Indianapolis Refines The Art Hotel

“Restroom?” the guest asked near The Alexander hotel’s registration desk, a pair of antique bureaus encased in glass.

“Follow the birds,” the employee answered, referring to a flock made of sculpted vinyl records fluttering along a lobby wall.

“Follow the birds” and “just past the graffiti” might become common directions at Indianapolis’s new boutique hotel, located three blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium, the site of last year’s surprise-hit Super Bowl. Visitors are arriving not only to check in, but also to check out a remarkable collection of contemporary-art installations, from the aforementioned graffiti by Banksy rival Nick Walker to an entire bar designed by Jorge Pardo, a MacArthur “genius” award winner.

The street-level vestibule and second-floor registration area serve as a de facto museum gallery, complete with flat white placards on the walls. The first work guests see is Brooklyn-based Alyson Shotz’s vertical wave of acrylic strips that reflect a shifting rainbow spectrum. Next, pendant lights that look like jewel-toned jellyfish dangle above a long staircase to the registration level – those are Pardo’s, and they lead to a swarm of the same fixtures in the lobby bar.

%Gallery-178921%Three more large-scale works anchor the lobby, each referencing local culture. In what might be viewed as a clever way to get you to stay an extra night, several pieces make you stop and study their intricate details. You’ll want to “read” a lacy metal curtain of laser-cut words that represent Brooklyn artist Mark Fox’s impressions of Indy, and continually step close to and back away from “Madam C.J. Walker II,” a portrait composed entirely of 3,840 black plastic combs; up close, the technique astounds (artist Sonya Clark of Richmond, Virginia, broke teeth from some of the combs and layered them to create shading), and from a distance, the image of the namesake woman comes into focus (Walker created a cosmetics empire in Indianapolis in the early 20th century and became the country’s first female African American self-made millionaire).

The Indianapolis Museum of Art, which claims one of the 10 largest encyclopedic collections in the country, curated the hotel’s installations, as well as photos and murals for every floor and guestroom. The museum’s involvement sets The Alexander apart from other art and design hotels, most of which fill one of two niches: an owner’s personal art collection not related to the site, or surreal experimental architecture.

The Alexander, operated by New Jersey­–based Dolce Hotels and Resorts and named for the architect who platted Indianapolis in 1820, opened January 21 as a mid-size property targeted largely to business travelers. It boasts 157 guestrooms (each has dark-wood floors and a seek-and-find mural behind the coffee station), 52 extended-stay suites, an innovative local restaurant, and Pardo’s artisanal-cocktail lounge. Located a block from the Indiana Pacers arena, it’s also catering to visiting NBA teams with California king beds in many rooms. The tactic worked: The Brooklyn Nets were among the first guests, though the hotel evidently made them a little too comfortable because they arrived at an ungodly late hour and still managed to beat the Pacers later that day.

With some weekend rates well under $200 and a prime location near the city’s new $60 million Cultural Trail recreation path that ribbons past every downtown attraction, The Alexander is poised to draw plenty of leisure travelers, as well. Those captivated by the artwork will want to venture four miles north and check out the museum’s other public-art showpiece, 100 Acres, an art and nature park with al fresco contemporary installations, opened in 2010.

[Photo credit: Enrique Fernandez]

The Worst-Smelling Towns In America

cattleLast week, I was in Eureka, California, for a couple of days with my parents and brother’s family. Despite the cute, historic downtown and an epic feast at the renown Samoa Cookhouse, our overwhelming impression of this coastal city is that it should be renamed “Eureeka,” because it stinks – literally.

The stench of … bait fish? Fish meal or perhaps cat food processing enveloped our hotel, and that’s just not an aroma that stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. It was like living in a bucket of chum.

My niece and nephew, 12 and 16, respectively, suggested I write a piece for Gadling on the stankiest places in America, and I’m more than happy to oblige. In addition to personal picks, my fellow Gadsters were only too happy to (cow) chip in.

Coalinga, California
Anyone who’s driven I-5 past the famous cattle stockyards knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Yellowstone National Park, and Thermopolis, Wyoming
These two famous attractions may stink of sulfur, but they’re worth putting up with the fumes.

Pago Pago, American Samoa
Think giant fish cannery.fishChinatowns, everywhere
Special mention goes to NYC on a breezeless summer’s day.

Greeley, Colorado
Let’s just say that being the home of one of America’s largest beef abattoirs has far-reaching consequences if the wind is right, which it usually is.

Gilroy, California
Depending upon your feelings about garlic, the nation’s largest producer of the stuff is heaven or hell (personally, I choose the former).

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Its unofficial nickname is “The City of Five Smells,” due to the grain processing plants located there. Like roasting coffee, not always an olfactory pleasure.

Gary, Indiana
According to one Gadling contributor, this city famously smells like, “coke (a coal by-product), steel, and sadness.” Apologies to residents of Gary but this one came up more than once.

Got any picks of your own? We’d love to hear your votes for America’s smelliest town!

[Photo credits: cattle, Flickr user St0rmz; fish, Flickr user amandamandy]

How to Prevent Fish Smell

Photo Of The Day: Fourth Of July In Indiana


Patriotism means something different to everyone, but today we each celebrate the home we have found in the United States. We celebrate today with things that complete any good party: food, drinks, music, the outdoors and a good show. In most places, the show tonight will be a fireworks display. For that reason, I chose this photo by Keith Pennington as today’s Photo Of The Day. A night sky in Lake Wawasee, Indiana, is misted over from the explosions of fireworks on a Fourth of July past. Enjoy your holiday and be safe.

If you have a photo you’d like to have considered for Photo Of The Day, just upload it to the Gadling Flickr pool.

Independence Day Travel Forecast

Gawker’s Worst 50 States

I’ve been following Gawker’s newest series, The Worst 50 States. I’ve been enjoying following this series. In an effort to pin down not only the best states in the US of A, but, more importantly, the worst states, Gawker compiled a Gawker-invented rating system in order to rank our fair fifty. Granted, this rating system consists solely of the viewpoints of those on staff for Gawker, so the viewpoints are just about as biased as you would deem Gawker (Which might be not at all according to you!), but there’s some interesting stuff in there. Yes, they’re focusing on the bad more than the good, those damn pessimists, but all in all, fact or fiction, the commentary on the 50 states is makes me laugh. And, I’ll just throw this in there, I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states and much of every summary they make rings true to me. They’re not done wrapping up the states yet, but check out their analysis of most of the states here.

If you’re inflamed, saddened, or curling over with laughter after reading what’s so bad about your home state, come back here and tell us in the comments how Gawker made you feel.

Study Ranks States By Individual Freedom

Holiday World offers exclusive roller coaster photos online

Holiday World is known for its roller coasters, including The Voyage, which has been named the world’s top wooden roller coaster for the past four years.

holiday world roller coaster photos available onlineThe holiday-themed park plays host to thousands of coaster enthusiasts each year, and many of them like to capture photos of the coasters from different angles. In fact, park officials say, some coaster enthusiasts beg for a behind-the-scenes look, just to snap a few pics.

To feed that desire, Holiday World has introduced a collection of photos of its wooden coasters in its online “HoliShop”.

“Enthusiasts just love taking photos of our roller coasters–but these photos are taken from angles they could never get,” said Holiday World President Dan Koch

The 8×10 photos are matted and framed in an 11×14 black metal frame. They sell for $14.99. These could make a pretty cool Christmas gift for the roller coaster lover in your life.

There are eight different photos in the current collection. Koch says the Santa Claus, Indiana, theme park hopes to introduce new framed photos each season.