Don’t Call Them Flyover Cities: Why You Should Visit Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Oklahoma City
The vast, middle of our country, known as “America’s Heartland,” appears as an endless patchwork of farmland and snaking rivers, punctuated by the occasional city that often seems so small and inconsequential—especially from an airplane window. To coastal dwellers, these “flyover cities,” a slightly disparaging term, refer mostly to the swath of land making up states like Illinois, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Missouri. Beyond the well-traversed Windy City of Chicago, a few smaller Midwestern cities are luring travelers with their creative cuisine, live tunes, new museums, and serious laid-back charm. Here, a guide to three cities worth landing, and lingering, in.
Indianapolis is already known for it’s Hoosier hospitality, but this highly walkable city is also in the midst of a progressive, creative culinary movement (and already features some first-class museums and big-city shopping destinations). Plus, thanks to its super-modern, highly touted airport, flying into Indianapolis is a breeze.
Where to Eat and Drink
Indy’s chefs have embraced the heartland bounty with their serious farm-to-table movement. The wildly creative, daytime-only Milktooth is ideal for Indiana heirloom tomatoes and cottage cheese alongside sour cream biscuits with yellow plum butter and local buckwheat honey. Diners pause for a sandwich at Wildwood Market (they rotate one delicious option each day) along with grab-and-go pantry provisions and fresh blooms. Author Kurt Vonnegut grew up in town, so stop for a visit at the aptly named Bluebeard, which serves can’t-miss baked-on-site bread, a warm kale salad, and salmon with red radish, shishito, peas, and cabbage in a brown butter sauce. If you’re looking to dine alfresco, grab a seasonal veggie dish like squash noodles “pad Thai” at Tinker Street. Meanwhile, the old downtown bastion St. Elmo Steak House remains a champ for martinis, jumbo shrimp cocktails, and yes, steaks. Nearby, the recently unveiled Vida offers some standout salads plucked from the restaurant’s leafy hydroponic wall. Check in for late-night live music at Thunderbird where inked bartenders serve a whiskey sour–style drink housed in a classic honey bear plastic bottle (straw included).
Where to Shop
The progressive fashion set flocks to 8 Fifteen, and for vintage finds, Society of Salvage and the aptly titled Vintage 54 Collective both quell the itch for the art of the hunt. For stylish clothes you might find in New York or Los Angeles, Profyle indeed fits the profile. For (mostly) all things local, drop in to Homespun, stocking a bevy of cute children’s toys, art prints, and home decor. The pop-up Pattern is a fashion workspace where indie makers create and later sell their works. Pick up the latest in fashion literature at Printtext, a space sourcing hard-to-find periodicals that also doubles as a print shop. With plush, textural home pieces, Haus Love is ideal for a one-of-a-kind treasure including the homegrown essential oil line Ambre Blends. Supporting adult literacy, nab an old classic at Indy Reads Books (with well-stocked Vonnegut titles), which also hosts a stand-up mix of author events.
What to Do
For art, the wow moment happens at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, which offers an abundant selection of African art; contemporary design objects from Alessi, Michael Graves, and Philippe Starke; and two crown jewels: one of Rembrandt’s self-portraits, and the colossal Angel of the Resurrection, a magnificent Tiffany Studios window. Outside, stroll past Robert Indiana’s iconic Love sculpture and follow the path to 100 Acres—a nature park of, yes, 100 acres, that also includes a 35-acre lake and rotating contemporary pieces. For kids, the highly touted Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is a massive structure of interactive exhibits, a stunning Dale Chihuly sculpture dangling five stories, and an antique carousel. Go for a long stroll or hop on a bicycle (Indy has a stellar bike rental program) and pedal the accessible eight-mile Cultural Trail, which connects various neighborhoods. Alternatively, stroll along the Monon, a stretch of old railway tracks. Reward yourself at the chef-owned Locally Grown Gardens for a slice of honey crisp apple pie, and for brightly colored healthy plates, don’t miss a patio spread at Public Greens Urban Kitchen.
Where to Stay
Drop your bags at The Alexander, a design-focused hotel with walls covered in art installations and a cocktail bar, Plat 99, that’s definitely worth a visit. Le Méridienhas a cozy hotel “library” for working and sipping. And for a truly unique experience, check into the dreamy Surrealism Suite at the Conrad Indianapolis, where above the bed, a floating Dalí-esque cloudscape painting beckons slumber.
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