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Travel: Why Indianapolis Makes the Christmas Vacation Bucket List

As the capital city of Indiana, Indianapolis is a bustling hub. It has a walkable downtown area and there are plenty of shops, restaurants and venues to check out. Top sights include the Indianapolis Zoo, the Children’s Museum and the Motor Speedway.

With so much going on, it should come as no surprise that Indianapolis makes a great Christmas destination. Here are some of the Holiday activities you can check out during your visit.

Festival of Trees

The Indiana Historical Society is one of the oldest historical societies in the United States. It describes itself as “Indiana’s Storyteller”.

During the holiday season, the Historical Society gets into the spirit with a Festival of Trees. The trees feature a wide variety of design themes that range from classic to modern to downright outrageous. Past themes have included Santa’s sleigh, sugarplum fairy and the show ‘Stranger Things’ which is set in a fictional town in Indiana.

A spirit of competition is added as guests can choose a fan favorite.

In addition to the Festival of Trees, those who visit the Society are also welcome to partake in a scavenger hunt to find ten pickle ornaments hidden throughout the room. When they want to take a break, they can visit the Cole Porter Room to enjoy holiday themed songs performed live.

Other holiday activities the society offers includes Twilight Tuesdays featuring music by local talent, a Sugarplum Breakfast where guests can mingle with characters from the Nutcracker and a Christmas Story Day dedicated to the movie of the same name.

They also host a Holiday Author Fair. Guests can show up for meet and greets with over 70 of their favorite local authors.

Winterlights at Newfields

Newfields is a 152 acre campus that houses the Museum of Art, the Lilly House, the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, The Gardens at Newfields, the Beer Garden and more. While any and all of these make great holiday destinations, you will get in a festive mood just walking around the property at night.

The garden trails are filled with hundreds of lights that appear on the trees and lawns. Stroll the grounds while sipping a hot drink and take in the holiday magic.

Jingle Rails

The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Arts is located in the downtown area. Exhibitions include the art of indigenous people and Western American sculptures and paintings.

At Christmas time, they set up a Jingle Rails display. Guests can check out the seven trains that run across over 1200 feet of railroad that takes them through miniatures of popular Indianapolis sights like the Eiteljorg Museum, Monument Circle, Union Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium and other historic sites like Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Falls and Old Faithful.

The sites are decorated for the holiday season and surrounded by snowcapped trees.

Jolly Days Winter Wonderland

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is a great place for children to explore. It houses a planetarium, carousel, science labs, a library and more.

The museum transforms into Jolly Days of Winter Wonderland with a two story Yule Slide, Jingles the Jolly Bear, giant snow globes, sock ice skating, ice fishing in a pretend pond, an ice castle, the baking of winter goodies and meet and greets with holiday favorites like Santa, Scrooge and Mrs. Claus.

Circle of Lights

The Circle of Lights takes place at Monument Square and features the world’s largest Christmas tree (284 feet) decorated with nearly 5000 lights and 52 garlands. It has been named as one of the top five must see Christmas trees in the nation. It is surrounded by giant toy soldiers and sailors and 26 peppermint sticks.

Every year, the lighting event takes place in the square bringing thousands of spectators. Festivities include live singing performances. One lucky child is chosen from the IPL Coloring Contest to help Santa flick the switch.

Celebration Crossing

The Indiana State Museum is located in downtown Indianapolis and offers science, art, culture and history exhibits that represent the state of Indiana. It is also the site of the largest IMAX screen in the state.

Every year, the museum kicks off its Celebration Crossing event by having Santa land in their front lawn via helicopter. After witnessing this event, guests are welcome to come into the museum to take in all their holiday exhibits. A favorite is the train ride aboard the vintage L.S. Ayres Santa Claus express train.

There are also activities taking place in Santa’s Workshop and Santa’s Front Yard including story time, helping Santa pack his sleigh with presents and, of course, meet and greets with Santa.

Families can also enjoy lunch in the Ayres Tea Room. The room is only open during the holiday season and serves up a traditional Christmas tea experience with pastries, hot drinks and more.

The Tea Room is also the site of a special Breakfast with Santa where children can enjoy live music and great food before taking a train ride with the man himself.

Bear’s Winter Dream is also worth checking out. Bear takes guests back in time to the Ice Age for an educational and musical interactive lesson.

Christmas at the Zoo

During your visit, you won’t want to miss out on a chance to visit the Indianapolis Zoo. Every holiday season, this nation’s top zoo lights up with thousands of sparkling lights. Don’t miss out on catching the Beacon of Hope that soars several feet above the Orangutan Center.

A Merrie Prairie Holiday

Head over to Conner Prairie for several holiday activities. Families can enjoy being transported back to olden times with a walking tour and a Conner Prairie by Candlelight event.

Guests can take in the Reynolds Farm Equipment Christmas Lights and visit North Pole Village for a midway and games. There is also live entertainment and festive food and beverages are served.

The grounds also host breakfasts and dinners with Santa.

Indianapolis is a bustling city and Christmas is a great time to visit. What will you be doing when you’re in town?

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Travel: Why Indianapolis Makes the Christmas Vacation Bucket List


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