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Monon Trail – Indianapolis
For those familiar with rail trails, the Monon in Indianapolis and its outskirts is a bit legendary. It was voted in March, 2009 into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. In addition, it’s been cited in numerous publications as an example of the beneficial effects trails can have on people’s health as well as the health of the micro-economies of areas through which the trail passes.
For those not familiar with the Indy Monon, exploring its nearly 17 miles of length will give you a mini-vacation for tasting the arts, foods, life and culture, and history across this Midwestern city. The Indy Monon also intersects with a couple of other trails, the Central Canal Towpath along the White River, and the Fall Creek Trail.
The trail itself follows a former Monon Railroad northward out of Indianapolis toward Chicago. Monon is the town in northwest Indiana where the railroad’s two main lines crossed. Its American Indian name is usually translated as “swift running.” The Monon now extends north beyond the Indy city limits as the Carmel Greenway and Westfield Monon. Extensions further north to Sheridan are already in the planning stages.
The southern tip of the Monon, at 10th Street, is very near Massachusetts, or Mass Ave, a registered historic district rich with arts, entertainment, shops, and restaurants. Summers include the Mass Ave Market and Fringe Fridays. Not far off the trail is City Market, on Market Street, and which is Indianapolis’ original farmers market.
There are other numerous sites of interest downtown that are within walking distance of the Monon, including the William Henry Harrison home on Delaware, the Indianapolis Arts Market in Whistler Plaza with local artists and musicians, Monument Circle which hosts events such as the June Strawberry Fest. Don’t forget White River State Park with the zoo, ball park, canal walk, Indiana State Museum, and the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. For those with an interest in art and athletics, the National Art Museum of Sport is at the IUPUI campus. In the near future the Indianapolis Cultural Trail will tie these areas together and link up to the Monon Trail, as well as linking several other major area trails.
The Monon further north passes on the very edge of the fairgrounds, which hosts a variety of events, and in August, the Indiana State Fair. Fall Creek Trail branches off here, heading northeast. Just a couple of blocks west of the Monon Trail is the world’s largest children’s museum, on Meridian Street, with its planetarium, trains, miniatures, food court, store, changing exhibits, and of course, dinosaurs! To the west, at 38th and U. S. 421 (Michigan Road) on the Indianapolis Art Museum grounds, mid September hosts the Penrod Arts Fair with over 300 exhibitors.
Another often-mentioned section of the Monon is Broad Ripple. The area is well known for its restaurants, meeting places, and atmosphere. Mid-May finds it full with the Broad Ripple Art Fair and in August, the ART-SPARKLE dinner-dance event. Several parks may be found nearby, including Broad Ripple Park, Marott Park, and Holliday Park, all on the shores of the White River. Canoe rentals are available and there are natural areas to explore here as well.
For those wondering how to access the trail and make it all the way from one end to the other, there are parking and restroom sites in several locations, in vicinities of the State Fairgrounds and Broad Ripple, and in the parks along the trail. If you want to start at the southern tip of the Monon, be prepared to walk a bit, as parking is available at 16the and Bellfountaine, which is about two blocks east of College Ave. and 16th, and on the west side of the Monon.
A better parking solution might be to use the State Fairgrounds lots, exit 42 from I-465 East, Mass Ave south to 38th, west to the fairgrounds; or from I-65, use exit 119 and go east on 38th. There is no charge for these lots as long as there’s no event going on. If an event is in progress, the all-day fee is $3.00.