Jen and her husband John are professional communicators at Jen Thomas PR, Inc. They specialize in strategic communications planning, writing and media relations – both social and traditional media. Jen has been promoting Indiana destinations for more than 20 years. She loves to travel with her family and to know about cool things before anyone else.
We considered the Grand Canyon, the Florida beach or a trip to St. Louis, but our family opted to stay in Indy for Spring Break this year. I’m glad we did.
To make it special, we decided to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights. I found a great room rate at the downtown Marriott, a 19-story full-service hotel in the heart of it all. The friendly desk clerk, Alex, suggested we upgrade for $30 and get access to the concierge-level lounge. What a great idea! In addition to making friends with Sharon, the wonderfully engaging and friendly 3-11 p.m. concierge, all four of us had access to a great spread of food and drink (a cash bar is extra) all day. You can’t beat the price for a hot breakfast with fresh fruit (including three kinds of berries), snacks at happy hour and dessert after 7:30. Tip: The Dolce De Leche cheesecake is to die for! And, of course, kids love a hotel pool. The Marriott’s didn’t disappoint: With a stunning nighttime view of the Indiana Statehouse dome, the indoor pool and hot tub were nice and not overcrowded.
Warmer-than-normal temps and sunshine made it possible for us to spend even more time outside than we’d anticipated. We love White River State Park and never tire of looking for the 92 county icons on the exterior of the State Museum. New this year is the urban community garden, which has been plowed and was ready for planting. Also new since we’d last visited is the big red cardinal sculpture at the Marriott complex near the Park. The size lures you in, but a closer look reveals Tulip Tree leaves in the limestone walkway and a tile wall of peonies.
Continuing the state theme, we walked along the canal and over to the Indiana Statehouse, where you can take a peek at the Senate and House chambers, as well as the governor’s office. The building’s architecture is amazing in itself, and regardless of your politics, you can’t help but feel proud of the state here.
On the other side of downtown, we walked part of the new Cultural Trail, and swayed with the public art sculpture LED of a woman dancing. Over at War Memorials Plaza, we checked out the Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison statues. The kids took their own cameras, and they really got into taking pictures and seeing various angles through the viewfinder. (For example, 12-year-old Ian thinks the Lincoln statue near the Government Center looks as though the young boy is relieving himself, while the one bear the War Memorial is more dignified.) Be sure to watch for the turtles and other animal sculptures incorporated into the lights in the plaza.
For the first time in 30 years, I took the elevator to the top of Soldiers & Sailors Monument. It’s $2 to take the elevator, and free if you walk the 300+ steps. Three decades have made a huge difference on downtown Indy, so there were plenty of new sites to see, thanks to the gorgeous 360-degree view. Still, people who are claustrophobic or wary of older elevators might want to pass and simply enjoy the people-watching at street level.
Since most of what we did didn’t require money, we splurged and rounded out the 3-day, 2-night experience with an IMAX 3D movie and a visit to the new Indiana Experience at the Indiana History Center.
All in all, we highly recommend being a tourist in your hometown, especially if your hometown is Indy!