Over the years, Gerard and I have both made comments along the lines of "why would you want to live there?" in reference to, respectively, Canberra and Indianapolis. To be clear, I'm pretty sure more Americans don't know Canberra (it's the Australian capital, folks) and most Australians I've met don't know Indianapolis (and there's no reason they should). And so, in a face-off of "little old ladies feebly smacking at each other in slow motion" proportions we've broken both cites down into an analysis that swerves from "it's not that bad" to "at least the other one's worse."
In the face-off between the Indianapolis Zoo and Canberra's National Zoo and Aquarium, the winner seems pretty clear. Although the NZA seems like a great place to visit,the Indy Zoo is far more popular on Facebook (more than 132,700 followers, compared to just over 21,000 for the NZA) and it's also more than twice the size (64 acres, versus NZA's 25). Indy's general admission is also cheaper across all age groups, even after accounting for the currency exchange.
Gerard: I don't know, I haven't been to either... at least not in the past decade.
The performance scene in Indianapolis is sparse by major-city standards, especially if you're talking about actual regular employment for the performers and administrators. There are multiple venues (mostly small), dance and theatre companies, a fantastic fringe festival, a symphony orchestra and a small opera company. Overall, it looks like I have to give this one to Canberra - not only does it simply have more venues, more variety and more organisations doing more shows, it is also home to the National Film and Sound Archive.
Gerard: While there are a bunch of grassroots organisations doing interesting stuff and developing fantastic talent (that usually moves to Sydney or Melbourne in order to have a viable career), the major performing arts centre in Canberra is acoustically the worst place I have ever sung in. This is largely due to the fact that they carpeted the roof in an act of 1960's idiocy.
This is a close call, because I truly love the Indianapolis Museum of Art. However, Canberra not only has more major art museums, including all the official "national" ones (National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery), it's also home to many more smaller for- and non-profit galleries. Plus, the IMA charges admission now, and I'm cheap.
Gerard: Yeah, the National Gallery of Australia is pretty good. And the Drill Hall Gallery and ANU School of Art are top notch. Though the cars in the Indy 500 museum are pretty awesome works of art.
As Gerard puts it, "Canberra will smack down on nature." Indeed, the entire layout of Canberra was designed as the "bush capital" and this one is no contest. Indianapolis has some lovely parks, but it simply can't compete with the mountains, waterfalls, gorges and of course the beautiful Australian National Botanic Gardens.
Gerard: Told you. Smack. Down.
How would I know? I'm asleep by 10pm no matter what time zone I'm in. I'll give it to Canberra on principle, because the one club I did love, Talbott Street, closed its doors earlier this year.
Gerard: Nope, Canberra loses automatically for one reason, and that reason is Mooseheads.
I'm giving both cities a "serviceable, but not spectacular" rating on this one. From what I've seen, Indy almost certainly has more options, but to be fair, if you're in the States, you have access to Amazon (without the insane shipping rates). So it's online shopping for the win!
Gerard: Yeah, online shopping is the real winner. And both cities have IKEA, so calling this a tie.
In addition to the Indy 500, Indiana's capital city is home to the NCAA Hall of fame, as well as NFL, NBA and WNBA teams, as well as a minor league baseball team (there might be others I don't know about, given my complete apathy towards athletics). Meanwhile, Canberra has the Brumbies and the Vikings for rugby union, the GWS Giants in Australian Football (Gerard: Canberra is not Greater Western Sydney!), women's basketball team the Capitals and the Canberra United Football Club for soccer. I'm calling a draw... mostly because I barely cared enough to Google "sports in Canberra" and now I'm completely out of s**ts to give.
Gerard: Indianapolis doesn't have a professional rugby union team. Therefore it is the clear loser. Go Brumbies.
Cost of Living
While Canberra is considerably cheaper than most major Australian cities, it's still more expensive than Indy. Here's a straight comparison of average prices for different categories (including adjusting the currency to Australian dollars) in Canberra and Indianapolis.
Gerard: The real cost of living in Canberra is paying $20 for a cafe breakfast that is far worse quality than the same $15 breakfast in Sydney.
I'm gonna give this one to Canberra - Indianapolis is a sprawling city of suburbs, and you really need a car to get around. Even if you have the time flexibility to deal with the unreliable buses, you could easily have to walk miles along roads with no sidewalks to get to the bus stop in the first place. Plus, while Indy's nowhere near as bad as the more densely populated US cities, traffic in Canberra is basically never an issue, even if you're driving. Except, of course, then you have to deal with the roundabouts...
Gerard: The buses no longer smell of exhaust fumes and stale urine (oh the childhood memories), so I guess that's a win.
This criteria is going to depend largely on whether you view these structures as a joy or a terror. Canberra is all about the roundabouts, and while Indy itself hasn't jumped on the bandwagon (Monument Circle excluded), the northern suburb of Carmel is diving right in, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on dozens of new roundabouts, in addition to the ones they already have.
Gerard: While driving around a roundabout at speed is a fun experience, I also wrote off a car at a roundabout because of a scared tourist who braked mid entry. So I'm giving this to Indianapolis.
This is not my wheelhouse - my first meal in Australia was McDonald's (but I get points for calling it Macca's!), and one of my favourite restaurants in Indy is Bob Evans (which I made Gerard try, of course). Indianapolis has variety and some pretty good places, but I'm not the person to ask - I'm not a foodie, and I don't even drink alcohol. Gerard's going to have to call this one.
Gerard: Indianapolis is, based on my experience, just like most of the Midwest. Large franchise chains of restaurants (e.g. Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster) interspersed with Chinese food places that have dumbed down the cuisine for the white person's palate. By that standard Canberra should win, with its variety of international cuisines, a Chinatown that is bigger than those of many major US cities, and some top quality gourmet restaurants. However, for each Fuoco Nero, Mecca Bah, and Civic Pub (the best steaks are the ones you grill yourself), there are some equally abysmal and overpriced insults to the culinary profession that negate these gains.
(Trigger warning for Canberra hipsters)
Also... Gus' Cafe was vastly overrated, served bad espresso, and DESERVED TO CLOSE. There, I said it.
So Canberra tops Indianapolis as the better city to live. Of course, Canberra this week was once again announced as the most livable city in the world, which I suppose is fine if you believe in sham metrics like access to health care, low crime rates, and quality of education. But our numbers don't lie. Canberra wins.