Week in the Hoosier State's Capital City

Who knew that Indianapolis was such a great city to visit? On a recent business trip, I spent my free time shopping, visiting the zoo, and eating at some great restaurants. I hope to return again to enjoy more of this very friendly, attractive, and clean city.

Embassy Suites Downtown

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by sunday27 on July 23, 2003

The Embassy Suites Downtown is located in the perfect spot to explore downtown Indy. From the hotel, it was a short walk (inside) to the Circle Center Mall which is one of the major upscale shopping destinations in Indy. (It's very convenient to be able to run your purchases up to your hotel room and be back in the mall a few minutes later!) The hotel was also right in the heart of the downtown restaurant district (see my journal entry for The Old Spaghetti Factory) and was an easy few block walk to the Conseco Fieldhouse. The area around Embassy Suites is very upscale with all the beautiful brick shop fronts and restaurants and I felt very safe walking around outside there in the evening.

The hotel itself is lovely and quite large with 18 floors. The lobby area is attractive and a free breakfast is included in the price of the room. There was a large selection of "serve yourself" and "made to order" items including pancakes, french toast, waffles, bacon, sausages, cereal, fruit, juice, muffins, bagels, toast, yogurt and more. Quantities were unlimited and it was great to be able to grab some fruit to save for a snack later on. In the evenings there is also a manger's reception when guests can get free drinks (including alcohol) and they serve snacks. The snacks are just plain chips, popcorn, and nachos and salsa.

All of the rooms are two room suites. I stayed in the basic room which had a king size bed. The bedroom had the bed, nightstands, armoire with tv and vanity. The main room had a table with a couple of chairs, tv and fold-out sofa.

The bed had some type of soft mattress cover and was the most comfortable bed I've ever slept on. The suite was also full of sinks. In addition to the bathroom sink, there was a small stainless steel sink in the living area and another vanity in the bedroom. There was also a mini fridge, microwave and coffee maker in the room.

Overall, I had very few complaints with the hotel. I found the living area a bit dark even with all the lights on, but that's a minor complaint. I did use the workout facility which was fairly basic with just a couple of treadmills, a stepper and an exercise bike. However, for the serious fitness enthusiast, hotel guests can use the Gold's Gym located not too far from the hotel.

Embassy Suites Downtown is a very clean, convenient spot for the business traveller, or for a family on vacation.

Embassy Suites Indianapolis - Downtown
Indianapolis, Indiana, 46204
317 236-1800

Embassy Suites North

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by sunday27 on July 23, 2003

I stayed at the Embassy Suites North after staying at the Embassy Suites Downtown. While similar in many ways, the North location is not quite as nice as its downtown sister, although it did have some features I liked better.

Embassy Suites North is located (as the name implies) in the Northern section of the City. Near the hotel are a lot of chain restaurants, hotels, some shopping malls and large office buildings.

The North location is a free standing building and is not connected to a mall as is the Downtown location. There is a restaurant on-site (which I didn't try), but the other restaurants reviewed in my journal were all an easy drive from this hotel (see journal entries for Sullivan's, Don Pablo's and The Cheesecake Factory). If you're looking for fast food, just drive a few minutes to 86th street and they're all there.

The hotel is also not far (about a 10 minute drive or so) to Keystone at the Crossing which is the other upscale shopping mall in Indy.

The breakfast area is not as large as the Downtown location and didn't have quite as many options (although I was Downtown on the week-end, which may have been the difference). However, the food was still good and the cook behind the counter was very friendly. The manager's reception also seemed to have less variety of snacks served than Downtown (again, it may have been a week-end versus week-day difference).

The work-out room in the North location is extremely tiny with one treadmill, stepper and exercise bike packed into a tiny room. However, they did offer free access to a gym about a mile down the road. The pool appeared to be about the same size as the Downtown location.

Basically choosing between the two Embassy Suites would be a matter of location. I moved to the North location for work purposes while I was downtown on the week-end for personal activities. Both hotels offer a lot of amenities to both business and family travellers and I would gladly return to either location.

Embassy Suites Indianapolis - North
Indianapolis, Indiana, 46268
317 872-7700

The Old Spaghetti Factory

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by sunday27 on July 22, 2003

On my first night out in Indy, I went with a work colleague to the Old Spaghetti Factory, which is located in downtown Indianapolis on South Meridian. The restaurant is in a very convenient location close to the Circle Center Mall and the Conseco Field House.

We arrived at close to 8pm on Friday evening and the place was packed. They don't take reservations, so we put our name on the waiting list and were told it would be about 25 minutes before we could be seated. We then went for a stroll along the beautiful brick lined streets instead of waiting in the restaurant with the rest of the crowd.

The restaurant's luxurious decor of gilt, velvet, and chandeliers would lead you to believe that it's an expensive place. In fact it's quite the opposite. Once we were seated and handed our menus, I was very pleasantly surprised at the prices. Most of the entree prices included a salad, bread, and spumoni ice-cream for dessert. The only extra I paid for was an Italian creme soda (which came with a souvenir glass). My total bill came to around $15. This would be a great restaurant for anyone who likes good value (the food was good and the portions very generous). It's a great spot for families due to the reasonable prices, but also perfect for a couple on a date. The only downside is the wait that you're likely to encounter due to the obvious popularity of this restaurant.

The Old Spaghetti Factory
210 South Meridian Street
Indianapolis, Indiana, 46225
(317) 635-6325

The Cheesecake Factory

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by sunday27 on July 22, 2003

I went to The Cheesecake Factory with another colleague on a Tuesday night. We arrived just after 5pm and the line was already starting to form. Fortunately we only had a 10 minute wait (but had we arrived a bit later, I'm sure the wait would be at least a half hour or more -- this place is popular!!) But that's understandable since the decor is lovely, the menu extensive, and the food fantastic.

It's also a bit on the expensive side. The bill for one glass of wine, an appetizer, an entree, and one slice of cheesecake came to around $45 with tip. And that's with choosing mid-range items pricewise on the menu. The menu, by the way, is a book and includes a wide selection of salads, pastas, seafood, steak -- just about anything one could ask for. Everything looked delicious and choosing was difficult (although I was very pleased with my choices). The real challenge was saving room for the cheesecake. With over 30 flavors to choose from, it was a struggle to pick just one.

The Cheesecake Factory is a definite must do in Indianapolis and, judging by the length of the line-up as I was leaving (no reservations are taken), the locals agree!

Cheesecake Factory
8702 Keystone Crossing
Indianapolis, Indiana, 46240
(317) 566-0100

Sullivan's Steakhouse

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by sunday27 on July 22, 2003

Sullivan's Steakhouse is a lovely restaurant that I would classify as casual fine dining. It's decorated to look old with dark wood and brass and pictures of boxers adorning the walls. You don't have to be dressed up to be there -- but it's definitely not the type of place you'd take the kids to for a burger and fries.

As the name implies the specialty is steak, but they also have quite a few seafood items on the menu (which I ignored since I live near the ocean). I tried the house specialty cocktail, which was a pineapple martini. It's made by soaking pineapple in vodka for a week and then straining off the juice -- it was delicious! While I was less enthusiastic about my appetizer (pureed split pea soup), my 8 oz tenderloin steak was perfect. All of the entrees also included an appetizer of a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with blue cheese dressing. This was so much better than it sounds -- and was actually quite addictive. (For less adventurous diners, they do offer other types of salad dressings.) The salad was also massive -- when they say it's a quarter wedge of lettuce, they mean a quarter of a big head of lettuce! All of the side dishes (potatoes, vegetables, etc.) are ordered as "family sides", which means that they are far too big for one person to eat by themselves. If you're with a group, order a couple of sides and share. If it's two people dining together, you'll probably only want to order one side dish. I didn't try the desserts on the menu. But when we sat down, we were offered the opportunity to preorder their chocolate souffle.

Overall, Sullivan's was a satisfying dining experience and I would certainly love to have another of their steaks again.

Sullivan's Steakhouse
3316 East 86th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana, 46240
(317) 580-1280

Don Pablo's Mexican Restaurant

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by sunday27 on July 22, 2003

I ate at Don Pablo's my last night in Indianapolis. While certainly not my most memorable dining experience in Indy, the restaurant was colorful, fun, and inexpensive.

The menu was fairly extensive and included the standard Tex-Mex fare of enchiladas, fajitas, tacos, etc. The sangria I ordered was very sweet and fruity (not exactly the way I remembered it from a trip to Spain) -- but certainly tasty.

The restaurant was only partially full when we arrived on a Thursday evening at around 6pm, but filled up while we were there. We were seated at a table next to the fountain in the center of the restaurant, which was a nice touch. There was a mix of couples and families dining out and this restaurant would be a good choice for anyone looking for a casual meal at a reasonable price.

Don Pablo's Mexican Restaurant
8150 US 31 South
Indianapolis, Indiana, 46227
(317) 888-0363

Indianapolis Zoo

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by sunday27 on July 23, 2003

I went to the zoo on a hot, sunny Sunday afternoon. Fortunately the zoo had lots of trees and indoor display areas, which made it quite comfortable to pass the afternoon there. I had no expectations for the zoo and was very pleasantly by the quantity and quality of the displays.

There were a large number of exotic animals (rhinos, elephants, giraffes, lions, monkeys and more), North American wildlife as well as domestic and marine animals. There were also sea lions, seals, fish tanks, and a reptile area.

A family could very easily spend the entire day here looking at the animals. If I'd had my children with me, I know that they would have pleaded to feed the animals in the petting area and play in the playground areas. There were also some children's rides on-site (for an extra cost). I didn't eat at the zoo, but noticed that there seemed to be plenty of concession areas and outdoor seating.

The zoo had a dolphin show, which while not quite up there with Seaworld, was pretty darn good. Especially considering the very reasonable admission price.

If I get a chance to return to Indy with my family, the zoo will definitely be on our must do list. (To learn more about the zoo, go to their website.)

Indianapolis Zoo
1200 W. Washington St
Indianapolis, Indiana, 46222
(317) 630-2187

White River Gardens

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by sunday27 on July 23, 2003

The White River Gardens are located right next to the Indianapolis Zoo and share the same parking lot ($4 to park your car). For only $12.50, I bought a combo pass to the zoo and the gardens.

The gardens were lovely and had an endless assortment of plants and flowers. I'm sure it would be an absolute dream to any avid gardener. The gift shop also seemed to cater to gardeners with all sorts of gardening implements and floral items for sale.

We entered the garden through the butterfly conservatory which is a two-story glass building filled with plants and butterflies flying around. It was amazing to see so many butterflies and some people were lucky enough to have them land on them (a great photo opp!) To try and avoid butterflies escaping you enter through double doors. They close one set before opening the next. There was also someone standing at the exit checking people over for stow-away butterflies on clothing. The sign on the conservatory said there were supposed to be 10,000 butterflies in the conservatory. It certainly didn't seem to be 10,000, although I was told by a local that a bird had gotten into the conservatory a few months before and had gobbled up a lot of butterflies.

The gardens themselves were lovely and we saw chairs set up for a wedding to be held there later that day. Certainly a gorgeous spot for a wedding.

While the gardens were pretty, they would appeal more to adults than kids. The butterly conservatory, on the other hand, would appeal to all ages.

(Check out the White River Gardens website.)

White River Gardens
1200 West Washington Street
Indianapolis, Indiana
(317) 630-2001


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