Welcome to Flower Chick’s latest “Visiting Midwest Gardens” feature, as we spotlight Indianapolis gardens on a visit through The Hoosier State. Indiana’s capital city is well known for beautiful gardens, and we’re so pleased to showcase these botanical sites and more of what the city has to offer …
Indianapolis is centrally located within the state and easy to reach from literally anywhere in the Midwest. It’s about two hours southwest of Fort Wayne via Interstate 69, which brings you to the northern reaches of the metro area …
If you’re on the north side, one area not to miss is Broad Ripple, the first stop in our 3+ day visit.
Day One: Holliday Park, The Newfield’s, and The Rathskeller …
On our way in to town we stopped at The Toggery Resale located at 1810 Broad Ripple Avenue. Anyone who’s been following Flower Chick knows I love a bargain – especially on clothes and accessories! The Toggery is Indianapolis’s premier Consignment and Resale shop. They opened their doors in 1986 and offer a delightful assortment of gently used women’s and men’s apparel.
This is a clean attractive store and you’re sure to find some goodies! In 2021 they went bag-less as part of their mission to reuse, reduce, and recycle. Make sure to bring your own bag (BYOB) or purchase one of their fashionista reusable totes.
After a little shopping, next stop was Holliday Park. One of Indianapolis’ oldest parks, Holliday Park is located just six miles north of downtown and encompasses 94-acres of beautiful green space. Visitors can explore the nature center, hike more than 3.5 miles of picturesque trails or take a stroll around the one-of-a-kind Holliday Park Ruins. We did the latter and enjoyed the garden plots and history.
The diverse landscaping and gardens of Holliday Park provide visitors beauty no matter the season. A walk through the grounds will take you through prairie habitat and native wildflower gardens, as well as provide inspiring views of beds cared for by groups such as the Marion County Master Gardeners, the Indiana Daffodil Society, and Indianapolis Hosta Society. Holliday Park also boasts an arboretum with over 1,200 individual trees labeled by species.
Every summer Holliday Park hosts the “Rock The Ruins” concert event. It’s the perfect setting for experiencing live music on a warm evening.
The gardens around the ruins contained a mix of easy care annuals and perennials including allium, marigolds, daylilies, zinnias, lobelia, heuchera and verbena … all adding color, texture and interest.
Just south of Holliday Park at 56th and Illinois is a small local commercial district, anchored by a Graeter’s Ice Cream location. Graeter’s is known nationwide but is primarily a Cincinnati phenomenon. We were delighted to see a location here in Indianapolis and stopped in to enjoy one of their famous peach ice cream milkshakes. Discover more about Graeter’s and more special destinations in The Queen City at our Cincinnati botanical gardens post.
Just across the street from Graeter’s is a must stop if you’re in the area, Kincaid’s Meat Market. You won’t go wrong with one of their fork tender pork tenderloins, perfect on the grill or cubed up and mixed into a healthy stir fry …
On our way toward the downtown area, you’ll see the historic Red Key Tavern at the corner of 52nd and Keystone. A local favorite for generations, Red Key Tavern is a small local bar with a legion of fans for their cheeseburgers and cold beer. They’ve been doing it right at the Red Key since 1933 … a real authentic slice of Indianapolis!
After a satisfying lunch, we headed to Newfield’s which is quite a complex containing the Indianapolis Museum of Art, lush gardens, a 100-acre nature park, the Lilly mansion, and rotating “Lume” exhibits – featuring an immersive Van Gogh experience while we visited.
While wandering The Garden, you’ll pass the Lilly House (open for tours), a National Historic Landmark and exemplary example of a 20th century country estate. The Landon family founded the estate in 1907, building their French inspired home, greenhouses, and other support buildings.
In the 1920’s Jessie Landon invited the Olmsted Brothers to design a garden landscape to match the grandeur of their home. The Lilly family purchased the property in 1932 and acquired the neighboring properties over the next few decades. They would eventually donate the 56 acres to the Art Association of Indianapolis to build an art museum and become what we know as Newfields today.
Inside the greenhouse adjacent to the mansion you can discover a bevy of interesting tropical plants – a variety of orchids in bloom, cycads, bromeliads, anthurium, palms, philodendrons and more exotics all playing well together in the balmy temps.
As you stroll through Newfields, you’ll come across a formal garden, shade garden, a four seasons garden, a border garden, an orchard, a pollinator garden and the allée (a French word that means a pathway lined with trees and shrubs).
Our focus on this trip to Newfields was the lush gardens. Next time we’ll check out the well regarded Indianapolis Museum of Art where you can get up close to masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt and Turner, Cezanne and Picasso, O’Keeffe and Hopper, Calder and Lichtenstein and many more artists and styles.
Mass Avenue … The Liveliest District in Indy
After checking in our hotel, The Stone Soup Inn B & B, and freshening up we headed out for Happy Hour on the northeast side of downtown. Massachusetts Avenue is the place to be for the best in local Indianapolis dining, shopping and nightlife.
First stop was Tavern at the Point at 401 Mass Avenue a friendly neighborhood tavern with a pub style menu and a full service bar. We were here years ago when it was more of a dive bar called Old Point Tavern. The bar itself dates back to 1887 when the location’s first liquor license was obtained.
The current owners, a local restaurant group, have completely remodelled the tavern and spiffed up the interior. It’s still a comfortable and welcoming spot with both inside and outside dining options.
After an enjoyable happy hour, we headed to The Rathskeller set in the historic, 19th century Athenaeum Building at 401 E.Michigan, The Rathskeller is reminiscent of both a quaint inn tucked in the Bavarian hills and a lively beer hall in Munich.
We opted for the latter on a nice day and arrived early before the after work crowd filled up the outdoor biergarten. The Biergarten has a full-service walk-up bar and gourmet pub-style food. A fun and lively spot and a long standing Indianapolis favorite … it has been around since 1894!
Day Two: Indianapolis Zoo & Gardens, Downtown Indy, and St. Elmo’s …
When you visit The Indianapolis Zoo & Gardens you are in for a treat. The recently renovated entrance gardens are a captivating start to your adventure!
White River Gardens is part of the Zoo’s new guest entry experience that creates a total immersion into nature from the very first steps inside the Zoo. As visitors first walk through the Indianapolis Colts Welcome Plaza, they will now enter the Zoo through these eye-catching gardens.
This beautiful 3.3-acre landmark attraction includes the Hilbert Conservatory, a 5,000 square-foot tropical oasis inside a glistening glass building, as well as the outdoor DeHaan Tiergarten that combines the best of gardening ideas, plant information and inspirational design that continues the tradition of connecting animals, plants and people.
Amidst the colorful flowers, plants, playful sculptures and fountains, guests will encounter delightful surprises as they have the chance to meet a variety of Wild Encounter animal ambassadors like a chatty parrot, sleepy sloth, slithery snake, adorable aardvark, pouched rat – you never know who you will meet! Chris the Tortoise was hanging out with his handler as we made our way around the gardens.
Inside the Hilbert Conservatory, look for the exotic palm trees, flowering plantscapes and a small fish pond. Set against the vibrant greenery of the tropical plants, visitors can enjoy colorful butterflies taking flight during their visit.
Guests can also explore the life cycle of a butterfly at an incubator filled with chrysalises—butterflies in the making from their caterpillar stage. Featured butterflies vary from year to year but are selected from over 40 different possible species. Favorites include Julias, longwings, morphos, Helens and malachites …
After exploring the zoo’s gardens and conservatory we headed off to see all the animals that call the Indianapolis Zoo their home. From African Lions to Flamingoes to Zebras … the residents all had clean, natural living spaces and enrichment activities geared to their species.
Closing in on lunch time, we headed down Virginia Avenue to an iconic Indianapolis favorite, The Dugout Bar. In operation since 1954, The Dugout is part friendly local tavern and part popular lunch and dinner spot. If you have your eyes on Indiana’s most well known sandwich, the pork tenderloin, order it here …
A few steps south of The Dugout on Virginia is Amelia’s Bread Bakery, one of the city’s favorite artisan bread markets. Stop in here and choose from traditional favorites to scrumptious takes on loaves of bread. These hearty loaves freeze wonderfully well so don’t worry about them losing their freshness while traveling …
Soldiers & Sailors Monument – Recognized as one of the world’s outstanding monuments, the structure has come to symbolize both the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana.
Located in the heart of downtown in Monument Circle, it was originally designed to honor Indiana’s Civil War veterans. It now commemorates the valor of Hoosier veterans who served in all wars prior to WWI, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Frontier Wars and the Spanish-American War.
One of the most popular parts of the monument is the observation deck with a 360-degree view of the city skyline from 275 feet up. We were hoping to traverse to the top, but unfortunately it was closed for renovation.
Did You Know? Indianapolis is unofficially known as the City of Statues. There are more statues of historical significance here than in any other city in the United States …
Next stop is Easley Winery located in downtown Indy’s Cole Noble Commercial Arts District. Easley offers 20 or more wine and champagne offerings depending on the year and season. We picked up a bottle of red and white wine made with local grapes to enjoy on the wraparound porch of our guest house.
The Oldest Bar In Indianapolis …
My tour guide husband always fits in a stop at “the oldest bar in town”. Some people collect stamps, some people collect antiques … the oldest bar in town is his “thing”. In Indianapolis, and all of Indiana for that matter, it’s the Slippery Noodle which has been slinging drinks and great food since 1850 …
The Slippery Noodle is the one place we stop at every time in Indianapolis. There’s something comforting about patronizing a place that’s been around going on 175 years. A popular place – Indiana’s oldest bar features a huge American menu, live blues bands & loads of atmosphere.
The Famous Shrimp Cocktail at St. Elmo’s …
We planned to dine at the 1933 Lounge at St. Elmo’s Steak House, but alas it was closed for a private party. Undaunted we headed for a seat at their historic bar on the main floor. Naturally, we started out with drinks and their famous shrimp cocktail made with giant Black Tiger Shrimp and served with their spicy, fiery signature cocktail sauce. Superb!
St. Elmo Steak House has been a landmark in downtown Indianapolis since 1902. It is the oldest Indianapolis steakhouse in its original location, and has earned a national reputation for its excellent steaks, seafood, chops and professional service. We treated ourselves to steaks for dinner and you barely had to cut them they were so tender. Excellent!
Day Three: Garfield Park Conservatory and Indianapolis Local Favorites …
We began our third day at the lovely Garfield Park Conservatory & Gardens within Garfield Regional Park, it’s a 10,000 square foot tropical rainforest conservatory. The grounds include a 3 acre Sunken Garden and fountains and a Children’s Garden.
While waiting for the conservatory to open, Flower Chick investigated “Blake’s Garden” an outdoor children’s garden named for an Indianapolis young man who played at Garfield Park, worked at Garfield Park and spent some of his last days on earth at Garfield Park. He sadly passed away at age 25 of brain cancer. This garden is a wonderful tribute to him.
Blake’s Garden is a treat for all ages with an Alphabet Garden (section of plants arranged alphabetically), interesting groupings by color, a pollinator plot, vegetable garden, fun interactive exhibits, and even chickens.
Inside the Conservatory you’ll be transported to a tropical wonderland. Go slowly so you don’t miss anything! The Conservatory is chock full of fascinating flora, entrancing sculptures, and soothing water features.
A variety of orchids, members of the second largest group of flowering plants, can be found growing on all sides of the waterfall and throughout the Conservatory. Garfield Park Conservatory is home to more than 800 orchids! As specimens flower, they are moved from the production greenhouse onto display … creating a different exhibit each time you visit.
Did You Know? The two largest flowering plant families containing the greatest number of species are the sunflower family (Asteraceae) with about 24,000 species and the orchid family (Orchidaceae) with about 20,000 species.
Garfield Park Conservatory has an entrance fee of only $3 and it is well worth it. Take a Self-Guided Tour brochure at the front desk to learn more about the Conservatory’s plant collection by matching the number on the plant’s label to the numbers in the guide.
You’ll encounter a Banyan Tree, Vanilla Orchid, Pitcher Plants, Neem Tree, Fiddle Leaf Fig, Allspice Tree, Jade Plants, Anthurium, Cinnamon Tree and many more exotic residents of this well-cared for tropical paradise.
Next stop is Claus’ Meat Market just north of Garfield Park (4 blocks) is one of Indianapolis’ best known butcher shops / meat markets. Claus’ Meat Market is the best place on the near south side for traditional sausages and other fresh cuts of meat.
They make all their products fresh in-house and have been serving the Indianapolis area for over 100 years. We purchased several kinds of sausages and frankfurters … delicious! Flower Chick also got a kick out of their sense of humor with signs out front such as “Hope for the best, but expect our wurst” and “Save Plants. Eat More Meat”.
Next stop on our tour was the Fountain Square neighborhood which is only two miles from Monument Circle the very center of downtown Indianapolis. Fountain Square is a vibrant shopping district with unique small businesses. First stop was Snakeroot Botanicals a charming garden center that called to Flower Chick lol (this successful plant store recently opened their second location in the Broad Ripple neighborhood).
Snakeroot carries an assortment of indoor and outdoor plants with a special focus on medicinal and culinary plants. I didn’t leave empty-handed as a new leafy friend caught my attention … “Indy” the Snake Plant is now at home with my other 20+ houseplants. In addition to being easy care, snake plants have a number of health benefits, including filtering indoor air and removing toxic pollutants.
After purchasing “Indy”, I headed for Tuggles Gifts and Goods down the street on Virginia Avenue. Tuggle’s is a local gift store that has an emphasis on shopping small, Indiana made, and supporting local creatives. Love this kind of shop! Nice selection of art, jewelry, apparel, stationery, home decor and fun trinkets. I found some cute locally crafted earrings, soap and a greeting card.
After a little shopping, we headed for a beer at Sam’s Silver Circle at 1102 Fletcher Avenue in the Fountain Square Neighborhood. It all began in 1938, Sam’s is still in the same building, on the same corner serving generations of patrons. Sam’s quickly became know in Fountain Square and surrounding Indianapolis neighborhoods as “The Original Dart Bar.”
They are also known for their tasty pizza which we ordered to go to enjoy at home. Voted the best pie in Indianapolis … it doesn’t disappoint! Chock full of meat (we opted for sausage), quality cheese & sauce with an excellent crispy crust.
There’s nothing quite like a good old fashioned delicatessen, and Indianapolis has one of the best in the country in the wonderful Shapiro’s Deli, a downtown Indy fixture since 1905. Shapiro’s is located on the south end of downtown just off the corner of Meridien and South Streets …
Shapiro’s, along with St. Elmo’s and The Rathskeller, are the must visit kingpins of the Indianapolis dining scene. Before you leave, be sure to stop at Shapiro’s “to go” section adjacent to the main dining area. Here, you can take home some of Shapiro’s freshly baked bread, like their famous rye bread used for their iconic sandwiches …
Tucked away in a small retail strip just north of downtown is the wonderfully creative Leviathan Bakehouse, famous in the area for their spectacular bread. We purchased their delicious milk bread. What a treat! A light and airy loaf with a tasty crust, this bread is incredibly soft and (with a touch of sugar) has a faint sweetness, perfect for sandwiches and toast.
A block north of our dinner destination (Iaria’s) is this dog centric local brewery. Metazoa Brewing Company donates a portion of their profits from every beer sold to local animal rescue organizations … a worthy stop indeed!
They’ve got an expansive outdoor patio area that doubles as a dog park of sorts, so your best four legged friend is more than welcome here. Flower Chick loves dogs and loves a style of beer known as a Cream Ale, an easy drinking hybrid style that’s an ale but fermented at lower temperatures like a lager. Metazoa has one called “Nap In The Hammock” and wow if that doesn’t make you crave a beer and relax for a spell …
We stopped for happy hour and met a few new dog friends while quaffing a couple of cold fresh Nap In The Hammock(s) which quickly became our favorite local Indianapolis brew …
Two blocks south of Metazoa is our dinner destination, the wonderfully historic and welcoming Iaria’s Italian Restaurant. The name of the restaurant is pronounced “eye-ah-REE-ah’s”, but for locals it kind of flows off the tongue as in “eye-REE-ah’s”. However you pronounce it, you’ll experience some of Indianapolis’ finest comfort food Italian style dishes, which Iaria’s has been dishing out since 1933 …
Very popular before basketball games, Iaria’s is known for their perfectly cooked pasta dishes, antipasto salads, parmigiana, and desserts. Start with a shrimp cocktail and be sure to order an antipasto salad with your meal (a smaller dinner size is available for a slight upcharge). Iaria’s version features mixed greens, thinly sliced fresh pepperoni, artichoke hearts, black olives, and pepperoncini. Paired with delicious eggplant parmigiana, it’s an Italian style feast!
Day Four: West Lafayette Beckons …
We made a stop at Beutler Meats for a few Indiana specialties like pork tenderloin and locally made pickles. Beutler is located just east of the Wabash River and as you can tell by the photos, it looks like a wholesale packing house. Head on in, though, and you’ll find a nice selection of freshly packaged meat, from pork products to steaks, roasts, and more …
Just west of the Purdue campus is the oldest and most beloved casual spot in the area, the wonderful Triple XXX Family Restaurant. It has been around since 1929 and is famous for their all day breakfast. It’s a right of passage for all Purdue students and their families to settle in at the XXX counter for a superb breakfast, burger, or family friendly sandwiches. Be sure to order their house root beer! You can get a six pack or a case to go to bring home or as a gift …
The Purdue Jules Janick Horticulture Garden was the last stop on our trip before heading back to the Chicago area. Established in 1982, the Jules Janick Horticulture Garden is one of the most visually appealing landscapes on campus. Don’t miss it!
This 0.5 acre botanical garden is located on the Purdue University campus, adjacent to the Horticulture Building. The gardens are a living classroom. There, university classes meet, student workers and volunteers get hands-on training in garden maintenance, and visitors learn about garden plants and gardening techniques.
The ever-changing gardens now display a wide diversity of plants, including nearly 200 species of perennial flowers and foliage plants, and over 300 cultivars of annual flowers and garden vegetables. Collections include peonies, daylilies, hosta, spring-flowering bulbs, and ornamental grasses.
The plant collection has a heavy emphasis on herbaceous perennials, with just enough annuals to provide growing season-long color and woody plants to provide “strong bones.”
Did You Know? Herbaceous perennials are those that die down to the ground each year but whose roots remain alive and send up new top growth each year.
Visitors will be impressed by the tranquility and ever-changing hue of the flowers and plants each time they stroll through the garden. Benches are interspersed to stay awhile and sit and reflect. Purdue’s Jules Janick Horticulture Garden is open to the public year-round, seven days a week and tours are available.
Indianapolis Gardens – Summary
What a fabulous time it was to explore gardens in The Hoosier State, from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis to West Lafayette! Indiana is partially in the Zone 5 growing zone, morphing to Zone 6 as you get further south in Indianapolis and beyond.
The perennials in Zone 6 tend to bloom a few weeks before their cousins in Zone 5. Mid-June was a perfect time to see the roses, daylilies, poppies, daisies and other beloved flowers in full bloom.
Plan to visit these attractive floral showcases and spend time at the historic restaurants / bars and independent shops that Indianapolis has to offer. Fun times – we’ll be back!
Visit more Gardens in Indiana toured by Flower Chick by clicking here