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Cajun cravin' curbed on the cheap

Apr 22, 2014 by Shanna Mooney

Catfish at Mudbugs"Cheap eats" and "fast food" are not one in the same. Don't get me wrong: Fast food typically is cheap, and one must typically pay more for food that has a more complex, time-consuming preparation (not "fast"). But good food can be reasonable, and Hamilton County has great choices for what we will now arguably return to calling "cheap eats."

Among my favorites are Yats and Mudbugs Cajun Cafe. Both have good food, great portions and reasonable prices. Both also specialize in Cajun Creole food. Think lots of beans, rice, and other goodies reasonably spiced and transformed into all manner of Louisiana fare, including various gumbos, étouffées, jambalayas, and casseroles. Both offer an array of spices and sauces to allow you to heat up the food to your preferred level. Both also have their share of loyal followers who prefer one over the other. I, however, like both.Mudbugs Storefront

Mudbugs, a charming LeBlanc family affair, has a more varied menu, including multiple Po'Boy sandwiches, sides such as potato salad and AMAZING hush puppies (do not allow thoughts of what fast-food fish places call hush puppies to enter your mind for one second). For dessert, Mudbugs features beignets (pronounced ben-yays), otherwise known as fried dough topped with powdered sugar. Also possibly tipping the favor toward Mudbugs is the fact that they offer wine and beer. The beer selection, while not robust, is thoughtful, featuring the famed Louisiana brewer Abita, as well as local Sun King favorites. For those simply looking for "wet" and "cheap," Coors and Miller are represented. Meal prices vary, but you can walk away satisfied for around $8.

Yats dishYats, on the other hand, wins out on quirkiness. Yes, that statement is meant to be all encompassing of the decor; its nice and fun owner, Joe Vuskovich; and its fantastic/fantastically quirky dishes, such as chili cheese crawfish étouffée. (One of my all-time favorites.) I also like how the meals are priced. There's never a surprise. If you want a regular plate, it's $6.25, and if you prefer a combo of two of the day's choices, it's $7.25. Also worthy of mention are the desserts, such as homemade peanut butter pie and pralines, and tasty toasty bread, which will likely have you wiping around the plate to soak up any remaining sauce.

Seriously, no matter which you crave, you will be satisfied without dropping a lot of cash.

8 Great Things to do the 3rd Weekend of April

Apr 17, 2014 by Hamilton County CVB

Hunt for eggs, not weekend plans! Read below for 8 great ideas that we've compiled just for you. Enjoy several Easter egg hunts, attend a concert, see a movie for free and more all in Hamilton County, Indiana this weekend. Read on for those ideas and more, plus find extra events on our online calendar. Monon

1. What is Carmel Pedals? It's a 10 mile weekly organized bike ride for everyone! Visitors and locals alike will delight in this ride that will explore different Carmel neighborhoods throughout the spring and summer. Bike rentals are available at Carmel Cyclery where the ride begins.  

2. Friday is the first evening of many great ones out under the stars at the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater in Fishers! This Friday evening, the outdoor movie series will begin. Bring lawn chairs, snacks, and the whole family to see Monsters University for free.  

3. Get ready for Easter with a festive egg hunt! Saturday is the best day to partake in this tradition throughout the county and most are FREE! For hunts head to Clay Terrace, Westfield, Carmel City Center, West Park in Carmel, Holland Park in Fishers, and more. Grille 39 Interior

4. Visit northern Hamilton County this Saturday evening for dinner and a show. Grab some delicious Italian eats at DeLullo's in Atlanta then head to Arcadia for a concert. The Hedgehog Music Showcase is hosting Bleu Django, a gypsy jazz band that will play hits from the 30's and 40's. 

5. Do you have your reservations yet for Easter brunch? Several Hamilton County restaurants and hotels are offering special dining options this Sunday- a great treat for visiting friends and family! Rita's Backyard is offering brunch, as well as the Renaissance Hotel, and many others.  

6. Speaking of reservations, think about looking ahead to next weekend! A very special train will be in town to help kick off the Indiana Transportation Museum's summer season. Reservations are required and rides are limited. Learn more about the train here.  The Leviathan

7. Stop by Nickel Plate Arts to see what's new. Enjoy art by talented locals in two different exhibits- Young Artists Exhibit and the Earthly Art Show.

8. As the temperatures continue to rise, Klipsch Music Center concert season continues to get closer! Check out the current line-up of shows and start planning so you won't miss your favorite artists. 

Ride the Historic Rails

Apr 15, 2014 by Hamilton County CVB

On April 26 and 27, visitors will have a unique opportunity to ride with the Leviathan No. 63. What is that, you may ask? It's a full-scale replica of a 1860s steam locomotive! It will be rolling into town to offer special rides on the Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad from Fishers to Noblesville and back.

The Leviathan large size

This is clearly no ordinary steam locomotive; it's got interesting ties to our country's past. The Leviathan was made for a special purpose: to pull replica funeral train cars. Together the cars and locomotive will make up the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train that will serve as a tribute to the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's final journey. Once completed, the train will travel the exact route from Washington DC to Springfield Illinois that Lincoln's funeral train traveled.

And this is where YOU come in. Train lovers of all ages are invited to help raise funds for this impressive project by taking journeys with the Leviathan locomotive. A portion of each ticket sale will help fund the yet-to-be-built funeral cars that will make up the complete 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train. Flagler Car

Rides are offered both Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27 and there are two car options available. Train-goers can pick either an open-air car or the 1898 private rail car of millionaire Henry Flagler. This luxurious car has beautiful woodwork and furniture and is currently maintained by the Indiana Transportation Museum. Passengers that choose to ride in style in this car will also receive refreshments and a Lincoln Funeral Train pin.

Whether you are a train enthusiast, a history buff, a lover of all things Lincoln, or just visiting- this is a great chance to experience something new (and old!). What a way for the Indiana Transportation Museum to kick off their 2014 season!  Get a sneak peek of the Leviathan in action HERE.

8 Great Things to do the 2nd Weekend of April

Apr 10, 2014 by Hamilton County CVB

Robert Shade EggWhat do Coach Bob Knight, egg hunts, and a marathon have in common? They are all appearing this weekend in Hamilton County! Read on for those ideas and even more fun Hamilton County happenings. Find additional events on our online calendar any time.  

1. Plan to head to the Carmel Arts & Design District on Saturday evening for the Second Saturday Gallery Walk. Not  only will you be able to pop into galleries to see art, but you can also participate in the "Find Your Faberge" egg hunt! The hunt will begin at Auntie Em's Frozen Custard & Cupcakes and wind you through the District to find large hand-painted eggs crafted by local artists. A great adventure for art lovers of all ages!

2. The Carmel Marathon is running through town again on Saturday! Runners: carb up a local Italian restaurant. Visitors: be prepared for street closures in the morning and early afternoon. Learn more about this growing event here.

3. Visit the iconic Forest Park in Noblesville this weekend. Let the kiddos participate in the annual Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday at 11 a.m. and then explore the park. Check out the carousel, the Tom Thumb putt-putt course, and paths throughout the park. Golfers will enjoy the public 9-hole course on the park grounds as well.  Follow the North Star CP

4. Conner Prairie is definitely fully open for the spring and summer season and their event calendar is packed! Attend Follow the North Star to learn about the Underground Railroad, see the Barker Brothers kiln burn in Prairietown, or take a class. This Saturday there is also a special offer for families with autistic children- free admission is available so children can experience the prairie in a quieter setting.   

5. Head to the Hedgehog Music Showcase this Saturday evening for some folk music. Troika, a 3-piece band, will be performing Eastern European folk music at this historic venue. Tickets are $12 each or 2 for $20. 

6. See the Young Artists Exhibit before it's gone, sign up for a class, and get excited for the Fairyville Trail- all at Nickel Plate Arts! For the full line-up of events, check here. Also be sure to watch WISH-TV Channel 8 this Saturday morning to see those ideas come to life on the morning show!   Forest Park carousel

7. Check out the Center for the Performing Arts, there's always something new to see. This weekend brings everything from a Bob Knight appearance tonight to the accomplished violinist Midori on Sunday. Now that's variety! 

8. Get outside and play! Most golf courses are now open for the season, trails are ready to be explored in parks throughout the county, plus the indoor pool at the Monon Center is ready for a swim any time. Check our Nature & Outdoor page for even more ideas! 

Grand Vision, Grand Park

Apr 08, 2014 by Sarah Billman

 

Westfield select soccer showcase hosted by wysa

The other weekend I was able to explore Grand Park - The Sports Campus at Westfield in all its glory! It was busy and active weekend for Grand Park, as it will be from now until forever, due to WYSA hosting the Westfield Select Soccer Showcase and Indiana Bulls hosting college level baseball.

Grand Park SunSince the groundbreaking construction ceremony in 2010, I have been following Grand Park's progress. At first it was just a giant, open field (400 acres to be exact). Then the giant field turned into giant mounds of dirt being moved here and there. (Although it didn't look like it, a lot was happening with that dirt - irrigation, drainage, lakes being made and fields being laser-leveled.) I kept hearing things about Grand Park being one of the country's largest sports campuses, but it didn't look very conducive to sports yet.

Fast forward to this past fall, long winter and now "spring", and we're talking a whole new ball game. Over the past few months, lights have gone up, dugouts have gone in, grass has grown and paths have been paved. Grand Park is now officially in full swing, and boy, it is more than one could dream!

Grand Park Fly Over Let's get some facts straight first: Grand Park consists of 26 baseball/softball diamonds, 31 soccer fields, over 10 miles of trails and pathways and 7 concession and restroom facilities. To put it another way, the park is one-mile long! I have been told these staggering numbers for a while but actually parking my car and walking the fields gave me a whole new perspective. Grand Park is massive!

Walking around, I was able to see these fields and players in action - all performed magnificently well, and I give special kudos to Mayor Cook throwing the first pitch. As I was watching the action I got goose bumps thinking about all the entities coming together - the construction people, sports teams, Indiana Sports Properties, Indiana Bulls, WYSA, HCSA, Henke Management, the community and the City of Westfield - and creating a family friendly, competitive, state-of-the-art environment; something that is truly unique. This thought not only makes me excited for Grand Park's upcoming, busy summer, but also for the future. Grand Park - the Sports Campus at Westfield will be a destination for people of all ages and interests and will positively impact thousands of lives creating lasting memories for years to come.

If you haven't seen Grand Park in person, I highly suggest taking a stroll up to Westfield and seeing it for yourself. Prepare to be amazed!

8 Great Things to do the First Weekend of April

Apr 03, 2014 by Hamilton County CVB

Historic Noblesville SquareYou know how the saying goes, "April showers bring May Flowers..." but don't let some rain stop you from enjoying a great weekend! Explore the indoors at Conner Prairie, get crafty, have a shopping spree, or try a new brew. Read on for those ideas and check our online calendar for even more spring getaway ideas. 

1. Get crafty! Nickel Plate Arts is hosting an array of Pinterest-inspired project classes in the coming months. This week's theme is tie dyed eggs and the class fee includes all materials. You'll be able to make a fun piece of art in just 3 hours! 

2. This week brings the first Friday of the month and also lots of fun to downtown Noblesville. For this First Friday event, you have the chance to win fun prizes with the Be a Tourist in Your Own Town photo contest (which is also great for visitors to the town too!). See the details about the contest HERE.Baby Lamb CP

3. Opening week celebrations continue at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park this weekend! The outdoor exhibits are now open for the season and are ready to explore. So is the newly expanded and re-done Create.Connect indoor exhibit that's perfect for a break from outside or for a rainy day.  

4. Shop your way around the Historic Noblesville Square. Stop in Old Picket Fence for their Spring Sale this weekend, A Corner Cottage to find something cute for the home, or Whimzy for some spring accessories. Find more shopping options along the square here.

5. See a new type of performance at The Center for the Performing Arts. You may have visited for a theater show or big musical act before, but don't overlook the stunning work by the Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre! This Friday and Saturday they are presenting a moving full-length ballet called "Super Hero."

Upland Tap Room Carmel- beers6. On the go this weekend? Bookmark our mobi site and use the "Nearby" button to see what's around you for lunch or dinner, see what attractions are near, and more.  

7. Try a new and local craft brew! Many breweries are coming out with new seasonal creations for spring. Check out blogger Caroline's suggestions for where to grab a local beer.  

8. Love jazz? Take some time this weekend to appreciate it during Jazz Appreciation Month. Take the kiddos to The Center Presents: Peanut Butter & Jam: Jazz Appreciation on Saturday morning. Or wander to Atlanta, Indiana to hear live jazz and blues at the Atlanta Music Hall.  

Enjoying Conner Prairie's Great Outdoors

Apr 01, 2014 by Sarah Buckner

Emmy Fashion CPOne of my favorite places to take my children, Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, opened for the season this past weekend. Sunday was a beautiful spring day, so I packed up Christopher, 5, and Emmy, 3, and took them out for an afternoon of fun.

Conner Prairie is a living history museum, so the staff members wear the clothing and speak the language of 19th century Indiana, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the era.

As we left the park (we were the last to leave, I had to drag the kids out), I asked the kids to share their favorite experiences with me.

"I liked the houses. I liked the dishes and the dresses." - Emmy Chris Deputy CP

We spent most of our time in 1836 Prairietown, walking through stores and homes. In two of the homes, there was beautiful china sitting on the shelves. She studied each piece quietly before saying "Your dishes are so beautiful." While visiting Mrs. Campbell's home, Emmy talked with three ladies in proper attire. After complimenting their dresses, she insisted to see more clothing, so they showed her pictures and fabric. 

"I had fun playing the Deputy game, I asked questions to the people that live at Conner Prairie." - Christopher 

Also in Prairietown is a game that gives kids a character to play out - providing the kids a fun way to interact with the citizens of the town. Chris and Emmy were Deputies and learned a lot about the laws of the time (no fishing on Sundays!).

"I liked the people. No, I loved them." - Emmy

Em loved chatting with the schoolteacher and the shopkeeper and the ladies and Duncan, the man who owned the Trading Post within the Lenape Village.

CP Schoolhouse

 

"I thought the animals were cool, it was awesome to see the baby lambs." - Christopher

Baby Lamb CPTwo lambs were born while we were at the park, and the kids were so excited to see the babies and their mama.

"Can we please ride the balloon next time?!" - both
Conner Prairie's 1859 Balloon Voyage is one of the neatest things about the park - it soars visitors 350 feet into the air, giving riders a great view all the way to downtown Indy. Sadly, the Balloon was not flying yesterday -Baby Chris Balloon Voyage CP but now we know what to do first when go back. I was able to show the kids this great picture from 2010 when a then two-year-old Christopher flew up with me. 

My favorite part of the day was watching the kids learn and run and play and laugh. We are already planning our next Conner Prairie visit.

 

Sarah Family at CP

 

8 Great Things to do the last weekend of March 2014

Mar 27, 2014 by Hamilton County CVB

It's hard to believe that March is already almost done! Spring is here and along with it, lots of opportunity for fun in Hamilton County. Read on for weekend getaway ideas and check the online calendar of events for even more Hamilton County happenings. Conner Prairie

1. Celebrate the opening of Conner Prairie's outdoor exhibits! Today the outdoor areas like Prairietown are officially open for the season and they will also have special hours during spring break. If the weather's crummy, don't fret. Today the newly expanded Create.Connect indoor learning area also opens!  

2. Enjoy a showing of a classic film on the big screen on Friday. Head to the Palladium to see "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" as a part of the Great American Songbook movie series.  

3. Got Spring Break on the brain? Plan a great Spring Break vacation or "staycation" to Hamilton County! Mine our previous post, our things to do page, and also our online calendar to plan for a great family getaway here in Hamilton County. Use the VisitHamiltonCounty.com trip builder to save your custom trip ideas too. Young Artist Exhibit

4. Go see what's new at Nickel Plate Arts! This weekend a new show opens- the Young Artists Exhibit. It'll feature the works of talented local youngsters, so it's perfect for introducing kiddos to the arts. The show will be on display through April 26. 

5. Save cash AND have fun! There are several special offers available for attractions, dining, and even hotels on our Special Offers page. Print some out or bookmark the page on your smart phone and save them for your next trip to Hamilton County. 

6. Have a pup? This weekend they will surely appreciate a visit to Hamilton County! On Sunday a brand new dog park is opening at Clay Terrace mall and on Saturday take your "bully breed" doggies to Parade-A-Bull at the Monon Community Center.  

7. Spring is trying its very best to come to Hamilton County despite some cold temperatures. Get yourself ready by viewing some spring-y art! Visit the Hamilton County Art Center to see the "It's Time for Color Exhibit" or see a special pop-up art display at the Belfry Theatre.  Monon Community Center indoor Pool

8. Speaking of the Belfry, their latest show "Miracle on South Division Street" opens this Friday! The show is a heartwarming story about a family with a history, a secret, and the search for truth. The show is sure to induce some tears, but laughter too!  

4th Annual Carmel Marathon hits a home run

Mar 25, 2014 by Kevin Bowen

Carmel MarathonTodd Oliver was hoping to hit a home run.
Instead, he hit a World Series grand slam.

On April 12th, Oliver will watch the fastest growing marathon in the state of Indiana write a new chapter.  The 4th annual Carmel Marathon will take place on that Saturday afternoon with a record number of entries.
Last year, the U.S. Marathon Report rated the Carmel Marathon among the top 125 marathons on a list of over 1,000 races.

In just four years, the Carmel Marathon has grown to the second largest in Indiana and hopes are to crack the top-100 mark by next year.  The Carmel Marathon includes a half marathon, an 8-K and for the second year a marathon relay.  Participants in two weeks will represent over 35 states and seven countries.  That includes a 69- and 70-year old couple from the Montreal area. The Carmel Marathon will be the 199th marathon for the 70-year old woman.

"Only one percent of the U.S. population runs a marathon each year. So if somebody finishes a marathon they are considered an elite athlete by pushing their body 26.2 miles," Oliver, the Race Director & President, says.  "Having that distinction is enough for a lot of people to give it a shot." Carmel Marathon Couple

The Carmel Marathon starts and finishes at the Palladium, which Oliver says is very unique and runner friendly.
The course path heads east to River Road before crossing 146th Street and eventually down Old Meridian. A trip down Pennsylvania Street precedes the final stretch towards Main Street.  A total of five Carmel parks are run through during the marathon course.

Oliver points to runner feedback as a major reason why the Carmel Marathon has seen such tremendous growth.
Runner's World Magazine, with a 1.7-million distribution reach, highlighted the Carmel Marathon as their "April Marathon."

According to Oliver, the only thing holding the Carmel Marathon back from continuing to climb among the top marathons in the U.S. is crowd support.  Locals are encouraged to cheer for the runners and/or set up water stops.  As Oliver reflects on the past four years, he's more than pleased with the marathon's success, but don't think for a second he's content.

"We want it to be a top 25-30 event in the U.S., from signage, expo, the look and feel of the grounds, 400 volunteers and the actual course," Oliver said.  "We want the image to follow the image of Carmel, which is of a premier suburb of the U.S."

More information on the Carmel Marathon can be found here.

Also, here are some more tidbits from their website:

The event moved up a week from its traditional third week in April time because of the lateness of Easter in 2014. Its plan is to shift back to the third week in 2015 with April 18th as its event date.

The Carmel Marathon Weekend is owned and operated by the Carmel Road Racing Group, LLC (CRRG) based in Carmel, IN. CRRG is an event management and consulting group that stages events throughout the US.

 

Carmel Marathon Finish

 

 

The Tucanos Experience

Mar 20, 2014 by Emma Diebold

 

Tucanos Bar

Tucanos, the newest restaurant at Hamilton Town Center in Noblesville, rolled out the red carpet for its opening weekTucanos Lemonade last Thursday. Thankfully, I was among those invited to partake in the experience that is a Brazilian grill. And I say experience because it was definitely not a run-of-the-mill meal. Sure, Tucanos is all about quality food, but the dining experience is what will blow you away!

My boyfriend and I arrived at the restaurant and were greeted with a large and loud crowd for the opening affair. A live band was on hand to supply South American beats; I'm not sure if the band will be a normal occurrence but it certainly got the Latin vibe going!

As we sat down, our very helpful server guided us through our first ever Brazilian steakhouse-style experience. To be honest, it was a bit overwhelming to learn about all of the food we could try! She explained that we could visit the Salad Festival (you might laugh at this name as I did at first, until you see the party that appears on your plate). She also explained the strange wooden block on our table. To begin the service of main meat courses called Churrasco, you flip tTucanos Cuehe block to the green side. This signals the meat carvers to pause at your table with all sorts of selections. When you need a break or simply can't stuff any more into your mouth, flip the block to red so the servers will stop. With all of this knowledge, and after ordering a tasty passion fruit lemonade, we were now ready to begin the feast.

We started with a trip to the Salad Festival. Holy. Veggies. I am a lover of salad and was very impressed with all of the fresh toppings available, especially the boiled quail eggs. There were also prepared pasta salads, sushi, and pretty much anything else salad related you could ever imagine. On top of that there were hot sides like pasta and cooked items. Some of my favorite hot finds were the tiny Brazilian cheese breads and sweet fried bananas. Tucanos Salad

Once we retuned to the table it was time for MEAT. There is really no other way to describe the meat service other than amazing. There were options ranging from fine beef to flaky fish. One of my favorites was the Assado (marinated beef brisket) that was packed with flavor. The one thing I was sad I missed- grilled pineapple. It looked juicy and delicious, but I was too stuffed to try anything else! 

If you're thinking that this meal experience is out of Tucanos meatyour price range, I'd argue to say that the prices are quite reasonable for the abundance of food you get (check the menu here). Plus you can pick only meats, only the salad bar, or even just individual skewers of meats to fit your fancy. Prices are also lower at lunchtime. If you're looking for a memorable dining experience, Tucanos is a great new option that won't disappoint!

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