Earlier this summer, the amazing folks at White River State Park reached out to ask, “Have you ever done a staycation in downtown Indy and lived to tell the tale?” You mean a real staycation? We were all ears, called Insider Luis, told him to pack a few bags and sent he and the missus off for a 3-day staycation downtown. He loved it, returned home and spilled.
Today’s piece is all about this great staycation idea: Here’s a sample White River State Park attractions itinerary just for you.
Indy is a city with a LOT to do. As a newcomer to the city I felt like I would never get enough free time to see all the amazing things the city had to offer. I started exploring fast and furious, and within a few months my neighbors told me that they felt I’d seen more of Indy than they had in their 30+ years living here. Maybe I took it too fast, but like many of you, after a few years living in Indy I really started to feel that I had seen it all and that now I was playing the greatest hits every weekend. I’m not sure if Mick Jagger ever gets sick of singing Satisfaction, but I think we can all agree there is a bit of a risk we are running there, right?
I recently stayed in downtown Indy for three days at the beautiful JW Marriott Hotel and got a chance to see a local treasure from outsiders’ eyes. My White River State Park tour was chock full of out-of-towners coming from as close by as Ohio and as far away as Oklahoma City. Seeing them take in this giant of Indy entertainment reminded me that there are still so many nooks and crannies to see downtown and so many things to do. For three days I experienced a staycation that only a city like Indy and it’s White River State Park can offer; one that has the familiarity of a classic jagger tune, but the intricacy of a masterfully planned composition you’ll never get bored of if you care to look at the details. But unlike Jagger, you can get satisfaction here. Here is a recount of my three days to prove it.
As a writer for a Indy-based parenting magazine it can feel rote to refer people to Eiteljorg for Jingle Rails. But have you ever taken your kids to Eiteljorg during another season? Listened with them to amazing concerts under the sails, or taken them to marvel at western wonders like the recent Grand Canyon exhibit in a way that only a museum dedicated to the American West can show it? Are you aware that there is a cart full of “touchables” for your kids that serves as a sort of tactile scavenger hunt for the museum? Are you aware they can pan for gold right off the canal? I doubt it, because this expert just recently learned about some of those details. And most importantly, are you aware the Eiteljorg has an amazing cafe? There is no need to leave the museum for lunch when the kids get cranky.
I’m sure if you’re reading this you know all about Victory Field and the Indians since it’s an Indy family favorite. However, even though this is Indy’s “Child,” I encourage you to find a sitter and take the hubs or honey to a game next season without the kids. The Cove is an excellent part of the park for 21+ fans. If you read my post on father’s day, you know this is the perfect gift idea for the dad in your life. This is a surefire way to make sure dad actually sees and inning or two. Nothing beats local beverages and the chance to see the bullpen up close.
I’ve heard of St. Elmo’s and have seen countless reenactments of what their shrimp cocktail has done to my friend’s faces. As a dad of four I always figured I would never experience it for myself. First of all, my dad-drobe doesn’t include any clothing swanky enough. Enter Harry and Izzy’s. Not only does Harry and Izzy’s serve the same iconic appetizer, but it offers a children’s menu and has a slightly more casual atmosphere that allows my khakis and plaid to feel at home. Still, expect a lavish and delicious dinner fit for celebrating a major milestone.
Similar to Eiteljorg, the Indiana State museum is often mentioned by us when Christmas rolls into town. However, any given Thursday can feel like Christmas in July. This is a museum where you can spend an entire day without even a hint of museum fatigue, especially if you take the entertaining and quirky INvasion tour. Enjoy a cutting edge 3D IMAX showing or the exhibit celebrating Indiana’s bicentennial; an exhibit 200 years in the making. Even this upcoming Design Zone exhibit looks incredible. Enjoy the cafe’s amazing fried green tomato BLT and then burn the calories walking around the building while searching for each Indiana county’s iconic symbol tucked into the building’s facade. End your trip around the building with a stop to Nicey Treat’s popsicle truck.
I don’t know how many times I’ve walked my kids right by the Growing Places slow food garden without stopping to ask a volunteer what its all about? Have you ever wondered where all the food goes? Or, as some of us wondered, what that food even is? Stop a minute. Walk through the rows! Chase a rabbit out of there while you are at it! Its worth your time!
If this day so far sounds like a lot of walking, it is. But not to worry, the WRSP has you covered. Rent a bike that seats a family of six or go solo on a Segway. Either way, you’ll have the best mode of transportation to take while you cruise the views along the park and promenade.
Now unless you’re an ultra marathon runner, this day is going to have your calves crying. The good news? Inside the JW Marriott are restaurants within walking distance. As in walk out of the elevator and into the restaurant. Whether you’re after what could arguably be the best tenderloin in the state of Indiana at High Velocity, or the best Italian food this side of Venice at Osteria Pronto, you’re going to be delighted. After a delicious meal to fill you up, head on up to your room and feel free to pass out in the plush pillows and padding of the amazing king-size beds.
Many of you might have seen my article last spring about this one. It’s definitely a win for the kids and I would go back as many times as they will let me. But this week I realized I REALLY haven’t seen it all. Most notably, I missed a pair of feet sticking out of the lobby floor: The completion of a four part statue series of a high diver making his descent. Read the story about how actual NCAA athletes modeled and were cast in plaster. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let’s just say there is way more to see there than I ever thought.
Walking with my group at the Zoo, I got to hear all of the new things that were happening and smile smugly to myself thinking “ya, I know. I took the kids here last weekend.” But you know what my kids have NEVER seen? Flamingo Mingle. Every day at 10am, a time that I usually miss because we are still in the parking lot unloading, the flamingos come out to interact with the guests in one of the most excellent displays I’ve seen at any zoo. The last year we’ve passed on tickets to the dolphin show scoffing “we’ve seen it”. No we hadn’t! Just like the dolphins themselves, the show is ever changing! Its been updated to reflect a more conservation-centric theme for families. And don’t get me started on the Gardens. Because: Gorgeous.
MORE INFO: Looking to research your own? Start on the White River State Park website for details, hours, ideas, and more. From a full listing of local attractions to group tour ideas, you’ll find everything you need in one spot. Disclaimer: Goods and/or services were received in exchange for this post but all opinions are those of the writer assigned.