Every city has its secrets! And whether you’re new in town or you’ve been exploring Indy all your life, there are always more places to discover. We all love the hole-in-the-wall shops and indie restaurants hidden between the popular stops, but it’s not always easy to know where to look.
To get your tour started, we’ve compiled a short list of some of our favorite hidden gems from around the city. See how many of these hot spots you’ve already stumbled on—and be sure to check out the rest next time you’re in the area!
1. Indy Reads Books
There’s nothing quite as charming as an indie bookstore, filled with friendly faces and an eclectic assortment of used and new books. And Indy Reads Books is a bookstore with a cause. Every purchase directly supports Indy Reads, a non-profit that helps adults across Indiana build their literacy, English language, and job readiness skills. So, next time you’re craving a good book, instead of giving your business to the big chains, head over to Indy Reads Books and support your local bookstore. With good books for a good cause, there’s no better place to feed your need to read!
2. Nine Lives Cat Café
What’s better than cats and coffee? The Nine Lives Cat Café is the first of its kind in Indy, a place where you can enjoy your chai latte while surrounded by playful, pettable cats! You can pop into the café for a drink any time and watch the cats from the dining area, or you can eat in the Cat Lounge and meet all the resident kitties. And best of all, the cats at Nine Lives are adoptable! The café acts as a foster home in partnership with local animal shelters, giving them love and care while they wait for a new owner. Whether you make a new feline friend or find your next forever pet, there’s no cuter place to get your caffeine fix.
3. Square Cat Vinyl
Few things capture a vintage, indie charm quite like vinyl, bringing you back to the time of turntables and record needles. Whether you’re browsing online or through the boxes on boxes in their shop, Square Cat Vinyl sells hundreds of new and used records from modern hits to your classic favorites. And if you’re uninitiated in the way of vinyl, they can hook you up with the equipment you need to play that crackling record sound loud and proud. But Square Cat is more than a record shop—they’re also a bar and performance venue! Each week, they host live shows on the stage built into their store, creating a space and community around their love of music. So, grab a drink, catch a show, and flip through those record albums at this one-of-a-kind spot. From hip-hop to open mic nights, we know you’ll find your new jam!
4. Commissary Barber & Barista
Whether you need a hot brew or a fresh look, the Commissary Barber & Barista offers a unique indie experience that you just can’t get at your local Starbucks. And because its right on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, you can easily stop by the shop as you walk or bike around the city. Schedule a haircut or a straight razor shave with one of their expert barbers, and while you’re waiting, you can sip on one of their delicious artisanal lattes. We recommend ordering one of their featured flavor blends, like the apple jack or pineapple ube latte—especially because their latte art makes for a picture-perfect Instagram shot.
5. City Market Catacombs
It’s hard to get more hidden than the City Market Catacombs—a network of subterranean tunnels right beneath the bustling Indianapolis City Market. The 20,000 square-foot underground ruins are what remains of Tomlinson Hall, the basement of the 1886 building that burned down in 1958. Today, if you dare venture beneath the city streets, you can sign up to tour the catacombs, one of only about a dozen sites that still exist in America. As far as we know, there aren’t any bones or crypts down there, but keep an eye out for any ghosts that may haunt those buried brick archways.
6. Garfield Park and Conservatory
If you’re already a fan of Indy’s natural parks and trails, then you’ll fall in love with the exotic beauty at Garfield Park. The Garfield Park Conservatory is home to hundreds of tropical plants, letting you explore the rainforest right in your own backyard. The 10,000 square-foot conservatory is kept continuously warm and humid for their wide variety of plants, from orchids to cacao trees. And if you get too hot inside, you can always take a walk around the Sunken Garden, the park’s classical European formal garden. With graceful fountains and carefully manicured flower beds, the garden lets you step back in time and glimpse a bit of history.
7. The Jazz Kitchen
The pulse of Indy’s nightlife may be downtown, but if you travel just a bit north towards Broad Ripple, you’ll find a cornerstone of the city’s music scene: The Jazz Kitchen. They combine delicious food, inventive cocktails, and live jazz to create a truly unforgettable night out. Over the years, their stage has hosted some of the greatest of the greats, including Harry Connick Jr., Ray Brown, and Maynard Ferguson. And their menu is pure New Orleans meets the Midwest, giving a Cajun-Creole twist to Hoosier classics. Nothing says jazz night quite like fresh étouffée, homemade crab cakes, and blackened salmon. And when the tables get pushed to the side, you know it’s time to let loose, feel the rhythm, and dance the night away!
8. Indianapolis Artsgarden
When it comes to this hidden gem, the Indianapolis Artsgarden would be best described as “hidden in plain sight.” After all, if you’ve ever been to the Circle Centre Mall in downtown Indy, you’ve probably strolled through the Artsgarden without even realizing it. The Artsgarden is a seven-story tall glass and steel pavilion over the intersection of Washington and Illinois Streets, connecting the mall with the surrounding buildings. Each year, the venue presents more than 250 free and public performances and hosts monthly public art exhibits from creators around central Indiana. Next time you’re shopping downtown, take a moment to stop, smell the roses, and listen to the garden music!
9. Tea’s Me Cafe
We all love our coffee, but when’s the last time you enjoyed a freshly brewed artisanal tea? Tea’s Me is Indianapolis’ premier tea bar and café, a place to sit down and taste an array of natural herbal flavors from around the world. Owner and former Fever All-Star Tamika Catchings carries on the shop’s legacy by providing a complete tea experience, including a peaceful environment to sip the day away. The teas are all loose leaf, seeped and prepared to your taste, and the café offers both breakfast and lunch fare for a light meal with your drink. Be sure to try their tea of the month—and maybe even buy some tea leaves to brew for yourself at home!
10. Tappers Arcade Bar
In today’s world of digital gaming and home consoles, classic pay-to-play arcades may be a relic of the past, but the arcade game nostalgia lives on in Tappers Arcade Bar! Tappers is Indy’s original retro arcade bar, offering free-to-play arcade cabinets, pinball, and classic consoles like the SEGA Genesis and Nintendo 64. You can bring your friends, drink craft beers and cocktails, and play all your pixelated favorites, from Galaga to Gauntlet. And if you’re feeling particularly competitive, Tappers hosts weekly trivia nights and tournaments for you to test your gaming mettle and shoot for the leader board!
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