INDIANAPOLIS began life in 1821, when a tract of barely inhabited marshes was designated the state capital. Its location in the middle of Indiana’s rich farmland bore terrific commercial advantages, but the absence of a navigable river prohibited the transportation of bulky materials such as coal and iron to sustain heavy industry. Though home to more than sixty car manufacturers by 1910, the city never seriously threatened Detroit’s supremacy. Nevertheless, it has become one of the biggest cities in the world not accessible by water, attracting food, paper and pharmaceutical industries, including the giant Eli Lilly Corporation.
Today the city has shaken off such nicknames as Naptown, India-no-place and Brickhouse in the Cornfield in favor of its chosen designation as the country’s unofficial amateur sports capital - "amateur" events like the Pan-American Games and national Olympic trials being worth big money these days. (Major league pro teams include the basketball Pacers and the football Colts.) In recent years, it has constructed several world-class sports stadia (including the retro-styled Conseco Fieldhouse downtown) along with new hotels, a gaggle of top-class museums and a zoo - and its old downtown landmarks have become cultural, shopping and dining complexes. No longer is it (quite) true that nothing happens here except for the glamorous Indianapolis 500 car race each May - "the most televised annual event in the world".
Circle Centre , the swish mall at Illinois and Washington, houses dozens of places to eat, but most of these are chains. You’d do better to stick to the more established restaurants downtown or head up to Broad Ripple Village (bus #17) at College Avenue and 62nd Street, packed with bars, cafés, galleries and shops. At lunchtime, City Market , 222 E Market St, is a maze of lunch counters and tables where you can feast cheaply on all sorts of international food amid a cacophonous din.
The emerging area in downtown is Massachusetts Avenue, where along with some good bars and restaurants, the 3000-seater Murat Centre (502 N New Jersey St; tel 317/231-0000) provides a special venue for gigs and Broadway musicals; decorated in outlandish Byzantine style, the center is part of a huge Shriner temple. In summer, head north to chic Broad Ripple Village . See the free paper NUVO for full details of gigs and events.
Seven miles northwest of downtown, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway stages only two events per year; but one does happen to be the legendary Indianapolis 500 (the other is the prestigious NASCAR Brickyard 400 in August).
Held on the last Sunday in May, the Indy 500 is preceded by two weeks of quali fication runs that whittle the hopeful entrants down to a final field of 33 drivers, one of whom will scoop the million-dollar first prize. The two-and-a-half-mile circuit was built as a test track for the city’s motor manufacturers. The first 500-mile race held in 1911 - won in a time of 6hr 42min, at an average speed of 74.6mph - was a huge success, vindicating the organizers’ belief that the distance was the optimum length for spectators’ enjoyment. Cars now hit 225mph, though the official times of the winners are reduced by delays caused by accidents. The automotive technology is marvelous, but the living legends in the eyes of their fans are such championship drivers as A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and members of the Unser dynasty.
Listed below are all the links you need, to book your holiday directly:
- Click here for Indianapolis Airport
- Click here for Car Rental
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