1. Binge on Indiana college basketball.
BEST RIVALRY GAME
» 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.
2. Sip a fall brew while you can.
BEST CREATIVELY FLAVORED CRAFT BEER»
The recipe for Sun King’s Malus Pi sounds like something from a James Whitcomb Riley poem—the brewing process can’t start until the first frost sets the sugar level in crabapples. The sweet-tart fruit is a key ingredient in the seasonal brew (along with oats and cinnamon), and Malus Pi not only pairs well with holiday desserts—it could stand in for them. Watch for the release between Thanksgiving and Christmas; nature will give you a sign. 135 N. College Ave., 317-602-3702, sunkingbrewing.com.
3. Bid on designer purses.
BEST FASHION SALE»
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.
4. Catch a rare Lily & Madeleine concert.
BEST HOOSIER COLLABORATION»
Bloomington-based music producer Paul Mahern first encountered a YouTube video of Indy teenagers Lily and Madeleine Jurkiewicz singing “In the Middle” in early 2012. “I probably watched it 20 times in a row,” he recalls. And Mahern wasn’t alone in his admiration. Soon, the sisters were fielding calls from Vogue and The New York Times. Lily & Madeleine’s self-titled debut album, released in October, stands as a testament not only to the girls’ enormous talents, but also to those of their numerous Hoosier collaborators. The team includes: Mahern (producer and engineer), who had worked with Iggy Pop and John Mellencamp; Kenny Childers (co-songwriter), formerly a member of The Mysteries of Life, a local rock band that enjoyed a brush with major-label success; Stacy Newgent (album-cover photographer), who just used a vintage Polaroid camera and double-exposed the film; and Anthony DeCurtis (liner-notes writer), a Rolling Stone contributing editor who spent his formative years as a graduate student at IU. Lily & Madeleine perform at the Best of Indy Party on Dec. 5. Click here for tickets. Also: lilandmad.com.
5. Make a new holiday tradition.
BEST PLAYFUL CHOIR»
Don’t let the occasional bawdy humor fool you. The 60-odd fellows (mostly gay but taking all comers) of the Indianapolis Men’s Chorus are a cultivated group. Their Dec. 20 and 21 holiday shows at Marian University Theatre will be a far cry from blush-inducing productions like last season’s “Night at the Cabaret.” As for future shows? Boys will be boys. 317-855-8706, indychoruses.org.
6. Buy a knockout party dress.
BEST POCKET BOUTIQUE»
Shopping at the postage-stamp–sized Enza’s Boutique feels like perusing a chic executive’s walk-in closet. The entire store, nestled inside the businesslike downtown Chamber of Commerce building, is no more than eight steps long, but it’s packed with the makings of a polished, pulled-together wardrobe—elegant gowns, mod little jackets, courtroom-to-cocktail suits, flowy printed pants, knit tights. Favorite labels include Eva Franco (retro-cool frocks) and Byron Lars (Michelle Obama’s a fan). Don’t see your size? Don’t worry. Every single piece is custom-fitted and tailored, an amazing deal considering the price range of $200 to $400. 320 N. Meridian St., Ste. 109, 317-951-4085.
7. Book a reservation for your holiday guests.
BEST REINVENTED B&B
» 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.
8. Get a tan.
BEST 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.
9. Conquer cabin fever.
BEST NATURE TRAIL»
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.
10. Break new cultural ground.
BEST NEW THEATER»
If the Indiana New Works series at Butler University’s Schrott Center on Dec. 2 turns out half as well as the venue, it’s headed for an encore. The 450-seat, $15 million auditorium opened in April to rave reviews, thanks to its acoustics, sightlines, and a stage that’s larger than Clowes Hall’s. Of course, the theater’s real test will be intimate plays by writers such as Lou Harry, raising the curtain this month. 610 W. 46th St., 317-940-2787, butler.edu/schrott-center.
11. Jazz up your Colts game-day outfit.
BEST FAN FASHION»
Female fanwear has come a long way, baby! And quarterbacking the movement is Zionsville’s Lena Ward, wife of Colts COO Pete Ward. Her line, All Sport Couture, is licensed NFL apparel that’s body-con enough for Marie Claire magazine, which pictured model Hilary Rhoda showing her Steelers love in an All Sport hoodie in September. We’re partial to the true-blue stuff, of course—like the Colts “Franchise” metallic zip-up (with thumbholes) for $140. Available at allsportcouture.com and the Colts Pro Shop in Lucas Oil Stadium, 500 S. Capitol Ave., 317-262-2700, coltsproshop.com.
12. Work off the eggnog.
BEST BARGAIN GYM»
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.