Gatlinburg TN

Gatlinburg TN
I've been on a HUGE Gatlinburg area kick lately..... Here is a recent picture!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Indianapolis at Christmas

One of my favorite cities outside of Kentucky is Indianapolis. I love this town. I have talked about it before, but I feel the need to mention it again now.

Indianapolis is a great city during Christmas. I try to make it down for a day or a whole weekend at some point between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. Indianapolis really knows how to celebrate the season.

For anyone totally unfamiliar with Indy's downtown area, it is very photogenic. Their 284 foot tall Soldiers and Sailors monument is overwhelming. The statues that are attached to it alone really make a person feel small. This is a magnificent structure, and if you are driving through the area, please take a moment to get out of your car and actually walk up to it. Glancing at it as you loop around the round about does not do it justice. You can take an elevator to the top for a buck.

So, much of their downtown area is centered around the monument. There are a lot of cool things going on right in that area. Nice restaurants, hotels and shopping are common. You can easily drive down on a Friday, park, get a room, and not need your car again until Sunday when you leave.

Circle Center Mall is part of Indianapolis' glorious downtown. I really can't describe how cool the mall here is as it has a bit of an infinite feel. It is four stories, and is inside of four preexisting buildings. It is connected by walkways to many hotels downtown too. It is easy to spend an event filled weekend at a downtown hotel and never have to step foot outside.

There are a couple of glassed in areas at the mall that allow for some cool views of downtown. The Artsgarden is a fun architectural site on the outside and on the inside. It is maintained by the city's arts counsel ( ). Something cool is usually going on in the Artsgarden. There is always information on cool events in the area here.

The day after Thanksgiving, the town host a huge event around the Soldiers and Sailors monument, lighting it up as a tree for the season. I have heard estimates of 100,000 people showing up for the lighting.

Indianapolis has another Christmas tradition that, in my books, trumps all others. Since 1947, a small Cherub has appeared for Christmas on the clock at the old L.S. Ayers building. I love looking up at the clock and seeing the Cherub there when I am in town before Christmas.

Across the street from the Cherub is the Border's Bookstore. I am usually not a huge fan of chain store (I must admit that I do like Border's) but this store has some true uniqueness to it. It is obvious that they built the store into an old bank, leaving up some of the old fixtures. I love their well stocked local interest section, and the staff there seems friendly and helpful. Also, I like the marriage of Border's Books and Seattle's Best Coffee, especially at this location. A big book store and a cozy coffee area in clean downtown Indianapolis is perfect.

I have been to Indianapolis on many summer days, but I seem to be making a tradition of getting downtown in December. In my mind, I associate downtown with Christmas and winter. If you are in downtown Indianapolis on a cold winter night, you MUST stop by the South Bend Chocolate Company Chocolate Cafe. Get some hot chocolate. Get the large. Trust me.

All of the major sporting venues (Victory Field, Conseco Fieldhouse, and Lucas Oil Stadium) are within the downtown area. The Convention Center is here. A cool place to catch a nice dinner and get a view of the entire city is the Eagle's Nest restaurant on top of the Hyatt (the place is very classy, and it rotates slowly, giving you a complete view of the town great skyline).

Getting away from downtown, Indy still has several NICE malls. Castleton Square Mall and the Keystone Fashion Mall are both worth a walk through, and they are close to each other. The Keystone Mall has a nice feel to it, and it has many unique stores. I REALLY love the Keystone Art Cinema here. It is worth taking a couple of hours to catch a movie here. They have a great selection of the usual movie theater snacks, plus some. The seats are the most comfortable seats ever in a theater. We had a great lunch at this malls "Fashion Cafe". Its like a cool nic nac store, plus a very nice cafe. We had some great sandwiches, desert and tea. This is a really unique place, and I hope people support this place.

I like Greenwood Mall too, and the area around there (I love that Half Price Books and pet store across the street). There are still many legitimate malls in Indy.

I have spent summer weekends in Indy downtown, walking to ballgames, monuments, etc. I have spent winter weekends downtown doing totally different things than what I did there during the summer. I have spent weekends in the Keystone area, not stepping foot in downtown and still had a nice time. Indy is a big town with a lot of nice things going on.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bluegrass Stallions at the Kentucky Horse Park

I had the chance to check out the new pro basketball team in Lexington last night. I am glad to see another new team in the area, and I hope they do well. I had a good time but as a new team, in a new venue, they have a lot of little things to work out. There are good things, and bad things about this team right now.

The set up at the Horse Park, at this time anyway, is confusing. With the Southern Lights at the park, there is some additional chaos. I love the lights. In fact, getting to see the lights AND catching a basketball game is a bonus, but if you are simply hoping to catch the game the whole lights thing may be a problem.

We got to the Horse park, and went through the campground entrance. We stopped at the front and were told we still had to pay $15 (admission to see the lights through the park) but the Stallions would give us a buy one get one free ticket because of that, which was cool with us.

Also, there was a long line of vehicles forming to get into the park, for the game AND for the lights.

We were then told to look for the Stallions sign with the blinking light. The entire park is blinking lights! AND the stallions "sign" was a small cardboard yard sign with ONE small blinking light on it (not being familiar with the park, we came close to driving by this sign without noticing it).

I was the only one buying a ticket at the ticket window, but this was a long process. It took probably 20 minutes to get my ticket, as people were being trained in this area. Also, they were unable to provide me with a receipt. I really don't want to be too critical of this team starting out, but this was embarrassing and they really need to correct this problem soon.

My only other real problem with this team relates more to the rules of the ABA. I hate rule change gimmicks, and that's what the 3D rule is. I personally don't find it exciting. I remember an independent baseball league (one that folded) suggested making home runs count x2 after the 7th or 8th inning. These kind of rules don't seem necessary. It gets confusing. You know, with arena football, the rule modifications for the arena setting improved the game of football in my opinion. Smaller fields and smaller uprights make the game just as interesting, if not more.

Speaking of arena football, I was glad to see that a lot of the former Horsemen staff are running the new basketball team. In a way, it almost felt like the football playing Horsemen have continued on with the Stallions.

I really hate on field announcers or DJs finding their way into minor league sports these days. A mediocre one is a dime a dozen. The Stallions were lucky to get Steve from the Horsemen. Steve is fun, and has a great, original sense of humor. Steve had me laughing so hard I cried at some Horsemen games (flirting with cheerleaders when he thought he wasn't being filmed, egging participants on in hot dog eating contests, etc.). At the Stallion's game last night, he heckled a smaller player on the other team while they were at the free throw line. Steve is the only on field host that I actually look forward to seeing at a game.

There were other cool things about seeing this new team.

The new indoor stadium is very nice and cozy. I think it can hold around 6,000. It has a clean new feel to it. It has a dirt floor, but they put a basketball court over it. Oddly, it works and works well. I think this would be a fun venue for an arena football team too. Rupp is easily the most exciting indoor sports venue in the state, but this venue is probably a more affordable and ideal one for independent pro teams like the Stallions. I hope to catch many more sporting events (basketball and other) here.

Kyle Macy. The guy is a UK legend, and has a lot of pro playing time under his belt. I doubt he is coaching right now for the money. Every ABA fan that gets to see him owes him a sincere, "Thank You."

HOOPS the mascot. Big fluffy mascots are cool, I don't care what anyone else has to say about this. They are great. HOOPS is a new great one. I saw him all over the place, posing for pics, throwing popcorn, and harassing the cheerleaders. He is fun. I mean, I don't appreciate him as much as I appreciate coach Kyle, but the kids will love him. I love him.

Ale-8 was last nights sponsor and we got a free 6 pack on our way into the park. On the cool-giveaway-o-meter, that ranks at the top. I remember a couple of seasons ago, Chipotle would give out burrito coupons at Legends games on Tuesday nights. If Ale-8 and Chipotle are ever given away at the same time, my head will explode. I am MUCH more likely to buy a ticket if I know I am getting free Ale-8!

Also, if you love obscure and unusual occurrences, well, here you go. As far as I know, last night was the first time EVER that 2 pro basketball teams, both from Kentucky, played each other in Lexington! Think about that. Think about how much of a basketball town Lexington is. Pretty cool.

I do hope the area comes out to support the Stallions (and the Bisons too, playing for a second season in Owensboro). Pikeville is listed as having a team but I can't find current info on them.

Check out my links to the Stallions and Bisons at the left of this page.