Exploring the Indiana Avenue Cultural District

Indianapolis skyline

Indianapolis has designated six cultural districts with having ‘cultural and historical significance’ to the city. One of these districts is Indiana Avenue (it’s not just a place on the Monopoly board game). Read on to learn a little about what makes Indiana Avenue special.

Located west of downtown, Indiana Avenue was an early black settlement that was developed in the late 1800’s and was a part of the Underground Railroad. Jazz music became a culturally significant part of the district and in its heyday, the area was home to 33 jazz clubs and the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald were preforming regularly.  The area was most famous for the Madam C.J. Walker Theater that opened on 617 Indiana Avenue in 1927. The theater was popular with locals and local businesses and put on many plays and concerts until the 1950’s.

When segregation laws changed, many of the areas residents eventually moved to other parts of the city and the state and Indiana Avenue and the Madam C.J. Walker Theater headed into a down period and the area became neglected.

In recent years however, it was decided that the area should try and be brought back to life and improvements were made by the city. Many of the old original homes that had become dilapidated have been renovated by the Indiana Historic Landmark Society and are now being enjoyed by new owners in the community. The Madam C.J. Walker has also been restored and is now listed on the register of National Historic Landmarks. The theater has once again become a big part of the community. Every year the theater puts on tons of events from plays to concerts, movies, dances and more.  The theater works closely with the nearby Indiana University – Purdue University Campus to engage students in the district.

Jazz music is still a big part of Indiana Avenue and today you can catch jazz shows at the Chatterbox, The Jazz Kitchen, and dozens of other bars and music venues. Every September the area puts on the Indy Jazz Festival where the best of the best in the genre preform. This event is attended by thousands of people annually.

The next time you visit Indianapolis, make sure you spend some time on Indiana Avenue.

Traveling Around Chicago via Public Transit

Chicago Traffic

While Chicago is an easy city to navigate when driving, the area has a great public transit system that is affordable and efficient. A few of the bus routes and metro lines run 24 hours a day, making it easy to travel at any time of day.  If you are keeping your car at home, here are the ways to travel around Chicago without a vehicle.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) runs all the CTA trains and buses in the downtown core. Because both the buses and trains are run by the same company, you can transfer between both methods of transportation easily and both accept the same fare payment systems which include Ventra Cards, Chicago Cards, and Transit Cards. You can pick these Ventra cards and Transit cards up at train stations and many local retailers. Chicago Cards have to be purchased online.

CTA Trains
Chicago’s train system (made famous in the movie The Fugitive) is locally known as the L. While most cities’ train systems run underground, much of the lines in Chicago are elevated. Using the L is pretty straight forward, each line is designated a color and they list the name of the last stop so you can easily determine the direction the train is headed in. There are 8 lines all together Green, Yellow, Red, Brown, Pink, Purple, Blue and Orange. The Red and Blue lines are open 24/7, convenient when you’re spending a night on the town.  The Orange line will take you to the Chicago Midway Airport and the Blue line will get you to O’Hare Airport.

A full fare ticket costs $2.25 and you pay by swiping your card or ticket at the turnstile before you reach the boarding platform.

CTA Buses
The bus system in Chicago is extensive. There are dozens of bus routes and hundreds of bus stops located throughout the city. Bus stops are denoted by blue and white CTA signs, which show the bus routes that stop at that location. Bus routes are numbered, and buses generally come along every 10-20 minutes. There are a few routes that run 24 hours a day – these are called OWL routes.

Fares for bus transit are $2 per ride. When traveling by bus, you pay onboard. There are a number of payment options, and all methods accepted by the train are accepted on the bus. Unlike the train, the bus accepts cash payment, though please be aware, when you pay by cash, you pay an extra .25 cents and you cannot transfer buses.

The Metra is a line of commuter trains that start from the heart of downtown Chicago and extends out into the suburbs and some of the lines even extended into the states of Wisconsin and Indiana. There are eleven lines that depart from 4 stations in Chicago. Fares depended on how many zones you travel. One way prices range from $2.75 for Zone A and go up to $9.25 for Zone M. If you plan on taking the Metra regularly, you can purchase 10-ticket passes or unlimited monthly passes. Train tickets can be purchased at the station or can be bought online.

Chicago Water Taxi
If you’re heading to destinations along the waterfront, you can take in scenic views of the Chicago skyline as you sail along the Chicago River on a Water Taxi. The Water Taxi will take you to North Avenue and Goose Island, Madison Street, LaSalle/Clark, Michigan Avenue and on weekends it also goes to Chinatown.  The price of a ticket ranges from $3-$7 depending on when and where you’re going. If you plan on using the water taxi more than once in a single day, it may be advantages to purchase an All Day Pass. There is no need to pre-purchase a ticket, you can buy them when you board the taxi.

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