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Insider Tips for What to do on the Free Night

Welcome to those of you jumping over here for the ACFW Conference blog tour! As a resident of the Indianapolis area, I’m excited to share some insider tips for how you can spend your free time here.

The conference schedule has three hours of free time built into Saturday evening. You may also plan to arrive early or late and want something to pass the time. Most of these activities are also family friendly, in case you’re bringing your spouse and kids.
For starters, if you’ve never been to Indianapolis, you shouldn’t come expecting a massive tourist destination like Orlando or NYC. But what you can expect is an easily navigated, clean city with plenty of fun options for entertainment.
Restaurant options abound, especially with the Hyatt connected to Circle Center Mall. Here’s a link to a comprehensive restaurant map. I could use up ten more blog posts giving you details of all the eateries, but for the sake of space, I encourage you to Google any of them that look appealing and check out their menus online.

Okay, on to activities. Those of you who love to shop started salivating after the mention of Circle Center Mall, didn’t you? It’s one of my favorite shopping destinations. If you want to make sure your favorite store is there, you can check out the mall directory here. Oh, and if you decide to eat at the mall food court, I highly recommend walking a few extra steps to the Arts Garden. It’s a glass-enclosed structure over the street that connects the mall to the Hyatt. They have benches and sometimes tables where you can enjoy your food in a more relaxing environment (and if you’re lucky, you’ll be entertained by a local musician).

If you’re looking for a unique spot to explore or just to sit and people watch, there are a couple great options. Monument Circle is at the heart of the city. There’s a Starbucks, Au Bon Pain, and South Bend Chocolate Company right there (as well as other restaurants nearby), and the monument steps provide a great place to enjoy your food while soaking in all sorts of potential story ideas.

My absolute favorite area of the city is White River State Park and the Canal Walk. The Canal Walk connects all the main museums of the city, as well as the Indianapolis Zoo. It’s a few blocks from the Hyatt but a great option if you’re looking to get some exercise, fresh air, or enjoy a quiet break. There are family bike rentals available, as well as paddle boat rentals and gondola rides. There aren’t many restaurants, so you’ll want to grab your food elsewhere before visiting.

If you’re visiting for an extra day or two, or if you have family looking for entertainment while you’re at conference, here’s a list of the main museums.
Along the Canal Walk:
Indianapolis Zoo (open daily) – A great zoo. Not too big and not too small.
Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art (open daily) – If the exhibits aren’t your speed, they do have a super yummy cafe that’s open for lunch (It has an outdoor balcony that overlooks the canal).
Indiana State Museum (closed Mon.) – May be of interest to history buffs wanting to learn more about Indiana. Also has some fun activities built into the exhibits for kids and has an IMAX theater.
NCAA Hall of Champions (closed Mon.) – I haven’t personally gone through it, but it looks like a fun stop for the sports enthusiast.
Museums that require a cab ride from the Hyatt:
Indianapolis Museum of Art (closed Mon.) – A nice collection made sweeter by the free price tag. My favorite part of the museum is the Lilly House and Gardens (has a similar feel to the Biltmore House, only smaller).
The Children’s Museum (closed Mon.) – One of the largest in the world. This is a must stop if you’re bringing your family.
The President Benjamin Harrison Home (open daily) – A historic home and museum with guided tours on the hour and half-hour. I haven’t visited, but it looks like a neat stop.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum (open daily) – I can’t list the museums in Indy without mentioning this one. But I must warn you, unless you’re really into cars and auto racing, you’ll probably be bored here. The only highlight might be taking a bus ride around the track.
So there you have it, my summary of Indy fun. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
Which free-time option sounds most appealing to you? Anything you’re looking forward to most about the conference?
To learn more about Sarah Forgrave and her writing, check out her website.
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