Archive for the ‘Indy’ Category

Winterlights at Newfields Opens Nov. 18 @newfieldstoday

September 20, 2018 Leave a comment

Part of the beautiful Winterlights Holiday Light Show at Newfields last year. staff photo, (c) 2017, all rights reserved.

By Mattie Lindner

Following a tremendously successful first season, Winterlights returns this holiday season from Nov. 18, 2018 through Jan. 6, 2019 at Newfields, 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis, Indiana.

This year’s curated outdoor lights experience is presented by Bank of America and features more than 1.5 million lights shinning upon you and your guests, a new Wintermarket and a transformed finale.

Last year, Winterlights debuted in The Garden at Newfields and welcomed nearly 70,000 guests to experience the magic of the season, thousands of whom were first time visitors.

More than 40 couples got engaged, creating a lifetime of memories and traditions for new families during Winterlights. Because of its commitment to the community, Bank of America is thrilled to help bring Winterlights to life this year.

“Newfields provides a spectacular lights display and venue for families and friends to explore and celebrate the magic of the holiday season,” said Andy Crask, Indianapolis Market President, Bank of America. “Bank of America recognizes that the Winterlights experience is a wonderful opportunity to not only shine a light on Indianapolis but also to help support cultural experiences that have a positive impact on our community.”

New this year, guests are invited to start and end their Winterlights journey inside a glowing Wintermarket, a toasty place for a treat and the first stop for a warm cup of hot chocolate or apple cider—with spiked options available for adults.

Inside the market, local artisans like Goose the Market, Gallery Pastry Shop and Sun King Brewing Co. will be selling popular food and beverage options, as well as unique holiday gifts and goodies for everyone on your list.

Guests can also purchase this year’s exclusive brew crafted by Sun King Brewing Co. and only available for purchase at Winterlights. Love the taste? Take home a two-pack gift set in the Wintermarket on your way out.

Before heading to the lights, stop for a group photo in front of the giant towering poinsettia tree.

For the main attraction, guests of Winterlights will once again explore The Garden at Newfields and stroll beneath 80 foot-tall trees glowing to the tips of each tiny branch. With the addition of 300,000 more lights, this year’s display features more than 1.5 million glowing lights.

The outdoor journey begins with Snowflake Bridge, where glistening handcrafted snowflakes illuminate the sky above and music draws guests across the historic span.

The Landscape of Light returns in front of the grand Lilly family mansion, where over 300,000 lights dance in many different colors to the Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

Guests are then welcomed inside the front door of the Lilly House to discover this year’s theme of sophisticated handcrafted design inspired by Mr. Lilly’s famed book collection.

The library will bring the magic inside with a dramatic display filled with hundreds of glowing LED candles. Other rooms in the home will be transformed by unexpected holiday installations like handmade origami butterflies soaring from the piano and a giant paperchain chandelier flowing onto the dining room table.

As guests continue their stroll through The Garden, the bright vibrant colors of the Whimsical Terrace will draw in visitors of all ages. Karl Unnasch’s whimsical 50-foot-tall tree of toys, Playtime in Indy, returns to The Garden and the toys will once be donated to families in need this season.

Warm your hands over wood burning fires, while listening to holiday music and making your own s’more provided by local Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. Last year, the Girl Scouts raised over $25,000 that helped send 160 girls to summer camp, who otherwise could not have attended.

To delight guests as they exit the experience, a new finale has been added to this year’s Winterlights. The Ice Storm Walk, will immerse guests into a whirling blizzard of light. A digital snowstorm will descend over you along a 400-foot promenade, enhanced by dramatic music and sound of winter. Along the path, guests will pass through the Ice Cave, a tunnel of light featuring more than 30,000 lights.

“We are thrilled that the community accepted our invitation to Winterlights last year, and made it part of their holiday celebration,” said Jonathan Wright, The Ruth Lilly Deputy Director for Horticulture and Natural Resources. “In hopes of delighting everyone again this season, the Newfields team has enhanced this year’s display with hand-crafted design and more lights to surprise guests around every turn.”

Due to enthusiastic crowds and sold out evenings, new ticket times have been added to expand capacity. This season, tickets will be available every half hour beginning at 5:00 p.m. with the experience concluding at 9:00 p.m.

Save 20 percent by purchasing your tickets online at beginning Oct. 1. This year, guests can purchase a premium ticket, which includes 3-D holographic glasses that bring Winterlights to life, a complimentary drink ticket and a pass for BOGO general admission January 8–Valentine’s Day weekend. A deal you don’t want to miss.

Newfields members receive additional discounts and exclusive access to Winterlights at the member preview evenings on Nov. 16 and 17 for just $10. During Winterlights, the Access Pass is still available for $2 per qualified family member.

Find the perfect gift for everyone on your list at Newfields this holiday season. Give the gift of Winterlights to your family and friends with our new gift tickets, featuring large group orders of Winterlights tickets (minimum order of 15). Don’t miss Newfields’ annual Holiday Hullabaloo shopping event on Dec. 6, featuring trunk shows in The Museum & Garden Shop. Members receive a 20 percent discount all day long. Or, give the gift of Newfields all year long with an annual membership, which offers free general admission, discounts on programs, invitations to exclusive preview events and more.

During the run of Winterlights, The Garden, The Café and IMA Galleries at Newfields will close at 4 p.m. daily.

Seasonal music made possible by the generous support of Marianne Williams Tobias. Lead support for Winterlights is provided in part by JPMorgan Chase & Co., Klipsch Group, Inc., The Hagerman Group and RJE Business Interiors. Additional support provided by Marian Inc., Ann W. King, and Sycamore Advisors, LLC. In-kind support provided by Sunbelt Rentals, Celadon Trucking Services, Tway Lifting Products, and Airworx Construction Equipment.

* Winterlights will be open Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Want to be a part of the magic this holiday season?
Last year, volunteers donated over 4,000 hours to help bring Winterlights to life. Volunteer opportunities are available for individuals and large groups. Email if interested.


Quest for the West Art Show and Sale at the Eiteljorg Museum @eiteljorgmuseum

August 26, 2018 Leave a comment

“The Pathfinder” by Mark Maggiori.
Image provided by the Eiteljorg Museum and used with written permission.

By Bryan Corbin
Eiteljorg Museum

The Western art community will converge on downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, Sept. 7-8, 2018, when one of the top Western art sales in America, the annual Quest for the West® Art Show and Sale, returns to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, 500 West Washington Street in White River State Park.

The 13th annual Quest for the West® will attract art collectors from across the nation for the opportunity to meet important artists in the Western genre and purchase their work, including drawings, paintings and sculptures.

“Considered one of the leading Western art shows for the quality of the art, exceptional hospitality and engaging setting in the beautiful Eiteljorg building, Quest for the West® has generated more than $12 million in art sales since its inaugural year in 2006,” Eiteljorg Museum President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “Quest has helped bring the Eiteljorg to national prominence, and we are pleased to be able to share this beautiful art with collectors and the public.”

At Quest, 50 artists will show approximately 200 recent works not exhibited previously. Returning artists from across the U.S. include longtime participants Robert Griffing, Michael Dudash, Gladys Roldan-de-Moras, Heide Presse, P.A. Nisbet and Logan Maxwell Hagege.

Four artists joining Quest this year include Brent Cotton, Donna Howell-Sickles, Terri Kelly Moyers and Mark Kelso, an Indiana artist. Collectors attending the Quest gala the evening of Saturday, Sept. 8, can meet the artists and bid on art in a “luck-of-the-draw” sale that opens and closes with the sound of a bugle.

After the sale weekend, the gallery of Quest art works then will open to the public Sunday, Sept. 9, and remain on exhibit at the Eiteljorg for another four weeks, giving museum visitors the opportunity to see world-class art. Pieces not sold during opening weekend will remain available for purchase until the exhibit closes Oct. 7.

Opening weekend registrants this year will enjoy a lunch and tour at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site in Indianapolis on Friday, Sept. 7, followed by a Friday evening reception at the Eiteljorg and the opening of a special exhibition featuring art of the 2017 Quest Artist of Distinction, Howard Post.

Back by popular demand, a Quest Miniature Art Sale will take place Friday night, Sept. 7. Many of the Quest artists created at least one smaller work of art for the miniature sale, to appeal both to experienced collectors and new collectors seeking a piece that is more affordable. Unlike in the main Quest show the following evening, purchasers of the smaller art works Sept. 7 can take their new acquisitions with them that night.

Also Friday night, Sept. 7, will be a reception honoring Howard Post, the 2017 Quest for the West® Artist of Distinction. For more than 40 years, Post has captured his distinctive vision of the West in paint, creating what he refers to as “ranchscapes.” A special exhibition of his work,Western Perspectives: The Art of Howard Post, will feature 18 of these works from the past two decades of Post’s career. From rugged mountains to dusty cowboys to resting horses to complex corrals, his paintings highlight the interconnectedness of land, animals and people in the American West. They also explore and delight in more abstract concepts such as light, line and color. The Post exhibition is open to the public from Sept. 8 to Nov. 25 in the Gerald and Dorit Paul Gallery at the Eiteljorg.

Reservations to the Quest sale weekend events Sept. 7-8 are $300 per person or $500 per couple for museum members (or $350 and $500 for non-members). The Saturday, Sept. 8, Quest gala dinner at the museum features fine dining by Kahn’s Catering. For those attending the Friday, Sept. 7, miniature art sale only, reservations are $75 per person and $125 per couple. To register for Quest events, contact Kay Hinds at 317.275.1341 or Absentee buyers also can register for $150 and bid on art works. Preview the art works and find complete information on Quest for the West® at

After the sale weekend events conclude, the Quest for the West® art exhibit featuring all the Quest art works will open to the public on Sunday, Sept. 9, and be on view through Oct. 7; the exhibit is included with regular Eiteljorg admission. A full-color catalog of Quest art will be available starting Sept. 7 in the Frank and Katrina Basile Museum Store.

The 13th annual Quest for the West ® Art Show and Sale is presented by Cardinal Contracting and the Western Art Society and is sponsored by Ice Miller LLP.

“Sensual/Sexual/Social” Exhibit opens Sept. 30 at Newfields @newfieldstoday

August 24, 2018 Leave a comment

Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. staff photo, (c) 2016, all rights reserved.

By Mattie Lindner

Explore the artistic legacy of renowned American photographer George Platt Lynes through this exhibition of photographs from the collection of the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University. Sensual/Sexual/Social: The Photography of George Platt Lynes runs from September 30 through February 24, 2019 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, 4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Lynes’ visionary work catapulted him to notoriety as a New York-based commercial fashion and ballet photographer, but he drifted from the spotlight when it was revealed that he also photographed male nudes. Lynes also turned his lens on his social circle, many of the artistic and literary minds of the mid-20th century, who accepted him as a gay man during a period of harsh anti-LGBT oppression in America.

“This timely exhibition explores the life of an artist who was marginalized by society for being gay and places him where he should be, at the forefront of the history of photography, alongside his more famous peers,” said Dr. Charles L. Venable, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO. “We at Newfields are passionately driven by efforts like this that add context and depth to art and the world we live in today.”

George Platt Lynes (1907-1955) grew up in New Jersey and attended boarding school in western Massachusetts where he first met Lincoln Kirstein, who later co-founded the New York City Ballet. In the early 1920s, Lynes traveled to Paris where he connected with members of the Parisian avant-garde, including the couple Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, who welcomed him into their social circle. During this time Lynes started to photograph his new friends and their shared life experiences.

After returning to the United States in the late 1920s, Lynes inherited a friend’s photographic equipment, which inspired him to spend more time photographing. Many important figures in the art world, several of whom were his close friends, agreed to sit for portraits including artists Paul Cadmus, Pavel Tchelitchew and Marc Chagall.

In 1935, Lynes became the first photographer for the American Ballet, later renamed the New York City Ballet, and remained their primary photographer for 20 years. The photographs that resulted from the personal and professional relationship between Lynes and Lincoln Kirstein are considered some of the finest ballet photographs ever made. Lynes was passionate about beauty and refinement and proved to be incredibly skillful at documenting dancers’ bodies in light and space.

The following year, Lynes was invited to participate in the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, Fantastic Art, Dada, and Surrealism. His surrealist photograph, The Sleepwalker, was exhibited alongside his peers and fellow modern masters, such as Salvador Dali, Max Ernst and René Magritte.

Lynes was a rising star in New York City’s photography scene, celebrated for both his fine art and commercial work. He photographed for renowned fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and created ad campaigns for Barneys and Henri Bendel. As a Vogue photographer, Lynes had the opportunity to create portraits of numerous writers and performers, including author/entertainer Kay Thompson (creator of the Eloise children’s books) and playwright Tennessee Williams.

During a time of restricted societal norms and repression of homosexuality, Lynes and his gay friends created a tight-knit community where they could express themselves. Support from this community allowed Lynes to explore his interest in the male nude as a photographic subject, something that was considered radical, as the female body was generally the only acceptable subject in the nude at this time. When Lynes began photographing nudes in the 1930s, he understood how the male form had historically been represented in fine art. His interest in Greek classical representations of the male body grounded these photographs and presented the male form as beautiful and desirable.

Lynes was fully aware of the personal risk he took during this time and took measures to protect the identity of his subjects and body of work. Outside of the relative safety of his social circle in New York City, the country was not a safe place to live life as a gay man or to be a male nude model. Lynes and the men who modeled for him took considerable risks to produce these photographs during a period when those who engaged in perceived gay activities, like male nude photography, risked imprisonment and rejection from mainstream society.

In the late 1940s, Dr. Alfred Kinsey was working on his 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana. Kinsey was in the process of building his research institute and its art collection and wanted examples of the male nude, particularly photographs that illuminated gay lifestyles. It was Lynes’ nuanced photographs of the male form that brought the artist and Kinsey together. Kinsey was a crucial supporter of Lynes and the two men coordinated the donation of many of Lynes’ photographs and negatives to the Kinsey Institute.

The simple act of sending the photographs and negatives to Indiana from New York City was extremely risky. At this time, the law prohibited sending materials deemed obscene through the United States Postal Service. Kinsey and Lynes took extreme measures to ensure that his male nude photographs in particular were not transferred through the USPS by arranging numerous cross-country trips. The transfer of photographs to Indiana was successful and Lynes’ legacy and work has been preserved at the Kinsey Institute for nearly 70 years.

“We are excited to be working with an esteemed institution like Newfields to share the work of this wonderful artist, George Platt Lynes,” said Sue Carter, Kinsey Institute Director. “The Kinsey Institute Special Collections preserve art and artifacts that document the richness and variation of human sexual expression and relationships. Collaborations like this allow us to bring wider visibility to those artistic voices and life experiences that might otherwise be lost to history.”

In the exhibition guests are invited to explore Lynes’ personal and professional life through a multi-layered timeline. Midway through the experience, guests can learn about the large format printing process by viewing a 200 sq. ft. studio recreation, play a photo negative game, watch a step-by-step video and touch vintage darkroom tools. Guests will also have the opportunity to listen to a narration of the letters Alfred Kinsey and George Platt Lynes exchanged and craft their own letter using a typewriter.

Sensual/Sexual/Social: The Photography of George Platt Lynes is curated by Rebecca Fasman, of the Kinsey Institute, and Robin Lawrence and Anne M. Young of Newfields. Prior to Newfields, Young was the photographic archivist at the Kinsey Institute and worked on digitizing and condition reporting their collection of more than 2,300 George Platt Lynes vintage negatives.

Don’t miss the Opening Celebration of Sensual/Sexual/Social: The Photography of George Platt Lynes on September 27 at 7 p.m. The evening begins with Indianapolis Ballet performing George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, followed by an exclusive viewing of the exhibition. On September 28 and 29, Newfields members can see the exhibition first at the Member-Only Preview. At the Members-Only Talk on October 14, members can connect with the exhibition curators Robin Lawrence and Anne M. Young as they share in-depth stories about Lynes’ life and experiences as a commercial and fine art photographer in mid-century New York City.

Sensual/Sexual/Social: The Photography of George Platt Lynes is on view in the Allen Whitehill Clowes Special Exhibition Gallery from September 30, 2018 through February 24, 2019.

Organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields and the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Framing support for this exhibition is provided by The Great Frame Up. Studio photography equipment is provided by Roberts Camera.

6th Sun King CANvitational, Sept. 8, 2018 @sunkingbrewing @georgiastindy

July 27, 2018 Leave a comment
By Jessica Redden
On behalf of Sun King CANvitational
The Midwest’s largest canned craft beer festival is back! The 6th annual Sun King CANvitational will return to downtown Indianapolis on Sept. 8, 2018.
Located on the west block of Georgia Street, known for Super Bowl XLVI festivities and the famed Pan Am Plaza, this year’s CANvitational will showcase more than 55 craft breweries from across America that can their beers.
Award-winning breweries will offer samples of craft beer, and patrons can enjoy local food trucks and music, all in an urban downtown atmosphere. All proceeds from the event will benefit six central Indiana not-for-profits.
“For our 6th year hosting the Sun King CANvitational, six central Indiana charities will benefit from the festival proceeds,” said Sun King Brewery co-founder and head brewer Dave Colt.
“Sun King has invited over 55 can craft beer friends from near and far to join us in celebration, and we are excited to announce this year’s CANlaboration is with Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Mich. Founders has been instrumental in the craft beer movement and our CANlaboration will be released during CANvitational.”
Sun King Brewing Company is the brainchild of Dave Colt and Clay Robinson. With the help of family and friends, the first keg of Sun King beer rolled out the door for delivery in July 2009.
Now available on tap and in cans at hundreds of locations statewide, Sun King has grown into a leader in the craft brewing movement in Indiana.
Sun King’s brewers handcraft flagship, seasonal and specialty beers that have been rewarded with multiple medals at the Indiana Brewers Cup, the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup competitions, and the brewery donates to hundreds of community organizations throughout Indiana.
Sun King has three locations: A downtown Indianapolis brewery and tasting room; a small batch brewery and tasting room in Fishers; and Sun King Spirits, a distillery in Carmel that opened in July 2018.
Downtown Indianapolis on the west block of Georgia Street
Saturday, September 8 from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Tickets are on sale now and available at all Sun King locations (135 N. College Ave., downtown Indianapolis; 7848 E. 96th St., Fishers; 351 Monon Blvd, Carmel) or at A sampling glass and event tasting notebook will be provided to each ticket holder.
Facebook: @Canvitational
Facebook: @SunKingBrewing
Twitter: @canvitational
Twitter: @SunKingBrewing
Instagram: @SunKingBrewing
For tickets and a list of participating breweries, visit or

Tips for Long-Distance Travel on @Amtrak

May 15, 2018 2 comments

Engine 182 leading Amtrak’s Hoosier State 851 at historic Union Station in Indianapolis, IN.

Printable length: Seven pages and 3,400 words. #Amtrak #AmtrakAdventure

Is there a long distance cross country Amtrak® trip in your future that covers two or three days—such as the California Zephyr®, Coast Starlight®, Empire Builder®, Southwest Chief®, Sunset Limited®, City of New Orleans®, or the Texas Eagle® (among others)? 

Then here’s a checklist of things to consider when packing (in addition to your clothes, of course) that I hope you will find useful. 

This list summarizes what I’ve gleaned from watching countless YouTube videos and reading numerous TripAdvisor, Pinterest, and posts that I researched while planning my very first trip on Amtrak later this month (May 2018).

I’m writing from the point-of-view of a male passenger who is 67, retired, and on a fixed income. Make adjustments for your own situation as necessary. Here is my itinerary with reserved seating in coach: 

  1. Five hours and 196 miles in coach on the Amtrak Hoosier State® 851 from Union Station in Indianapolis, Indiana to Union Station in Chicago, Illinois. Then:
  2. Three days, 51+ hours (assuming on time arrival), 2,438 miles in coach — through seven states — on the California Zephyr 5 Superliner from Chicago to Emeryville, California (near Oakland in the Bay Area), with 33 stops in between including Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno, and Sacramento, among others. Then:
  3. I’m going to do it in reverse a week later on the California Zephyr 6 and the Hoosier State 850. Onboard totals: 6 days over a 9-day period, 113 hours, 5,268 miles! Wish me luck!
  4. I paid $33 each way on the Hoosier State, $137 each way on the California Zephyr, for a total of $340. I made my reservations 114 days before my travel date. Reserve as far in advance as possible for the lowest fares.

I’m not in a particular hurry westbound, so even if the train is 10-20 hours late at its final destination, I’ll still be on time for a ticketed event I’m attending in Oakland that is 28 hours after scheduled arrival in Emeryville. I built an extra day into my travel plans just in case. 

But eastbound there’s not much wiggle room for a late train: scheduled arrival in Chicago is 2:50 pm with a same-day connection to Indianapolis at 5:45 pm. So I’ve got my fingers crossed for good luck and smooth sailing on that day!


The waiting room at historic Union Station in Indianapolis (dating back to 1853 before the Civil War, it’s the oldest Union Station in the world).

I’ve done my best to research this trip and do my homework in advance. I’ve worked on this blog post for nearly four months. Here’s what I have found.


  • If Amtrak emailed your tickets, as they did mine, the email contains a QR code that the conductor can quickly scan directly from your smartphone before you board the train. But TAKE PRINTED TICKET RESERVATIONS if for any reason you can’t access them on your smartphone at the boarding point. NO TICKET? NO BOARDING! A word to the wise!
  • Smartphone and charger–of course!
  • Computer: laptop, tablet, Kindle, etc.
  • Download to your computer or smartphone any apps or documents or files you need before you get on the train. Many long-distance Amtrak trains do not have wi-fi service, including all the ones mentioned above (except the Hoosier State). Even if your route offers it, Amtrak wi-fi does not support high-bandwidth usage such as streaming music, streaming video, or downloading large files. See Amtrak Wi-Fi Information.
  • Take some Cash, $1 and $5 bills. You’ll need it to buy food items on the train, and it is appropriate to tip Amtrak employees for their good service. There’s a discussion about tipping near the end of this blog post in the “Comments” section.
  • Snacks that do not require refrigeration (peanuts, raisins, energy bars, maybe a PB&J sandwich or two, Little Debbie or Hostess snacks, Pringles, chocolate, candy bars, beef jerky, etc.). I’m sure you have your own personal favorites.
    • If you have a berth in a sleeping car, all meals in the Dining Car are included in the ticket price on the California Zephyr.
    • But if you are seated in coach, you will pay the published menu price in the Dining Car for sit-down, plated meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner selections) or in the Lounge Car for short-order and carry-out type items (sandwiches, pizza, snacks, beverages, etc.).
    • It appears that three squares in the Dining Car–breakfast, lunch, and dinner–could easily cost a coach passenger $50-$75 a day, plus gratuities. See Amtrak Meals and Dining.
    • Even if I were to spend $75 a day on meals on the train (which I won’t), it’s still way less expensive for a coach seat with pay-as-you-go food purchases compared to a roomette with meals included—at least based upon the ticket prices I was offered for a roomette on Amtrak’s Web site when I tried to upgrade 21 days after my original reservations ($1,908 round trip vs. $340 coach). All things considered, I think I’ll munch on my snacks in coach, drink my water, and maybe get some hot food from the Lounge Car.
    • By the way, Amtrak accepts major credit cards for meal and food purchases: VISA, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and debit cards featuring a credit card logo.
  • Two liters of water per day. Why? Because that’s what my doctor told me to do. I’m taking four liters of Wal-Mart’s Clear American water because that’s my favorite: no sugar, no sodium, no calories, no carbs, but still tastes great. I’d take six but there’s not enough room in my baggage.
    • Four one-liter bottles fit nicely into one of my 14x11x7” carry-on bags with room for my snacks. Then I’ll use some packets of Crystal Light lemonade mix to refill the empty bottles on the third day.
    • An Amtrak customer service representative in Indianapolis told me that the sink water in the restrooms is drinkable (but not cold).
  • Camera plus any lenses, spare batteries, charger, and memory cards. There are lots of great photo opportunities on the train, both inside and out. Smartphone photos and videos are OK these days, but I consider a quality digital camera with HD video capability to be a mandatory item on a trip of this length and nature. By the way, this trip is tailor-made for GoPro and other video enthusiasts!
  • Battery chargers needed for any other digital devices. I’m taking a Jackery Giant, which will charge two devices at the same time (and also has a small flashlight built in).
  • Ear buds for your smartphone, tablet, DVD player, or laptop. Respect your fellow passengers and keep the sounds to yourself.
  • Ear plugs and/or ear muffs for peace and quiet, and/or at sleep time. Here’s an ear muffs suggestion.
  • Travel blanket and pillow. Several bloggers say that it’s cold on the train. You will appreciate a blanket in coach, especially at night–and might just be the envy of those who did not bring one. Suggestions:
    Travel blanket/pillow combo.
    Travel Pillow Cover.
    Or pick up an Amtrak Passenger Comfort Kit for $10 available in the Lounge or Cafe Car on board. It includes an inflatable pillow, ear plugs, blanket, and eye shade in a keepsake tote.
  • Sleep mask. Here’s a suggestion for a sleep mask. I don’t know if it will help me sleep, but I’m taking one and will at least give it a try.
  • Duct Tape. A small roll of duct tape may come in handy if your luggage or clothing or shoes come apart, or for minor repairs on board.
  • Binder Clips. A handful of binder clips are good for holding curtains together, keeping paperwork from scattering, securing food packaging that has been opened but only partially consumed, etc.
  • Cable cuffs are perfect for securing items you don’t want to lose; also good for organizing power and extension cords, etc. I fasten my key chain to one of the belt loops on my jeans with a cable cuff so my keys don’t accidentally fall out of my pocket. Cable cuffs are available in several sizes at Home Depot in the electrical aisle.
  • Perhaps a small first aid kit (although I’ve read that first aid kits are available in all Amtrak cars).
  • Pocket flashlight (sure, I know your smartphone has a flashlight, but a little one that fits on your key chain will come in handy after lights out, especially in coach).
  • Shoes are required to be worn in all cars on the train when you leave your seat or sleeper berth. Several bloggers have suggested taking flip flops for use in the showers (coach passengers do not have access to a shower).
  • Six-foot extension cord. There are only two power outlets in each row in coach. If you have a passenger in the seat next to you, the extension cord will come in handy. It’s a nice gesture if the passenger has the aisle seat, and you’ll be glad you have the extension cord if you have the aisle seat.
  • Multi-outlet power strip (especially if you have more than one digital item to charge. For example, you could easily charge a smartphone, laptop, and camera battery simultaneously, or share the outlets with your fellow passenger.)
  • Multi-outlet USB charger (might be a good alternative to the power strip, depending on your needs).
  • A three-prong adapter, just in case.
  • A couple of hand towels and wash cloths (and take a Ziploc bag for the wet cloths). An Amtrak customer service representative in Indianapolis told me that coach passengers do NOT have access to a shower. So I’ll use my wash cloths, soap, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes for hygiene and cleanliness during the trip.
  • Empty 13-gallon trash bag for dirty clothes.
  • TSA approved luggage locks for all your bags.
  • Books or other reading materials.
  • Playing cards (if you are traveling with kids, think through what else you may need to keep them amused).
  • Sunglasses.
  • A small cooler if you need to keep anything cold (may be substituted for one of your small 14x11x7” carry-on items).
  • For females, feminine hygiene items as needed.

Toiletries Organizer:

  • My organizer holds all the items mentioned below and fits easily into one of my large suitcases with my clothes. Your needs may vary, but these are some items you may want to include in your organizer, based upon suggestions I’ve read online (some of these are little comfort items that are easy to forget but can come in handy):
    • Any medicines or prescriptions you use. If you have a pill box, put it inside a large Ziploc bag so the box doesn’t pop open causing pills to spread all through your luggage! Remember you have no access to checked luggage enroute, so keep your meds in one of your carry-ons.
    • Hair dryer, comb, brush.
    • Shaving kit.
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
    • Deodorant.
    • Travel-size Kleenex and/or handkerchiefs.
    • Wet wipes (you will find these very useful on board, I’m told).
    • Travel-size hand sanitizer.
    • Chap Stick (it can get dry on the train, I’ve read)
    • Soap.
    • Travel-size shampoo.
    • Travel-size mouthwash.
    • Antacid.
    • Powder.
    • Air freshener. I don’t know how Amtrak feels about this. Ask your Amtrak attendant before you open or use such an item on board.


I found all the travel and snack items mentioned in this blog post at my local Wal-Mart. They have small travel-size items in an aisle near the pharmacy for around $1.00 each (soap, shampoo, shaving cream, wet wipes, tissues, mouthwash, toothpaste, simple first aid kit, deodorant, air freshener, hand sanitizer, etc.).

Wal-Mart also has a travel section in the aisle where they sell suitcases. It has travel blankets and pillows, pillow cases, luggage tags, TSA approved luggage locks (combination or key), travel organizers, sleep masks, some small travel items, etc. $1-$10 price range per item.

Amtrak’s Very Generous Per Person Baggage Allowance:

  1. You can take two big bags up to 28x22x14 inches and 50 pounds each that can be checked through to your destination or placed in the baggage compartment in your car, plus:
  2. Two carry-on items up to 14x11x7 inches and 25 pounds each that you can take to your seat.
  3. There are no baggage fees unless you go over this allowance!
  4. If you have a roomette or sleeping berth, it appears to be a good idea to check your two big bags. It doesn’t look like there is enough space for them in your room.
  5. You cannot access checked bags while enroute. They are in a separate baggage car that passengers cannot access.
  6. You CAN access your big bags in the luggage rack in your coach car or sleeping car to retrieve changes of clothing, etc. (according to my Amtrak contact at the Indianapolis station).

Here’s what I found: My two big bags are smaller than Amtrak’s max size. Still, everything mentioned on my checklist above fits into my four bags (except the cooler and feminine hygiene items, which I did not need), and I still have room for more. I’ve done a dry run; I’ve got about 80 pounds total in all four bags (30-30-10-10), nowhere near Amtrak’s weight limit.


Tipping. I found this information by Jim Loomis on 

As a basic rule of thumb, and assuming courteous, friendly service throughout the trip, I suggest tipping the car attendant no less than $5.00 per passenger per night. In other words, for two people on a two-night trip, whether in a roomette or a bedroom, an appropriate tip would be $20.
Tip the dining car crew the same way you would tip in any restaurant: start with 15% of the menu prices and go up or down from there depending on the quality of the service.
One other thing: some dining car crews pool their tips and others do not. I‘ve developed the habit of asking at my first dining car meal on any Amtrak trip. If the crew pools its tips – and the best crews usually do – I will sometimes give the Lead Service Attendant $20-$30 at the conclusion of my final meal on that trip. Otherwise, I’ll tip after each meal according to the quality of the service.

There’s a wealth of information about Amtrak on their Web site. Look through and to research their site for more information (taking bicycles, musical instruments, skis, weapons, pets, special items, handicap accessibility, and lots more). And for the most comprehensive guide, download the 138-page PDF of the Amtrak System Timetable.

For information about historic Union Station in Indianapolis mentioned in this blog post, listed on the National Register of Historic Places (a pre-Civil War structure dating back to 1853, the oldest Union Station in the world!), visit:

For information about historic Union Station in Chicago mentioned in this blog post, a designated Chicago Landmark, visit:

A Dozen Parting Thoughts

Here’s what I’ve learned from watching hundreds of YouTube videos and reading TripAdvisor and Pinterest posts:

  1. Published arrival time is a target at best. The train may arrive early or several hours late, so don’t plan a tight schedule. The longer the route, the further behind schedule the train may get. Plan ahead so you don’t miss connecting trains or flights, hotel reservations, scheduled meetings, ticketed events, or dinner reservations at your destination. Friends and relatives can check your ETA using Train Status at the top of the Amtrak Home Page.
  2. I’ve read that the train could possibly run out of food and beverages if you experience a long unscheduled stop or delay. Plan accordingly and hold some snacks in reserve.
  3. If there are long unscheduled delays, Amtrak’s employees may reach their maximum allowable hours in a work day. If so, the train has to stop until a new crew arrives.
  4. Amtrak employees must provide service to many passengers on such a long-distance route (a full coach section on the California Zephyr is around 80 per car, from what I’ve read–and that doesn’t count the sleeper cars). Attendants may not come around to your seat as often as you would like, or may not show up at the drop of a hat if you call. You’re not the only one on the train. Patience!
  5. Amtrak trains may be delayed by freight trains (which have priority), debris blocking the tracks, heavy snow, flooding or other inclement weather, equipment failure, accidents, etc.
  6. With all those passengers (I’m estimating about 250 maximum, and that’s just in the coach cars), dirt and trash can accumulate on a long trip of this nature. Do your part to help keep the train clean. Clean up after yourself!
  7. Occasionally some of the convenience items may not work (power outlets, air conditioning, call buttons, lights, etc.).
  8. I’ve read that it can be noisy on a train even in the middle of the night. Ear plugs and/or ear muffs may help you get some sleep!
  9. The observation car is probably the most popular car on the train. It may be difficult to get a seat in this car, especially during the most scenic portions of the trip. It appears there are about 50 seats in this car; there could easily be 250+ passengers on your train. Be considerate of your fellow passengers and don’t monopolize the seating.
  10. You may encounter noisy kids, crying babies, loud music, unpleasant smells,  attitudes, security issues, quiet hours issues, etc. Sure, you can get up and move around, but remember that you will be in a confined space for many hours with many people, 24/7. Tolerance and civility are admirable qualities! Oh, and smoking is prohibited aboard all Amtrak trains (I’ve read that passengers have been removed from the train for violating this policy).
  11. BUT YOU KNOW ALL THIS IN ADVANCE! It seems to me that some of the negative 1- or 2-star reviews that I read on TripAdvisor can be traced to the passenger’s failure to plan ahead, at least in my opinion. I think some of the tips and little travel items that I’ve mentioned in this blog post might help you avoid certain potential pitfalls and add to the enjoyment of your long-distance trip. So don’t just fill a suitcase and go get on the train. Do your homework! Different trains have different amenities and features.
  12. BOTTOM LINE: Enjoy your ride on the rails! If you are realistic and are simply expecting a L-O-N-G ride on public transportation from Point A to Point B, you’ll be just fine. Relax. Think of it as an adventure! Take good notes and write your own blog about it.

If you can’t tell, this is a major event for me. I want to get it right. I want to be comfortable. I don’t want to smell bad. I don’t want to annoy anyone or make other passengers mad at me. I want to be safe. And I want to have a good time. Who doesn’t? As I mentioned, I’ve been working on this blog post for nearly four months. It will be interesting to see what I think after my trip!

So I hope you found this checklist to be useful. If you’ve traveled by train, did I miss anything important? Or did I say something that is just completely wrong? Add your thoughts or corrections in the comments (moderated and subject to approval).


Visit Indiana (Mark Newman, Indiana Department of Tourism)
Visit Hendricks County (Josh Duke)
Visit Morgan County (Tosha Daugherty)
Visit Madison (Ann Mulligan, retired)

NOTE: “Amtrak” and all the train names mentioned in this post are registered trademarks of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. Other company names and product names mentioned in this post are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

DISCLAIMERS/DISCLOSURES: At this writing I have not traveled on an Amtrak train. This is my independent personal opinion based upon my online research ONLY. Your needs may vary from those on this list. Amtrak, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Home Depot, Ziploc, and any other brand or company names mentioned did not pay me to recommend their merchandise or services, did not give me free merchandise or products, and none of them even know I’m writing this blog post. I do NOT get an affiliate commission for any links you may click in this post. There is no conflict of interest here.