If you are as passionate about local government as Leslie Knopes, the Indiana Statehouse is a must-see. (Photo: Getty Images)
Goodbye, little Sebastian. Fans were sad to see it go, but beloved cult comedy “Parks and Recreation” lives on through its unforgettable characters, memes galore and a veritable library of quotable YouTube clips. Whether you’re “lit-tra-ly” a superfan or you’ve just discovered the show on Netflix (and are asking, “Where is Pawnee, Indiana, anyway?”), you’ve likely noticed the display of real-deal love for the Hoosier state and its capital. (Oh, to answer your question, Pawnee is decidedly fictional, but it does have a deceptively real-looking website.)
Indianapolis is 90 miles from Pawnee but central to the show’s plot, and it gave viewers a glimpse into some of the characters’ favorite things about the Indiana state capital. In the “Parks and Recreation” Season 3 episode “Indianapolis,” we follow Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson to the Indianapolis Statehouse, only to see Ron’s heart break over the closing of Charles Mulligan’s Steak House. Lucky for him, there is a new meat haven to love in season 5’s “Two Parties,” where the guys live out their perfect bachelor parties. Since all of Ron’s fantasies include meat (is there any other kind of food, really?), he chooses the popular St. Elmo Steak House. Andy Dwyer dreams big and catches a touchdown pass from Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts. And if you’re looking to have fun Pawnee-style, this is your lucky day. We retraced the steps of our favorite characters’ activities in Indianapolis — and added a few more tips that would surely be Parks-approved.
The Indiana Statehouse: Knope, You’re Not Dreaming
Leslie and Ron travel to Indianapolis to receive an award for their work on the Harvest Festival, but sadly, the episode didn’t show too much of the Indiana State Capitol. But if you share Leslie’s passion for local government (if not her hatred of libraries), this is a must-see. Completed in 1888, the four-story Renaissance Revival–style building will awe you with its marble, granite and intricate mosaic floors. And don’t forget to look up: Stand in the Rotunda and lose yourself in the stunning stained-glass dome. Want to set up a tour? The Indiana government website has you covered.
Knope Tip: For even more Indiana history (you can never have enough, really), take a short stroll to the Indiana State Museum at White River State Park. Then embrace your inner Leslie and explore the park, which features 250 acres of green space in the heart of downtown Indianapolis — a Parks and Rec employee’s dream.
The Andy-Dwyer-Colts-Fan Experience: Treat Yo’ Self
He got married in a Reggie Wayne jersey and had his dream bachelor party at Lucas Oil Stadium catching passes from Andrew Luck. Is there any bigger fan than Andy Dwyer? (No … well, maybe Burt Macklin, FBI.) While you’re sadly not likely to get face-time with the Colts without the “Parks and Rec” production budget, you can still see some football or check out one of the many events at Lucas Oil Stadium (a Johnny Karate concert?). If you’re lucky enough to hit a Colts home game, you will be in one of the best sports facilities in the country. It has 160 different concession stands! Andy does love to eat! And hopefully you do, too. From pizza to barbecue, you’re sure to find something to suit a Dwyer-sized appetite.
Andy Tip: If you want to really dig into Colts history and are visiting Indianapolis mid-week, don’t miss a Lucas Oil Stadium tour. These hour-long tours let you step on the playing field, go inside the locker room and access numerous areas of the stadium that most people never get to see.
Live by the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness
Meat, meat, meat. And bacon. Category 6 of the Pyramid of Greatness focuses on meat, and so should you. Though the fictional Charles Mulligan Steak House closed, St. Elmo Steak House
actually exists and is Swanson-approved. Fill your belly at one of the top-rated steakhouses in Indianapolis. St. Elmo has been a meat-lovers staple since 1902 and has a slew of awards under its belt. To eat like a Swanson, loosen your belt and skip the salad, and go straight for the 28-ounce porterhouse with a heaping loaded baked potato.
Swanson Tip: Order bourbon or whiskey straight up to wash down all that meaty goodness.