When Santa lands in a helicopter on the front lawn of the Indiana State Museum, we go NUTS! We love the anticipation and excitement 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 off Christmas than Santa’s arrival at the Indiana State Museum Christmas exhibit, Celebration Crossing.
Indiana State Museum Christmas at Celebration Crossing
Once Santa has arrived in Indianapolis and is nestled in the Santa house at the Indiana State Museum, the winter holidays are in full swing at Celebration Crossing. When you purchase 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 Snowfall Express train.
This year, museum visitors can participate in fun activities in Santa’s Front Yard, help pack Santa’s sleigh full of presents, enjoy interactive story times, groom Santa’s (stuffed) reindeer in the Reindeer Barn, 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!
When you visit the museum this year, be sure to take a closer look at the 92 County Tree featured in the lobby. The tree has been an annual tradition since 2008 but got a facelift for the 2022-23 season. 60 brand new ornaments designed by artists throughout the state to represent their respective counties will adorn the tree’s branches. The remaining 32 Indiana counties debut their reimagined ornaments in 2023. Spend some time getting to know your state a little better through the stories and scenes depicted in these decorations.
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 popular food items from the original Tea Room that was inside of L.S. Ayres until 1990. We love the 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 from November 24 through December 31, 2023, and is closed on Christmas day. Santa will return to the North Pole for Christmas after December 24. Visit Celebration Crossing during museum hours Monday-Saturday, 10 am-5 pm, and on Sunday, 11 am-5 pm. Celebration Crossing is included in museum admission and members are free. Families who qualify can receive discounted admission to the Indiana State Museum with the Indiana Access Pass.
Celebration Crossing Magical Mornings
On December 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29, from 9-10 am, 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 Snowfall Express train, and more. These Calming Experience mornings are included with museum admission and are free for members.
Breakfast with Santa
Enjoy a delicious and festive breakfast featuring live music in the L.S. Ayres Tea Room. After breakfast, visit Santa in his house and take a ride on the Snowfall Express train. Dates for breakfast in the tearoom are November 25 and December 9 and 17 with seatings at 8:30, 9, and 9:30 am. Cost is $40/adults (ages 13+), $30/youth (ages 3-12), and free for children younger than age 3. Members receive a 25% discount. Pre-registration required.
Guests can have breakfast with Santa in the Great Hall as well. These tickets will save you a few dollars as compared to the tearoom experience. Adult tickets are $35, children cost $25, and little ones 2 and under are free. Members qualify for the same 25% discount. Dates for breakfast in the Great Hall are November 26, December 2-3, 10, 16, and 23. The event begins at 9 am each morning.
After the Indiana State Museum, head next door to Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg!