By Bob Burchfield, Editor
Today I visited the NinjaZone Academy at Grand Park – The Sports Campus at Westfield in #Westfield #Indiana to check out this new gymnastics, martial arts, obstacle training, and freestyle movement facility with my 12-year-old grandson, Zion.
The NinjaZone, which just opened last week, is located INSIDE the Grand Park Events Center at 19000 Grand Park Blvd in Westfield. It’s part of a national network of these franchises that just started two years ago. Right now, according to the manager, it’s open Mon-Sat 9 am to 12 pm and Mon-Thu 4-8 pm (hours may fluctuate as traffic patterns and classes develop).
This is a really cool fitness gym for kids with state-of-the-art equipment and fully-trained coaches and trainers. As you can see in the photos, trainer Tyler Robling was right there to keep an eye on Zion as he went through a little exercise routine on “The Rig!” in the The Challenge Room.
(Here’s a tip: my grandson has autism, which presents a lot of challenges of its own. But Zion kicked off his shoes and took to the equipment like a duck to water! I think kids will naturally be drawn to this equipment.)
Grand Park is the first-ever Academy location for NinjaZone — and there’s going to be a 2nd location opening this summer in the Geist area at 116th Street and Olio Road.
The NinjaZone Academy offers child-centered personalized instruction with small classes of a 6:1 ratio. Students receive one class per week and eight 20-minute challenge classes per month. Each regular class lasts for 40 minutes.
It is designed to meet the developmental needs of children ages 3 to 13 (you can enroll your kids up to age 11 and they can stay on through age 13).
So although Zion is too old to enroll in the Academy, two of my favorite bloggers Jenny Lear (Fortville Mama) and Katy Mann (Indy with Kids) have kids in that age group who are ideal candidates for this program.
In fact, Jenny Lear is actually the one who suggested that I visit NinjaZone and check it out, and when I got there, I discovered that both Jenny and Katy have already beat me to the punch!
By the way, NinjaZone can also do birthday parties for your group!
I’d like to personally thank Scott Rudicel (yes, it’s Rudi: THAT Scott!) and Megan Noel for taking time out of their busy day to give Zion and me a tour of the facility. And as a bonus I discovered that my good friend Jason Nye, who used to work with me at the University of Indianapolis, is now the Digital Content Manager for NinjaZone!
For more information, visit http://theninjazone.com/location-learn-more/ or call 317-418-8761. You can also follow NinjaZone on Twitter @ninjazonegpacad or on Facebook at https://facebook.com/. Check it out when you get the chance!
DISCLOSURE NOTICE: Rudi gave Zion a free T-shirt during our visit.
By Amanda Dorman
Downtown Indy, Inc.
Fourth of July weekend
Indy’s most popular fireworks show and festival – the Donatos Downtown Freedom Blast – returns to the grounds of the Indiana War Memorial July 4. More than 20,000 people are expected to be Downtown on Veterans Memorial Plaza and American Legion Mall from 6:30 – 10:30 p.m. The fireworks will launch from the Regions Bank Tower at 10 p.m. (North and Michigan streets will be closed throughout the day and New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Delaware streets surrounding the Regions Bank Tower will be closed 9:30 – 10:15 p.m. during the fireworks show.)
Crowds will gather for many music festivities including the Indiana Historical Society’s patriotic-themed Concerts on the Canal July 4 from 5 – 9:30 p.m. The two-day INDYpendance Day Concert for Cancer is back on Georgia Street July 2 & 3 from 2 – 10 p.m. with headliners Ludacris, Awolnation, Kongos and more. On July 1, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra will perform a one-night only concert Star Spangled Symphony at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State and The Doo! are playing at the Rathskeller Biergarten July 4. The Indianapolis City Market hosts Party of the Plaza July 4 from 7 – 11 p.m. complete with corn hole, checkers, sidewalk chalk and a great view of the Downtown fireworks.
IBE Summer Celebration
The Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration returns July 7 – 17. The 46th running of Summer Celebration includes business seminars, an employment fair, concerts and more. More than 80,000 attendees will take part in events at various locations Downtown, with most events taking place at the Indiana Convention Center. The FREE Music Heritage Festival takes place Friday, July 15 at American Legion. Music Heritage Festival II takes Place Saturday, July 16 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Downtown gets festive
There’s still time to enjoy some of Downtown Indy’s best summer festivals. Saturday, July 2 from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., the Taste of Indy will present an assortment of Asian, Soul, Greek, Mediterranean, Cajun, Hispanic and American food on Monument Circle. Tickets are $6 in advance or FREE for kids 6 and younger.
The Indy Criterium Bicycle Festival, taking place Saturday, July 9 starting at 9 a.m., offers cyclists a unique opportunity to race the city streets that they would rarely do otherwise. Families and bicyclists will also enjoy many of the activities taking place throughout the day including food and beer vendors, music, expo area, free community rides, free Kids Zone activities, BMX stunt shows, kids and juniors bicycle races and more. This festival is FREE to attend.
Step into the West at the Eiteljorg Museum’s West Fest on July 23 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. This festival is a family event featuring entertainers, animals, food and family fun. Tickets are included with museum admission.
On July 30 from 3 – 7 p.m., the Indiana Microbrewers Festival will showcase more than 100 breweries all in one location – Military Park. Tickets are $40 general admission, $60 for early bird entry and $10 designated driver.
Take in the sights and sounds of summer
Summer concerts are officially here and national and local artists alike will bring Downtown to life this summer. Two big names are coming Downtown this month. Coldplay performs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on July 20. Also at Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Twenty One Pilots on July 31.
Enjoy nine concerts at the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park this month: Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra July 1; “Weird Al” Yankovic July 7; Barenaked Ladies July 8; Sublime with Rome July 16; Peter Frampton & Gregg Allman July 20; WTTS Rock on the River with The Head and the Heart July 25; Bush and Chevelle July 26; Tedeschi Truck Band o July 27; and Halsey July 29.
The Indianapolis Zoo’s Zoolapalooza series continues for two more Friday nights: July 1 & 8. Another Zoo concert series – Animals and All That Jazz – kicks off July 7 and continues Thursday nights through Aug. 4.
Two big names are coming to the Cabaret: catch Rumer Willis July 22 &23 and John Pizzarelli & Jessica Molaskey July 29.
Cheer the Fever, join the Tribe
Catch one (or more) of the 15 Indianapolis Indians home games at Victory Field this month. On July 4, enjoy two firework shows following the games (the Indians’ own firework show plus the Donatos Downtown Freedom Blast). There are four chances to catch the Indiana Fever at home: July 1, 13, 15 & 19. The Indy Eleven play at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium July 9, 13 & 23.
Georgia Street action continues
Workout Wednesdays strengthened by Indiana University Health continue through the end of July on Georgia Street’s west block. Downtown Indy, Inc. partners with the YMCA to provide fun, all-levels hip hop classes weekly from noon – 12:45 p.m. New this year: Sunrise Yoga on the Canal in partnership with Invoke Studio takes place Wednesday mornings from 6 – 6:45 a.m. on the Vermont Street Plaza.
Downtown residents and workers are invited to wind down the week during Happy Hour Thursdays on Georgia Street. Every Thursday from 4:30 – 7:30 p.m., enjoy music from RadioNow DJs, appetizers from the Severin Bar and domestic beers and craft brews. This event is free to attend, but everyone must be 21 or older.
Eat lunch alfresco on the Boardwalk and enjoy the sights and sounds of Downtown during Food Truck Fridays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
For more information, visit http://www.downtownindy.org/ or call 317-237-2222.
By Kristin Conrad
Humane Society of Indianapolis
The Humane Society of Indianapolis’ biggest day of impact for shelter animals is almost here. The 13th annual Mutt Strut is Sunday, May 15, 2016, in a new location at historic Garfield Park, 2432 Conservatory Drive, Indianapolis, Indiana.
This event is the largest annual fundraiser for the Humane Society of Indianapolis. Money raised will help the non-profit organization fulfill its vision of ensuring that Central Indiana animals are treated with dignity and respect and live free from cruelty, harm and neglect.
Each year the organization cares for more than 5,000 animals. Fundraising events like Mutt Strut are vital to IndyHumane, as the organization receives no government funding.
Last year more than 7,000 people and 6,000 pets attended Mutt Strut, which has been named the Best Charitable Event in Indianapolis by NUVO readers for the past seven years.
“It’s hard to believe that Mutt Strut is almost upon us,” says Summer Keown, Special Events Manager for the Humane Society of Indianapolis.
“We’re thrilled to hold the event at Garfield Park this year and help show off one of Indianapolis’ beautiful parks. The dogs are going to love all the greenspace, and we have several fun, new activities available for participants!”
Day-of registration opens at 10:30 am, and the official Mutt Strut walk kicks off at noon. Music, vendors, food, and activities are available from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm.
New activities this year include: musical entertainment throughout the day at the McAllister Amphitheater; pet care seminars from B.C. Henschen of Platinum Paws and Harrison College; kids activities including Colts in Motion and Big Car’s Wagon of Wonders; a beer garden featuring Sun King Brewing Company and New Day Craft; a photo booth run by the talented photographers behind the Instagram accounts The Whitest Pups You Know and Three Silly Pits; and a lure course run by Lucky Dog Adventures where your dog can lose the leash and chase a lure across the field for $10.
Participants can register at http://indymuttstrut.org/register/ or on-site the day of the event.
Full details and a schedule of the day’s events are available at http://indymuttstrut.org/.
By Duane Brodt
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park
Conner Prairie transforms into Conner Scairie next week for 11 days of Headless Horseman, a fall family tradition in central Indiana. And this year, guests can help Conner Prairie set a world record.
The 32nd year of Headless Horseman begins Oct. 9, 2015. Conner Scairie will be a haunted land inhabited by fun-loving ghouls Beautisha, a cosmetics-loving witch; underworld expert and stand-up comedian wannabe Dr. Acula; mad scientist Ed and assistant Esmeralda; magic storyteller Holly Ween; and the Headless Horseman roaming the land.
Guests of all ages are encouraged to attend in family friendly costumes. Each night, Disney’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” will be shown at Lenape Indian Camp. The story will also be shared through nightly marionette shows. Magic shows, storytelling, face painting, ghostly vortexes, fortune telling, music and more are offered each night.
And guests are asked to visit a new craft area each night of Headless Horseman and help ghouls create 6,000 origami bats. Once that feat is achieved and verified, Conner Prairie will be eligible to be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The Apple Store at Conner Prairie has extended hours each night of Headless Horseman. The store will serve up its popular gourmet caramel apples plus fresh cider slushies, popcorn, rice crispy treats and more until 9 p.m. each night.
And Headless Horseman guests can take in the fall sights and Conner Scairie from above as the 1859 Balloon Voyage exhibit will be open each night, weather permitting.
Sponsored by Reynolds, Goodwill, Marsh Supermarkets and Fishers Family Dentistry, Headless Horseman runs from 6-9 p.m. Oct. 9-11, 15-18 and 22-25. Activities and hayrides may run past 10 p.m. Tickets on Thursday and Sundays are $10 in advance, $12 at the gate and free for Conner Prairie members. Tickets for Fridays and Saturdays are $14 in advance, $16 at the gate and free for Plus Level members.
Advance sale tickets are available at select central Indiana Marsh and O’Malia’s locations: http://bit.ly/1KQGMnv.
Conner Prairie members can take advantage of a host of Headless Horseman perks, including free admission and an Express Pass to ride the hayride. For a list of perks, visit http://bit.ly/1KVFINb. Guests may sign up to become a Conner Prairie member at the entrance of Headless Horseman.
Spanning 850 wooded acres in central Indiana, Conner Prairie welcomes more than 360,000 visitors of all ages annually. As Indiana’s only Smithsonian Institute affiliate, Conner Prairie offers various outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces that combine history and art with science, technology, engineering and math to offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today.
By Bob Burchfield, Editor
Once again this week a reader asked, via email, “What are the best events in Indiana?” Hmmm…talk about a loaded question! That’s kind of like trying to name Indy’s best burger (which is sure to provoke an argument) or trying to answer the eternal question: “What is Hip?” (sometimes hipness is what it ain’t). One person’s pleasure is another’s poison.
Nevertheless, in an attempt to address the question, I’m going to offer ten of my personal favorite events in Indianapolis and Indiana. I’m well aware that others would likely choose an entirely different list, because we all have our own likes and dislikes.
Also, if I lived in South Bend or Fort Wayne or Evansville or elsewhere, I’m certain my list might be different. So please don’t send vehement text messages or emails saying something like, “I can’t believe you left the Three Rivers Festival off your list,” or “Why didn’t you include the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival?” or “Where’s the Covered Bridge Festival on your list?” (But I would like to hear your choices in the comments section below.)
Having made those disclaimers, here goes!
#10. Christmas City Walkway of Lights
Matter Park in Marion, Indiana, about 90 minutes north of Indianapolis, presents the Christmas City Walkway of Lights every November/December. For $5 you can drive your car load of passengers through the park and see a huge variety of colorful and visually-appealing holiday light displays, with millions of lights, featuring everything from the IU logo to the 12 days of Christmas. Be sure to time your visit so you arrive just after dark. It’s even cooler if you park your car and walk through the park. Your kids will love it. See http://www.walkwayoflights.org/
#9. St. Joan of Arc French Market
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church at 46th and Central Avenue in Indianapolis holds its parish festival every summer in August. I finally made it to the French Market in 2015 and was enthralled by the laid-back, easy-going setting, the big crowd, the variety of French cuisine, and the many vendors and activities in a beautiful neighborhood setting. Admission is free, but parking in the neighborhood can be a challenge. See http://www.sjoa.org/frenchmarket/
#8. Mid-Summer Festival
St. Christopher Catholic Church conducts an annual parish festival each summer in July. I love this festival for its neighborhood setting in Speedway on Indy’s west side at 16th and Lynhurst, plus its excellent variety of cuisine and carnival rides. Admission is free, but finding parking in the neighborhood can be a challenge. It’s pay-as-you-go at the food booths and rides. See http://indyfestival.com/
#7. Indianapolis Indians
The Indians are the AAA minor league baseball team in Indianapolis. They play their home games at Victory Field, 501 West Maryland Street, in downtown Indy. I love to go out to the ball park because the action is up close and personal, tickets are reasonably priced in the $10-15 range, and the skyline of Indianapolis presents a beautiful backdrop for a baseball game. Monday Dollar Nights offer hot dogs, peanuts, potato chips, Cracker Jack and popcorn for just $1 each. See http://indyindians.com/
#6. Indy Greek Festival
This is a colorful event held at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Carmel, Indiana each summer in August. The Greek food is plentiful, the Middle Eastern dancing and music is so enjoyable, and the sanctuary inside the church is breathtaking. Be prepared for long lines in the food court, and you may have to park at Marsh Supermarket more than a mile away on Michigan Road and wait for a shuttle bus to transport you to the church. See http://indygreekfest.org/
#5. Italian Street Festival
I love the Italian Street Festival at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 520 Stevens Street in Indianapolis, across the street from the Eli Lilly Company. The food is terrific (the four-layer carrot cake is unforgettable), the neighborhood atmosphere is enjoyable, admission is free, and I can usually find free parking across the street from the church. By now you are probably thinking that I’m a devout Catholic based on my selections thus far, but I’m not. I just love a good festival. See http://www.indyitalianfest.org/
#4. Indiana Flower and Patio Show
This show is held each spring at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 East 38th Street, in Indianapolis. It’s a great event with colorful displays, lots of good ideas for decorating and home improvement projects, and a photographer’s delight. See http://hsishows.com/wp/indianaflowerandpatioshow/
#3. Feast of Lanterns
This one-day festival doesn’t always get a lot of media coverage, but when they turn on the lanterns after dark, this is one of the most beautiful and colorful events in the city, in my opinion, held at Spades Park on Indy’s near east side in August. Food trucks, lots of vendors, a beer garden, and a neighborhood setting combine to make this event so enjoyable. Admission is free, but parking in the neighborhood can be a real challenge. Take your own chair and enjoy a lovely evening (opting for acoustic music would further improve this event, IMO). See https://www.facebook.com/IndyFeast
#2. Circle of Lights Celebration
Every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis transforms into a holiday showplace with the lighting of “the world’s tallest Christmas tree,” free live entertainment, and a festive atmosphere. Admission is free, so join me and 100,000 of my closest friends for this annual holiday tradition. See http://www.downtownindy.org/happening-downtown/hot/circle-of-lights/
#1. Indiana State Fair
I’ve been going to the Indiana State Fair since 1953 when I was still in diapers. It’s unquestionably my number one favorite event of the year. There is so much to see and do. You can’t really see it all in one day, but it’s fun to try! I like to ride the shuttle train all the way around the fairgrounds at least once just to see what’s new, then jump off the shuttle and work my way around the fairgrounds on foot.
My mom’s favorite was the quilt display in the Family Arts Building, so I always stop by and view the quilts to honor her memory. My brother played trombone in the Anderson High School marching band that won three consecutive state championships in the late 1950’s. So our family has a long and enjoyable history at the fair. The food is unbeatable, the midway is lively and colorful, the concerts feature national recording artists, the hot air balloon launch is inspirational, and a stop at the Dairy Bar for an official State Fair milk shake is a must. There’s something for everyone. See http://www.in.gov/statefair/
- Dig IN: A Taste of Indiana at White River State Park in Indianapolis
- Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival on Massachusetts Avenue in Indianapolis
- Indy Irish Fest at Military Park in Indianapolis
- Freedom Blast Fireworks Show on July 4 in downtown Indianapolis
- St. George Festival at St. George Orthodox Christian Church in Fishers, Indiana
How did I do? What are YOUR favorite Indianapolis and Indiana events of the year? Let me know in the comments because I try to cover as many Indianapolis and Indiana events as possible each year, and I’ll try to get to as many of them as I can.
DISCLOSURE NOTICE: AroundIndy.com, LLC received a Media Pass to the 2011 Indiana State Fair, complimentary tickets to the 2012 Indiana State Fair, a 2015 Media Pass, and a media pass to the 2015 Indiana State Fair. You may think I’m biased as a result, but I was going to the fair decades before these complimentary passes were offered.