Review: Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis

This is part of a series of reviews from my time in Indianapolis this past weekend.  There’s nothing so fun as a quirky, hipster, neo-boho shopping district in a big city.  Nashville has its Hillsboro Village, but in Indy, why keep the joy to just a couple of blocks?  Massachusetts Avenue stretches, at 45 degrees, across 7 intersections – fully walkable and chock-full of great shops!

Here are the specs:

Massachusetts Avenue
Entrance to the South begins at the corner of Delaware St and New York St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317.637.8996 ext.202 – Riley Area Development Corp.
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There are too many shops to see in one visit or to write about in a blog (I count 71 listed on the map), so I’m going to only put up the places I visited with a short description. First up!:

Stouts Footwear
318 Mass Ave – 317.632.7818
Oldest, coolest shoe store in the nation, holding fast to personal service, quality shoes, and tradition.

This place is pretty fab.  It’s basically the first shop you encounter if you choose the Japanese route of going up the left side of the street first.  We only went inside because of the cool sign out front telling us that it is, in fact, the oldest shoe store in the nation.  You can see why when you go in.  The shoes they sell are great quality, and they built their reputation on custom fitting shoes from the manufacturer for their customers.  But this isn’t the only cool thing about the place.  First, there’s a parrot who is semi-friendly.  It let me pet it until it apparently had had enough and didn’t want any more.  Second, there is a pulley and basket contraption that spreads from a crows nest in the center of the shop to various spots in the rest of the store.  The floor staff puts the shoes in the basket, pull a cord, the basket lifts up to the top, they pull the cord again, and the basket flies off to the crows nest.  There, another attendant carefully removes the shoes from their box, checks everything out and, I only assume, wraps it up to send it back down, the same way, to the cashier.

At Home in the City/Silver in the City
434 Mass Ave – 317.955.9925 – Website | Facebook
Jewelry, gifts and home decor. Voted Indy’s Best 2006-2008.

I went to Silver in the City/At Home in the City some years ago when they still had a store in Lafayette, IN. This place is a great combo of jewelry, Eco-friendly home furnishings, and the ridiculous novelty items. They carry one of my favorite silly/awesome brands, KnockKnock. They also have Jesus Bandaids, which feel like they work faster than other brands. There’s just a plethora of items; I highly recommend a stop through bc its next to impossible to really describe all of it. BTW, this is their only store now. I’m not really sure how Lafayette is surviving without them.

Global Gifts (Fair Trade Shop)
446 Mass Ave – 317.423.3148 – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Fair Trade store providing hope and opportunity for artisans from 35 countries.

This shop is excellent. Tons of artsy and unique home furnishings and they are, wait for it…fair trade! I was told that a lot of the work comes from rescued victims of human trafficking. They have all sorts of goodies – home decor, fashion, chocolate, etc. Everything is priced very reasonably, so be sure to stop in.

Best Chocolate in Town
880 Mass Ave – 317.636.2800 – Website | Facebook | Twitter
Hand-made chocolates, specializing in truffles and locally made gelato.

Ok, so I definitely pulled an Elf with this one. We walked in and all I wanted to do was say, Congratulations! Indy’s best chocolate! But then I saw them. Sitting there, in perfect little rows, hundreds of them. Truffles. Gobs of them. And the Cinnamon ones were calling my name. After having a great discussion on the health benefits of cinnamon with the two staff members, I went ahead and bought one. It was $2+ for one, but it was so worth it. It took 4 bites to finish, partly because I was trying to savor the amazingness of it. It’s a definite top on my list.

Aesop’s Tables
600 Mass Ave – 317.631.0055 – Website
Mediterranean restaurant. Fifteen years on the avenue.

We had just been saying how we wanted to find a good Mediterranean restaurant for dinner and our answer was Aesop’s Tables. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to the restaurant, we weren’t all that hungry. We stuck with some appetizers, and sorry, I didn’t catch any pics of the food. The service was lacking though. The place wasn’t packed, so I’m unsure what his issue was. The food was pretty good, but not the best I’ve had. I would recommend it though if you’re in the area. There are other restaurants too, though, so be sure to check the map (view online or get one from any of the Mass Ave stores).

Market

We also managed to get there while an Artist/Food Market was going on. Lots of different items: bath products, hair and fashion accessories, organic teas, jewelry, and, my personal fave, worm poop. Check out on the website for any other cool events that might be happening.

Here’s the breakdown:

The Street:  Very fun. Lots to check out. The website lists a lot of the events going on.  There are also some comedy clubs and such there, and restaurants have offer live music too.
For kids: There’s a toy store.  Enough said.
For pets: There are some doggie/pet specific shops on the street as well.  If you are curious, go to the website and check out all the shops on the list. You’ll be amazed at what they’ve come up with.
The cost:  Moderate to high-priced.  If you’re going to shop, you’ll spend a good amount.  Window shopping is fun too though.
The food: Tons of restaurants there, running the gamut of styles and tastes.
The help:  Most of the places we stopped into, the staff was helpful and accommodating.  They would usually tell us of another shop up the street where we could find such and such and was run by a friend of theirs.  They really put a lot into the community-feel of the place.
The parking: There is parking along the street and on adjoining streets.  If you’re like me and enjoy walking, you can park somewhere downtown and walk all the way there.  Just a few blocks away and it’s all flat.
The accommodations: There’s a B&B right on the street!  I so want to stay there some time.  Like most B&B’s expect to pay more than you would for a hotel, but it looks totally worth it.
Returnability:  This is definitely on my Favorite Places list (which I guess I should post at some point on here) and whenever I’m in Indy, or even passing through, I know I will try to get in there for a quick walk and peruse.

I’ll try to get some more pics up, but I just don’t have them right now.  Enjoy the review anyway!

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Review: Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis

This is part of a series of reviews from my time in Indianapolis this past weekend.  Growing up in southwest Ohio, one of the major projects we had to do ( a couple of years) in school was a study of Native American culture.  Several tribes have trekked across the area that I live in and the culture is so rich – while I may not have fully enjoyed having to do the work, the knowledge gained was worth it.  I was excited to see that there is an American Indians and Western Art museum in Indy, so it was top on the list to visit.

**Be sure to check out Anthony’s (PR manager) comment after the review.  He shares some good information that I missed on my trip.**

Here’s the specs:

Eiteljorg Museum
500 W Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317.636.9378
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The Eiteljorg, pronounced “I-tell-zhorg”, Museum is located right along White River State Park.  This makes it easy to access from pretty much anywhere in Downtown Indy, whether by car or on foot.  We got there on foot, so I can’t comment on the underground parking garage, but the woman at the counter asked if we were parked down there, so I’m thinking there’s a discount or voucher they offer.  Museum hours are Mon-Sat 10a-5p and Sunday noon-5p.  Sometimes this can vary depending on events in the city, so call ahead to double-check.

A lot of it is art – paintings, sculptures, etc. Some are examples of handmade items such as textiles, pottery, weaponry, and beadwork.  If you are into that kind of stuff, then this is a really neat museum.  On the second floor, there is a full gallery depicting native tribes from around the continent.  Historical details and traditional clothing, art, shelters, and lifestyles are shown throughout the exhibit.  I personally love history, so this was a really interesting part for me.

There was an interesting exhibit on the 1st Floor called “Red/Black” and it was all about Native and African American combined heritage and multi-ethnicity.  One thing that I liked about this exhibit is how they show a person’s ethnic identity as being their culture and something personal, rather than a person’s blood and physical features.  As a Christian, I believe that all people come from Noah and his wife and therefore, there are not different ‘races’ of man, but one race with many cultures.

This wasn’t my favorite part of my trip, but I think I just wasn’t in the right mindset.  We didn’t plan to spend a lot of time there and maybe would have done better to eat in the cafe as well.  Also, I didn’t see anything for kids, and though I am an adult, I learn a lot from the creative exhibits made to help children learn.  They seem to have a lot of community events going on in partnership with the museum.  One such event is West Fest 2011, which will be September 24, 2011.  Check out the website for more information!

So here’s the breakdown:

The museum:  It’s an art museum, mostly, and then there are informational exhibits on native American tribes across the continent.  It’s quiet except for some of the kids who were dragged through it with parents and we crying to be let out.  I didn’t blame them.  Some photography is allowed, but you have to check the entrance to the exhibit to see if there is a “no cameras” sign.
For kids: I didn’t see much for kids to do.  Granted, we didn’t explore all of the museum, but from the sounds of kids who were going through the primary exhibits and areas, it didn’t sound like much fun.  Not sure I would have enjoyed it as a kid either.  Not much to touch or explore, although there was one spot you could build your own mini-teepee (a little high for younger kids to reach, though).  Check the website if you want more info for family features.
The cost:  It’s a moderately-priced museum.  Adults are $8.  Seniors, 65+ are $7. Kids 5-17 and college students (with ID) are $5.  Kids under 5 are Free, as are Members (about $50 for one year) and IUPUI folk.
The food: Sky City Cafe is in the museum with access from the outside.  We didn’t eat there since we had just had some delicious Cuban food downtown, but from the menu, the options are mostly around sandwiches from about $8-$9.50 each of the southwestern style.  There are also some salads and a Mexicana section.  I went to a native American museum in Wichita and they had traditional Indian food, which was fun.  I don’t see anything like that on this menu.
The help:  Attendant at the admissions counter tried every way possible to get us a discounted ticket. If you are staying at a hotel in the city, you can get a dollar knocked off the price.  One woman in the Red/Black exhibit kind of rudely told me to put away my camera, but I didn’t take it too personally.
The parking: Parking garage underground, parking at White River State Park, and parking at various garages throughout the downtown. If you park in the State garage, know that you can only use cash to pay.
The accommodations: It’s an Art Museum, comfort isn’t really high on the priority list, but there are a lot of pretty things to look at.
Returnability:  I probably won’t go back. I feel like I saw enough of the museum.  The Museum Store had a lot of neat things though, especially some traditional tea blends (my favorite is the Warrior Brew). I’m pretty sure you can go in there without getting a ticket to the museum.

Review: Indianapolis Children’s Museum

This is part of a series of reviews from my time in Indianapolis this past weekend.  It has been ages since I’ve been to the Children’s Museum and the last memory I have of it, I stubbornly did not want to leave the puppet show with my family and so purposely missed the elevator, leading my family on a wild goose chase.  This time, though no family was with me and we are about 22 years beyond that trip, I had to promise that I would not let myself get lost.

Here are the specs:

Indianapolis Children’s Museum
3000 N. Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46208
1.800.820.6214
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The museum hours are typically 10a-5p daily until Labor Day, and the same hours Tues-Sun through Feb 2012.  However, we were lucky enough to be in town on the 1st Thursday of the month which means, FREE FAMILY NIGHT!  The museum opens for a special 4-8p time with free admission.  We got there around 5:30 and the parking garage was packed as were the first few parking lots, and the museum was packed as well, but it was worth it!

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There are several special exhibits.  One being DINOSAURS, as evident of the building as you are approaching it.  It’s all about digging and exploring and going back into history.  As a creationist, however, this exhibit misses the mark when it begins going on about millions and billions of years.  That’s a different point that doesn’t need to be discussed here.  If you would like more info about it, though, you can check out this site: http://answersingenesis.org/.

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Another cool exhibit was about Egypt!  Having been there a couple years ago, I’ve seen my fair share of the relics and the touristy spots of Cairo – I also really enjoy history and so have gone to see other Egypt-y exhibits and watched documentaries about the history.  We all have had the pharoanic exposure and mummies and mysteries of ancient Egyptian history.  However, the children’s museum took a really unique and gratifying look at modern life in Egypt.  The photo to the right is of a traditional ceremony welcoming a new baby into the family and world.  I liked a saying that was on the wall as you left the exhibit: “When we get to know how people in other cultures live their daily lives, we can accept and respect our neighbors – next door or around the world.”

They also had a cool exhibit called Treasures of the Earth by National Geographic.  This one ran the gamut of discovering and restoring terra cotta soldiers in Xi’an, China to recovering treasure and artifacts off a pirate ship in the Caribbean.  It took me back to the days I spent watching and playing the game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Oh, I miss that show.  Oh and for the girls…I mean, the girlie girls…there’s also an exhibit on Barbie.  But seeing as neither me nor my friend were really inclined towards Barbies, we did not go in, so I can’t comment on it.

The last special thing I want to mention is the Fireworks of Glass exhibit.  This amazing piece of artistry is the focal point of the roundabout ramps which lead people to the various levels of the museum.  It’s permanent and deliciously colorful!  It stands 43 feet tall and includes 3,200 individually blown glass pieces in the tower by artist Dale Chihuly.  From below the tower, you can also sit on a rotating couch that will allow you to look above at all the colors and various types of glass pieces.  There is a chart on the wall of some special kinds to allow you to spend an hour on a scavenger hunt of sorts.

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Last but not least is one of my favorite parts of the museum.  I remember being amazed by it as a little kid and knowing more of what I do about physics and science, I’m even more curious about how it works.  It’s called the Water Clock and it helps keep the museum time going ship-shape. It’s mesmerizing to watch the pendulum swing back and forth, adding water into the pipes, shooting back and forth to keep the seconds, minutes, and hours.

So here’s the breakdown:

The museum:  It’s a great time for the whole family.  There were so many parents and kids running all over the place – the organized chaos is something unique that this museum is able to create. 
The cost:  Well, since I got in free, I kind of feel that anything else is too expensive, but alas, here’s the cost list:  Ages 2-17: $11.50. Ages 18-59: $16.50. Seniors 60+: $15.50. 
The food: I didn’t check out the cafe, but looking at the website, it seems that they take care to make food and snacks healthy and tasty.  They take cash, Visa, Mastercard and American Express.  They are just fine with people bringing their own food to enjoy in the food court area.
The help:  The people were very helpful.  Since we were there on a free evening, there was a lot going on.  It’s said that they even give out emergency diapers at the Help Desk.
The parking: There is a parking garage right across the street from the museum but also several lots down the street which are dedicated to museum visitors. 
The accommodations: One big place.  I didn’t feel crowded at all. Places to sit down and and such.
Returnability:  I totally did not see there was a planetarium until we were walking passed it on our way out.  I want to go back to see that.  It would probably be funner with kids in tow, which I have none, so I was able to be a kid myself (in a lot of ways, more fun).

Review: Indianapolis Weekend Overview 2011

This is the overview for some reviews I am doing of my trip to Indianapolis, Indiana.  I went to meet up with a couple of friends while they were in town for the Gen Con 2011 convention.  I did go there as well, so I will do a “sort of” review of the convention here as well, but most of my time was spent out in the city. 

I have driven through the city a time or two, but never really stopped into it.  I really had a great time and realized that, like Cincinnati, Indy has much more to offer than I gave it credit for.  So I am dividing my reviews up mostly by region and topic.  The first set is for specifically Indy things and places.  At the bottom, there is a link to my review on all things Gen Con (that I experienced myself…there was soooo much that was beyond my comprehension or scope).  Enjoy!!

Thursday

Children’s Museum – Review

Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Friday

Tata Cuban Café

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western ArtReview

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Massachusetts Avenue (Mass Ave)Review

Website | Facebook

                Stouts Footwear

                At Home in the City/Silver in the City – Website | Facebook

                Global Gifts (Fair Trade Shop) – Website | Facebook | Twitter

                Best Chocolate in Town – Website | Facebook | Twitter

                Aesop’s Tables – Website

                Market

Saturday

Indianapolis Zoo – Review (soon to come)

Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Taste of Downtown 2011 – Review (soon to come)

Website

                Easley’s Winery – Website | Facebook | Twitter

                Byrne’s Pizza – Website | Facebook | Twitter

Gen Con 2011 Edition – Review (soon to come)

Seminars – by Erik Mehring

Doctor Who booth

“Dominion”

Christian Gamers Guild Church service

GameChurch.com

Gamers for Humanity

Review: New Albany, Indiana Part 1

This review will be a little different than my others.  I had a week’s worth of time off still on my schedule.  Since my hire date was the first Monday of May last year, I had to use it up before that date or I would lose it.  I’m glad I took the whole week off.  It seems like Spring waited until this week to really get itself bloomed and green.

I enjoy doing things on my own.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having company on my adventures.  But there’s something a bit relaxing going around on your own.  You can decide everything that YOU want to do and not worry about what others want, or if someone’s tired or whatever.  So, I saw a Groupon for a B&B in New Albany, IN, and decided it would be fun to go on my own, during my little vacation.  In this entry, I’m going to go in order of the places I went to, so here we go!

The Admiral Bicknell Inn

600 E Main St,
New Albany, IN 47150
1.800.981.8003

Website

I’ve only been to one other B&B and it was a pretty awesome experience.  The Admiral Bicknell had a high level of expectation to live up to, and it did pretty well.  I stayed over on a weeknight and was the only person there besides the hosts.  Valla Ann was great, but I didn’t see her much except when I first arrived and then in the morning for breakfast.  That was probably due to my taking off as soon as I got settled in and then keeping to my room most of the evening. (The room was fantastic, which will explain my reclusion.)

I stayed in the Library, which has been converted into a lovely suite. The accommodations were perfect for a single traveler; in fact, I think if someone else had been with me, it would have been cramped.  But there was a queen-sized bed and a bathroom with a clawfoot tub.  The windows face west and north-by-northwest, and it’s actually right along the busy Main St.  If you aren’t used to a good amount of street noises, then it’s probably not an ideal location for you, but I loved it.  Especially the clawfoot tub.

There is a shallow pool behind the Inn and a lot of green space around the whole lot.  Train tracks run directly behind the property along the Ohio River, but Valla Ann was recently able to get the Main St district labeled a Quiet Zone, one of only 11 such places in the state!  This means, even though the trains run through it, they are not permitted to blow their horns, which is lovely.

Carnegie Center for Art and History

201 E Spring St
New Albany, IN 47150
812.944.9600

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This is one of my favorite kinds of places to visit in a new town. I love checking out local art and especially local history.  New Albany has an exceptional history with the Underground Railroad.  They have a permanent exhibit about the places and people who were strategic in rescuing runaway slaves.  They also accurately detail the full scope of the issue in their area.  I knew the Ohio River was one of the places which slaves aimed for when trying to escape, but I lumped all of that to the Cincinnati area.  Thankfully, there were many other locations on the River that were safe-zones and big stations on the Underground Railroad.  There were many in New Albany who were abolitionists because of their spiritual/moral convictions, which was refreshing.  Also, some people in powerful positions in the community were on board as well, such as judges, lawyers and real train conductors. 

There is also a permanent exhibit of working motorized wooden dioramas – carved by one man, Merle Yenawine.  They cover life in a small town of Indiana from before and after 1900.  It was pretty cool how the tiny figures would move around and lights would flash underneath certain parts to make it look like a fire roaring.  The scenes were pretty comprehensive too. 

The Dandy Lion Boutique

310 Bank St
New Albany, IN 47150
812.944.9477

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Etsy

This little shop is absolutely adorable!  It’s the only other place that I knew about in New Albany before going down, and it was on my “MUST VISIT” list.  I’m glad I made it in!  It’s run by twin sisters, Ani and Ali, and a lot of their stuff is on consignment from artists who handmake their wares and sell on Etsy.  The items are quirky, cute, hipster, trendy…um, what other adjective could I throw in here…vintage, stylish, chic – basically, amazing stuff.  I bought some earrings for a friend, some hair clips and a journal that was converted from an old “In the Year…” book.  It’s one of those books that tells you all the things that happened in a particular year, but they spiral bound it and dispersed some of the pages among the blank journal pages.  I’m so excited about using it!  They are available on Facebook, as seen above, and the twins have their own Etsy, here!  They do a lot of sewing and creating themselves, so you should really check them out!

I will continue with Part 2 shortly!  Stay tuned!

Find more reviews and promos by clicking on the links to the right.  Go ‘head, you know you want to.