Every Hoosier knows that Indiana is a beautiful place to visit in the winter, with all its exceptional events and traditions that are special to the state. Have you ever wondered what visiting a town called Santa Claus during the holiday season would be like? Well, you can experience it in Indiana. How about world-renowned holiday light shows and displays? We've got that, too. Enjoy these 13 activities and places that will make your holiday visit to Indiana one to remember.
One of Indiana's most beloved traditions is a day in Brown County. The town of Nashville, Indiana, becomes a charming hotspot for specialized shopping and gift browsing while the vast expanse of Brown County State Park awaits the treading of your hiking boots. While most make a visit to Brown County a fall treat to enjoy the breathtaking colors of the changing leaves, there are plenty of things to do for the winter season. Of course, Nashville boasts two year-round Christmas shops (The Holly Shop and Granny's Christmas and Gift Shop) where you can get your early dose of Christmas cheer during your fall visit, but did you know that Brown County rolls out the red carpet for Christmas as well? From a winter hike to a Victorian Christmas dinner, Brown County will provide you and yours with a rich Yuletide experience you'll remember for a lifetime.
Grown-ups only, please…Lanthier Winery in Madison, Indiana, holds an annual event of brand-new Christmas-themed wines. The premier event and tasting begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Eve, with wine gifting options available for those who wish to give a bottle of vintage at the company Christmas party. Lanthier Winery holds other seasonal events in conjunction with other establishments in the area, so keep an eye on their calendar when you plan your visit.
If you're searching for an authentic Victorian Christmas, you can find it on the day of Moorseville's Victorian Christmas extravaganza. Victorian musicians stroll the streets along with townsfolk dressed in full Victorian costume, shops hold open houses, carolers offer joyful hymns of yesteryear, and horse-drawn carriages steal the scene as they roll by. There is also a gingerbread house decorating contest for the prize of a gift card, but entirely edible entries must be delivered to the office the day before the festival.
For many, the snowy season is not complete without laying scratches on an open plane of ice. The Pop Weaver Youth Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis annually hosts public ice skating for an affordable entrance fee and skate rental. Keep an eye on their calendar for open skating time, and leave room in your luggage for your skates (and a helmet … ice is slick in Indiana).
Although Indiana doesn't usually inspire mental images of ski slopes and cozy lodges, southern Indiana defies expectations with Paoli Peaks. The featured hill is a natural 300-foot vertical drop with a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced slopes. A comprehensive lift system makes getting back to the top easy. Flying downward on nothing but two thin pieces of wood and fiberglass is too adventurous for you? No worries, Paoli Peaks also has a snow tubing area where you only need to know how to hang on tight and scream a lot. The après ski experience of sipping hot chocolate in a warm lodge is available only during the day. However, recognizing that many skiers wish to make their mountain stay longer, Paoli Peaks has partnered with several charming lodges in the area.
Your cheeks are nice and rosy … and you'd like to warm them up. Lucky for you, the South Bend Chocolate Company is a multi-franchise chain across the state and you're likely to be near at least one location if you visit any of the places in this article. Widely regarded as some of the most delicious hot chocolate available, the chocolate beverages of the South Bend Chocolate Company are liquid warmth in a cup after a chilly day out in the Hoosier winter. You can also sample their delightful chocolate candies and other dessert treats, which, by the way, make excellent Christmas gifts.
The Indianapolis Zoo, one of America's most famous, is a popular summertime destination for family day-cations as well as fair-weather field trips. At Christmastime, however, the zoo is open and ready to make your Christmas a fur-ociously fantastic one. The zoo is aglow with the bright glimmer of LED lights, cold-climate favorites are frolicking in their habitats, and Santa and his missus are busy offering Christmas cheer to visitors in their workshop in White River Gardens. Among the benefactors of this Yuletide spectacular are Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent, Central Indiana Honda Dealers, USA Insulation, Teachers Credit Union, and Donatos.
Yes, Indiana, there is a Santa Claus. Indiana boasts its very own town of Santa Claus, which of course hosts a Christmas celebration like no other. For the first three weekends of December, tourists cozy up in one of several Christmas-themed accommodations (thanks to the town's affordable getaway packages) and enjoy the Yuletide goings-on throughout the town. Help Santa stamp his reply letters with the year's specially commissioned stamp, attend the arts and crafts show for a bounty of homemade goodies, stroll through the enchanting Land of Lights, and watch the Christmas Parade spread cheerfully through the streets. There's no question if you're in Indiana for Christmas, tell Santa Claus you're coming to town!
The Friday after Thanksgiving, Hoosiers gather alongside guest artists, talent showcase winners, the mayor of Indianapolis, and Jolly Old St. Nicholas himself in Monument Circle in the heart of Indianapolis to celebrate the arrival of the Christmas season. Every year, the Indiana Brotherhood of Electrical Workers #481 donate their time, effort, and resources to string the 284-foot-tall Soldiers and Sailors Monument with 4,784 lights. At the appointed time, one special child will help Santa and the mayor flip the switch to all 52 strands of lights, illuminating Indiana's largest Christmas tree. Indianapolis Circle of Lights is, without a doubt, Indiana's top Christmastime tradition.