9 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays in Indianapolis
Even in a pandemic year, you’ll find plenty of holiday experiences in the Indianapolis area. Check out walk-through and drive-through holiday lights displays, an online Christmas tree exhibit, a model train wonderland and more.
You could plan a whole weekend around Indianapolis’ holiday events, seeing twinkling light shows in the evening and attending other festivities during the day. Timed-entry tickets and other COVID-19 protocols apply to most events; check websites to plan ahead. The pandemic situation evolves daily; see the latest on Indiana's recommendations here.
- Circle of Lights on Monument Circle, Indy’s most well-known Christmas tradition, will continue in 2020 but with COVID-19 precautions. Typically up to 100,000 spectators gather around Monument Circle to watch the lighting of the tree the day after Thanksgiving, but this year, the November 27 event will be televised instead. Visitors can still come downtown later—through early January— to view the lights as well as nightly holiday presentations. visitindy.com
2. Now in its fourth season, Winterlights at Newfields features 1.5 million lights decorating the impressive Newfields campus, a light show on the Lilly House Lawn, a re-imagined Whimsical Terrace, and snacks and beverages. November 21-January 3, 2021; advance ticket purchase required. discovernewfields.org
3. The Indianapolis Zoo was the first zoo in the US to hold a holiday lights event. Since its debut in 1967, Christmas at the Zoo has continued to add more lights and new experiences. This year’s event includes extra hours to visit Santa, a Tunnel of Lights, penguin encounters and Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen. Reservations and timed-entry tickets required; November 21-December 30. indianapoliszoo.com
4. Experience what is billed as Indy’s largest synchronized light show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. More than a million lights illuminate dozens of displays at Christmas Nights of Lights; listen to synchronized Christmas music on your car stereo as you drive through the area. November 13-January 3, 2021. christmasnightoflights.com
5. The Indiana History Center’s Festival of Trees features 50 decorated trees, holiday singalongs, virtual story times with Santa, an Elf on a Shelf hunt, and treats at the Stardust Terrace Café. November 13-January 9, 2021; see website for ticket details. For those who would prefer to see the trees from home, the center will offer a new virtual experience with 360-degree viewing technology and online voting for favorite trees. indianahistory.org
6. Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure—G-scale model train scenes with nine model trains—returns to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art for its 11th season. Trains run along nearly 1,200 feet of track, passing miniature versions of downtown Indy landmarks—such as the Eiteljorg Museum, Monument Circle, and Union Station—then head to legendary sites of the American West, including the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and Yosemite Falls. November 21 to January 18, 2021; reserved, timed tickets required. eiteljorg.org
7. Jolly Days Winter Wonderland at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis runs November 21 to January 2, 2021. See a giant snow globe, meet Jolly Days characters, get a photo with Santa and “ice skate” in your socks. At Santa’s Workshop events on selected dates, kids can decorate and assemble a wooden toy, design holiday stationery, create a candy cane ornament and visit with Santa (extra fee; tickets required). childrensmuseum.org
8. Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum opens Friday, November 27, when Santa lights the 92 County Tree. Kids can write a letter to Santa, explore the new Reindeer Barn and see festive décor throughout the museum’s Great Hall. Also: socially distanced photo ops with Santa, virtual holiday music performances, breakfast with Santa (COVID protocols in place). Check the website for the full schedule of activities and ticket information. indianamuseum.org
9. At Conner Prairie, A Merry Prairie Holiday returns for its second year, with a winter wonderland stroll through light displays, gift-making with Santa’s elves, storytelling, a reindeer games midway, holiday shopping and more. Advance ticket purchase required. Fridays through Sundays, November 27-December 20 and Tuesday-Wednesday December 22-23. connerprairie.org