1. It’s an advertising-free zone. Officially. The original visionaries intended for the Monon to serve as a place for mental relaxation as well as exercise. If you've never noticed the lack of billboards and sponsored signs along the trail, then the philosophy is working.
2. The colossal barbecue sandwich at Locally Grown Gardens. Served to your picnic table next to the trail, of course.
3. The many murals. Schoolkids have painted a lot of them. Awww.
4. Spying cool bikes. "Stop! Hey, you! Where did you get a bicycle with a kid's seat in the front?"
5. The running buddies we’ve never met. Forge a routine and you'll cross paths with familiar faces, every day, same time and place.
6. New horse-mounted IPD patrols.
7. The bridges and tunnels in Carmel. Safer, and they create little teeny hills. Weeee!
8. Union Brewing Company. This partially open-air hangout in Carmel's Mohawk Place shopping center backs up to the Monon. A barstool in the large window facing the Monon, overlooking cornhole games in progress in the parking lot, is the most underrated trailside perch in town.
9. People-watching from the deck of Brics. With a scoop of caramel chocolate-covered-pretzel ice cream, of course.
10. The shower someone built on the trail. Around 91st Street. Never seen anyone use it, but nice to know it's there.
11. Connections to other trails. Favorites: the Canal Towpath in Broad Ripple leading to 100 Acres at the IMA, and the network of scenic loops and dips in Carmel's Central Park, on both sides of the trail.
12. A place to strut your stuff. The Monon's no runway, but everyone appreciates a break from all the PINK shorts and ratty old Mini shirts. Wear something cool—like the "Indy Loves Boston" tank, designed locally to benefit One Fund Boston—and people will notice. Available at Vardagen.
13. The Walking Waffle Company. Long lines don't lie, and a Belgian-style waffle shot through with caramelized sugar doesn't disappoint. Carmel Farmers Market, Saturday mornings—be there.
Union Brewing Company photo courtesy UBC; tanktop photo courtesy Vardagen; other photos by Tony Valainis
This article appears as a web-exclusive companion to the Monon Trail cover feature in the June 2013 issue.