INDIANAPOLIS – Dubbed “Bubbleville” for hosting the 68-team NCAA Tournament during the pandemic, Indiana’s capital city is the epicenter of college hoops, attracting fans from all over the country.
With that excitement comes a responsibility and an opportunity to shine.
It’s a job made more difficult as some fans just simply won’t be able to buy tickets.
Total capacity is restricted to 22%, but that hasn’t stopped some Gonzaga fans from making the hoops journey to the Midwest, where they hope to get a live look when the top-ranked Bulldogs take on No. 5 seed Creighton during the Sweet 16 matchup on Sunday at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The tournament concludes next weekend at the Final Four at a different venue, the mammoth Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
Many figure the Bulldogs will go the distance and will be willing to stay for the duration.
If so, here are 16 sweet things to do and see in Indianapolis:
NCAA Hall of Champions: On the sizable campus of NCAA headquarters, the NCAA Hall of Champions is a museum full of fun, educational and interactive exhibits. Want to work on your jump shot on a classic, Indiana hardwood floor? You can do that. Throw a football at moving digital targets? You can do that, too. Filled with statues, kiosks and information centers, this is a college sports fan’s dream. Look closely and you’ll see former Whitworth cross country star and Gonzaga Prep graduate Kayla Leland’s name etched into the 2021 NCAA Top 10 Award portion of the Hall of Honor room. Scroll the football kiosk and you’ll see a reference to Eastern Washington’s 2010 NCAA national championship.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Indianapolis, the capital of the IndyCar racing world, is home of the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, home of the Indy 500. Its Indy Motor Speedway Museum is located in the middle of the oval, which includes exhibits, trophies, old and new Indy cars, a store and much more. Look for items including Indy Hall of Fame racer and Spokane native Tom Sneva, who won the 1983 race. His white Texaco-sponsored car – the first to break the 200 mph barrier at the famous track – is proudly displayed inside the museum.
Indianapolis Artsgarden: If you see a sizable glass dome in the middle of the city with NCAA Final Four signage, you’re at the Artsgarden, and in the middle of all the fun. There’s a mall, bars, restaurants, museums and more. The Artsgarden, spanning the bustling intersection of Washington and Illinois streets, is also close to comedy clubs and plenty of outdoor vendors to purchase NCAA Tournament swag.
Lucas Oil Stadium: Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck threw quite a few touchdowns at this massive downtown venue, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and next weekend’s NCAA Final Four. Conveniently located in the heart of Indianapolis, this brick, 1.8 million square-feet structure can be seen from miles away. In a normal year void of the coronavirus, it seats up to roughly 70,000 fans for basketball games, but just 22% of that capacity will be allowed this year.
The giant bracket: Bigger than top-ranked Gonzaga’s status at this NCAA Tournament is the spectacle dubbed “The Biggest Bracket in the World” on the back of a five-star JW Marriott hotel. Thousands of fans have entered the top of a neighboring parking garage to snap selfies with the bracket, a digital 800-piece installation that is 47,000 square feet with the above signage Indiana: Where Champions Are Crowned.”
Central Canal: Paddleboats and kayaks can be seen cutting through this scenic canal that runs through the city’s popular White River State Park, built in the 19th century. Visitors can rent these floating devices, and there’s an adjoining, 3-mile canal walk, each centrally located and close to popular shopping locations and restaurants.
Children’s Museum: While you might be going to Indy to watch a potential Gonzaga national championship run, the children might be indifferent toward all of March’s Madness. Fortunately, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – the largest children’s museum in the world – can keep the kiddos occupied and perhaps entertain a few adults. From dinosaur exhibits, science, toys and more, this is ranked among Indy’s best attractions, regardless of age.
Georgia Street: Bars. Restaurants. Culture. This three-block stretch of downtown Indy has it all, and runs adjacent to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and several NCAA Tournament games. College basketball fans are often enjoying this part of town while representing their favorite team at the watering holes and eateries. It’s a mixture of basketball-themed businesses and a European-inspired promenade gives it March Madness feel.
Indianapolis Zoo: When Gonzaga recently had free time between games and practice, the team reserved one of the city’s most popular attractions, the Indianapolis Zoo, where they pet stingrays and looked on tigers, giraffes, orangutans and much more. More than 3,800 animals and 32 species are at this zoo that includes a massive aquarium full of sea creatures.
Monument Circle: A circular, brick-paved area of downtown Indianapolis, the nearly 120-year-old landmark features the 284-foot tall State Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a tribute to lives lost during the Civil War. Several sculptures can be seen in the historic circle, many observing past leaders. Also check out the nearby Indiana War Memorial.
Hinkle Fieldhouse: Located on the campus of Butler University, this historic brick venue has hosted a portion of the NCAA Tournament, including Gonzaga’s games, and was deemed the largest basketball arena in the United States until 1950. It’s where the popular Indiana high school basketball movie “Hoosiers” was filmed. Hinkle is a mix of old and modern and is home of the Butler Bulldogs, a program that reached back-to-back NCAA Tournament championship games in 2010 and 2011 with a series of future NBA players and a current NBA coach in Boston Celtics leader Brad Stevens.
Indiana State Museum: Located near the NCAA Hall of Champions, Central Canal and Indianapolis Zoo, the state’s foremost museum has a variety of exhibits of the Hoosier State’s history, from cultural to geological and beyond.
Indiana Statehouse: One of downtown Indy’s most-visited gems is the Indiana Statehouse, which features a beautiful stained glass rotunda. This is one of the few remaining statehouses where all three branches of government operate. It was built in 1867.
Indianapolis Museum of Art: Among the 10 largest art museums in the United States, there are more than 54,000 works of art at this 152-acre location. If you love art and variety, this museum has it.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse: Former Gonzaga star Domantas Sabonis calls this arena home. The two-time NBA All-Star and his Indiana Pacers play their games at this 20,000-seat arena. He faces the Miami Heat on Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. Limited-capacity tickets are still available in the centrally located arena, which is also the home of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. Former Lewis and Clark High star Briann January played eight seasons with the Fever and was a one-time WNBA All-Star.
Eiteljorg Museum: Indianapolis loves its downtown museums. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art showcases several items of cultural significance, from everyday items to abstract art.
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