Seeing your children’s eyes light up as they experience the magic of the holidays is one of the best feelings. Whether you’re a local Hoosier or you’re visiting the Circle City for the holidays, there are so many great options for adding some Christmas magic to the season. Theses are some of our family’s favorites
Our Favorite Indianapolis Christmas Events for Kids
Special thanks to Newfields for hosting us at Winterlights, Nickel Plate Express for hosting our train ride, and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and Christkindlemarket of Carmel for providing images.
Sullivan Hardware at 71st and Keystone offers their annual Santa Train. Tickets are affordable (just $35 for a family) and kids love the small train that takes you from the main store to the North Pole. Plan to spend about an hour including waiting for your train, checking out the beautiful collection of trees, and grabbing a free bag of popcorn.
This is my favorite hidden gem for the holidays. Conservatory Crossing is the holiday train display inside the Garfield Park Conservatory just south of downtown. It’s usually quiet and a sweet little holiday tradition that’s perfect if you don’t want to fight some of the crowds at the larger attractions this time of year. You can read more in my review here.
Related Post: Garfield Park’s Christmas Display: A Hidden Holiday Gem
You’d expect the world’s largest children’s museum to go all out for the holidays and The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis doesn’t disappoint! Slide down the Yule Slide or play in the Jolly Days exhibit. The ‘ice skating in socks’ is always a hit with my kids. You can also grab tickets for the holiday show inside the theater (it’s free with admission and members can get advanced tickets by calling the museum).
This was a new event for our family last year and it was a big hit. Stroll through dozens of uniquely decorated trees at The Indiana Historical Society. Kids can grab a scavenger hunt at the front desk and search for hidden treasures among the trees. Or walk through the huge Christmas tree in the lobby (a great photo spot). Grab a snack downstairs in the Starlight Cafe and you may get lucky and have some kids crafts available during peak times.
There are special events throughout the season too. I love that it tends to be a little less busy and the tickets are pretty affordable for a family. You also gain general admission to all of the exhibits in the Historical Society as well. If you’ve done lots of other Indy events, this is a great way to try something new. Best for ages 5+ since there’s lots too look at but not a lot to touch.
A brand new experience this year, Newfields (home of the Indianapolis Art Museum) is hosting a winter holiday lights experience. Come tour the spectacular grounds in a whole new way. This outdoor lighting extravaganza is available each night (except Mondays) at 5:00 and 7:00pm. This event is a bit of a pricey splurge but you can buy tickets online at a discount to save a little money money and to reserve your spot.
Dress warmly since almost the entire exhibit is outside and look out for the cheery warming stations to warm up your frosty checks. Snacks and drinks are also available to purchase but you can simply enjoy the lights too. Weekends have been selling out quickly so book early if you have a specific date you want to visit.
If you’ve got a train aficionado in your house, you have to check out Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg Museum. This enormous model train display is made almost entirely from natural materials and includes replicas of various national landmarks. Your kids can wander through the display and then head downstairs to the interactive children’s play area to experience life on the frontier. We also love the cafe here so you could plan to grab a bite to eat before or after you visit Jingle Rails.
If you can, try and time this for a warmer night or plan to bundle up, but seeing the zoo light up with lights is treat! Grab a cup of hot cocoa and warm up at one of the bonfires or head to the heated White River Gardens building to complete the holiday scavenger hunt. This is definitely more about the lights than the animals, many of which are not out during the evening. You won’t mind a bit though, once you grab your ticket (an extra cost) for the sky tram. The views are spectacular!
Part of the new Nickel Plate Express train, this holiday rails adventures begins in Atlanta, IN where you’ll climb aboard a restored 1950s passenger train. Your kids will love the festive decorations and lots of family-friendly offerings as you go along including a craft and some fun singing. A special snack is included with your ticket and drinks are available for purchase. Make sure to plan some extra time before or after your ride to meet Santa in the caboose (separate from the train) and visit Mr. Muffin’s Trains. One note of caution, the train does sway quite a bit so if you’re prone to motion sickness, make sure to take some Dramamine before begin.
This beloved event is a tradition for many families who visit the Indiana State Museum every year to visit with Santa, ride the adorable small train, or even have breakfast with Santa in the historic L.S. Ayers Tea Room. This year, you can also see The Polar Express movie on IMAX or catch a holiday show at Periwinkles Playhouse, both located at the Indiana State Museum (additional charge for these attractions).
Another brand new attraction for the season. This traditional German Christmas market is located on the campus of the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, IN and features an ice skating rink, holiday shopping vendors, and even a commemorative mug that you can fill with your choice of a toasty hot beverage. Make sure to visit their website for info on skate rentals, parking, and the Saturday Holiday Trolley to visit Santa.
Peak times are pretty crowded with long lines so try and visit during the weekday or schedule a sitter and make this a date night. The skating rink is open through early March so you can always return with your kiddos later on.
Holiday Events Across the Midwest
Does your family have a special holiday tradition? What are your favorite Indianapolis Christmas Events for kids? What’s the best even in your town? Leave a comment below! We’re always looking for new places to visit.