This is the second article in my Circling Indianapolis series. The first post highlighted Hendricks County. Hendricks Co was a wonderful mix of urban outskirts flowing into quiet rural towns. In comparison, Hamilton County has found the perfect mix of quaint and trendy in their rapidly growing communities.
Hamilton County, Indiana
The county covers 400 square miles to the North of Indianapolis. The county seat is the vintage and neighborly Noblesville. Fishers offers a blend between suburbia and historic Indiana prairie. Carmel shines with the local art scene and innovative shops. Westfield embraces its wide open spaces with one of the largest sports complex in the Midwest.
Let’s go learn things about Hamilton County Indiana…….
The community of Fishers bumps up against Indy in the southeast corner of Hamilton County. In this suburban region you can find the Walmart and Best Buy strip malls. But there are some great finds tucked into those strip malls. Many of the downtown Indianapolis establishments have opened offshoots for the convenience of suburbia. One such establishment is Sun King Brewery.
Sun King Brewery opened in 2009 in downtown Indianapolis with 12 taps and a 15 barrel capacity. Today that facility encompasses 3 buildings and is the largest brewery in Indianapolis and the second largest in the entire state. They boast about many brewing competition awards. Distribution is throughout Indiana and even into Louisville, KY and Chicago, IL.
Back to Fishers. What is happening in Fishers is that Sun King has opened a second brewing location. They have called this their Small Batch Brewery and hope to continue their cutting edge experimental brews at this location. I had a jolly time at this industrial chic setting. They had a very fun and eclectic tap list. It is difficult for really large breweries to keep that edgy experimental touch going. I would say this Small Batch Brewery is not only convenient for the suburbs but is keeping their beer exciting. The Sun King Brewing Co has further plans for Hamilton County, with another brewery close to the center of Fishers and a new craft distillery in Carmel.
Nickel Plate District
Because of Indiana’s agriculture and position in the middle of the country, it is criss-crossed with major railroad lines, some now defunct. The New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (NYC&StL) was formally chartered on February 3, 1881. Over the decades it extensively covered much of the Midwest and Indiana. The railroad had been built to such high standards that during 1881, an Ohio newspaper editor referred to its construction as a “…double track, nickel-plated railroad.” The phrase stuck, and the company adopted the nickname the “Nickel Plate Line”.
At one point in its history a portion of the line ran from Michigan City to Indianapolis, straight through Fishers and Hamilton County. Today Fishers is reviving its downtown area and using its Nickel Plate heritage as a theme. The Nickel Plate District is chock full with trendy dining, entertainment and housing. New areas of development carry names like The Yard and The Depot and the Nickel Plate Trail incorporates the historic railroad track stamp in its asphalt.
Four Ray Day Brewing
As usual my target was the craft brewery. I headed to Four Day Ray Brewing, a 15 barrel brewery and gastropub. The sparkling spacious facility opened in 2016 just as the Nickel Plate District redevelopment hit a frenetic pace. I had the opportunity to sample several of the beers and culinary taste treats before Owner, Brian Graham gave me a tour.
The Four Day Ray brewing facility sits tall and proud behind large windows facing Lantern Road. After chatting all things brewing with Founder, Brian Graham, and Brewer, Mitch Ackerman, I was sold on their love for beer and community. Four Day Ray Brewery is definitely an anchor destination for the developing Nickel Plate District.
As I have mentioned, the Nickel Plate District is buzzing with activities. Although my time was limited I was especially interested in adventure at The Escape Room and the dining at Louvino, which has received high acclaims in its other locations in downtown Indianapolis as well as Louisville and Cincinnati.
Historic Prairie in Hamilton County
As you travel North in Fishers you will find the historic destination of Conner Prairie. This is an iconic living history museum. It is a learning destination for all ages. There are ongoing interactive history experiences across the 1,000 acres of central Indiana prairie. The White River winds its way around the grounds of this incredibly popular outdoor museum. This is so much more than simply a tourist stop, it is a thoroughly researched and heavily significant venue.
An entire post on the facility can be found here.
As I try to find words for this charming town I am overwhelmed. I want to use elegant, upscale, comfortable, welcoming, artful, beautiful, fun and yummy. The list goes on and on. Carmel is well-known for its Arts and Design District. There is so much more to Carmel. Everywhere I looked there were people walking and biking and shopping and dining. If you are anywhere near central Indiana you must make a trip to Carmel, Indiana.
Arts and Design District
This great Midwest “main street” is brimming with accessible art galleries and public art. The Carmel Indiana Artisan gallery is discussed further in this post about Art Travel. I found many unique and affordable pieces of art in this gallery.
Craft Food and Drink in Carmel
While I was visiting Carmel they were hosting their first annual Savor Hamilton County. It was two weeks of special dining opportunities in the eateries of Hamilton County. There were over 20 participating restaurants and from my experience this will be a popular annual event in the future. I enjoyed an indulgent meal at the small plates venue, divvy. The service was warm and friendly and the food unimaginably perfect. It highlights the local foods of Indiana with unusual and delicious preparations. Even the drinks were handcrafted and way too good. One of their signature items is the Corn Creme Brulee. Sweet, savory, creamy and rich this dish lives up to its reputation.
Noblesville is the historic county seat. Remember William Conner and his trading post of Conner Prairie? Well William Conner and his buddy, Josiah Polk designed downtown Noblesville in 1823. I loved this town and its traditional Midwest courthouse square. Interesting and homey businesses march around the four blocks.
Noblesville is very proud of its history and historical buildings. Besides the courthouse, the square houses the Hamilton County History Museum and former jail. Many of the residences throughout town are on the National Historic Register. Including the Judge Stone House that has been recently renovated.
White River Greenway in Noblesville,IN
Carmel is not the only town in Hamilton to support the Arts. The Nickel Plate Arts actively develops opportunities for residents and visitors to interact with the arts community. They use the renovated Judges Stone House as a headquarters.
Hamilton County continues its commitment to the active life in Noblesville with the White River Greenway. This is another multi-use trail the runs along and across the White River in downtown Noblesville and ends at the Morse Reservoir. In spite the crisp March morning, I loved taking a stroll on this path.
While downtown Noblesville is quaint and historic, there is a sliver of Noblesville that meets with the bustle of the I-69 corridor. I had the pleasure to stay as a guest of The Cambria Hotel & Suites of Noblesville while I visited Hamilton County. I have not stayed with Cambria before, but I expected a typical all-suites family hotel setting. This was really a pleasant surprise. The Cambria was immaculately clean and efficient. It was also very quiet and comfortable in the rooms. As a matter of fact, the room was so quiet that I was surprised when I entered the lounge areas and found it full of people relaxing and enjoying themselves.
Circling Indianapolis: Hamilton County
So the next time you find yourself buzzing through Indiana, Stop! and enjoy this great destination. As you see from this huge post that you could spend several days in Hamilton County before, or maybe instead of, getting to Indianapolis. There are several other communities and numerous activities and I didn’t even get to.
Know that Hamilton County is packed with Arts, History, Outdoor Adventures and Culinary treats.
Go to Visit Hamilton County to plan your trip to the area. Their website is chock full of ideas but be sure to check in with Whitney Riggs also. She will help you discover it all!
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