Have you ever wanted to take a trip to the Indy 500 but worried about where to stay, eat, and enjoy activities besides just going to the track? If you’re not from Indiana (like me) and this would be your first time going to the race, it might be a little difficult to figure out. However, the city can be fun and has its own personality once you get the hang of it. Here are some ideas for hotels, food, activities, and more for the weekend of the 500.
Best Hotel – Hyatt Regency
This hotel is quiet and right in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, which makes it an easy walk to restaurants, Monument Circle, a movie theater, and other fun activities. It’s also connected to the Circle Center Mall, which has food, shops, and even a glow in the dark miniature golf place inside. The Hyatt is also an easy drive to and from the airport and the track, which relieves some of the stress about finding your way around. In the lobby, there’s a restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch called One South and a bar that shows sporting events on the TVs.
Loudest Hotel – Hilton
This hotel is downtown and a short walk to many of the same things as the Hyatt. However, this is the hotel for ABC Supply Co, the primary sponsor for AJ Foyt Racing, during the race weekend. Because of the family-friendly nature of the team and the hotel, the ABC Supply employees who go to the race often bring their kids. This may be the kind of hotel you’re looking for, but be warned it can be kind of hectic and may be a little loud.
Best Restaurant – Rock Bottom
Rock Bottom is a microbrewery almost similar to Boston Beer Works that serves food and drink like beer, fish and chips, and pizza. The restaurant is light and spacious, which makes for a comfortable dining experience. It also usually has a short wait – the longest I’ve had to wait has been about 15 minutes, and that was without reservations. The food is also good, comes out pretty quickly, and is reasonably priced.
Worst Restaurant – Buca di Beppo
Buca is a family style Italian restaurant that sounds good on paper. How can you pass up on a restaurant that only offers food that will serve at least two people, right? However, Buca isn’t as great as it sounds. It’s a complete maze with narrow hallways that isn’t set up well. For example, the hostess stand and the kitchen are attached, so it’s hot and crowded with guests, cooks, wait staff, and expos all cramped in the same area. During my recent trip to Buca, the rest of my party and I had a 20 minute wait for our 7:30 reservation and as soon as we sat down, we found out the air conditioning was broken. In a previous trip to Buca, the lighting above our table was also cutting in and out because of cars driving in and out of the garage above the restaurant. There are much better restaurants in the city.
Best Froyo/Ice Cream – PEARings
This is a small place near Monument Circle that has a bunch of unusual frozen yogurt flavors, but don’t let that scare you away – the yogurt is absolutely amazing there. You get to pour your own froyo with the option of putting in a divider in your cup or cone for more than one flavor. After you pour the froyo, you then get to add as many or as little toppings as you want. How much you pay is based on the weight of the froyo and toppings inside your cup instead of the size of the cup and the toppings you have.
Coolest Museum – Eiteljorg Museum
This is in downtown Indianapolis on Washington Street near the canals that features Native American and Western art. The art in the museum is cool and isn’t just paintings. There are sculptures and pottery featured by both Native American and non-Native American artists and regular people. Popular artists that have been on display include artists such as Andy Warhol and Georgia O’Keeffe. I’m not a big art fan and I still loved it, so don’t worry about it being another boring art museum.
Coolest Outdoor Area – the canals
These are in downtown Indianapolis near the Eiteljorg Museum. They’re free to walk around and can be as fun as you make it. Right on the canals are cool places such as IUPUI, NCAA headquarters, the Indiana State Museum, and the Eiteljorg Museum. Both the Indiana State Museum and the Eiteljorg Museum have a couple small, free displays near the canals. There is also a place where you can rent paddleboats and kayaks to use on the canals.
Best Hangout – Monument Circle
There’s always something going on at Monument Circle, whether big or small. Back in 2010, there was a concert right in Monument Circle just for the Indy 500. Drivers even made an appearance to greet and take photos with fans. A couple years ago, there was also a bunch of nice cars that were part of the Gumball 3000, a road trip that goes across the US with celebrities, parked around the monument. There are also carriage rides around the city that leave from Monument Circle. Fun stores and restaurants also surround Monument Circle. Lastly, there is an observatory on top of the monument, which commemorates fallen soldiers from Indiana during the Civil War. Taking the stairs is free but tickets for the elevator are $2 for adults and $1 for children.
Other Sporting Events
For something to do for the rest of the weekend, there are plenty of other sports teams in the city of Indianapolis to watch.
Colts – The Colts are, if you’re not a football person, the NFL team in Indianapolis. They aren’t playing during May, but you can’t miss Lucas Oil Stadium when you’re downtown. You can get tours of the stadium year round on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm and tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for seniors over 65+ and children ages 4-12.
Pacers – The Pacers are the basketball team for Indy. Usually they’re in the playoffs during the Indy 500, so sometimes downtown Indianapolis can get busy. However, the atmosphere surrounding the Pacers is electric over that weekend.
Indians – The Indians are the Triple A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They’re in the beginnings of their season during the Indy 500 weekend but they’ve been away over the past couple years that weekend. However, when they are in town, the seats are inexpensive and you can get close to the field.
Eleven – The Eleven are the North American Soccer League team in Indy. They’re a few weeks into their season by the time the Indy 500 weekend comes. For more information, visit http://www.indyeleven.com/.
Ice- The Ice are the USHL hockey team in Indy, so the players are usually are between 16 and 21 years old. Their season has just finished by the time the Indy 500 weekend comes. The Ice play at both the Bankers Life Fieldhouse (where the Pacers also play!) and the Pan American Arena.