Willie is a dad, a coach, and a track and field enthusiast. He serves as the Executive Director of AthLead Indy—a nonprofit that offers professional training for athletes who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Their mission is to enact change through the youth of Indianapolis, training kids ages 5–18 and providing coaching certifications for adults. In just two years, AthLead Indy has produced four National Champions and six All-Americans with a 100% high school graduation rate for their students.
Best of Indy: Top Things to Do in Lawrence Township
They say no one knows a city better than a local. After seven years living in Lawrence Township, I know my home inside and out. But as I sit down to write this article, I realize that it’s difficult to organize my thoughts. I’m not a writer, although I enjoy speaking and coaching. So, let’s make it simple and begin at the beginning.
My wife and I both attended the University of Indianapolis, and we lived on the southside of Indianapolis for nearly 10 years. But by 2016, we knew it was time to move. We explored countless neighborhoods, cities, and suburbs around Indianapolis, but we couldn’t decide where to go—until we found Lawrence Township.
Lawrence is a suburban community on the northeast side of Indianapolis, and when we first moved here, we were ecstatic. Lawrence gave us access to a wide variety of amenities we didn’t have before, including everything from hidden cafés and restaurants to local treasures visible in plain sight. But these amenities are more than just things to do. They also connect us with people we never would have met in our old neighborhood!
Lawrence Township’s greatest amenity is its diversity.
Lawrence is home to nearly 126,000 residents, and you can’t live here without immediately noticing the diversity in the area. Over 54% of our residents are female, 33% identify as Black, and 50% identify as white. You can drive from one end of the township to another and experience completely different neighborhoods, cultures, architecture, and people.
Our school system is also one of the most diverse in the region, as well as the 9th largest in Indiana. The schools in Lawrence Township are internationally recognized for their high levels of academic achievement and dual-language programming. They even have a curriculum specifically designed to help English-speaking students become bilingual in Spanish before middle school.
Together, this diversity creates a wonderful dynamic, where neighbors share both unique and relatable experiences. Being able to understand different cultures and people is essential to the development of any well-rounded person, and that’s one of the reasons my family decided Lawrence would be our forever home.
Hidden Gem: The Spanish Advantage Club is a female minority-owned business that teaches Spanish to kids as young as three years old. They offer pre-school, after-school care, summer camps, and spring break programming—all designed for dual-language education. As a dad of two kids, The Spanish Advantage Club is a huge help for busy parents in need of after-school care. They even handle transportation, after-school tutoring, homework help, and snacks.
Lawrence has some of Indy’s most diverse and delicious restaurants.
One of the best things about a diverse community is trying food from all around the world. Some of Indiana’s most delicious international restaurants can be found right here in Lawrence Township. All you need to do is drive down Pendleton Pike—the 8-mile stretch of Route 36 that runs right through town. There, you’ll find most of our commercial and retail locations, as well as a wide variety of authentic international comfort food.
If you want to try one of the best lunch specials in the city, head over to MaMa’s Korean Restaurant. MaMa’s offers a variety of Korean cuisine, such as spicy pork, short ribs, and barbecue beef. In fact, all of their specialty dinners are prepared right at your table, cooked fresh over an open flame. From bulgogi to kimchi, their authentic flavors will make you feel like you’ve been transported straight to Seoul.
The Mexican community in Lawrence is also a big part of our culinary scene. Their culture is greatly felt and appreciated here, which ties back to why we teach Spanish in our classrooms. One of my favorite things is going out to dinner with my daughter, knowing she can confidently order her meal in Spanish.
If you love Mexican food, I highly recommend taking the Taco Trail down Pendleton Pike. That small stretch of highway has 12 Mexican restaurants to choose from, so you can grab a bite no matter where you are on Pendleton. My go-to restaurant is Chile Verde. I love ordering the corn tortilla with carne asada, cilantro, onions, lime, and any of their house hot sauces.
Hidden Gem: The Heidelberg Haus is an internationally renowned café, and that’s not an overstatement. Over 200 newspaper articles have been written about this historic café since its founding in 1968! The Heidelberg Haus is home to some of the best German pastries in the United States—from cream cakes to danishes. You have to try their five-layer buttercream torte. Or if you’re looking for something more savory, you can stuff yourself with the German-style sandwiches and brats on their menu.
You can walk through history at Fort Harrison State Park.
If you’re local to Lawrence Township, you call Fort Harrison State Park by its nickname—Fort Ben or The Fort. This park was created by President Theodore Roosevelt back in 1906 in honor of President Benjamin Harrison. Harrison was a long-time Hoosier and Indianapolis resident, and you can still visit his family home to this day.
Fort Harrison State Park is arguably one of the most scenic state parks of Indiana. It’s a day-use only park, which means there’s no overnight camping available. But The Fort offers countless opportunities for residents interested in enjoying the outdoors. The park has six hiking trails, an 18-hole golf course, horseback riding, bike and in-line skating lanes, and fishing available to visitors. They also have some of the biggest sledding hills in the region—perfect for visiting in the winter months.
When it first opened, The Fort was also an active U.S. Army Post until 1991. Now, the area around the state park is almost entirely residential. But you can still visit the Museum of 20th Century Warfare to see the soldiers’ old uniforms, documents, and weapons. The museum is also known for having a 14-foot-long model of the USS Indianapolis—a Navy ship struck down during World War II.
Hidden Gem: Near the museum, you’ll find Porter Books and Bread nestled directly inside Fort Harrison State Park. It’s a great place to stop if you’re tired from a long day of walking or riding your bike. From their egg sandwiches to their fresh-brewed coffee, the food is delicious, and the café even has a library of books, games, and puzzles you can enjoy with your family.
Discover a vibrant art community in Lawrence.
If you want to get involved in the arts, there’s nowhere better than Arts for Lawrence. This organization is a nonprofit arts center located right near the entrance of Fort Harrison State Park. Arts for Lawrence uses the arts to connect and inspire our community, bringing a diverse blend of performances to the stage. Their events encourage young people to explore drama, music, dance, storytelling, and more.
In 2021, Arts for Lawrence also established The Fort Ben Cultural Campus with a variety of amenities, theater spaces, and public art installations. The campus was once used as an active military base for non-combat training needs. But now, it’s a place for residents to engage in the arts.
At the Cultural Campus, visitors can enjoy a gallery with monthly exhibitions, a ceramics studio with classes for all ages, and a classroom space for other art mediums like painting, digital art, and needle felting. The Theater at the Fort also hosts movie screenings, musicals, and plays. As a proud dad of a drama kid, I can confidently say that The Theater is a great place for young artists, musicians, and thespians alike. The entire campus is a fantastic place to bring your family and explore nearly 120 years of art and history.
Hidden Gem: There are many artistic amenities and organizations at the Fort Ben Cultural Campus, including the headquarters of the Heartland Film Festival. But one of the most interesting attractions is the Musical Swings. Designed by Daily Tous Les Jours in Montreal, the Musical Swings are a new, permanent art installation on the campus. Each swing is color-coded and tuned to a musical chime. So, when all of them swing at the same time, they create a beautiful melody for all to enjoy.
Lawrence Township is more than just a cultural destination—it’s our home.
Together, all of these amenities and hidden gems make Lawrence a popular destination for Indy residents and visitors alike. But after living here for seven years, let me tell you: the greatest amenity in Lawrence Township is our people. Our community encourages diversity, creativity, and wonderful experiences for our residents.
I see that culture in action every day at AthLead Indy, where I serve as both the Executive Director and a coach. AthLead Indy is a nonprofit organization that helps young people get involved in track and field. We mentor and coach our athletes on the importance of mental health and help provide training to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
AthLead Indy is an organization that focuses on people first, and that’s why we thrive in Lawrence Township. I wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of support we found here in Lawrence. After all, it’s that culture of community that drew my family here from the southside of Indianapolis.
So, next time you’re in the area, explore all the amenities that make our home unique. Take pictures of our historic landmarks and art installations. Meditate and find peace as you walk the trails in our state park. Fill your stomach with food made by people who love their city—and take part in the culture that is Lawrence Township, Indiana.