When people ask me what my favorite Christmas activities and events are in Indianapolis, I always start my list with the arrival of Santa on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Year after year, we line the driveway of the Indiana State Museum along with a small crowd and we wait with anticipation for the Santa Helicopter to arrive. On Friday, November 24, 2023, at 11 am, Santa and friends will arrive on the lawn of the Indiana State Museum to greet all of the good girls and boys, kick off the magical season, and open Celebration Crossing.
Santa Helicopter Arrives in Indy
Celebration Crossing’s opening day gets off to a spectacular start each year. Attendees, especially families with children, arrive between 10 and 11 to await the hum of approaching aircraft. The elves watch from the roof of the Indiana State Museum and then they signal the crowd below that Santa is on his way. Children and adults watch the sky to see the helicopter circle the museum lawn before finally landing.
Watching Santa land and get out of the helicopter is one of our favorite Christmas traditions with our kids. After Santa and Mrs. Claus have said hello to their friends and fans, they make their way into the museum where there’s typically a balloon drop to welcome him with fanfare as he takes his seat in the Santa house to pose for holiday photos.
Watching Santa’s Helicopter landing is free. All other activities at Celebration Crossing require museum admission. Parking is available for a fee in the underground garage. Families that qualify can receive discounted admission to the Indiana State Museum through the Indiana Access Pass.
Celebration Crossing Holiday Exhibit
After Santa’s arrival, all guests who purchase museum admission can make their way up to Celebration Crossing, the Indiana State Museum holiday exhibit, and ride the Snowfall Express train. 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 storytimes, help train miniature reindeer in the reindeer flight school, and even more family fun activities.
L.S. Ayes Tea Room
A visit to the L.S. Ayres Tea Room is a long-standing tradition for many Indianapolis families and is a tradition we embrace every few years. While I can’t speak for all of the menu items, I can tell you that our whole family loves the Classically-Inspired Tea Experience, and there’s even a children’s portion. You’ll have tea and then a three-tier curate stand is brought to you with a selection of pastries, sandwiches, scones, and fruit. Reservations are recommended, as I mentioned, this is one of the top traditions for Indianapolis residents of many ages. Reservations can be made by calling (317) 232-1637.
Visiting the Indiana State Museum Exhibits
While you’re at the Indiana State Museum for Celebration Crossing and the Santa helicopter arrival on the front lawn, be sure to check out the permanent and visiting exhibits throughout the rest of the museum. Step back in time — meaning millions of years back in time — to learn about Indiana’s geology and prehistoric periods. You can also explore more recent history and learn about defining events, key industries, and famous residents of the Hoosier state.
If you’re visiting with toddlers and preschoolers, you may want to plan your visit to include a program in Firefly Landing. This dedicated space for children 6 and under is currently only open for special, paid programming. There are classes available for toddlers, preschoolers, and “young explorers” (ages 4-6) and activities focus on stories, music, STEM learning, and movement.
There are magical Christmas and holiday experiences to be found all throughout Indianapolis during November and December. What better way to kick of the season than with greeting the Santa helicopter? Skip the crazy commercial stores this Black Friday morning and visit the State Museum for an unforgettable holiday experience.
Check out all the holiday events happening around Indy.
If your kids love the Santa helicopter, they’ll love riding a train with the Jolly Old Elf!