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Sorry for the delayed posting - I’ve been on the road for work over the last few weeks experiencing all corners of Indiana. While traveling is fun sometimes, it’s always good to be back in Indy.

Anyhow, on with the story:

I recently attended a symposium of hospitality workers in the greater Indianapolis area organized by Visit Indy (formerly known as the ICVA.) The information presented was mainly geared at showing trends in hotel group sales and convention business, chock-full o’ statistics and metrics from data collected by national organizations. It’s always interesting to see how we compare with other major cities in the US - and you can rest easy, Indy - we rank toward the top in many categories.

My favorite portion of the presentation, however, was highlighted by Visit Indy President & CEO Leonard Hoops. If you don’t know Leonard Hoops, he’s pretty much a big deal. People know him. His immeasurable success with tourism and brand-building in the San Francisco area put him on the radar of the Circle City, and with Indy taking the world’s stage for the Super Bowl, Hoops and the Visit Indy team kicked the promotion wagon into high gear.

Fast-forward to today, with Indianapolis at the center of such high-profile events as the annual conference of the Society of American Travel Writers, Indy 500, and the Big Ten Football Championship. Let’s face it, Indy - it’s a great time to call this city our home. It seems you come across a news story each day on a new convention or major sporting event that Indy has attracted. That doesn’t just happen: organizations like Visit Indy are a part of the brains behind the operation.

It just seems natural that such an organization should brand itself as an attractive, contemporary entity because, after all, you’re selling the experience of Indy and all the cool things it has to offer.

Like many branding questions, focus groups were formed to figure out just how to approach this endeavor. The most important finding was the connotation of the words “Indy” versus “Indianapolis.” It seemed that when describing positive things, a majority of people used the word “Indy,” such as “We love that Canal in downtown Indy!” Conversely, any negative aspects were attributed to the full name of Indianapolis, such as “the weather in Indianapolis wasn’t great during our trip.” Add in the informality of the word Indy and it’s local feel of Hoosier Hospitality, and the choice was clear.

imageEnter the logo. Admittedly a small stretch of the imagination, the “I” in Indy stands alone just as the Soldiers & Sailors Monument on the Circle. The other letters connect to display different cultures mingling together, and the circle attached to the “y” looks similar to the IMS track. Still following me? Good.

The former ICVA organization has adopted the name Visit Indy and keeps branding cohesion with its VisitIndy.com, but any advertisements will drop the “visit” and just feature “Indy.” Simplicity in branding is often a fickle thing (sorry, I needed an excuse to use the word “fickle”), but it seems as though this contemporary approach and feeling will strike a chord with organizations looking for a host city with a small-town feel.

Kudos to the Visit Indy team for heading in the right direction. I can see the YouTube video now: a Carly Rae Jepsen cover singing, “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s our city, just call me Indy.”

Montreal, San Diego, Indianapolis and Portland. What do all these cities have in common? This random assortment was selected by Away.com as some of the greatest cities to see from a bicycle seat. The Circle City has taken the bull by the horns in its efforts to expand its pedaling paradise for all to enjoy, and here’s two places you need to check out after you tune up the Schwinn:

1) White River State Park

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 Indianapolis has a great downtown canal system running straight through White River State Park (it’s real and it’s spectacular.) There’s rarely a time of day where you won’t find people jogging, paddle-boating, and tourists walking around confused as to what city they showed up in (cue the “there’s more than corn in Indiana” tune.) You could make an entire day out of bicycle stops on the canal: have lunch at Creation Cafe off 11th Street, ride over to the Eiteljorg Museum, Indiana State Museum or NCAA Hall of Champions, and finish off the afternoon at the Indianapolis Zoo. You may need a couple days to see it all.

2) Broad Ripple

Photo Courtesy of BRICS Facebook pageimage

Not only is Broad Ripple great for its nightlife, but its access to the Monon Trail and interesting stops along the way are worth checking out. Stop by Thr3e Wise Men Brewery before you hit the pavement, ride down to BRICS and grab some delicious ice cream for dessert, and cruise the Monon Trail through neighborhoods and shops.

Check out the great resources by INDYCOG for all things Circle City cycling, and imagekeep up on special events for all you two-wheeled wanderers. Prepare thy Huffy for an awesome Indy bike experience.

Check out coverage of INDYcisive blog on Fox 59 tonight!

Check out the cheese sculpture at the Indiana State Fair. Who does this cow think he is? Perhaps it’s Mayor McCheese, and he only pays in cheese checks. Hoosier native Jim Gaffigan would be proud.
Photo Courtesy of WIBC.com

Check out the cheese sculpture at the Indiana State Fair. Who does this cow think he is? Perhaps it’s Mayor McCheese, and he only pays in cheese checks. Hoosier native Jim Gaffigan would be proud.

Photo Courtesy of WIBC.com

I moved to Indy a little over three years ago, and though I’d been a football fan for the better part of my lifespan, I didn’t realize a requirement of Circle City living was owning a Colts jersey. I’m all for tradition, so I did what any penny-less, half-crazed fan would do: I started scoping Ebay. Three $15 jerseys later for myself and my wife, and I realized I had come down with a full-fledged Colts addiction. The only prescription was more football - possibly buffalo wings - but definitely more football.image

In this “if you give a mouse a cookie” scenario, jerseys led to house parties on gameday, which led to buying game tickets at Lucas Oil Stadium … and herein was the dilemma. I’m a hardcore fan, but as soon as I start to put down anything over $20 for entertainment’s sake, Captain Frugal and his sidekick Penny Saver intervene. In his best Adam West voice, he exclaims “You should save your money for more important things. It is the American way.”

Fast forward to yesterday, as a college buddie of mine mentioned he’d like to visit Indy when the Browns come to town (yes, he’s a Cleveland fan and no, I don’t hold that against him.) I took to the internet and started an online scavenger hunt for the best price (cue the “Priceline Negotiator” tune). First I checked the Colts Ticketmaster Exchange, where season ticket holders and brokers can sell individual tickets for games they cannot attend. While the prices were very reasonable for the October 21 game ($38 and up for Terrace level), I thought I could do better. I knew I could do better. I had to do better.

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Stubhub came to the rescue with tickets starting at $28 before fees. In the same fashion as concert tickets and other performances, make sure to account for the extra fees, because you won’t find those sneaky charges until a mouse-click of time before the “Purchase with Paypal” button. I found decent seats in the top level (what can I say, a fan is still as much a fan in the top level as they are in the bottom level, they just have more beer money) for roughly $40 after fees.

If this is still outside your price range, you can buy pre-season tickets for anywhere from $2 to $20 and get to see the new era of the Colts up close and personal. The good people of Fox 59 shared a story on this.

In any price range, you can definitely be a rabid fan.

Continuing on our binge for all that is cultural in the Circle City, we found ourselves in the continually-expanding artistic playground known as Fountain Square. At first glance, the streetscape of Virginia, Prospect & Shelby seem unassuming and quaint, but step into one of the many shops, eateries, or galleries on the square and you’ll quickly learn that decor and flavor are only limited by your creativity. Here are the places we just can’t pass up:

Red Lion Grog House

What better way to celebrate a London Olympics than to gather at an English Pub? Fancy some fish ‘n chips? They’ve got that. Have you ever sunk your teeth into delicious scotch eggs? I frankly thought the idea of this delicacy was ludicrous, but you can’t argue with its delicious taste. Whether you like pub food or more traditional dishes, Red Lion has something to tickle your fancy. It just so happened that Indiana City Brewing Co. was doing free tastings last Friday of their beer selection for their new brewery venture that’s coming soon (we don’t know how we luck into things like this ;).


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New Day Meadery

Many local restaurants are starting to take notice of the artisan work being done by Indiana brewers and vintners, and New Day Meadery is right in the thick of it.

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Photo Courtesy of Million Dollar Road Trip

New Day Meadery is the brainchild of Tia Agnew & Brett Canaday (Get it? New Day?), and their balance of artfully-crafted meads and draft ciders, their modern style, and their localvore appeal keep Fountain Square visitors enamored with delicious drinks and a friendly atmosphere. Word on the street is that New Day has a new production facility building, so you might see some more Johnny Chapman at your local bar very soon.

Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling

Have you ever been bowling and thought to yourself, “hey self, shouldn’t these pins and this bowling ball be smaller?” This logic was clearly rampant in the Roaring ’20s, when duckpin bowling was all the craze. Many years and renovations later, Fountain Square’s Action & Atomic Duckpin Bowling is the only duckpin bowling alley left in the Midwest. The atmosphere is a combo of nostalgia and novelty, and the experience isn’t soon forgotten. Check it out, you crazy pinheads.

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Photo Courtesy of FountainSquareIndy.com

The White Rabbit

I first became familiar with the White Rabbit at a fundraising event, and the only thing I remembered was a foul-mouthed clown and scantily-clad women (because OF COURSE an epic story starts like this.) It turns out that White Rabbit Cabaret is in a unique, creative, and unsupervised world of its own. With everything from Burlesque Bingo to Hasenpfeffer (yeah, we said Hasenpfeffer). Check out their calendar and buckle your seatbelt.


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Photo Courtesy of Million Dollar Road Trip


Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (IMOCA)

Who knew that Fountain Square had an art museum? Apparently everyone does, as the crowds meandering through First Friday events all seem to stop at IMOCA for their daily dose of art. imageWith changing exhibitions and an eye for the contemporary, IMOCA serves as a great gallery to get your culture on. You may even run into some of the artists.

There are plenty more spots to hit in Fountain Square, and it’s just waiting for you to check it out. I’d say it’s hip to be square - Fountain Square, that is.

My Man Milkshakes at the Indiana State Fair? Don’t mind if I do! Photo courtesy of Indiana State Fair twitter page.

Don’t call it a comeback: Devour Downtown has been entertaining Indy foodies for years. Yes, it’s that time of year again, and while the restaurant pricing isn’t all in increments of $30 this time ‘round, great deals are as close as a reservation on your OpenTable app. Our first stop took us to the corner of Ohio & Delaware: BARcelona Tapas.

imageKnown for its small-plate gourmet dishes and delectable pitchers of sangria, BARcelona never disappoints. Their Devour Downtown menu consists of 6 courses with 2 options to choose from for each course. Since we dined with a few friends, we decided to order all 12 menu items and share them (which, by the way, is truly the way to do it.) 12 small plates for 4 people doesn’t sound like much food (12 ÷ 4= 3ish small plates?), but once the courses start a-comin’, it’s difficult to keep up with the tapas train. We tried everything from goat cheese in spicy tomato sauce to pork medallions to sauteed mushrooms. Were we stuffed? Sure. Would we do it again? Absolutely. We happened to find out that BARcelona does half-price tapas every Tuesday.

Let’s just say that BARcelona stuck the dismount and they’re looking good in the all-around (I’ve been watching way too much Olympic coverage.) To the next eatery!

Here at INDYcisive, we love the unique cultural districts Indy has to offer. Tucked away between downtown and Cumberland on Indy’s eastside is perhaps the fastest emerging of these communities: Irvington. Known for its longest-running Halloween celebration in the nation, Irvington has in recent years tuned its dials to the artistic and young professional demographic by offering businesses that understand the ideals that their community members hold dear.

Today we attended the opening of Homespun: Workshops & Gallery on Irvington’s Audobon Street, a project made possible by the creators of Homespun: Modern Handmade that will offer art gallery space and classes that range from iPhone photography to needlefelting. They’ll also be helping startup small businesses with classes to learn the ins-and-outs of the trade.

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Of course, we couldn’t help but stop by one of our favorite mobile food vendors Scratchtruck to get our fix of their delicious gourmet creations. Try out the blueberry thyme lemonade - you can’t go wrong.

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We then ventured over to the new Irvington Vintage, loaded with an eclectic mix of anything from vinyl records to antique home decor. Perhaps their website says it all: “We’re passionate about the past; one might say we’re even clinging to it.” If you have vintage items that you think would make a good fit for the store, give them a call and they’ll pay cash for things their store needs. Check them out.

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Of course no adventure in Irvington would be complete without a stop at the new Black Acre Brewing Co., where in addition to their own beer, they offer 20 or so other Indiana and Midwest beer selections to give you a full range of styles.

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While these are some of the new offerings in the Irvington area, mainstays such as the Irving Theater, Lazy Daze Coffee House, Jockamo’s Pizza, and Dufour’s Diner bring their own unique offerings to shape the character of their small stretch of East Washington Street. Even though Irvington is a small cultural district, expect to see this community expand to even greater heights in the next few years. 

I’ve been keeping an eye on the twittersphere today, and I’m frankly impressed with the ways Indy businesses and organizations are marketing toward the Olympics. Here are a few of the examples from the past few days:

  1. The Chef’s Academy on downtown’s near east side is hosting a fundraiser to send their students to the Culinary Olympics. This event will run from 11-3 this Saturday at the Chef’s Academy campus off Washington St. More info from the Indy Star here. image
  1. Easley Winery took the opportunity to showcase their shiny 2012 gold medals with the caption “go for the gold - we have several to choose from” to promote their local, award-winning wines. Wine pairing for the opening ceremonies? Perhaps!image
  1. Perhaps my favorite Olympic tie-in has to be from the creative marketing geniuses at Scotty’s Brewhouse. I love that they don’t take themselves too seriously, while at the same time maintain a cohesive, professional brand. That balance is difficult to strike, but damn they do a good job of it. All this Scotty’s talk makes me want wings from Thr3e Wise Men in Broad Ripple. Mmm. Wings.

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