use and accessed on every level of the facility. Adult and youth-sized wheelchairs are available free of charge. They may be reserved 24 hours in advance by contacting Customer Service.
The Museum recognizes the right of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals or animals in training to become service animals and visitors with service animals are welcomed throughout the collection. The only caveat – the animals must be on a leash and in the control of the disabled person or his/her companion/aide.
One Million Visitors Can’t Be Wrong
The five-floor Museum covers 472,900 square feet, and is considered to be the largest children’s museum in the US. The 2008 budget of $28.7 million, plus a large endowment, enables the Museum to offer world-class exhibits. With the focus on children, The Power of Children: Making a Difference tells the story of three extraordinary children: Anne Frank (one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust), Ruby Bridges (first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South), and Ryan White (American teenager from Kokomo, Indiana, who became a national poster child for HIV/AIDS in the United States, after being expelled from middle school because of his infection). The popular Egypt exhibit combines history with current reality and encourages visitors to engage in Egyptian family life and culture.
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
Harrison Eiteljorg, a successful Indianapolis business executive and philanthropist collected Native American traditional art and crafts (i.e., pottery, baskets, weavings, clothing), with a special passion for the art and crafts of Taos (New Mexico) School. In 1989 he donated his collection and thus started one of the most unique Museums in the country.
Some consider Native American and Western American Art “less-than” Western European works. Perhaps this judgment is based on available examples that hover between tacky and terrible. For this Fine Arts major it was an OMG moment when I meandered through the Eiteljorg and was able to gaze on examples of the best works in this genre.
The Museum experience starts with the walk from the street to the building. The architecture combines the mass and color dominant in adobe and pueblo structures; however, the traditional concepts have been put on steroids that bring POW to this American Southwest building. Once inside, visitors continue to be wowed with a collection by such artists as C. Cannon, N. C. Wyeth, Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe, Allan Houser, Frederic Remington, Charles Russell and Kay WalkingStick.
To inspire contemporary artists working in this field the Museum sponsors a Fellowship Program. Award recipients receive $25,000. In addition, the work of art is purchased by the Museum and added to its permanent collection. Artists interested in participating can find additional information and application at: http://fellowship.eiteljorg.org/application/ .
Parking for handicap visitors is free for most of the year, and discounted entry fees apply. Curb cuts, ramps and power doors allow easy access. Manual wheelchairs (limited supply) and canes are available free of charge and Segway usage is permitted for mobility impaired visitors. Elevators are ADA compliant and service animals are welcomed (http://www.eiteljorg.org/visit/plan/accessibility-services).
Indianapolis Motor Speedway. History Lessons, Experiments, Social Networking
The year is 1905. The business executive who made his fortune manufacturing vehicle parts, Carl Graham Fisher, returns to Indianapolis from France where he helped friends racing in France. Surprised at the level of automobile design and craftsmanship in Europe he started to consider how to improve automobile testing prior to shipping cars to consumers in this country.
At the time, courses were dangerous and cars were tested on horse tracks and public roads. After researching other tracks he decided, "Indianapolis is going to be the world's greatest center of horseless carriage manufacturer, what could be more logical than building the world's greatest racetrack right here?"
Not only is the Speedway a wonderful sports experience, it is a great laboratory; many advances in contemporary automobiles are linked to the challenging and grueling high-speed 2 ½ mile course. New concepts in making better cars are tested in actual competitions and successful attempts are incorporated into the auto manufacturing process.
In 1973 hospitality suites were added and today Speedway reserved seating accommodates 250,000 spectators and additional thousands watch events at the infield. For corporate executives and others in the “privileged” group, a championship golf course with 14 holes outside the track and 4 inside is available. Turn2 VIP Suites are the “top of the line” for up-market networking and third tier suites start at $110,000 per year.
One handicap accessible stand at the Speedway has 302 seats and although the area is flat, the visibility is considered to be acceptable. This space is reserved for fans in wheelchairs and two of their companions. Additional accessible locations are available throughout the complex: http://indianaracing.net/indianapolis-motor-speedway-seating-guide/wheel... .
Indianapolis Opera Society
The only professional opera company in Indiana was started in 1975 through the generosity of Miriam Ramaker (Indiana Central University/University of Indianapolis) and other local opera aficionados. The first operating budget was barely $8000 and during the first season there was only one performance and two short works that included Douglas Moore’s, The Devil and Daniel Webster and Gian Carlo Menotti’s, The Telephone.
The Society was quite successful until 1981, when it closed its doors. The years following were rocky and tenuous; however, it is now on a solid foundation and hosts three fully staged productions each season and receives critical applause for its current management and performances. The organization supports a Young Artist Program and works with local educational / schools to enhance and enrich the musical options for children. ( www.indyopera.org/ )
Pet Perfect Dining
Indianapolis is a wonderful destination for puppies and their parents. To show love, the Three Dog Bakery requires a visit. The Bakery mission is simple: To fresh-bake the world’s best dog biscuits and give dog lovers everywhere a healthy, all-natural, bone-ified treat for their favorite four -legged friends. Inspirations for tummy pleasers started with Sarah Jean, a rescued black lab mix who was the Biscuit Queen, and Executive V.P. of Leg Sniffing & Tummy Rubs; Gracie, an albino Great Dane, was Executive V.P. of Munching & Begging and Dottie (aka Spots Galore), was the former Executive V.P. of Napping. ( http://www.threedogindy.com/ )
WHERE TO SLEEP
Although there a many downtown hotel options, travelers looking for a property that is centrally located, very new, pet friendly (a deposit and non-refundable fee may be charged) and handicap accessible will immediately make a reservation at the Conrad Indianapolis.
The 17 special/handicap accommodations include wheelchair and hearing/vision impaired accessibility. Of the two types of rooms, 11 are wheelchair accessible (with roll-in showers) and 6 rooms are hearing/vision accessible. Additional features include: low peep holes on guest room doors, low showers, seating in the shower, support handles near toilets and in the showers, enlarged bathroom space, wider front hallways and lower hooks on bathroom doors. For hearing impaired rooms, there is a door bell, a Sonic Alert and special kits for visual/hearing impaired guests are available upon request.
To keep in shape, the Conrad offers an exercise room, indoor swimming pool, and spa. There are in-house dining options, weekly wine events and art exhibits. The hotel’s art gallery currently features 60 photographs of the distinctive artists Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana at the start of the American Pop Art period (1950s – 1960s).
If you find it delightful to spend time in the rarified air of a private club, there is no better choice for accommodations than the Columbia Club, conveniently located in downtown Indianapolis. This handicap accessible property holds onto the traditions of a private club: a dress code is enforced! Save the t-shirts, tank tops, beach sandals, sweat pants and jogging suits for the Fitness Center; guests are expected to wear “Business Casual” in all the common areas of the property. Some areas of Indiana’s most distinctive and distinguished club are open to visitors who can make reservations at the Clubhouse. What to join? Membership is available and members have privileges at over 200 reciprocal private clubs around the world.
The Club offers guests many amenities including a ballroom, art gallery, barber shop, board rooms, a business center, casual and fine dining options, and special events that include a cabaret with world-class performers. (The Cabaret has been compared with the Oak Room at the Algonquin in New York).
Indianapolis International Airport
The new Indianapolis International Airport is one of the nation’s most ADA-accessible airports in the country. It has been built for convenience, safety, and accessibility. From counter heights and curbs, to doors and hallways, personal mobility is maximized. Its numerous elevators and escalators, restrooms with extra-large stalls and grab bars, increases access for all travelers.
This is a strong recommendation to visit Indianapolis. Small US cities are so under-marketed that it makes me weep! Visitors flock to New York, Miami, Chicago…but to really understand the USA, visitors must find their way to our smaller cities and towns. It may take an extra effort to arrange ground transportation, hotel accommodations, a site-seeing agenda…but, trust me, at the end of the day, the effort will be worth the time and energy.