Last week, I attended Visit Indy’s always-amazing State of Tourism program, an event that left me reflecting on my first visit to Indianapolis. I’m from Ohio, so it’s not as if Indiana offered anything unique by way of adventures or vacations. In fact, I’d hardly been in the Hoosier state, aside from a summer week spent at Flat Rock River YMCA Camp.
That changed in 2001. Our annual 5th grade overnight trip took my classmates and I west, and we landed in what I’m convinced was a hotel on I-69 somewhere between Castleton and the now sprawling suburbs. I don’t remember much about that trip aside from our visits to Conner Prairie and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. So while I wasn’t exactly familiar with the city, I at least had name recognition and could identify where Indy was on a map.
My next few visits came when I was an awkward tween (I’ll spare you the pictures). I would angstily tag along with my parents to the RCA Dome as they watched my older brother perform in our high school’s marching band. Every year the Bands of America Grand National Championships were held in Indianapolis (they still are!), there would be dinners at The Hard Rock Cafe and visits to Circle Centre Mall, winding our way through the skywalks from point A to B. Indy began to feel like a place we went to visit family or friends – made of familiar streets and places.
When I finally joined the marching band, I looked forward to our Indianapolis trip every November. I eagerly awaited this trip because of the memories and experiences, not because we placed well in competition (we were a very small band), but because this was my first glimpse of city life outside of my hometown, where I was given the opportunity to independently explore a new place with my friends. There were now places that I had discovered on my own, that were mine. And it was electric.
Fast forward to my years at Ball State in the Department of Urban Planning and Development. There, we had several projects that were Indy-based. In addition to our frequent visits to Indianapolis, our department went on field trips each semester and I got to encounter urban exploration again and again. We traveled all over the country: Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, L.A., Portland, Seattle, and more. While each city provided a unique experience and culture, all of them hit me with that feeling of discovering a city for the first time. No matter where we went, I would end up thinking of my first memories of city exploration—memories of Indy. Needless to say, my crush on Indianapolis turned into a full on relationship and I continued to visit the city both for schoolwork and for fun.
After all that experience, who would have thought that I’d end up not only living in Indianapolis, but working for an organization that is leading the way in attracting top talent in our city?! There are few times in life where things feel like they come full circle, and walking out of State of Tourism, I realized that this is one of those special moments for me. Seven years ago I chose to move to Indianapolis and now proudly call it home.
The best part about my journey with Indy has been the growth that I’ve witnessed throughout the city. In the past decade, there have been immense developments and community projects that have helped shape the city as a strong, dynamic and aspirational place to call home. I can’t help but take pride in sharing our city and its story with others. Let’s show those 28.8 million visitors what our city has to offer! It may take a few years (or in my case,11), but perhaps some of them will fall in love with Indy and choose to live here, too.
Check out Visit Indy’s official State of Tourism video.
Laura Granieri is the Director of Communications at IndyHub. She’s always on the lookout for the next social media trend or a unique No Mean City story. In her spare time, you can find her supporting awesome Indy organizations and riding her bike around downtown. @lauraklaurak