Mass Ave.

Ten minutes from UIndy is an artsy district in the heart of the city that’s unlike any other. The Massachusetts Avenue cultural district is rich in art, architecture, food, and shopping—and it’s well known for its fun and funky feel. Even the street’s orientation to the Indy street grid is askew. Built at a 45-degree angle to the city’s north-south layout, the “Mass Ave” district reaches from New York Street to East Ninth—easing out of downtown to a world all its own.

The bricks & mortar


Take a walking tour of Mass Ave and you’ll find buildings that seem almost to have been frozen in time. The Murat Shrine Temple and the Athenaeum, found on opposite corners, are architectural marvels. The Murat Theatre is known for concerts of all kinds, plus such shows as The Lion King and Wicked. The Athenaeum, built in 1894, houses a YMCA, theatre, and more.

The eye candy

Besides the amazing architecture, art pops up all over the district, on both street and stage. An instant classic, the LED sculpture “Ann Dancing” by world-renowned artist Julian Opie graces a prominent intersection. Murals dot the area, as well, and a multistory painting of Indianapolis native Kurt Vonnegut graces much of one brick exterior. And speaking of writers: you’ll find Indy Reads Books on Mass Ave. It’s a cool independent bookstore selling new and used books to generate revenue to advance adult literacy. And while Mass Ave is a relatively small area, eight theatres, from improv to professional, help bring life and color to the district. Mass Ave also hosts a First Friday event each month that features local artists in six galleries.

The exotic eats

Need some spice in your life?

StaciReafsnyder_MassAve-SignCajun, Scottish, Italian, German, Mediterranean—Mass Ave eateries have all those and more. A locally owned restaurant with several Indy locations, Yats offers tasty, affordable Cajun food. The Rathskeller offers Bavarian fare and outdoor dining during the warmer months. Need more options? You’ll also find Bazbeaux Pizza, Hoaglin to Go Café, MacNiven’s, R Bistro, Mesh, Black Market, Bru Burger—more than 25 hot spots to choose from. Have a sweet tooth? Try the Flying Cupcake or Best Chocolate in Town. Or hit one of the exotic frozen-yogurt venues: Yogulatte, Orange Leaf, and Sub Zero (where the liquid nitrogen puts on a show to complement the flavors).

The shopping

Shopping on Mass Ave is a kick. The unusual Silver in the City is often called the “Best Gift Shop in Indianapolis.” Global Gifts, a fair-trade organization, works with people in developing areas (from 35 countries) and pays artisans who otherwise would not be able to reach the market. The delightful Mass Ave Toys is an independent retailer offering art kits, educational games, science-oriented dolls, and lots of fun, charming toys. Stout’s Shoes has been on Mass Ave since 1886. Their shoes have kept pace with the styles, but the store itself is amazingly retro—right down to its Baldwin Flyer system of moving shoes around the store via a series of pulleys, wires, and baskets. Stores throughout the district offer high-end fashion, such as Sage Boutique, Sakura Urban, and others.

So hit Mass Ave often when you’re a UIndy student. It’s close by, it’s affordable, and it’s bound to keep you entertained for hours.

—Photos & story by Staci Reafsnyder ’11