Indy, 8 years later
For our first vacation without kids, we went to Indianapolis. for. a. gaming. convention. Yup. I tell people that I had thought we were doing Chicago paired with this (as it’s on my roadtrip list), but it turned out to be only this. And, in hindsight, probably wise that it was only this, as this was a spending vacation, and by the end of it, we ended taking home some new games, some promo packs, enamel pins, and a few litres of local beer.
Gaming seems to have become more popular over the last few years. Case in point: I spent more time at the convention than the first time, the US border guard actually plays Magic: The Gathering (he asked what j.w thought about Core 19), and our server at Payne’s in Gas City plays Pokémon GO.
This year, because we were at an airbnb that was almost a 40-minute walk away, we decided we needed to get there between 7-8am to get a spot at the Circle Center Mall garage, which was a few dollars less than neighbouring parking garages. This meant that I woke up too early every day and walked over 20K steps the first two days (when my average is usually between 7-10k) so by the time day 3 hit, I was quite exhausted by 10pm in addition to being tired in the mornings. This also meant that while learning to play Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition (the expansion), I accidentally “rolled” my cup of coffee instead of my cup of dice. Gaaah.
I got the most steps on Wednesday, likely from walking through the 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, Newfields, walking back to our car from kayaking along the canal, checking out the Stink (a pre-con meetup) to get some freebies and waiting in line for our badges.
I really enjoyed the walk in the park and interacting with the art installations mixed in with nature, like hovering rings and sloped yellow benches, but it was too bad that a few installations seem to have disappeared and the path around the lake was closed due to erosion. There was this one place called “Park of Laments” and it was truly a fitting title as you had to enter a narrow tunnel surrounded by two walls of rocks to get to an enclosed park area where it was essentially a dead end. A less depressing piece titled, “Funky Bones” actually had me humming, “these dry bones, these dry bones…” (from what lyrics / songs I don’t know, but they’re a reference to Ezekiel 37:1-14).
I’m glad that we finally got to visit the park since it was on a my to-do list from last time, along with visiting the canal. Last time, I saw the surreys for rental on my way to the zoo, but I’m glad my friend (another j.w!) was willing to do tandem kayaking with me instead! I was a tad nervous as it was my first time in a kayak / canoe without a life jacket but when I asked about life jackets, the rental place said it was only 3 ft deep and comes up to the chest – and yes we were fine.
Food and Drinks
The food truck food around the convention centre was mediocre at best this year, but here were some unexpected finds:
- Payne’s, an eclectic place serving British eats in Gas City, between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. I came across it as we were driving down and wanted to stop at a place to eat, so I googled something like, “dinner along i-69 towards Indianapolis” and found this gem of a place!
- Bee coffee roasters across the street from the convention. I was able to get 10% off with a coupon each time (I printed multiple after pasting screenshots multiple times into one document with MS Paint) and on my 3rd purchase, they took my address down for a free Bee Coffee Roasters 6d die (they had issues with shipment not arriving before the con); Tinker Coffee Co. also had some good quality coffee, but only encountered their nitro cold brew from a local market (Wildwood) and the beans that our first airbnb provided
- Tried fresh yellow (or was it blue) oyster mushroom from the 4-minute drive to Wildwood Market from our 1st Airbnb. That market had some neat local food choices so I made dinner on the first night with local ingredients: fungi, yellow cherry tomatoes, and some snow peas.
- Rio Grande shared their hot catered food with whomever was there, so we happened to be around for a breakfast and a couple of mid-day / later-evening meals. They had the BEST prime rib – coffee rubbed and marbled and cooked just right with an abundance of (much needed) vegetables and potatoes; this was easily our favourite meal (and a second dinner, after having some bar bites at Weber Grill earlier).
- Greenleaf juicing company: this place reminded me of Pure in DTK but I was happy to stumble across it even though it was pretty pricey, because I felt like I needed some greens in my diet to balance out the Con diet
- Brews and food from the Indy State Fair and Centerpoint Brewing
j.w took a break with me to check out the Indiana State Fair on Friday night, as I had wanted to see the hot air balloon parade, but due to winds, they couldn’t inflate so it was cancelled :( Well, at least we saw a tractor parade, which was different than any parade I’ve seen. We also spent a lot on fair food anyway: a revisit of deep-fried butter (turns out that they have been around for over 20 years), deep-fried bacon (tasted like bacon that spent extra time in the pan, but the seasoning and not being too salty was great!), had a garbage burger again (pulled pork on top of pork patty – and yes, that’s what it’s called), and stumbled into the barn with Indy brews! We tried the mead and the blood orange IPA that was in the competition and we liked the latter so much that we headed straight for Centerpoint Brewing right after. The bartender was super nice and let us sample a bunch (complimentary tasting) before we decidedly bought 2 6-packs of the IPA and a growler of the Center Perk (coffee stout). Here’s where he gets extra points: he remembers us on Sunday and welcomes us back, and when he learns our growler exploded in the car (which now smells of coffee and beer), he offers us another on the house Unfortunately, bad news: the limited run coffee stout was out so we would have to choose another. … Continue reading
- 3 Carrots (for vegan/vegetarian food – healthier options)
- Shoefly – the bartender at Weber Grill told us about this hole in the wall place that serves up some real tart lemonade. I figure if they can get drinks right, their food would be good too
We decided to go to Gen Con fairly last minute (a few months before) so instead of hotels we went with Airbnb. Usually, if you want nearby accommodations, you go and book it a year before. We did get a chance to see that the Crowne Plaza Union Station had actual rooms in train cars while we were there! They converted an old rail station to a hotel.
We spent the first two nights in a refurbished house that smelled like stale cigarette smoke, with all the basic essentials – the neighbourhood looked more run down though with empty stores and 4 police cruisers and two on the ground in handcuffs just on the corner of our street. The host had add some thoughtful touches such as leaving a bag of some local coffee (Tinker Coffee Co.), some emergency toiletries, and it was almost 5x cheaper for a much bigger space. Conversely, our last-minute booking during Gen Con days meant premium pricing everywhere – and the host was smart enough to leave town and rent out her unit in addition to the one she normally rents out in the same suite. I loved the stay at the smaller space – the decor, the comfortable linen and beds, the hair and body wash…and even the pool was suitable to use at night!