Only a select few know for sure how Santa will arrive at Purdue University’s annual Christmas show. In the past, the jolly elf has arrived via blimp and skateboard and as Superman and a jack-in-the-box. That element of surprise helps draw fans to West Lafayette (65 miles northwest of Indianapolis) for this production the first weekend of December.
Actually, extravaganza would be a better word to describe the show. Crews start building the elaborate sets in summer. Sets of past shows have transported viewers to a Dickens village, the tropics, toy shops and other magical destinations.
Of course, the music also transports listeners. From curtain through finale, student performers wow the audience of 6,000 with selections like the melancholy Christmas in Heaven and the gospel tune All Rise. Purdue music alums lead a sing-along, and their voices fill the glamorous Art Deco Elliott Hall of Music. Tickets start at $12. ticketmaster.com 
Dine beforehand on great sushi at Bluefin Bistro or solid pub-grub at Lafayette Brewing Company, which pours a popular Christmas ale. The Holiday Inn Lafayette City Centre is an economical stay, with rates from $99.
To plan your trip: (800) 872-6648; homeofpurdue.com 
(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® November/December 2012. Prices, dates and other details are subject to change, so please check specifics before making travel plans.)