There’s no place like Indy for the holidays. Whether you partake in one of the city’s most beloved celebrations, visit a handful of the decked-out museums, or experience historic German traditions, you’ll leave feeling more festive than when you arrived.
The Friday after Thanksgiving means more to Indianapolis locals than leftovers – it’s the city’s annual Circle of Lights celebration. 2022 marks 60 years of ringing in the holiday season, as Monument Circle is decorated to the nines with over 2 miles of garland, nearly 5,000 lightbulbs, and life-size toy soldiers and candy canes. With the addition of Christmas carolers, local talent performances, and a projected light and audio show, the space is transformed into a snow globe ahead of the arrival of Santa Claus. When the crowd reaches zero in the countdown for the flip of the switch, the “World’s Largest Christmas Tree” shines a light on downtown Indianapolis and continues to do so throughout the season.
1967 marked the first year that a zoo within the United States held a holiday light show, and it happened right here in Indianapolis. Christmas at the Zoo has remained a cherished tradition since and is more elaborate than ever before. Glittering tunnels and glowing lights, cheerful carolers and cozy campfires all line the grounds that lead guests to Santa’s barn, where a few of his reindeer reside, and Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen for meet and greets with the famous wife. Swing by the close-up Penguin Encounter, Tinsel Tavern for holiday-themed cocktails, and a visit with Santa before calling it a night.
If you’re in search of a Winter Wonderland, look no further than Newfields’ notable winter extravaganza, Winterlights. Over 1.5 million lights perch in the trees, while the Glowing Gardens brighten the paths that lead visitors inside historic Lilly House, and to Winter Market for handmade gifts. With two new art additions, one celebrating Latin American tradition and another locally made, plus crowd favorite spiked ciders and kid-friendly hot cocoas, this seasonal event will be nothing shy of merry and bright.
Finally, the Athenaeum, situated in historic Mass Ave district of downtown Indy, preserves German American heritage, and new this year, they’re celebrating the holiday season with a Christkindlmarkt. With local artisan and merchant vendors selling handcrafted gifts and German-specific items, live entertainment on their Biergarten stage, dozens of food options from Rathskeller restaurant, and special visits from St. Nicholas and Krampus, this event is designed to resemble and commemorate a traditional German Christkindlmarkt.