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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to the one day in Indianapolis tour. Before I get into the one day in Indianapolis tour a little backstory about this great nation of ours. People who are not from the United States might sometimes find the various internecine disputes between the regions of our country to be somewhat confusing.
One of these perpetual conflicts is between those who live on the coasts of the United States and those who live in the middle of the country. The denizens of the great middle can feel that the “coastal elites” look down on them as toothless, ignorant, backwater rubes. Those who live on the coasts, however, sometimes feel that the center of our nation…is populated by toothless, ignorant, backwater rubes.
I’m from New York City, which is as coastal and elite as it gets. But never let me say that a Midwestern city like Indianapolis is anything but toothful and completely frontwater. If you’re looking for culture, you can hardly do better than the Eiteljorg Museum and the Indianapolis Zoo. We’ll visit both of them today. Spend a One Day in Indianapolis Tour with me, and you’ll never call it flyover country again!
One Day in Indianapolis
Where to Stay?
When you stay in Indianapolis, you’re not going to need anything fancy. But you will want a comfy, cozy, and affordable place with a great location. That’s why I suggest the Home2 Suites by Hilton Indianapolis Downtown. It has the perfect location in Downtown Indianapolis right near the Soldiers and Sailors monument. Breakfast was included every morning. And because the rooms were all suites, they had everything you’d need to prepare a meal in your kitchen if you so desired.
One Day in Indianapolis
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
If the weather is rainy or snowy, which can happen in Indiana, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
If you want to try some classic American cooking, I recommend this cookbook.
One Day in Indianapolis Tour
Morning: Indianapolis Zoo
The Indianapolis Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in the city. It is an amazing place to spend the day. This is true whether you’re traveling with kids or you’re a cranky young maid like me. The zoo’s admission is a little pricey. But included with that price is admission to the butterfly conservatory and the botanical gardens, so it’s a fair deal.
A person could truly spend all the One Day in Indianapolis Tour at the zoo laughing with the myna birds and dancing with the red pandas. However, I want to focus your attention on the conservation efforts of the Indianapolis Zoo. That’s why we’re going to stick with…
three fun facts: Indianapolis Zoo
1) Walrus and Sea Lion Conservation
Some of the best conservation stories at the Indianapolis Zoo are about their collection of pinnipeds. Perhaps one of their most beloved residents was a California sea lion named Ray. Ray was rescued off the coast of California with multiple gunshot wounds that left him almost entirely blind. I don’t consider myself an especially vindictive person, but there’s a special place in Hell for people who shoot sea lions.
Ray obviously couldn’t survive in the wild under these conditions, so the Indianapolis Zoo gave him a good home! He passed away very recently after living to a ripe old sea lion age, but when I was at the Indianapolis Zoo, he was still alive and flipping.
2) Lion Rescue
One reason I love to travel is because it exposes me to problems around the world I never would have considered before. And the more people thinking about a problem, the more likely it is that a solution can be found. Take the case of the lion. It never occurred to me that in areas in Africa where lions can be found in the wild, there can be problems with lions attacking cattle farms and eating the cattle.
Naturally the cattle farmers object to this, so sometimes they can retaliate by killing the lions. That’s why the Indianapolis Zoo supports Dr. Bernard Kissui’s work helping cattle farmers built stronger corrals. This way the farmers get to keep their cattle, and they have no reason to attack lions. Everyone wins! Except the cattle, who are probably going to die anyway.
3) Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas
Conservation isn’t just for adorable animals like sea lions or majestic creatures like the lion. Weirdo animals need love too! When you visit the desert exhibit, you’ll learn how the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana is endangered because of damage to its habitat. Fewer than 50 of this freakazoids were left in the wild!
That’s why the Indianapolis Zoo began a breeding program aimed at boosting the iguana population. (That’s a strange job to have, FYI. I think I’d be reluctant to tell people my profession was Iguana Mater.) Most of the iguanas bred in this Indianapolis Zoo program are reintroduced back into the wild, with the help of specialized Iguana Scientists.
One Day in Indianapolis Tour
Afternoon: Eiteljorg Museum
The morning of our One Day in Indianapolis Tour is definitely the best time to visit the Indianapolis Zoo. The animals will be at their active best, and all the attractions will be open. But once you’ve had enough of running around the Indiana sunshine with adorable blind sea lions, it’s time to get back inside where it’s air conditioned and learn lots of depressing information.
The confusingly named Eiteljorg Museum is dedicated to Native American and Western Art. It’s named after Harrison Eiteljorg, one of the founding donors of the museum. I still don’t know how to pronounce Eiteljorg. However, I do know how to share with you…
approximately top 5: eiteljorg Museum
1) Eiteljorg Museum Cafe
After spending the morning watching animals eat the zoo, you’re probably hungry. Before we try to learn things, let’s feed our brain! Stop by the Eiteljorg Museum Cafe for the affordable soup and sandwich lunch combo. I had the veggie soup and bbq sandwich, which made a pleasant light lunch. (Believe me, the main meal of the day is yet to come.) Bonus points to the museum cafe for the tasty free cornbread.
2) The Crows Bent Low and Flogged Their Horses
One exhibit at the Eiteljorg critiques works about Native Americans by non-Native Americans. The docent notes on the wall helped me understand how these portrayals shaped how Native Americans were treated. For example, see this painting by WHD Koerner for The Saturday Evening Post. Koerner was born in Germany, and by all accounts he was devoted to the Western United States. He went out and spent as much time in the area as he could because he wanted his depictions to be realistic.
Koerner’s painting of the Crows here is certainly more realistic than other paintings in the museum by men who had never even met a Native American. Still, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the images of Native Americans that most white Americans would have seen would have been done about Native Americans, not by them.
Frederic Remington is probably the most famous artist with work in the Eiteljorg. The sculpture above, “The Bronco Buster”, is one of his most replicated works. Remington is the most famous of all the artists who made their names depicting the mythic West in the 19th century. He was known for his paintings and illustrations until he made “The Bronco Buster”. The replicas of this statue alone were able to make Mr. Remington a serious pile of steel.
Though Remington was a financial success, he always dreamed of finding critical acclaim and respectability. These last two always eluded him. Too bad Mr. Remington! Maybe you could comfort yourself by rolling around at night on your bed of money. That always helps me.
4) Potawatomi Belt
One floor of the Eiteljorg is dedicated to Native American art and handiworks. This Potawatomi belt dates back to the 19th century. It was made with glass beads from Europe. Native American tribes would have traded animal skins with white settlers in order to obtain the glass beads for their artwork. The designs on the belt have religious and cultural significance for the Potawatomi. However, their exact meaning is reserved for members of the tribe.
I might make one small criticism of the way the Eiteljorg displays this belt. The basket above the belt is obvious very well-made, but it’s rather plain. Putting it so close to the elaborate belt is a little confusing. For a second, I was worried a museum worker had just left their shopping basket inside the case, and I was about to report it to lost and found. Perhaps it would be better to put the basket with some other baskets to avoid confusion.
5) Salmon Quest
One thing I liked about the Eiteljorg is that they exhibit work from contemporary Native artists, not just artifacts from the 19th century. This sculpture is by a Nez Perce artist named Doug Hyde. A statement from him posted below the sculpture explains how important the salmon are to the Nez Perce. Hyde says that this sculpture reminds him of childhood days spent fishing with his grandfather.
I’ve never been salmon fishing, so it’s possible I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I didn’t know salmon could get this big. Most salmon I’ve seen were very small because they were cut into pieces and rolled up in sushi.
One Day in Indianapolis Tour
Evening: Dinner at St. Elmo Steakhouse
St. Elmo Steakhouse is a true Indianapolis institution. Not for nothing is it Ron Swanson’s favorite steakhouse in Indianapolis. (If you watch Parks and Recreation, you know Ron Swanson’s recommendation is all the seal of approval that any steakhouse should need.)
But if you’re looking for more awards than just a smile from a fictional person, how do you feel about James Beard Awards? Because St. Elmo Steakhouse also won one of their prestigious American Classic Awards. And American Classic is just how I like my meat! Let me take you to where your future’s lyin, St. Elmo Steakhouse.
24 Hour Treat: Elmo Cola
I began my meal with an Elmo Cola: a glass-bottled Coke mixed with bourbon. (Don’t get this drink with a Diet Coke, even though you can. Aspertame + bourbon = EW.) This drink is a winner because I feel like someone on Mad Men who isn’t Don Draper would really enjoy it Maybe Lane Pryce in one of his America-loving rampages? At this point I begin to attract the attention of a couple of gentlemen sitting near me. They are father and son, and the father is too old for me, and the son too young, alas.
24 Hour Treat: Shrimp Cocktail
St. Elmo’s most famous app is their shrimp cocktail. One word of caution: DO NOT PUT A WHOLE SHRIMP IN YOUR MOUTH. (That’s nine words of caution.) The cocktail sauce is made with horseradish and fire. I know because I did put a whole shrimp in my mouth and started crying and Mr. Elmo and Mr. Elmo Jr. chortled at me good naturedly. If you cut the shrimp into small pieces, the sauce is actually quite delicious.
If you order the famous Elmo Steak, navy bean soup or tomato juice is included. I chose the tomato juice because I wanted my tummy full for the beefy goodness.
24 Hour Treat: St Elmo Steak
Obviously you can’t go to St Elmo without trying their legendary steak. If you do, Ron Swanson will come to your house and force some of the steak down your throat. I got my filet mignon medium-rare because it’s an actual crime in my house to order a good steak cooked more than that. You want to be able to taste each marble of fat, each ribbon of lean, pure protein, each capsule of blood. The steak at St. Elmo is pricey, but believe me that it is worth every penny. You will be in Meat Paradise for at least a week afterwards.
At this point in the evening, Mr Elmo and Mr Elmo Jr. began to pepper me with questions about how I had learned about St Elmo and what brought me to Indianapolis. (They were both locals who came to St. Elmo on a regular basis. I did not ask where Mrs. Elmo was in case the answer was that she is dead because talking about dead people is always upsetting.) Then Mr. Elmo offered to pay for my dinner, but I said no because I’m a honey who’s making money. But I appreciate the offer Mr. Elmo, and I’m following through on my promise to put you in my blog.
St Elmo isn’t as famous for its desserts as it is for its steak. But I never let a restaurant meal go by without a sweet treat if I can help it! St. Elmo does always have a seasonal pie on the menu from My Sugar Pie in Zionsville, Indiana. I figured I better get that because who knows when I’ll be in Zionsville?
This blackberry pie had the perfect combination of sweet, lardful crust and tart berry interior. By this point Mr. Elmo and Mr. Elmo Jr. had left the restaurant, so I could enjoy my pie in peace. But perhaps if you go to St. Elmo, they’ll be there and they’ll offer to pick up your tab. Only one way to find out!
That’s a Perfect One Day in Indianapolis Tour!
What would you do with a One Day in Indianapolis Tour? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Indianapolis right now? What’s an appropriate punishment for someone who shoots a sea lion? And why weren’t Emilio Estevez and Rob Lowe dining at St. Elmo Steakhouse? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend a One Day in Indianapolis Tour. If you have time for another One Day in Indianapolis Tour, try this itinerary.