If you’ve been around the Indy with Kids Facebook page or website for any amount of time during the holidays, then you KNOW that when Santa lands in a helicopter on the front lawn of the Indiana State Museum, we go NUTS! We love the anticipation and excitment of Santa’s arrival in Indy. Our kids talk about it at bedtime on Thanksgiving night and then we bundle up on Black Friday and head downtown for THE BEST tradition! Okay, Indianapolis in general has about 100 of the BEST holiday traditions in the entire country, but there really is no better way to kick of Christmas than Santa’s arrival at Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum.

Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum

Once Santa has arrived in Indianapolis and is nestled in the Santa house at the Indiana State Musuem, the winter holidays are in full swing at the Indaiana State Museum’s Celebration Crossing. When you purcahse museum admission you’ll get to visit all of the exhibits at the museum, including a Christmas favorite, Celebration Crossing! The Indiana State Museum holiday exhibit has many favorite attractions, but the main draw for my kids is a train ride aboard the vintage L.S. Ayres Santa Claus Express train.

This year, museum visitors can participate in fun activities in Santa’s Workshop and Santa’s Front Yard, help pack Santa’s sleigh full of presents, enjoy interactive story times, help train miniature reindeer in the reindeer flight school and even more family fun activities. We ride the train, we take a picture with Santa, we ride the train again, and again. Oh, and probably again!

My kids love building and playing games with other kids at Santa’s Imagination Playground — this area focuses heavily on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-based activity area. We can easily spend an hour or two building houses and tracks and castles and then creating crafts and chatting with the helpers.

Lunch at the L.S. Ayres Tea Room

If you’re interested in a fun lunch opportunity, visit the L.S. Ayres Tea Room inside of the Indiana State Museum. The Ayres Tea Room is only open during the holiday season and offers some very popular food items from the original Tea Room inside of L.S. Ayres until 1990. We love ordering the Classically-Inspired Tea Experience, and there’s even a children’s portion with kid-friendly food items that arrive on a three-tier curate stand. This selection of pastries, sandwiches, scones and fruit is so delicious and fun. Lunch at the L.S. Ayres Tea Room is a long-standing tradition for many Indianapolis families so you’ll want to make your reservations in advance, walk-ups are welcome but the wait may be long. Reservations can be made by calling (317) 232-1637.

Dates for Celebration Crossing at the State Museum

Celebration Crossing takes place at the Indiana State Museum November 29th, 2019 through January 5th. Santa will return to the North Pole until Christmas 2020 on December 24th. Visit Celebration Crossing during museum hours Monday thru Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday, 11am to 5pm. Celebration Crossing is included in museum admission, members are free. Families who qualify can receive discounted admission to the Indiana State Museum with the Indiana Access Pass.

Celebration Crossing Preschool Fridays

On December 6, 13, 20, 27; 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., bring your little one (ages 2-5) to experience the wintery wonderland in Santa’s Front Yard during this special early opening event. Families can visit with Santa, explore various activities, engage with two North Pole elves during interactive story times, take a ride on the Santa Claus Express train and more. Preschool Fridays are included with museum admission and are free for members.

Bear’s Winter Dream at Celebration Crossing

Bear has a dream – all about the Ice Age in Indiana! Join Bear on an adventure as he meets interesting animals and learns something about weather, animals and plants during this interactive performance for preschool families. December 6, 13, 20, 27 & January 3. 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. $2/members, $3/non-members; free for children younger than age 3.

Breakfast with Santa

Enjoy a delicious and festive breakfast featuring live music in the L.S. Ayres Tea Room and Farmers Market Café. After breakfast, visit Santa in his house and take a ride on the Santa Claus Express train. December 7, 14 & 21 with seatings at 8:30 & 9 a.m. and December 1, 8, 15, 22 with seatings at 9, 9:30 & 10 a.m. $24.50/members (ages 13+), $15.75/youth members (ages 3-12); $33/non-members, $24.25/youth non-members; free for children younger than age 3. Pre-registration required.