Your bracket is destroyed, stress levels have never been higher, and you’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster for weeks. March 2015 — it’s that maddening time of year again. If you’re heading to Indianapolis this weekend for the festivities, we’ve compiled our top picks for things to eat, drink, see, and do. You might have come to town for the Big Dance, but you’ll leave the city with a new love for Indy’s downtown restaurants, attractions, and first-class breweries.
The Frontrunner: St. Elmo Steakhouse
An Indy classic. We could go on and on about the numerous awards St. Elmo Steakhouse has won in the past 100 years, but we’ll cut to the chase. Located in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, St. Elmo’s is an iconic steakhouse featuring 20,000 different kinds of wine, killer shrimp cocktail (literally, it’s that spicy), and a nostalgic charm.
The Underdog: Bluebeard
For the foodies of the world. Located in the historic and up-and-coming Fletcher Place neighborhood on Indy’s southeast side, Bluebeard features unique, local dishes. Served in a renovated factory warehouse, the menu changes daily based on what’s in-season … yes, it’s one of those restaurants. And that’s not a bad thing.
The Favorite: Scotty’s Brewhouse
Good ol’ American bar food. Scotty’s Brewhouse is your local sports bar with hearty burgers and a wide variety of beer, including their own exclusive brews from Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co. Hang out between games on their large outdoor patio overlooking downtown and take in all the Indy love. You may be hesitant to order the Shewman Special, a burger with peanut butter, bacon, and jalapeños, but take our word for it — you won’t regret it.
The Bracket Buster: Shoefly Public House
Pub food with a modern twist. Created by founders who were looking to add more dining options around their Fall Creek Place neighborhood, Shoefly Public House was born from a renovated drugstore. Located three miles north of downtown, Shoefly offers a variety of craft beer, wine, and a seasonally changing menu featuring international flavors in a relaxed, casual setting.
The Frontrunner: Sun King Brewery
The largest microbrewery in Indianapolis. Founded in 2009, Sun King Brewery is minutes from downtown and offers tours and tastings on Saturdays with $6 growler specials on Fridays. Really, who doesn’t enjoy a good beer to go along with some good basketball?
The Underdog: Hotel Tango
Central Indiana’s first artisan distillery. Hotel Tango opened less than a year ago in Fletcher Place near Fountain Square. The veteran founder and wife have dressed the distillery in a cozy, military-inspired atmosphere and serve only the highest quality whiskey, gin, and vodka. Highlights of the experience include a huge center fireplace and homey deco that will make you want to say, “AMERICA!”
The Favorite: Kilroy’s
A popular sports bar located in downtown Indianapolis. With flat screen TV’s lining the walls, a satisfying menu of large-portioned bar food, and a giant chalkboard wall menu full of specialty Long Island Iced Teas, Kilroy’s is the go-to bar for sports fans. It’s also an IU bar for all the Hoosier fans out there (although they gladly welcome Boilermakers, too).
The Bracket Buster: Libertine
An underground bar that is known for hand-crafted, specialty cocktails. Located underneath Pizzology on Mass Ave, the Libertine projects local videos and photos of Indianapolis on the walls. Our favorite? Looped videos of this guy, which is reason enough to check it out.
The Frontrunner: Wholesale District
The heart of downtown. Bright lights, historical buildings, modern skyscrapers, and Monument Circle bring together restaurants, bars, a mall, and a movie theater to form this vibrant business district. It’s easy to get to the Wholesale District from the games. Take a 15-minute stroll from Lucas Oil Stadium to get to various restaurants or hang out around the circle without worrying about parking.
The Underdog: Broad Ripple
For those looking for a good time and a local flair. Located 20 minutes north of downtown Indy, Broad Ripple is lined with restaurants, bars, and local concert venues, making it a nighttime hub for young adults and those crazy college kids (we’re looking at you, Butler). Check out colorful boutiques or head a little south for new restaurants in an area people are now calling SoBro (South Broad Ripple).
The Favorite: Mass Ave
A revitalized hot spot. Over the past few years, Mass Ave (short for Massachusetts Avenue) has gained popularity for its distinctive restaurants, art galleries, local shops, music venues, and an electronic sign that features a girl perpetually dancing (among other art). The street itself is a 45-degree angle from the middle of downtown and is lined with Indianapolis boutiques such as Silver in the City, as well as some of the best Indy bars and food including Bakersfield, Chatham Tap, and The Rathskeller.
The Bracket Buster: Fountain Square
The southeast side of Indianapolis is known for things like duckpin bowling and local music. Grab a drink at Fountain Square Brewery, eat at one-of-a-kind restaurants like Thunderbird, or window shop at antique stores like Days Gone By. Never heard of duckpin bowling? You’re likely not the only one. This type of bowling with smaller balls and pins is predominantly found on the east coast, and here in the heart of Fountain Square, Indianapolis (who knew?).
The Frontrunner: March Madness Music Festival
A three-day music festival featuring top artists such as Rihanna, Weezer, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Bleachers, and Imagine Dragons. The event takes place on Friday, ends Sunday, and is total, 100% FREE. This is awesome for your bank account, but maybe a little less awesome if large, crowded spaces aren’t your cup of tea. The music festival will be held outside at White River State Park, rain or shine (fingers crossed for shine).
The Underdog: Local Music
Local venues such as Union 50, Chatterbox Jazz, The Vogue, Radio Radio, and The Hi-Fi feature local music on the regular. If you’re looking for something a little less crowded than a free, giant music festival, Indianapolis has numerous bars and concert venues that support live music. Check out Indy’s music scene and get a little taste of local talent.
The Favorite: Final Four Fan Fest
A big, four-day pep rally. The Final Four Fan Fest (alliteration on point) takes place at the Indiana Convention Center and features meet-and-greets with former college athletes and legendary coaches, as well as youth clinics. If you can’t get enough of college sports, college basketball, pep bands and cheerleaders, venture downtown to the Fan Fest — $10 for adults with options for student, children, and online discounts.
The Bracket Buster: The Children’s Museum and the Indianapolis Zoo
Transformers and orangutans, what more could you ask for? The world’s largest children’s museum is promoting a special Transformers exhibit through July, which will excite both young ones and adults who secretly love Michael Bay. For those that prefer a more natural environment, the Indianapolis Zoo has a special orangutan exhibit that is designed to stimulate the animals’ physical, social, and intellectual abilities. On top of this, the zoo has numerous basketball-themed events happening over the weekend. If you’re stuck between the zoo or the museum, relax. You really can’t go wrong with either.
Just because these are our top picks doesn’t mean they have to be yours. Discover the Circle City for yourself and use the hashtag #loveindy in your social posts for a chance to be featured in this gallery.