Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc.

Travel, Etc. --> The New Cultural Trail

The New Cultural Trail
A Downtown Treasure...

As a life long Indianapolis resident, I even managed to graduate from Butler, I've seen a lot of change. Trust me, I remember "Indi-a-no-place" when you were lucky if you had two dining options that weren't hotels downtown after 6 PM (and one of them was White Castle). And, Mass Avenue and Fountain Square were places you didn't go to after dark. The transformation this city has made in the last 25 years is truly amazing, but an afternoon of riding bikes on the new Cultural Trail really brings home the transformation.

The Trail technically joins 6 of Indianapolis' cultural districts together with an eminently walkable and rideable trail that is buffered, beautifully paved, richly landscaped, lit and well signed. It joins Mass Avenue to Indiana Avenue, White River State Park and the canal, the Wholesale district, Fountain Square, and Broad Ripple via its connection with the Monon Trail. All of this, with an upfront view of Indianapolis' many landmarks and monuments, as well as its neighborhoods along the way. As suburbanites, we go downtown, but to specific destinations, never really appreciating the fact that downtown is now a place where thousands of people actually live.

We began our Sunday morning trek on the corner of Mass Avenue and College and snaked our way behind the Mass Avenue restaurant district before winding through the Chatham Arch neighborhood, making our way to the American Legion Mall. The view of the new Central Library from the end of the mall is dramatic, with the War Memorial just to the south and the incredible Scottish Rite Cathedral to the west, it is quite a vantage point. From there, the Glick Peace Walk takes up two full city blocks, and commemorates 12 of America's most famous citizens, including Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, and you can pretty much guess the rest. It is intended to honor those individuals who achieved greatness through peaceful pursuits. Beautifully done and inspiring, it can present a serious interruption to a bike ride or run.

The trail continues to the Canal, where you can divert to the 2 mile loop around the waterway. Then on to Indiana Avenue, past the Madame Walker Center, through the campus of IUPUI (again, an eye opener of how much has changed, 40,000 students!), and then on to White River State Park. There you wind between the NCAA and the Indiana State Museum before you head downtown past the Eitleljorg Museum.

Once on Washington Street, two diversions are available. The first alternate trail, at Capitol Avenue, takes you south by Lucas Oil Stadium.

Because the somewhat dark clouds seemed to be accumulating, we skipped that one and went on to the 2nd one at Pennsylvania Street that diverts you 1-1/2 miles south to the finally developing Fountain Square neighborhood, where we had lunch. We had hoped that Bluebeard might be open, but were actually very happy that we ended up at B's Po Boy instead. This was our second visit to the intentionally ramshackle, "down on the bayou" looking joint. And our second visit was as enjoyable as our first. I love restaurants with no pretension, who know exactly what they are, and execute it flawlessly. As with our first visit, I couldn't get by the fried shrimp Po Boy, served on authentic Leidenheimer bread that they import directly from New Orleans, and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and little mayo. I added the $.75 side of creamy, spicy remoulade, a don't miss item, that also made a great dip for the fries. Linda opted for the overstuffed BBQ pulled pork Po Boy, and was glad she had only ordered the half size. Both sandwiches were delicious, as were the perfectly prepared french fries, and forehead sweat inducing, but tasty, red beans, andouille sausage and rice. We enjoyed the chicken and sausage gumbo last time, and it was also excellent.

The prices are amazingly affordable with half sandwiches at $6 to $6.50, full sandwiches at $9, sharable fries at $2, and the red bean side for $3.50. Even the extensive craft beer list and limited wine list seemed remarkably well priced. The bottle of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay we shared was only $32, available sometimes at Grapevine Cottage at $22. It may be the best restaurant wine value in the city. And watching folks enjoy playing on the bocce ball courts provided us with amusing entertainment on the comfortable patio. In spite of the heavy hipster vibe, people our age can comfortably share this culinary treasure (at least for Sunday lunch!).

From B's at the south end of Fountain Square, we wound our way back to Mass Avenue, still marveling at all of the architecture and art installations that you would never really see or enjoy from a car. It really is an amazing achievement conceived by Brian Payne, CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation in 2001, costing $61 million dollars, $28 million of which came from private donors, including $15 million from Indianapolis philanthropists, Gene and Marilyn Glick. This is literally a first for public and private money coming together to create infrastructure as beautiful and gracious as the Cultural Trail.

"What makes the Cultural Trail unique is that it's an urban exploration trail, as opposed to an urban escape trail." - Brian Payne, 2013