Best Of Indianapolis 2018 — Fun

It wasn’t just the year of the e-scooter in Indianapolis. It was the year of the luxury mattress, destination coffee shop, boozy food hall, Amish doughnut, experiential boutique, daring theater company, Kimbal Musk restaurant, and offbeat park. These are among the 97 life essentials exalted in this edition of our annual toast to the city’s latest and greatest.

New Attraction
Yeah, Midwesterners are tubby, statistically. Hats off to The Children’s Museum and Riley Hospital for Children for this solution—a $38.5 million expansion that gets parents and kids sweating together. While the outdoor courts and fields are closed in winter, the indoor section’s World of Sport is hopping with hoops to shoot, a mini-Brickyard pit stop, even an interactive footwork drill led by the Tamika Catchings. Committed couch potato? There’s a broadcast booth for you. Bloviate to your heart’s content.

Sports League
Indy City Futbol asks participants to score extra points by playing nice—i.e., volunteering in their communities and taking public transit to the games. The summer soccer league consists of 18 neighborhood-based teams—Meridian Kessler United, Atletico Cottage Home. They compete on new pitches at Central State and hang out afterward, and the urban sustainability mission creates winners off the field, too.

Sip-and-Paint Studio
Craft + Cork shakes up the popular drink-and-DIY night with fewer Old Masters and more pet portraits and hand-lettered wood signs. Browse the 50-plus sign options online before choosing a class. The owners also make house calls, but the large workroom in Greenwood has a bathroom wrapped in a Van Gogh mural and Taxman on tap. Do you?

Instagrammable Wall
Word about the first and newish winery to hit the Geist area spread quickly, with a little help from a well-propped Instagram wall. Fit for wine and social media connoisseurs alike, the neon sign and red couch set against a moss-covered backdrop at Daniel’s Vineyard is dynamite for your feed. We’ll toast to this fun design.

Frenchy LaRouge

Burlesque Act
As much as audiences enjoy watching Frenchy LaRouge shimmy and boop to sultry brass accompaniment, the veteran of the can-lit stage always looks like she’s the one having all the fun. Equal parts tiki goddess, Moulin Rouge objet d’art, and tatted-up Emma Stone, the founding member of Indy’s Rocket Doll Revue takes the stage regularly at White Rabbit Cabaret and croons solo, proving that she has pipes as well as irresistible old-school stage presence and enviable behind-the-back bra-unsnapping skills.

Game Store
Whether you’re a hardcore Warhammer 40K player or just want to graduate from Yahtzee, the center of the Indiana tabletop gaming universe—when Gen Con isn’t in town—is Family Time Games. A well-stocked retailer on the northwest side, FTG also features a wall of hundreds of free-to-try choices and plenty of room to play them. (Drop a few bucks in the jar if you don’t plan to buy.) On any given Saturday, you might find more than 100 people at play.

Pop-Culture Trivia
Bar trivia is great. Cuddling with a stranger’s puppy while playing bar trivia is even better. Pet-friendly Metazoa Brewing Company packs the spacious tasting room every Tuesday for trivia contests focusing on hit TV shows and movies; past themes have included Seinfeld, The West Wing, and Bob’s Burgers. Potterheads will face off December 11, but any muggle will need a magic potion to win—victors at Metazoa often don’t miss a question.

New Dog Park
Slip and slide across sleet-coated sidewalks no more this winter—Indy’s dogs finally have a better choice. Indy’s Indoor Bark Park is a 4,000-square-foot, off-leash play pad in Castleton, set to open this month. Check out Meetup Mondays, when dogs of the same breed can bow-wow together, or mobile bar nights with local breweries.

Indy Mugs

Found Pottery
The global Free Art Movement doesn’t guarantee quality, but the man behind Indy Mugs indeed puts his coolest work up for grabs. He hides his vessels (lately designed with “Indy” in groovy lettering) in public and posts a photo of the setting on Instagram. The first person to identify the spot and get there wins the cup. More than 150 mugs and 2,247 followers in, the hunt has become a competitive toss-up.

DIY Pottery
When the Fountain Square Clay Center isn’t busy making flasks at Hotel Tango or exhibiting pour-over coffee vessels by studio potters including Ryan VanHoy (an artist top chefs turn to for place settings), it offers classes with the same modern sensibility. Beginners can take a spin in a two-hour, three-piece Saturday session for $30 or wait for a fun theme, like making a winter lantern on December 4. Fire away.

Break Room
To step onto the Ohana Floor in the flagship Salesforce office is to discover a swanky lounge overlooking urban greenspace 47 floors above downtown. Adorned in bright, casual furnishings and framed “family” photos of employees, the serene space is more akin to a stylish living room than the standard kitchen most companies offer up. The perks? A coffee bar, kombucha on tap, movable walls for privacy, and a vending machine dispensing tech gear. All on prime real estate most firms would reserve for executives who are never there.

New Party Gifts
Chelsea van der Meer of Yonder Bound booklets found a way to make it rain for her fellow makers. Her employer, Print Resources, let her create a division called Batch to market artisan products as corporate promo gifts in place of uninspired flash drives and coffee mugs. Now, companies—or anyone throwing a party or wedding—can put a logo or event name on tea infusers, air-plant holders, Gallery Pastry Shop macarons, and other options that convey respect for originality and craftsmanship.

First Date
The pressure’s on, so opt for a low-stakes hang in Goose the Market’s Enoteca. At Friday Night Flights, visitors are treated to three beers paired with a trio of cheeses, which will give you something to talk about and loosen inhibitions just a bit. Date going bad? You’re full. Date going well? Grab some wine to go.

Smash Social

Digital Gaming Parlor
Step into a 10×10-foot, white-walled square, don a virtual reality headset, and choose from 26 death-defying, perhaps zombie-slaying. scenarios. At Altered Realities VR Arcade in Castleton. you can step off a plank atop an 80-story building—and hop up in one piece. Want a truly frightening experience? Press 666 in the elevator.

Analog Gaming Parlor
Snag Cranium or Settlers of Catan from a bookcase stocked with hundreds of titles at Kingmakers Board Game Parlour on Mass Ave. Suss out spies and design medieval castles while nibbling on Albanese gummy bears and swilling cold beer. Need a recommendation? Ask a sommelier, aka your personal fun concierge. They’re required to be able to teach 30 games, but many have mastered 100 or more.

Game Bar
It’s our theory that a bit of a buzz brings out the champion ping-pong player in all of us. Put that to the test at Smash Social, half sleek bar serving coffee, wine, and beer, and half table-tennis gym in the heart of downtown. Ten bucks gets you all-day access to their top-of-the line tables, paddles, and balls, or diehards can fork out $50 per month for unlimited ping-pong, free drip coffee, and a host of other perks.