Ho ho ho – here we go! It’s Christmas time again in Indiana and lots of parents are looking around for ways to make the holiday special and memorable for their children. Well, whether you want to take your kids to see the Jolly Old Elf himself or you just want to do something interesting and fun as a family, we’ve got you covered with this guide.
The Indiana State Museum
Head on over to Celebration Crossing at the Indiana State Museum for a magical holiday experience. Open until Jan. 5, 2020, you and your children can hop aboard the Santa Claus Express and take a train ride, then stop into Santa’s Workshop and help the elves figure out the best way to pack the Big Guy’s sleigh.
When you’re finished, you can wander over to the Claus family home and visit with Santa and his missus for a while. You can even build a snowman or throw a few snowballs in Santa’s Front Yard and wind down with a holiday story in Chimney Corner before you leave. The museum has a variety of special holiday events happening throughout the season, including those geared to toddlers and adults-only nights out, so check their website for additional information.
Westfield in Lights
Just about 30 miles from Indianapolis, there’s a lovely little city called Westfield that pulls out all the stops on Dec.7 when Santa arrives. The kids can see inside Santa’s Indiana residence, have pictures taken with Mr. Claus and Frosty, and pet real reindeer.
There’s also plenty here for older kids and adults to enjoy, making this a true family delight. There are elaborate gingerbread house displays, live music and shopping — all under a dazzling display of holiday lights.
This isn’t so much a place as places, plural, but we feel that it’s so important to spread the word about these special Santas. Children who aren’t neuro-typical often struggle with sensory overload when they try to visit Kris Kringle — but that doesn’t mean they want to skip the trip! Sensory-friendly events with Caring Santas know how to respond when a child with autism, intellectual disorders or other problems gets overwhelmed.
Indiana has numerous Caring Santa events this year — including designated dates at Conner Prairie and various Simon Malls throughout the state. Keep in mind that most of these events are ticketed in order to better control the experience for the neuro-diverse, so plan your trip carefully.
Santa Claus, IN
Any article on family-friendly places to visit this season would be remiss if it didn’t mention the town of Santa Claus. Founded in 1849, this tiny town has embraced its chosen theme with a passion befitting Father Christmas himself! Letters to Santa Claus have been directed there by the United States Post Office for nearly one hundred years. An army of “elves” even makes sure that every child who leaves a return address gets a response.
Take your kids to Christmas Boulevard, Mistletoe Drive and Candy Cane Lane to experience photo opportunities, shopping, holiday treats, light displays and — of course — a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus themselves at Santa’s Candy Castle.
Jingle Rails at the Eiteljorg Museum
Do your kids love model trains? (Who doesn’t, right?) Well, head on over to the Eiteljorg Museum in Indy for a delightful experience that evokes the holiday season of yesteryear. Peek inside scaled model exhibits of important local and national sites in a theme that celebrates the American West in all its glory. Nine different trains roll around their tracks while you explore.
In addition to the special holiday exhibits, your kids can explore the Native American art collection and western displays while you do a little shopping for gifts. A true Indy holiday favorite, Jingle Rails is now celebrating its first decade in existence.
Jolly Days Winter Wonderland
Love winter wonderlands but don’t love the cold? The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis offers a solution! These totally indoor events include a two-story Yule Slide, “ice” skating on socks, and pom-pom “snowball” fights. Santa is there daily to collect wish lists and pose for pictures and there are plenty of interactive displays and things for your kids to do, all in a safe (and warm) environment that’s tailored to kids.
This is also the perfect place to go when the weather is bad because parking is free and the parking deck is directly connected to the museum via a covered walkway. No snow boots are required!
The Festival of Trees
Are the trees your favorite part of Christmas? This year, the Indiana Historical Society has packed the History Center with more than 90 elaborate trees for guests to examine. There are trees that hang from the ceiling, trees made of books and balloons, and themed trees that are sure to enchant people of all ages.
Your kids will have extra fun trying to spot the 10 “lucky pickles” hidden on the trees and hunting for the History Center’s very own Elf on a Shelf. Your kids can even win a prize for finding his hiding spot (which changes each day). Crafting events with games and fun are held every Saturday and Santa will be strolling the grounds during certain times on the weekends.
Embrace the holiday season and gather up all the Christmas spirit you can by exploring what Indiana has to offer. It really is the most magical time of the year — for adults and children alike.