Welcome to Zionsville, Indiana, the town I’ve called home for the last eight years. Located just northwest of Indianapolis, and considered an Indy suburb, Zionsville is known for its charming brick streets, small town feel and many boutiques, restaurants and parks.
This fall, Toyota granted my family a complimentary rental of a Highlander hybrid SUV to try while showing you some of the many things to do in Zionsville and to offer a free and honest review of the vehicle.
While I am originally from Lexington, Kentucky, I attended Butler University, a small college in the heart of Indianapolis, and grew to love the area. Once we had kids, we decided to settle in Zionsville for a variety of reasons. It has the feel of a small town yet is just minutes from a major city; has beautiful rolling hills (rare in Indianapolis, which is mostly flat), horse farms and the charming village; and has an outstanding school system. We have enjoyed our time here, letting our kids grow up in a small Midwestern town, and love that we can be in downtown Indianapolis (or a Butler basketball game!) in just about 20 minutes.
The Toyota Highlander
We have never owned a Toyota nor driven a Highlander — or hybrid car for that matter! — so we were excited to give it a try. We do each normally drive SUVs; my husband drives a Dodge Durango and I drive a smaller Ford Escape.
We found the Toyota Highlander to be a comfortable vehicle for families that is environmentally friendly while offering a cost savings on gas. The hybrid takes a little getting used to though it does not detract from driving in any way.
When turning on the car, the motor doesn’t kick in right away, so it feels a bit like you’re coasting backwards out of the garage and then can surprise you when it does kick in :), though you get used to this quickly. I love that it does not use the motor all the time to save energy.
The hybrid works by having a battery that it uses some of the time, especially when driving in town at lower speeds. The battery charges when you put your foot on the brake. So cool! We found it saved us A LOT in gas costs when doing our normal driving around town. The vehicle takes regular grade 87 gas.
The vehicle itself was very comfortable and spacious for a family of four, including two rapidly-growing boys, who at ages 9 and 13 still can’t seem to keep their hands off each other when sitting in the backseat. The further apart from each other they can be, the better for Mom and Dad! 😉
We had a lovely moonroof to open on the warmer fall days or you could just vent it if it was raining or a bit cooler. There were plenty of places to plug a USB cord to charge devices, as well ample cup holders. It has a touch screen on the dashboard and hands-free voice system for commands to change the music source, temperature, make a call and more. The car also came with both heated and cooled seats, though while we could hear the air blowing to cool the seats, we could not tell much of a difference there.
Having a car with a rear camera to guide you when backing up is SO helpful and so much safer to make sure there is no one or anything in your way.
Overall, we gave it two thumbs up for families looking for a comfortable, spacious vehicle with many amenities that saves on the cost of gas.
Tour of Zionsville, Indiana
We used the Toyota Highlander to drive around town and collect photos to show you more about Zionsville in the hopes that if you visit Indy, you’ll head our way!
The first pioneer arrived in Zionsville in the 1820s and the town itself was founded in 1851 named for a railroad developer William Zion as rail lines developed northwest of Indianapolis. The railroad once ran on what is now First Street, and President-Elect Abraham Lincoln’s train even made a stop in Zionsville where he spoke briefly to a gathered crowd. To learn more about Zionsville history, visit the Sullivan Munce Cultural Center in person or online.
Things to Do in Zionsville
Most people come to Zionsville to enjoy its many boutique stores that offer everything from refurbished antique furniture and stylish apparel and to wine and gifts. The town also has many locally-owned excellent restaurants at a variety of price points that bring visitors to the area to dine in this quaint atmosphere. I’ll share some of my favorite shops and restaurants below.
Zionsville also happens to have the only Bentley dealership in all of Indiana and has several lovely parks. Kids will enjoy playing in our very large Lions Park with plentiful baseball fields, playgrounds and a walkway along the creek perfect for a short nature hike. The Fourth of July fireworks are held here, along with fall festivals and other major events. There is also Lincoln Park, a small park with a pretty gazebo the site of Lincoln’s speech, which is a favorite spot for weddings.
You’ll find locals day and night walking the Zionsville Rail Trail, which follows the old railway tracks and is about 3.75 miles long. It’s surrounded by trees and passes by area schools and on to a trail that connects to Starkey Park, another large park with hiking trails and Eagle Creek access. At the newer Elm Street Green, you can launch your kayak into the creek or just enjoy the grounds while reading a good book.
The Zion Nature Center is a great spot to learn more about local Indiana habitat and wildlife, and don’t miss our amazing Hussey Mayfield Public Library, a two-story facility housing more than 135,000 items available to the public, and hosting events from kids activities to book groups year-round.
To stay up to date on the latest events and activities in Zionsville, check out ZvilleMoms.com.
Zionsville is definitely known for its shopping with the brick streets filled with passers-by every weekend peeking in store windows. As a local, here are some of my favorite go-to Zionsville retailers:
After returning from Europe, I’ve grown in my appreciation and knowledge of wine. Gone are the days of buying the cheapest wine at CVS! Now, I head to Grapevine Cottage, an awesome wine store in the village, for an affordable but good selection of French and Italian wines like Bordeaux, Chianti or Brunello. They also have great local food items and foodie and wine gifts.
Five Thirty Home
If you’re looking for some unique items for your home, head to Five Thirty Home, a family-run store specializing in re-painting and refurbishing furniture and other goods. They have lots of home decor speciality items that you won’t find elsewhere from seasonal picks to vintage goods to gifts. They also specialize in Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint (an environmentally-friendly paint) products.
Stay on top of fashion trends with a stop at Lesley Jane, a women’s clothing store. The owner sleuths out the latest fashions from boutique brands and offers them at affordable prices.
Zionsville Lighting Center
Zionsville Lighting Center is THE place to find unique lighting fixtures for your home. The store offers chandeliers, table and floor lamps and more, as well as lamp repair and restoration.
There are so many good restaurants in Zionsville that it’s hard to pick one! Many are so full that it’s best to go early and avoid weekends if possible.
The Friendly Tavern
A Zionsville classic is The Friendly Tavern, which locals just call “The Friendly.” While kids are not allowed (due to the proximity of the bar to the bathrooms), The Friendly is the local neighborhood watering hole with excellent food to boot. Our favorite is the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, an Indiana classic. This sandwich is fried and served on a bun with pickle, mustard and mayo. Yum! The restaurant typically spills outdoors with patrons waiting for a seat.
My Sugar Pie
Get another Hoosier classic, sugar cream pie (which in my book is THE best dessert ever created), at My Sugar Pie, a store dedicated to all things pie! A favorite of Oprah and featured in People magazine, Country Living and more, this Zionsville shop, which has gained national fame, offers delicious pies either by the slice or entire pies, including blackberry, dutch apple, coconut cream, banana cream, peanut butter and more. You can also order online if you can’t make it to town.
Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream
A local chain, Bub’s Burgers serves top-notch burgers, including the Big Ugly (a full pound of meat!), made from fresh, hand-pattied ground chuck on buns that are baked fresh daily. Our favorites are the Cajun burger (ask for it if it’s not on special), the elk burger and they also make a great chicken sandwich. Enjoy outdoor seating on warmer Indiana days.
The Lemon Bar
Opened in 2017, the Lemon Bar is a stylish restaurant with a patio and sunroom serving soups, salads, sandwiches and its signature Hoosier poutine, a dish of fries topped with gravy and cheese. The restaurant also serves alcohol, including its Limoncello Martini.
A great place to meet for breakfast or lunch is Rosie’s Place right on Main Street. They have some delicious baked goods, including gooey butter cookies, breads, pies and cakes, as well as eggs, soups, salads and sandwiches.
The Salty Cowboy is our resident Mexican eatery and boy is it delicious! But it’s in a very small former home so it only seats a handful of people and results in hours-long waits on weekends. Plan to get here early or be willing to shop in town while waiting for your turn at their guacamole and margaritas.
I love my town of Zionsville and I hope I showed you a few reasons to visit our delightful village on your next trip to Indianapolis!
Do you live in Indy? Here’s a great website for Indianapolis working moms.
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