Experience Downtown as it transforms into a winter wonderland filled with festive activities, sights and fun for the whole family.

One of Central Indiana’s favorite annual holiday traditions, the Downtown Indy, Inc. Circle of Lights® presented by IBEW 481 returns for its 56th year. Generations of families will gather to share in the spirit of the season while watching 4,784 colored LED lights on 52 garland strands illuminate the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument. This free event starts with live holiday entertainment Friday, Nov. 23 from 6 – 8 p.m. The lighting of the Monument occurs around 7:55 p.m. and concludes with a spectacular fireworks finale. FREE! 

Witness holiday trees decked out in ways you’ve never seen at the Indiana Historical Society’s Festival of Trees Nov. 16 through Jan. 5. The event features 80 uniquely designed and decorated trees, plus a 30-foot centerpiece tree with an Indiana theme. Enjoy the nighttime tree glow by visiting on Twilight Tuesdays until 8 p.m. through Dec. 18. Weekend programming includes story time with a vintage Santa, special Saturday themes such as A Christmas Story and more. 

Take a trip to The Racing Capital of the World this holiday season for Lights at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Attendees will take part in a 2-mile driving experience that includes dozens of colorful displays totaling more than three million bright lights. The event is open Nov. 16 through Dec. 30. 

All aboard! One of Indianapolis’ most popular family holiday traditions returns. Experience the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art’s magical holiday model train exhibit Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure. Take a journey through a locomotive wonderland as trains wind past icons of Indianapolis and the American West Nov. 17 through Jan. 21. Enjoy the return of the Indiana State Fair and this year’s newest addition: a trip on Route 66! 

Celebrate the season at Newfields with the return of Winterlights, a multi-sensory, outdoor light spectacle featuring more than one million lights. Taking place in The Garden at Newfields Nov. 18 through Jan. 6, the experience will include music, weekly visits from Santa, fire pits for roasting s’mores, drink stations and more. Winterlights will also continue the holiday tradition of Christmas at the Lilly House, with the lawn coming alive with beautiful floral displays and holiday decor. Additionally, visit the free Holiday Hullabaloo Dec. 6 starting at 11 a.m. and shop for one-of-a-kind jewelry, hand-blown glass ornaments and receive complementary gift wrapping and discounts at the Museum & Garden Shop. On Dec. 16, more than 30 local artists will participate in Monster Drawing Rally, an art-making spectacle from 1 – 5:30 p.m. The event will be held at Sun King Brewing Downtown. Completed artwork will be available for purchase for $35 each. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis as Jolly Days Winter Wonderland returns Nov. 23 – Jan. 6, 2019. Enjoy holiday family favorites including the Yule Slide and Jingles the Jolly Bear and Santa’s arrival in an IndyCar two-seater the day after Thanksgiving with elves rappelling from the rooftop, a band and carolers. See if you’re on Santa’s naughty or nice list at Breakfast with Santa Dec. 2, 9, 15 & 16 (additional fee). Visit the Lilly Theater for The Snow Queen, when her best friend is kidnapped by the evil Snow Queen, Gerda enlists the help of a troll and elf to find him before his heart freezes forever, Nov. 23 – 25, Dec. 1 & 2, 8 & 9, 15 & 16, 22 & 23, and 26 – 30 (1 & 3 p.m.). Finally, ring in the New Year 12 hours early with Countdown to Noon Dec. 31 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. 

Surround yourself with the beauty of the holiday season as the Indianapolis Zoo returns with the 50th year of Christmas at the Zoo presented by Donatos and Teachers Credit Union. This year’s celebration is bigger than ever with Mondays and Tuesdays added, as well as extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays. Christmas at the Zoo kicks off Nov. 23 and continues daily through Dec. 30, closed only on Christmas Eve and Day. The Zoo opens at noon with holiday activities from 5 – 9 p.m. (5-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays). Stop by Santa’s Village under the Bicentennial Pavilion, decorate cookies with Mrs. Claus, visit with Santa in his study and get up close and personal with penguins. Ranked in the Top 5 for zoo light displays by USA Today’s 10 Best, this is one holiday event you don’t want to miss. 

Experience the joy of the holidays at the Indiana State Museum complete with Santa’s arrival via helicopter at noon Nov. 23 on the museum’s front lawn. Celebration Crossing comes alive with holiday merriment Nov. 23 – Jan. 6. Ride the Santa Claus Express train and enjoy a delicious and nostalgic lunch in the L.S. Ayres Tea Room™. NEW this year, visit Santa’s Front Yard to create your own cardboard snowman, make your own snowflakes and help decorate trees. Head over to Santa’s Workshop to see if you can figure out how to pack Santa’s sleigh, create your own toys on the elves’ workbench, learn about the flightpaths of Santa’s reindeer and more. Preschool Fridays will take place on Fridays from 9 – 10 a.m., Nov. 30 though Jan. 4, with special activities and early access to the Santa Claus Express for families with little ones age 5 and younger. 

Plat 99 at The Alexander will open a pop-up holiday cocktail bar Nov. 23 – Dec. 24. “Miracle on South Street” pop-up bar will be located off South Street in The Alexander’s green space where it will offer seasonally-themed cocktails in a festive setting. Hours are Mondays – Thursdays 5 – 10 p.m., Fridays 5 – 11 p.m., Saturdays noon -11 p.m. and Sundays noon – 8 p.m.

The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience returns to Downtown’s IMAX Theater on select dates Nov. 24 – Dec 23. Relive this epic holiday adventure re-mastered in proprietary IMAX DMR technology and state-of-the-art surround sound. Visit www.imaxindy.com to purchase your tickets.

Join President Benjamin Harrison, his family, and the household staff as they prepare for a festive holiday during LIVE! Family Christmas Dec. 1, 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Create new holiday memories Dec. 13 – 16  at ’Twas the Night Before… presented by Candlelight Theatre at Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site. 

Witness timeless holiday classics as Downtown Indy, Inc. partners with the Athenaeum Foundation and Indy Film Fest for Festive Films. Enjoy three holiday movies at the Athenaeum’s Basile Theater on three Mondays in December at 7 p.m. Tickets to each show are $10 and proceeds benefit Downtown holiday décor and the Athenaeum Foundation. See Elf Dec. 3; It’s a Wonderful Life Dec. 10; and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Dec. 17.

More than 150 local businesses will come together for Yelp’s Totally Bazaar holiday shopping party Saturday, Dec. 8 from 6:30 – 11 p.m. at Central Library. While shopping, enjoy some of your local favorite food and drink. From James Dant to Grounded Plant and Floral Co. to Circles Ice Cream, this bazaar is one of Indy’s best, complete with festive entertainment and music. 

Indianapolis City Market is celebrating with the return of 12 Chefs of Christmas. Come out for the food and beer pairing event on Saturday, Dec. 8 from 2 – 5 p.m. featuring 12 local chefs and 12 Indiana craft breweries working together to provide food dishes created to be enjoyed with specific brews. Attendees will be able to enjoy sample-sized portions of the food and drink. Local DJ Rusty Redenbacher will provide live entertainment. 

The Christkindl Village Dec. 14 – 16 is a celebration of the holiday with a traditional Christmas Village, presented by St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. The free festival includes a canopy of lights, live animal Nativity, kids’ activities, photos with St. Nick, German foods, beer and wine garden and musical performances including caroling. The Christmas Market provides gifts as well as arts and crafts to purchase. The festival will take place in the St. John parking lot, along the west block of Georgia Street and in the old Pan Am Ice Rink. 

Grace Bowling

Communications & Marketing Intern, Downtown Indy, Inc.