There are so many fun family events throughout Central Indiana to attend during the holidays. We’ve gathered up a list of our favorites to help you find special experiences your whole family will enjoy. Check out single-day town events, Santa visits, light displays, free museum days, or special touring performances. Spend this holiday season making memories together as a family.
Ongoing Events Through the Holiday Season
Cabela’s in Noblesville
Some of my favorite pictures of my children with Santa have come from Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s. At Santa’s Wonderland, you get a free 4×6 photo with Santa and you can select a paid photo package as well. It is recommended that you make reservations online to guarantee your time slot, especially during busy evening and weekend times. Before or after your photo, you can create a holiday-themed craft and write a letter to Santa. It is always fun afterward to walk around to see the different animals and the large aquarium.
Festival of Trees
Indiana Historical Society
November 11-January 7
The Indiana Historical Society hosts their Festival of Trees event again this year. More than 75 lavishly decorated trees represent individuals, families, and organizations from around Indiana. The 30-foot centerpiece tree at Eli Lilly Hall can be viewed throughout most of the building. At the Salvation Army Angel Tree, guests can adopt an angel to bless with Christmas gifts using the online adoption portal. The event will also have carolers throughout the season and features a display from the movie “A Christmas Story.”
Christmas at the Zoo
November 19-December 30, Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Again this year, the Indianapolis Zoo hosts a favorite holiday tradition. You can’t help but love the magical holiday lights and Santa’s Village under the Bicentennial Pavilion. This year, there are more chances to visit Santa through December 23. See him in Santa’s Study from 5 pm until close, or visit with Vacation Santa from 3-9 pm at Flights of Fancy. Enjoy visits with Mrs. Claus inside Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and visit Santa’s Barn to see Santa’s sleigh and a few of his reindeer. At the Penguin Encounter, you can get up close to the birds from 6-8 pm (animal and weather dependent). Other festivities include caroling near the warm campfires and hearth, holiday refreshments, and rides on the carousel and the White River Junction Train.
The Eiteljorg Museum
November 19-January 16
You don’t have to love model trains to appreciate Jingle Rails. This favorite holiday exhibit is full of depictions of America’s greatest natural beauties, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. The different miniatures are artistically built out of all-natural materials and decorated with holiday lighting. The 9 model trains travel through displays of downtown Indianapolis, the Las Vegas strip and Hoover Dam, Mount Rushmore, and the American West.
November 20-January 8
Walk through the gardens of Newfields as it transforms into a winter wonderland of millions of twinkling lights. Enjoy festive refreshments including treats from local favorites Circle City Sweets and Just Pop In! Advanced tickets are required for the event because it does sell out. Winterlights at Newfields will feature two special events this year. On December 15, Newfields and Arte Mexicano en Indiana create the Las Posadas takeover event to celebrate the nine-day celebration commonly observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries. Newfields and the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis will be hosting Latkes and Lights, a Chanukah event, on December 18. On this night, watch as the windows of Lilly House light up with Menorahs and Stars of David.
Jolly Days Winter Wonderland
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
November 25-January 1
After 25 years, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis Jolly Days Winter Wonderland is ending after this holiday season. A new experience called Winterfaire is planned for 2023. Come enjoy your favorite Jolly Days characters, visit Santa, explore the ice castle, and do some sock skating one last time. The holiday season at the Children’s Museum is packed full of special events, so be sure to check their calendar when planning your visit. Don’t miss out on seeing Santa make his huge entrance to the museum by horse-drawn carriage on November 25! The museum offers free admission on December 24, but note the museum does close at 2 pm that day.
The Indiana State Museum
November 25-January 1
Celebration Crossing, the Indiana State Museum’s holiday event, kicks off on Friday, November 25, with Santa landing in front of the museum in a bright red helicopter. In this special exhibit, you can visit the jolly old elf at Santa’s House, explore Santa’s Front Yard and Reindeer Barn, and take a ride on the Snowfall Express. The 5-minute ride on the ADA-accessible Snowfall Express journeys through seasonal scenes of critters preparing for and celebrating winter. At the reindeer barn, kids can groom stuffed reindeer and learn more about Rudolph and his friends as they prepare for flight on Christmas Eve. On select dates, you can catch live musical performances in the Great Hall.
A Merry Prairie Holiday
November 25-27, December 2-4, 9-11, 16-18, and 21-22
At Conner Prairie, celebrate the season at A Merry Prairie Holiday. Enjoy the Reynold’s Christmas Lights display, go sock skating at Frosty’s Skating Rink, and watch a projection of “The Night Before Christmas” on the William Conner House. Guests can also learn about Holidays From Around the World, take a picture with Santa at the North Pole Village, ride Kringle’s Carousel, or take the Polar Bear Plunge down a 150-foot tubing hill. New this year, experience new holiday lights leading from 1836 Prairietown to the 1863 Civil War Journey, as well as a new light tunnel to the Polar Bear Plunge tubing hill.
Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden
November 25-December 31
Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden will transform into a display of poinsettias, model trains, and thousands of twinkling lights for the holiday season. Conservatory Crossing is open from 10 am to 5 pm Monday-Saturday, and from 1 pm to 5 pm on Sunday throughout the holiday season. The cost is $5 per person or $12 per family with a maximum of 2 adults. On December 10, enjoy Holidays at Garfield from 10 am-1 pm. This free event features holiday-themed fun for the whole family.
The Holiday Stroll
November 25-27, December 2-4, 9-11, and 16-23
Gather around a cozy campfire or strike a pose in front of a festively decorated holiday backdrop. Twinkling lights surround guests at Kelsay Farms during this holiday event inspired by the owners’ own teenage daughters. Fun and beautiful vignettes are intentionally designed for taking Christmas photos and selfies. Purchase warm refreshments to enjoy at the experience and visit Santa on select evenings.
Carter Green, between the Palladium and the Tarkington Theater
November 19-December 30, CLOSED Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
Carmel’s beautiful Christkindlmarkt has become an annual tradition for many on the north side of Indy and beyond. Over sixty booths inspired by German Christmas markets host a variety of food vendors, gift shops, and entertainment. Kids love the Kinderecke cottage full of make-and-take crafts, toys, and opportunities for character meet-and-greets. You’ll also want to stop by the model train layout running through a miniature European village. Skating at the Ice at Carter Green is a perfect holiday activity for families with older children — or make it a date night! The Christkindlmarkt’s hours vary in the weeks before and after Christmas, so be sure to check their website for full info.
November 25-27, December 1-4, 8-11, and 15-18
Come visit the inaugural Christkindlmarkt at the Athenaeum located off Mass Ave in downtown Indy. At the market, you can purchase traditional German gifts, food, and drink. Learn of traditions unique to the German culture including a traditional Krampusnacht (Krampus Night) celebration on December 3 (you can attend the family-friendly version of the event from 4-7 pm) and Sankt Nikolaus Fest on December 4 from 1-4 pm.
The 60th Annual Circle of Lights
Watch as the Solider and Sailor Monument, the centerpiece of Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, transforms into a tree with 52 strands of 4,784 colored lights. The ceremony starts at 6:30 pm with entertainment and at 8 pm, Santa and the winner of the AES Coloring Contest will flip the switch to light the tree. The lighting ceremony will air exclusively on WTHR Channel 13, and the lights can be enjoyed until January 13. There will also be a holiday projection show that will transform Monument Circle into a snow globe that will happen night from November 26-December 25. These “Shining a Light” shows will be at 6:45, 7:05, 8:15, 8:45, 10:15, and 11:05 pm.
The Polar Express Experience
Penguin Park, Avon
Penguin Park, Avon’s synthetic outdoor ice rink, has moved from Washington Township Park to its new home at Murphy Aquatic Park. Along with its new location, Penguin Park will be hosting a Polar Express-inspired event featuring a magical train ride around Penguin Park, visits with Santa, a hot cocoa igloo, snowball fights, ice skating, and more holiday fun. Register before November 18 to receive a golden ticket that can be exchanged for a warm hot chocolate. Tickets for the event are $8 per person.
Holly Jolly Jetway
Indianapolis International Airport
After a 2-year break, Santa will again be making a very special stop at the Indianapolis International Airport. Beginning at 2 pm, you can watch from the Civic Plaza as Santa travels across the tarmac on a firetruck. The event will feature pictures with Santa and holiday activities. Families can enjoy live music, DIY ornaments, crafts, face painting, and more. For pictures with Santa, you must pre-register online for a specific time slot.
Jurassic World Live
My family has been anxiously waiting for this event, especially my dino-obsessed 5-year-old daughter. Gainbridge Fieldhouse is transformed into the Island of Isla Nublar and audiences can experience the chaos and terror as the Indominus rex escapes and wreaks havoc. The show will also feature a team of scientists who unravel a corrupt plan and save Jeanie, a Troodon dinosaur, from trouble. See the life-size versions of Jurassic World’s most iconic dinosaurs featuring Blue the Raptor, a Stegosaurus, a Triceratops, a Tyrannosaurus rex, and, new to the show, “Bumpy” the ankylosaurus from the Netflix show Camp Cretaceous. There are multiple times to view the show and tickets can be purchased on ticketmaster.com.
Kid City Christmas
Kid City Greenwood
Kid City in Greenwood will be hosting a Christmas event featuring a train ride through Amphitheater Park’s Lighted Trail, a holiday movie and popcorn, hot cocoa refreshments, and a holiday craft. General admission is $5, with a premium $15 option that includes a build-your-own stuffed snow leopard or gingerbread puppy. The Lighted Trail opens to the public on December 4 and will feature over 42,000 lights throughout Amphitheater Park.
Christmas on the Farm
Traders Point Creamery
Traders Point Creamery will host a holiday event featuring winter hayrides, holiday lights, crafts, festive music from Steve Quinn, visits from Santa, and their historic 1800s red barn as the backdrop. Festive snacks and drinks will be available for purchase throughout the day. Tickets are required for all guests and can be purchased online only. The tickets are $23 per person, and children under 2 are free.
Hummel Park, Plainfield
December 10, 12-4 pm
Hummel Park in Plainfield will host the 12th annual Hometown Holiday. At this free holiday event, families can enjoy trackless train rides around the park, horse-drawn carriage rides, a petting zoo, and pony rides. Festivities also include cookies and hot chocolate, photos with Santa, crafts, and giveaways. If you can’t make this event, the town of Plainfield will be hosting Pictures with Santa on December 17 from 11 am to 1 pm, at the Richard A. Carlucci Recreation and Aquatic Center.
Municipal Complex in Whitestown
December 10, 1-5 pm
Enjoy this free family event full of sweet treats like cookies, hot chocolate, and a candy buffet. Guest can also visit with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and a couple of their best reindeer.
Holly Jolly Jamboree
Cool Creek Nature Center
December 10, 2-4 pm
Enjoy this free family holiday event where you can visit Santa and Mrs. Claus. Jingle John of Silly Safaris will be showcasing several cold-weather animals, including a reindeer. Crafts and cookies will also be available.
Rowdie’s Home Plate Holiday
December 17, 8-12 pm
Join in the fun at this pancake breakfast, complete with cocoa and coffee, at Victory Field. Children’s admission is $20 for ages 3 and up, which includes an annual membership in the Knot Hole Kids’ Club. Infants and toddlers under 3 are free and adults are $5. Attendees will have the opportunity to decorate a Christmas ornament to take home. There will also be photo opportunities with the Indianapolis Indians mascot Rowdie, who will be dressed as Santa Claus, and with the holiday inflatables located outside on the Elements Financial Club patio. Guests are encouraged to bring new toys to donate to the Riley Cheer Guild, which can be dropped off at registration in the lobby. Parking is free and limited at Victory Field.
Christmas at the Farm
Oinking Acres in Brownsburg
Plan to attend this year’s holiday festivities at Oinking Acres. Last year’s event included a guided farm tour, extra time with your favorite pigs, access to the loft for photos with the piglets and bunnies, and holiday refreshments. This will be a ticketed event with a limited number of tickets available.
Martin Luther King Jr Day Free Museum Day
Visit favorite Indy attractions like the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum, the Indiana State Museum, the NCAA Hall of Champions, and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis for free in honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day. Some of these attractions request a nonperishable food item or monetary donation to give back in exchange for free admission. Many institutions traditionally offer special activities and events to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr and his impact on the Civil Rights Movement.
Disney on Ice
Watch your kids’ eyes light up when they see Mickey and Minnie Mouse and watch Elsa skate to “Let it Go.” Disney fans will love seeing their favorite stories come to life at this traveling performance. This year, Disney on Ice’s “Find Your Hero” features stories from Moana, Tangled, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and special guests Minnie and Mickey Mouse. There are multiple times to attend the show and tickets can be purchased on ticketmaster.com.
This time of year is packed full of family-friendly activities around the city! Looking for even more winter fun? We have the scoop on all the holiday events Indy has to offer.