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Best of Indy: City Life
For all of its charms in May, Speedway isn’t the first neighborhood that comes to mind when planning a banquet. But the Dallara IndyCar Factory there already has a track record for hosting great ones, thanks to its 23,000-square-foot hall, encased floor-to-ceiling in glass. Racecar prototypes and schematics act as decorations, and there’s a cinema-sized IndyCar simulator that guests can sneak off to if the keynote speaker fails to enthrall. Any of your 1,200 guests happen to like NASCAR or open-wheel racing? Street-legal versions of both cars are on hand for a ride. 1201 Main St., Speedway, 317-243-7171, indycarfactory.com.
The Prairie Guest House may sit next to Conner Prairie, but you won’t find any butter-churners or blacksmiths there. In fact, John and Karen Newton’s newly renovated B&B offers Wi-Fi and a yoga studio. Sure, the 1870 farmhouse retains some of its 19th-century charm—antiques, a barn. But the only chore you’ll be doing is shoveling in a breakfast of fruit, housemade bread, and whatever the garden yields. $95 to $210 per night. 13805 Allisonville Rd., Fishers, 317-663-8728, prairieguesthouse.com.
If gym fees are giving your wallet a workout, try PrimeLife Enrichment, where adult membership starts at just $15 a month, including consultation with a fitness instructor and access to the weight machines and indoor track. The catch—because at that price there must be a catch—is that most PrimeLife members are 65 to 85, giving a whole new meaning to “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.” And classes, such as aquatic aerobics, are an extra $5 each. On the other hand, this is probably the only gym in town where you can also scrapbook or learn to play bridge. 1078 Third Ave. SW, Carmel, 317-815-7000, primelifeenrichment.org.
Easy Winter Getaway
The Indianapolis International Airport has been something of a misnomer for years, hosting as it does exactly one nonstop international flight. All that is about to change. Starting Dec. 21, Delta Airlines will offer weekly service direct to Nassau, Bahamas, and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The flights are an experiment to see if the city can support more nonstop destinations. Are we on board now that the weather is getting icy? Yeah, mon. 7800 Col. H. Weir Cook Memorial Dr., 800-241-4141, delta.com.
Indy might have no better cure for cabin fever than the Coffer Dam Trail at Eagle Creek Park. The 1.8-mile loop embarks from the Ornithology Center; follows switchbacks down a plummeting, wooded ridge; traverses the narrow land bridge separating the main expanse of Eagle Creek Reservoir from its north-end bird sanctuary; and continues around the feather-friendly lake. Aerators under the water keep it from freezing, which attracts loons, pelicans, several species of ducks, and other waterfowl throughout the year—as well as the dive-bombing bald eagles that prey on them. Native skunk cabbage (prettier than it sounds) starts blooming as early as February, and the wildflower show (Virginia bluebells, cut-leaved toothwort, sharp-lobed hepatica) continues throughout the spring. The local Amos Butler Audubon Society chapter leads year-round bird walks every Sunday at 9 a.m.; if you want to warm up afterward, the Ornithology Center has picture windows overlooking both the sanctuary and a lively feeder area (but you have to bring your own hot cocoa). 6515 Delong Rd., 317-327-2473, eaglecreekpark.org.
In a state where 64 percent of the population opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, it’s surprising that members of the Indiana GOP continue to push for it. Perhaps more surprising, though, is their most vocal adversary: Megan Robertson—31, gay, and, by her own admission, “incredibly Republican.” The planner of several Sarah Palin events here in 2008, Robertson feels her party has lost its way on this particular issue. Earlier this year, she became campaign manager of Freedom Indiana, a coalition of politicos and business leaders against House Joint Resolution 6, the proposed bill to amend the constitution. If Robertson and her team are victorious when it comes up for a vote in early 2014, one has to think she will throw a grand old party. 212 W. 10th St., freedomindiana.org.
Several historic matchups have gone the way of University of Kentucky basketball’s legitimacy in recent years, so it was heartening to see the Crossroads Classic be re-signed in June (through 2016). This annual in-state doubleheader pitting Butler, IU, Notre Dame, and Purdue against one another at Bankers Life Fieldhouse embodies everything that is right about college b-ball: clean programs, nationally competitive teams, old rivals. On Dec. 14, the Bulldogs take on the Boilermakers, and the Hoosiers battle the Irish. It’s a mix you can count on enjoying for at least another three years. 125 S. Pennsylvania St., 317-917-2727, ticketmaster.com.
As usual, The Children’s Museum put serious thought into remodeling its latest permanent exhibit: Playscape, an indoor romper room for kids 5 and under. Flat-screen TVs in the individual nursing rooms occupy a mom’s other kid, and most of the Playscape activity zones sneakily teach tots something while they think they’re just having fun. Consider the wind tunnel: Kids toss a small scarf into a tube of swirling air and watch it whip around, making the concept of an invisible force easier to understand. The Luckey Climber, a jungle gym composed of overlapping wooden platforms, is designed to let kids safely ascend 9 feet to a sailboat at the very top; the platforms are curved to discourage standing, and the creators figure that if kids don’t stand, they won’t fall down. Elementary, yes, but also brilliant. 3000 N. Meridian St., 317-334-3322, childrensmuseum.org.
Own a closet full of Prada and Chanel, or want one? Seasonal Couture Auctions at Wickliff & Associates cater to those who love luxe labels. The new events are the brainchild of Shelly Dubick at Robert J. Brown Appraisal Services, which handles a lot of divorces among the city’s wealthy—including clients hoping to liquidate jewelry and other belongings. With two auctions under her belt so far, Dubick has learned that handbags and accessories do best because size isn’t an issue. The spring auction saw more than 200 items go quickly, and for top dollar: A limited-edition Louis Vuitton “Jasmine” purse from 2008 bagged $1,008. Thankfully, the concept isn’t going, going anywhere: The next auction takes place December 6. 12232 Hancock St., Carmel, 317-844-7253, wickliffauctioneers.com.