The Final Four is this weekend and for the seventh time, it is Indianapolis. I have lived in Indianapolis since 2005 so this is the third time since moving here from Kokomo that I have been in the city. No one does it better. Even though the Boilers were not in the 2010 Final Four it was still a fun weekend with tons of free concerts, Tourney Town, and seeing all the visiting fans in town. I was even able to scalp a ticket and attend the memorable Duke vs. Butler final.
Unfortunately, the city does not have the best perception right now. Between the RFRA law that was recently passed (and I am NOT TOUCHING IT HERE NOPE!)and the scathing review of Indianapolis dining options that SB Nation colleague Jon Bois wrote three years ago during the Super Bowl there is a perception that Indianapolis has nothing but generic dining options run by people just waiting to turn your business away.
Well, fear not! We're a welcoming city and Indianapolis has plenty options for the out-of-towner. Wisconsin and Michigan State fans have been here for Big Ten Tournaments and Big Ten Football Championship games, while Duke and Kentucky fans have been here for Final Fours. There are plenty of good options for dining, entertainment, and drinking:
Stuff to Do:
Hoosier Gym - Indiana used to have the greatest high school state tournament and even though it was destroyed by class basketball, the state still loves its hoops. The 1986 film Hoosiers immortalized it, and if you're a hoops fan visiting the Hoosier Gym is a must-see. The gym in Knightstown, about a half hour east of Indianapolis off of I-70, is still preserved just as it was during the filming of the movie. The best part is if you walk in, you can ask for a basketball and immediately start to shoot around. It really feels like you're on a movie set.
Your intrepid writer has shot around at the Hoosier Gym
Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame - If you're going east to the Hoosier Gym you might as well head about 10-15 miles further and visit the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. New Castle is the home of Steve Alford and there is a treasure trove of Indiana basketball history at the Hall. Players from Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Michigan State have been inducted. It is also a block away from New Castle's Chrysler Fieldhouse, the world's largest high school gym with nearly 10,000 seats.
Milan Museum - Not too far south of Knightstown and New Castle you can visit the town that inspired the movie Hoosiers. In Milan became one of the smallest schools in Indiana history to win the State Championship, the Milan basketball museum has been recently expanded with tons of information about that team.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Another Hoosiers location, historic Hinkle Fieldhouse is what a basketball arena should be. It is like God Himself designed a basketball arena. You are not inundated with ads, there are no luxury boxes, and most of the seats are wooden bleachers. The sun still shines in the east windows to light the court. It is simply magical.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum - It's not basketball, but the Speedway is always a great place to visit and you can even take a ride around the track.
Places to Eat
Indianapolis has more than Applebee's. I can prove it!
The Tamale Place - This is a local favorite with three locations, one of them in the Indianapolis City Market right downtown. All the tamales are hand-made and absolutely delicious. I personally eat here at least once a month.
Plump's Last Shot - Remember 1954 Milan up above? The guy that hit the game-winning shot is still around and runs this restaurant in Broad Ripple! It is right on the Monon Trail and only 2-3 miles away from Hinkle Fieldhouse where Plump played his college ball.
Sister's Place - This quaint little place just south of downtown has excellent home cooking.
Indy Food Trucks - Indianapolis has an EXCELLENT roving food truck scene, and Roaming Hunger is where to find them. Around Indy is another great site to find them. Many of them set up for a day at the local microbreweries, but with the Final Four in town they are sure to be in the downtown area. I am a big fan of Pierogi Love, Duos, and Byrne's Pizza. If you can find Der Pretzel Wagen is also very, very good.
If you drink crappy Bud Light during your time in Indianapolis it is your own fault. There I an excellent craft and microbrewing scene in Indianapolis. No less than six microwbreweries are within two miles of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Sun King - One of my favorites, and on Friday's they have a growler fill special of $6 for their three house beers. They are located four blocks east of the City Market.
Flat 12 - This is a very small brewery just east of downtown, but they have tons of house and specialty options.
Triton - This is a bit away from downtown, as it is at Ft. Harrison, but they have a taproom location in Broad Ripple. They offer a good selection of regular house brews and specialty brews, plus they almost always have at least one food truck on site at Fort Harrison.
Fountain Square - I don't go here too often, but they are pretty good. The Fountain Square area has lots of really good local dining options and is located on the cultural walking trail a short walk from the immediate downtown area.
Tow Yard - These guys are about two blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium. I have only been there once, but they are very good.
Two Deep - These guys are about 10 blocks north of Lucas Oil. Only been there once, but they also have some very good options
Indiana City - This is just east of downtown and relatively new, but pretty good. They also often have a food truck on site.
Black Acre - They are a few miles east of downtown on Washington Street in Irvington, but very, very good. They change weekly what they brew and in my opinion have some of the best beer in Indy.
Bier Brewing - kind of expensive, but they have a rotating list every week. Like Black Acre, Indiana City, Two Deep, and Tow Yard they do not bottle and sell in local stores.
Thr3e Wise Men - They are in Broad Ripple and have a full restaurant with some really good food.
Daredevil - They are in Shelbyville, but they can locally and I put them here because they are run by Purdue guys. If you go towards Milan first you drive right past Shelbyville.
If I had to rate my favorites I would say Tow Yard, Sun King, Flat 12, and Black Acre are the best, in no particular order, but all of them have very good options.