How to Fall in Love with Indianapolis in 3 Months

Photo courtesy of Indyfluence

As a kid, I always heard my grandparents talking about Indianapolis, the “big city that felt like a small town.” We lived just a short hour away in Muncie, so I visited Indy as a tourist more times than I could count. I saw Pacers games. I competed in the State Cheer Competition at Lucas Oil Stadium. And I even represented my county at the Indiana State Fair Queen Pageant in 2018!

Those experiences were amazing, but I thought that was everything the city had to offer. I still couldn’t understand why my grandparents loved Indianapolis. There’s no denying that Indy is big, but I just didn’t think it could compare to cities like New York or Chicago. My mind was set on getting out of here after graduation, and that meant getting an internship far from Indiana.

Then, the pandemic hit. When it came time for my last summer internship, COVID-19 was still spreading around the country. Out-of-state internships were slim to none, so I knew that Indy was my only chance. I’d interned in Indianapolis before, but I didn’t really allow myself to embrace the city back then. After all, I thought I’d be leaving the Hoosier state as soon as I could. But I knew this internship would be different. In fact, it had to be!

My internship connected me with Indianapolis.

I signed on to be a Creative Strategy Intern at INNOVATIVE—a creative marketing agency in Indianapolis. And I quickly learned that my main job for the summer was to help with the 2021 Indyfluence.

Indyfluence is a program designed to show interns why Indy is a great place to start their careers. All of the programming connects back to three main topics: Meet Indy, Learn from Indy, and Give Back to Indy. Altogether, those three pillars give interns a complete picture of what Indy is all about.

During my internship, I created content for the Indyfluence blog and social media. This put me in an interesting situation, trying to appeal to others around my age. Then, I was assigned a vlog series titled “Lexie’s Life in Indy.” The plan was to make five episodes featuring different things to do in the city. So, I needed to fully immerse myself in the Indy scene, experiencing as many things as I could!

Photo courtesy of Indyfluence

When May arrived, I didn’t hesitate to dive right in, brainstorming and researching all things Indianapolis. Like any modern researcher, I started my search on Google. I just typed in “things to do in Indy,” and the results quickly surprised me. In just one day, my blank document transformed into a full list of unexpected activities!

Already, my mindset about Indianapolis was changing, as I found new experiences just waiting to be discovered.

First Stop: I went to Drag Brunch at Baby’s.

For the first episode of Lexie’s Life in Indy, I went to a drag brunch at a local restaurant called Baby’s. I’d never experienced a drag show before, but Baby’s was great for first-time guests like me. I only knew one person there, but I genuinely felt like I was surrounded by people I’d known forever!

The performers were energetic and bold, creating an electric atmosphere throughout the restaurant. It was the kind of performance I thought only New York could offer. The energy was like nothing I’d ever seen before! But with delicious food, fast service, and welcoming people, I still felt right at home.

It was there that I started to feel Indianapolis’ small-town Hoosier hospitality—the kind my grandparents always talked about. The people attending the show were all friendly, and they made it a point to truly connect with me. Both literally and figuratively, I felt like I was their neighbor. And so, my view of Indy continued to change in the best way possible.

Photo courtesy of Indyfluence

Photo courtesy of Indyfluence

I ran the Indy Ultimate through downtown Indianapolis.

A week after attending drag brunch, I signed up for the Indy Ultimate, a 6-mile obstacle course through Indianapolis! It rained the entire night before the Ultimate, but luckily, the race was only delayed by an hour. When I arrived at the later start time, I thought there was no way there’d be a large crowd. However, Indy surprised me once again.

Hundreds of people gathered around, with genuine smiles as they waited to run the race. The music around Monument Circle sparked feelings of adrenaline and excitement, but the energy felt more like a high school gym, where you know everyone.

From the Circle, my best friend Stella and I ran all around downtown—including the Indiana War Memorial, Lucas Oil Stadium, and Victory Field. We had a blast, getting to explore some of Indy’s top destinations like never before. I even got to shoot a free throw at the Pacers training facility!

Stella was the only person I knew at the event, but everyone I met along the way cheered me on! The Indy Ultimate showed the best of Hoosier hospitality, and it didn’t stop there. As I continued to Meet Indy, I realized that Indianapolis’ warm and welcoming atmosphere was everywhere.

I discovered the best parts of life in Indy.

Over the next few weeks, I spent my time doing as many one-of-a-kind things in Indianapolis as I could! Somehow, I narrowed down my long list and even found ways to combine activities for some episodes.

One Friday night, I visited the Bottleworks District with my friends, where we got good food, good drinks, and a healthy appreciation for historic buildings. I went to the Canal Walk after work one day and received a number of “hello’s” during my walk. I marveled at the murals along the streets, admiring the creativity and diversity in the city. And I attended a concert on the Near Eastside that was part of the KickBack, a series to benefit local musicians.

Then, I went back to Victory Field to watch the Indianapolis Indians, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with the strangers sitting beside me in the outfield. I danced in Fountain Square at a concert at the HiFi. And my friends and I walked the streets of Broad Ripple on a Saturday night.

Slowly but surely, I was falling in love with Indianapolis. While I was out, I started spontaneously asking people about the city—asking “Why do you love Indy?” One of the best answers I heard was: “You’re never a phone call away from a true connection.” And they’re right! Throughout my internship, I saw again and again that Indianapolis is a city that goes beyond networking. People here care about connecting with you, no matter who you are.

I learned from Indianapolis’ business and community leaders.

In between my city adventures, I also attended some of Indyfluence’s virtual workshops, which featured successful professionals in the region. These workshops gave interns like me the chance to learn directly from Indy’s leaders, getting their advice for the future. I think every workshop I went to talked about how Indianapolis is a place where “everyone can have a seat at the table.” Regardless of age or experience, they said anyone could find their place here.

I’d been feeling that sense of community and belonging all across Indianapolis. But their message truly hit home when I hosted Indyfluence’s Doers and Changemakers Event. I’d never done anything like that before, but I had the opportunity to interview some of Indy’s coolest leaders during the event. They literally gave me a seat at the panel, and I was able to authentically connect with them. 

Photo courtesy of Indyfluence

During the event, the panelists talked about how Indianapolis gives opportunities to young professionals, helping them make an impact early on in their careers. As I interviewed them, I realized that I was living what they were describing. I was a young professional, making an impact before I’d even graduated college. Best of all, the panelists all truly cared about us, giving us advice that they were given years ago! How cool?

Hoosiers care about giving back to their community.

During my internship, another thing I kept hearing was that: “Giving back is part of Indy’s culture.” From mentorship to volunteerism, that mentality can be seen all across the city. Through Indyfluence, I also had the opportunity to sit in on some philanthropic workshops with leaders in Indy’s nonprofit community.

These philanthropists talked about the importance of “finding your why” and how Indy makes it easy for young people to support their causes and passions. As part of the program, the Indyfluence interns were given the opportunity to donate $14,000 to the charity of their choice. Together, we learned about four amazing nonprofit organizations in the city and made an impact through our donation!

Many people don’t have the chance to be part of something like this. I felt very fortunate, knowing that I helped do some good—and that I lived in a community that cares.

I realized that people make the city.

None of the things I just talked about would’ve been possible, if not for the wonderful people of Indianapolis. From the moment I started my internship, I kept hearing and seeing the phrase “People Make the City.” I distinctly remember reading that and skeptically wondering whether it was true.

But with each passing week, I witnessed firsthand how the people around me made a difference. After every activity or event, the community here made me realize what my grandparents meant. I finally understood that Indianapolis offered all of the big city excitement, while still feeling like home.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this summer made me fall in love with this city. Now, I love Indy. I love the people, the neighborhoods, the experiences. My time here was all I could have hoped for and more. For now, I’m going back to college, but Indyfluence helped me envision my life here in Indy. And I can’t wait to start living that life in the future!