Stay In The Heart Of Circle City at Indy's Union Station Hotel
My first visit to Indy’s Union Station was back in 2013 at the National Preservation Conference. Like most of the other attendees, I was blown away by the size and grandeur of the once bustling train station. How perfect a venue for a conference of architecture nerds? I recently had the pleasure of spending the weekend at the Crowne Plaza Union Station Hotel and found it to be a modern hotel that incorporated plenty of historic details from the railroad's heyday still nestled in the heart of vibrant Indianapolis.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary stay at the Crowne Plaza Union Station Hotel but all opinions are my own.
In Indy, I like to stay downtown. That way it's never a far bike ride, walk or Uber from my next meal or activity. The Crowne Plaza Union Station is smack dab in middle of everything on Capitol Ave and Illinois. If you’re in town for an event, this is a great spot to be because it’s within walking distance of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, White River State Park and Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s also just a quick bike ride up to Mass Ave for some of my favorite restaurants and shops. Lookin’ at you Garden Table and Silver in the City.
In the Nineteenth Century, Union Station was just that, a train station. Indianapolis was actually the first city in the United States to establish a Union Station. If you're unfamiliar with railroad history, this train depot was “used by all of the railroads entering a city, eliminating the necessity for passengers to leave the station building to change trains between different railroads or routes” (source). Indy quickly outgrew its first Union Depot of the mid 1800s and opened a newer and larger station in 1900 that serviced 150 passenger trains per day. This behemoth is an outstanding example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture with its deep red brick, repeating arches, and impressive rose window. After World War II, passenger rail travel began to decline due to the rise of the automobile and by the 1970s the building became derelict. In the mid 1980s, the building experienced an impeccable restoration and part of the original station from 1900 is now home to the Crowne Plaza Union Station Hotel.
When you pull up to the lobby you can valet your car for $38 per night with in & out privaleges or self park in the Pan Am Plaza parking deck. This is an attractive option because the deck is right in front of the hotel and only $24 per 24 hours. The hotel incorporated many of the train station details in the lobby and atrium noted in the steel beams and skylights throughout the interior. You can even request one of the 26 rooms inside their authentic Pullman train cars. The Pullman cars are highly requested by travelers, especially those traveling with young children so if you have your heart set on one of these, book early. The star of the show is the head house, now known as the Grand Hall of the hotel and serves as an event facility. Back in the day, this is where the ticketing counters, waiting rooms, and luggage services would be located. If there isn’t an event going on make sure you go explore this space as it is full of history and beautiful.
The building is still a functioning train station and you can hear (and feel) the subtle rumblings of freighters rolling through. To guests relaxed and resting easy, the hotel leaves a thoughtful relaxation packet by each bedside: earplugs, essential oils mist (with lavender, grapefruit, and thyme), aromatherapy cream, and soothing balm for aching feet and limbs (all paraben free). Honestly I never heard or felt the rumble of trains but I thought this little kit was wonderful regardless of noise.
I stayed in the deluxe King; it was HUGE and the bed was oh so comfy. One thing to note, the rooms open up into the atrium where there are several sitting areas and the indoor pool, so don’t forget to draw your curtains for privacy. For the price, the Crowne Plaza is a pretty good value for the downtown area with the average nightly rate looking to be around $160. Don't expect to find that rate during peak times of year like the Indy 500.
The Crowne Plaza Union Station is downtown within walking distance of major attractions like Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. A few favorite restaurants and bars in downtown include: Spoke & Steel, Cerulean, Platt 99, and The Slippery Noodle. Not too far is the Indianapolis City Market which has a number of tasty food vendors and one of my favorite beer bars, the Tomlinson Tap Room, where they only pour Indiana beer. Thanks to the Cultural Trail (walking and biking trail) you can easily get to different neighborhoods like Mass Ave, Fletcher Place (hello Milktooth!) or Fountain Square for good eats and shopping. White River State Park is also nearby and home to several museums, the Canal Walk, and the Indianapolis Zoo.
If you’re looking for a downtown hotel in Indianapolis with historic character, then the Crowne Plaza Union Station Hotel is the place to be.
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