Published November 19, 2018

Your guide to the holidays around the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

The holidays can get busy, between the dinners, parties and other obligations. But the season is also about connecting with friends and loved ones. At the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, we’ve got your family outings covered. From mansions with jaw-dropping holiday décor and visits with Santa, to horse-drawn carriage rides and New Year’s Eve fun, we’ve got something for every family – and every age.

Below are our top 10 ideas from around the state.

Celebration Crossing

Welcome the holiday season in Indianapolis by being among the first to greet Santa and Mrs. Claus as they arrive by helicopter on the museum’s front lawn at noon on Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving. Enjoy holiday music from the Indianapolis Children’s Choir at 11 a.m., visit with Santa and catch a ride on the Santa Claus Express train.

This daily experience at the museum will become your family’s favorite holiday tradition, with plenty of memories to be made and holiday fun to be had. New this year, tinker in Santa’s Workshop or create cardboard snowmen, snowballs and more in Santa’s Front Yard.

Celebration Crossing will be open Nov. 23 through Jan. 6, including Mondays in December. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Holiday fun just for little ones

Fridays during Celebration Crossing, we’ll have special holiday fun just for preschoolers during Preschool Fridays. Children ages 5 and younger and their families can explore the museum from 9 to 10 a.m. on Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14, 21 and 28, and Jan. 4. During this time, enjoy early rides on the Santa Claus Express train, construct snowmen outside of Santa’s house and participate in other interactive activities.

Dining with Santa

Nothing says Christmas like breakfast or supper with Santa himself. On Nov. 25 and Dec. 1, 2, 9, 14, 15, 16, 22 and 23, enjoy breakfasts with Santa in the L.S. Ayres Tea Room or Farmers Market Café. If you’re a museum member, you can grab Supper with Santa on Dec. 13. At either event, don’t forget to ride the Santa Claus Express train and play in Santa’s Workshop.

A very country Christmas

To get a break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays, escape the city and visit Brown County for Steele’s Country Christmas at T.C. Steele State Historic Site in Brown County on Dec. 2. Hear live music, sip some hot cider or munch on cookies, and visit with St. Nicholas and Belsnickel from 1 to 2 p.m. during the event.

Home(s) for the holidays

Need some holiday décor inspiration? Visit four homes at our historic sites all decked out for the holidays during the month of December. See a 12-foot Christmas tree at T.C. Steele State Historic Site, garlands and trees on each floor of Culbertson Mansion and decorations inspired by Hoosier author Gene Stratton-Porter herself at her home at Limberlost State Historic Site.

This year, visit Lanier Mansion in Madison to see it decorated for the holidays for the first time – and see different rooms decorated according to different themes, including Indiana, nutcrackers, miniature houses from around Madison and traditional 1850s décor.

P.S. – On Dec. 2, get a glimpse at Gene Stratton-Porter’s home at Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site during a one-day event. See her cabin dressed up for Christmas and enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride along with live entertainment.

Santa at the mansions

Skip “mall Santa” this year and bring your family for a next-level photo op with Santa in the beautiful Lanier Mansion or Culbertson Mansion. He’ll be at Culbertson Mansion Dec. 1-2 from 1 to 5 p.m. each day, and at Lanier Mansion on Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At each event, hear live holiday music, get your photo taken and enjoy holiday fun for the whole family – all included with purchase of general admission.

A hibernation celebration

Who doesn’t want to sleep in the winter? Well, Bear, apparently – he wants to stay up past hibernation time to see what all the fuss about snow is about. In a new interactive theater piece, families with preschool-aged children are invited to learn about winter and help keep Bear awake. The play will take place Dec. 14-16 and 28-30 from 11 to 11:30 a.m.

Tea time

Chase away the winter cold with a warm cup of tea – and a tray full of pastries. All ages can enjoy a decadent, nostalgic lunch in the L.S. Ayres Tea Room™, featuring favorites like chicken velvet soup and tea time treats. Families can also enjoy “Tea and Theater with Your Lovey” on Jan. 6, where little ones are invited to bring their stuffed animals for a tea party, then enjoy a special showing of new interactive theater piece, Bear’s First Snow.

The 12 days (after) Christmas

The celebrating doesn’t have to stop after Christmas. Dec. 26 through Jan. 6, enjoy 12 days of special programming during the “12 Days of Winter” in Celebration Crossing, featuring interactive story time in Santa’s (newly vacant) house, indoor “snowball” fights and a chance to construct your own snowmen in the Great Hall.

And a happy New Year

Ring in 2019 with family-friendly events in Indianapolis or up in Geneva at Limberlost State Historic Site. In Indianapolis at Family New Year’s Eve, enjoy a balloon drop at 8 p.m. so even little ones can experience a countdown to “midnight,” and experience face painting, magic, music and more. At Limberlost, countdown to noon with a special balloon drop and enjoy crafts and games.