The New Downtown: Insider Tips for Winning the Weekend

Hack your night out.

This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s The New Downtown package, which includes a guide to five hotspots, a few big city problems, and a look at what’s next for the city. For more content on navigating the new downtown, click here.

Order secret cocktails

The Libertine Liquor Bar (608 Massachusetts Ave.) has produced fine mixologists who moved on and made a name for themselves elsewhere. However, their work is memorialized in a “captain’s list” of off-menu libations. Order the Six Horse. “It’s a good drink to celebrate with, but also to feel sad and lonely with,” says its creator, Libertine alum Adam Ramsey. “I don’t mean to get overly sentimental here, but I created it just after going through a horrible breakup and moving back to Indianapolis. The folks at Libertine showed me that it’s possible to find a sense of home wherever you may be.” Cheers to that.

Ditch the sports crowd

Sometimes the party zone near the arenas comes off like one big pep rally. Lose the jersey-wearers in South Illinois Street’s cluster of chic, low-lit lounges. Start at the posh, Mad Men–esque Spoke & Steele (123 S. Illinois St.) and ask (or don’t) for the #Unspoken Cocktail, a rotating, barrel-aged offering crafted by the bartenders. Then go next door to 1933 Lounge (127 S. Illinois St.), upstairs at St. Elmo, for a floral-forward French 75 Martini. Finally, slip into a yellow velvet banquette at the Omni’s Severin Bar (40 W. Jackson Pl.), which has its own street entrance so you won’t kill the night’s vibe by strolling through a business-hotel lobby.

Barhop in heels

Three new hotspots sit within close proximity of each other on the 300 block of Mass Ave. Get loose at Louie’s Wine Dive (345 Massachusetts Ave.), where it’s nearly wall-to-wall women. Then sashay across the street to The Eagle Southern-fried sports bar (310 Massachusetts Ave.) and The Tap beer hall (306 N. Delaware St.) to see what the men are up to. Feel like going dancing? Your feet won’t revolt.

Go first class at the Lawn

Don’t just see a rock star at the Lawn at White River State Park. Be one: A VIP table costs about double a regular ticket, but—among bonuses like private parking, bathrooms, lounge access, and reserved seats—you can hang on a deck that overlooks the soundboard, the venue’s acoustic sweet spot.

Find an instant squad

The Handlebar ( tends to attract groups, but individuals can get in on the pedal-pub action, too, for $25 a pop Thursday through Saturday. BYOB—and a few for your new pals.

Party with the Pacers

Rub (and possibly bend) elbows with your favorite ballers. Those who bleed Blue and Gold know that after a game, the guys favor Scotty’s Brewhouse (1 Virginia Ave.), then disappear into Nicky Blaine’s (20 N. Meridian St.).

Skip the trailers

Go ahead, kids, order dessert. We’re in no hurry. At United Artists Circle Centre , you can wait out the commercials and still be guaranteed a good view when you purchase reserved-seat tickets in advance (at the box office before dinner, or online). Plus, each seat is now a “king-size” recliner. They’re practically beds—and almost worth the $12 adult admission.